Have You Rotated Your Breeds Lately?

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.

Before becoming a politician and long before becoming a noted Western Canadian historian, Grant McEwan was an animal science professor at the University of Saskatchewan. In 1938, he and A.M. Shaw published “An Experiment in Beef Production in Western Canada” (Scientific Agriculture XIX:177-198), summarizing one of Canada’s first crossbreeding projects. Straightbred 2-year old Angus, Shorthorn, Galloway and Hereford cows (40 each) were pastured year-round on the Matador community pasture in southwestern Saskatchewan and bred to Angus (1930), Hereford (1931), Shorthorn (1932) and Galloway bulls (1933). As a result, each calf crop had 25% straightbred and 75% F1 crossbred calves. The calves were finished for slaughter at the university feedlot in Saskatoon. Crossbred calves averaged 3% higher Continue reading

Eight beef producers share their recent changes

Canadian beef producers appear to be keeping up with the often heard axiom “the only constant in life is change”. With that in mind, these eight beef producers from across the country talk about recent changes they’ve made or are making in their farming operations.

Some of the changes are management related, others are operational, some involve getting a broader perspective of expert advice, and another was about how to make a job simpler when you’re wearing your mitts.

They are fairly easy to moderate, sometimes major changes – even a series of relatively small tweaks — these producers are making in management and production practices that either improve their management skills, increase forage or beef production efficiency, or just increase their knowledge to ultimately help them achieve the bottom line goals — save time or money, reduce costs, increase returns, improve profitability.

TREVOR WELCH
GLASSVILLE, NB
Rotational grazing and forage stand improvements

Photo submitted by Trevor Welch

Trevor Welch has been developing a rotational grazing system on his western New Brunswick family farm over the past three years. Season long grazing was fairly successful with a small herd of beef cattle, but as he plans to expand the herd, he’s looking to increase the carrying capacity on a limited land base.

“We own most of our pasture land, and also rent some land as well,” says Welch, who is the fourth generation on the five generation farm — his son Taylor is interested in farming and his dad, Fred, is also still involved. As with most parts of Atlantic Canada a 40-acre pasture can produce enough forage to support a 30-cow beef herd for the season. “But with season-long grazing there were always some areas that would be underutilized and other areas that were overgrazed,” he says. The Welch’s run a herd of purebred and commercial Black Angus cattle. Continue reading

Costs of siring calves: artificial insemination compared to natural service

As the breeding season approaches, some producers will consider using artificial insemination (AI) and estrous synchronization in their breeding herd; others will not because of the extra time, labour and management required in an AI program, the perceived costs of implementing AI, or they are unaware of the potential advantages of AI.

In this article, we will review economic analysis that compares the costs and benefits of fixed-time AI and natural service and discuss how recent changes in breeding bull and butcher bull prices affect the cost of breeding programs. We will also look at a recent study that addresses the question of how many clean-up bulls are needed in a fixed-time AI program.

Economic Benefits and Hurdles of Using Fixed-Time AI

Compared to natural service, an obvious potential advantage of fixed time AI is to have more calves born in the first 21 days of the calving season, which allows producers to market larger, more uniform groups of calves. Some studies have shown as much as a 10 to 17 day calf age advantage and 20 to 44 lbs more per calf at weaning as a result of estrous synchronization (Johnson and Chenoweth). Despite the extra costs of an AI program , fixed-time AI is estimated to have a net benefit of $11,110 for a 40-cow herd compared to natural service because of improved conception and wean rates, as well as heavier weaning weights (Lardner et al., 2015). Continue reading

One week remaining: attention BC, AB, SK and MB cow-calf producers

Do you wonder how your cow-calf operation compares with others in your region, province or herd size range on matters like conception rate and weaning weight? A joint effort representing the cow-calf industry from BC, AB, SK and MB is helping Western Canadian cattle producers do just that.

The deadline to participate is February 28, 2018.

By participating in the second Western Canadian Cow-Calf Survey, you can choose to receive a complementary report that allows you to compare your own operation with benchmarks (average numbers from a region).

To thank you for completing the survey, which will provide very valuable and needed information to guide research and extension, you will receive up to $50 in gift cards, in addition to the complementary report.

The survey takes about 45-60 minutes to complete and asks questions related to the 2016 breeding season all the way through to weaning of 2017 calf crop, as well as typical management practices. Many of the questions are the quick check-box style. Any question you are unable to answer can be left blank.

Every cow-calf producer in BC, AB, SK and MB is encouraged to complete the survey. All of the information collected will remain confidential. Information cannot be linked to individual operations as data will be aggregated into averages and benchmarks.

The complementary report will Continue reading

Good records help guide efficient production and profitability say producers

Editor’s note: The following is the second in a two part series. See part one about the value of benchmarking and record keeping for all cattle operations. 

Keeping proper and useful beef herd production records is essential if you believe in the adage “you can’t manage what you don’t measure”. Records don’t have to be overly complicated, but do need to be thorough, say producers who rely on them for a lot of their management decisions.

Setting up a record keeping system properly will take a bit of time, but once the format is established keeping records current really isn’t that onerous — updating records is something that can even be done in front of the computer while having an early morning coffee, or taking a few minutes here and there during the month as new information comes along. Continue reading

Are your bulls actually siring calves? Webinar November 16

Update: Missed the webinar? Find the recording and check for future webinars on our Webinars page: http://www.beefresearch.ca/resources/webinars.cfm

For producers that breed cows in large pastures with multiple bulls, it’s often assumed that all of the bulls will sire roughly the same number of calves. Research shows a surprising variation in the number of calves sired by each bull. Learn more by joining this webinar on how DNA parentage testing may help determine sire value on your operation.

When
Thursday, November 16 at 7:00 pm MT

  • 6:00pm in BC
  • 7:00pm in AB
  • 8:00pm in SK and MB
  • 9:00pm in ON and QC
  • 10:00pm in NS, NB and PEI 

Interested but aren’t available that evening?
Register anyway! This webinar will be recorded and posted online at a later date. All registrants will receive a link to the recording and additional learning resources. By attending the live event, you’ll have the opportunity to interact and ask questions too.

Register now

Find and register for more BCRC webinars here. Continue reading

Producing more with less for the world market: Raise your beef IQ

BCRC_2017_FactoidSeries_BeefConsumption_600x600_web

As the Earth’s population increases and middle income classes rise in several developing regions, so does the demand for high quality protein.  In 2015, 1.22 million tonnes (carcass weight) of Canadian beef was produced for the world. That number rose to approximately 1.3 million tonnes in 2016, and is forecast to grow.

With ongoing research and adoption of new technologies, Canadian beef producers can sustainably increase production and help meet the global demand.

A recent study found that Continue reading

Ontario Cow-Calf Production Survey

ontario cow-calf production surveyOntario cow-calf producers, do you wonder how your operation compares with others in your region or province on matters like conception rate and weaning weight?

The Ontario Cow-Calf Production Survey is being conducted by researchers at the University of Guelph, in partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Beef Farmers of Ontario, and the Beef Cattle Research Council. Questions in this survey have been adapted and will be comparable to answers from the Western Canadian Cow-Calf Survey conducted in 2014, allowing comparison from east to west.

The purpose of the overall project is to gain a better understanding of the management practices, economics, and disease rates on Ontario cow-calf farms and determine how well Ontario producers compete in a global economy. This survey will obtain basic information on production practices, management choices, disease rates, and rate of technology adaptation in the province.

The findings of the survey will be Continue reading

Deciding What Research and Innovation to Fund

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the February 2017 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.

picThis column usually features Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) projects supported by Canada’s national check-off, mainly through Canada’s Beef Science Cluster. The current Beef Cluster involves the BCRC, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Alberta Beef Producers, the Alberta Cattle Feeders Association, Manitoba Beef Producers, Beef Farmers of Ontario, the Quebec Beef Producers Federation, DuPont Pioneer, the Grey Wooded Forage Association, and provincial government funds from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario. By pooling resources and coordinating funding decisions, funders can avoid duplication and increase the odds that more good projects will go ahead. The Beef Cluster allows Canada’s beef industry to support much more and better research than we could in the past with limited national check-off dollars alone. The BCRC is now deciding which new projects to fund through the next Beef Cluster (2018-2023), so this month I explain how the BCRC decides what research to fund.

The first step is Continue reading

Announcing the Beef Researcher Mentorship Program 2016-17 participants

The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) is pleased to announce the participants in the 2016-17 Beef Researcher Mentorship program. Following an open application process, four researchers have been selected. Each has been paired with notable leaders in the Canadian beef industry and given a travel budget for the coming year, which will provide valuable opportunities for greater engagement with Canada’s beef industry.

Mentee: Dr. Getahun Legesse Gizaw
Mentors: Charlie Christie and Brenna Grant 

GLGizawGetahun Legesse, Ph.D., is a Research Associate at the University of Manitoba. He is currently working on a collaborative project that aims to define the environmental footprint of Canadian beef. This involves collecting and analyzing of beef industry data to assess how the environmental impact of the beef industry has changed over the past thirty years. Earlier, he worked in the area of alternative forage-based systems for environmentally-sound and profitable production of beef in Canada.

Getahun received his Ph.D. in Animal Science (Livestock Production Systems analysis) from the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart, Germany. His doctoral project examined the productive, reproductive and economic performance of small ruminants in two production systems and identified possible options for improvement.

Through the mentorship program, Getahun hopes to Continue reading