ForageBeef.ca Gets a Facelift

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the June 2019 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.

Canada’s National Beef Strategy has four goals that our industry aims to achieve by 2020. For the past year this column has explained how research is contributing to a 15% increase in carcass cut-out value (the Beef Demand pillar), a 15% improvement in production efficiency (Productivity), and a 7% reduction in cost disadvantages compared to Canada’s main competitors (Competitiveness). The fourth goal (Connectivity) is about improving communication within industry and with consumers, the public, government and partner industries. Research contributes science-based information to underpin fact-based communication, policy and regulation, as well as extension (also known as technology transfer) activities to translate research results into improved on-farm production and management practices.

Extension used to be a core mandate for governments and universities; they all had extension staff, held field days and published producer-focused bulletins. Some researchers are still active in extension, but most institutions have shifted their focus to scientific research and technology development. The private sector has filled the extension gap in spots, especially where there is a clear profit motive for the company or individual doing the extension. This often works best when there is a product to sell, like a nutritional supplement, vaccine, or electric fencer. It is more challenging for the private sector to justify extension when the product is a management practice that is hard for a company to charge for, needs to be highly customized to suit individual operations, or primarily benefits the customer. Examples include low-cost winter feeding, crossbreeding, rotational grazing, and low-stress handling. Private sector extension can also be difficult with practices that benefit the overall industry but might not directly or immediately profit any specific individual (e.g. some animal welfare practices, antimicrobial and environmental stewardship). The BCRC tries to fill those gaps. Continue reading

New Feed Testing Tools



When you don’t know the quality of feed on an operation, maintaining animal health and welfare can become significantly more difficult. Visual assessment of feedstuffs is not accurate enough to access quality and may lead to cows being underfed and losing body condition or wasting money on expensive supplements that aren’t necessary.  Two new decision-making tools on this page, developed by the Alberta Beef, Forage and Grazing Centre, will help you use feed test results to flag potential nutritional problems, and identify the comparative economic value of different feeds based on their quality.

Why feed test?

  • Avoid sneaky production problems, such as poor gains or reduced conception caused by mineral or nutrient deficiencies or excesses;
  • Prevent or identify potentially devastating problems due to toxicity from mycotoxins, nitrates, sulfates, or other minerals or nutrients;
  • Develop appropriate rations that meet the nutritional needs of their beef cattle;
  • Identify nutritional gaps that may require supplementation;
  • Economize feeding, and possibly make use of opportunities to include diverse ingredients;
  • Accurately price feed for buying or selling.

Collecting feed samples

It’s critical to collect a feed sample that is representative of the feed ingredients that you are testing. Any feed type that will be used to feed beef cattle can and should be analysed, including baled forages and straw, by-products, silage, baleage, grain, swath grazing, cover crops, and corn.

Feed quality will change as the feeding season progresses. Samples should be taken as close to feeding or selling as possible, while leaving enough time for the results to come back from the lab.

*New* A Tool for Evaluating Feed Test Results

This tool evaluates the ability of a single feed to meet basic nutritional requirements of different classes of cattle in different stages of production under normal circumstances. It is not intended for use in ration balancing, but rather to alert you to potential issues with individual feed ingredients. Suitability of the feed is indicated by a color-coded response. Green indicates that the nutrient is adequate to meet nutritional requirements. Yellow is within +/- 2.5% of TDN requirements, +/- 5% of CP requirements and 0.05% below mineral requirements. Red indicates the feed does not meet animal requirements.

One of the major benefits of feed testing is preventing costly and devastating problems before they start. Every season is different and some years there is an abundance of high-quality forage. Other years, there is a lack of available feed, or perhaps there is an abundance of low-quality forage, grain, or grain by-products available that may look economical but can potentially pose significant risks if a feed analysis has not been performed or understood.

Feed is often bought on weight (e.g. by the ton or by the bale) with little consideration of the economic value of feed quality.  Especially when feed supplies are tight, comparing the economic value of different feed sources on a quality basis will help you stretch your feed dollars further while ensuring animal requirements are met.  Another new tool on this page will help you do just that.  Enter your feed test results to get the estimated “economic” value of the feed compared to your choice of reference feeds. The higher the value, the higher the cumulative content of TDN and CP of the targeted feed, and thus the higher the feed value.  The results will tell you which feeds have the best potential from an economic perspective to be used in the final formulation of a ration.

Learn more about feed testing and test drive the new calculators

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The sharing or reprinting of BCRC Blog articles is welcome and encouraged. Please provide acknowledgement to the Beef Cattle Research Council, list the website address, www.BeefResearch.ca, and let us know you chose to share the article by emailing us at info@beefresearch.ca.

We welcome your questions, comments and suggestions. Contact us directly or generate public discussion by posting your thoughts below.

Bov-Innovation is happening in Calgary, AB on August 14



The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) is pleased to announce their Bov-Innovation 2019 series which will take place on August 14, 2019 as part of the Canadian Beef Industry Conference . The conference is a collaborative effort, co-hosted by the BCRC, Canada Beef, the Canadian Beef Breeds Council (CBBC), the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), and the National Cattle Feeders’ Association (NCFA). This year the event takes place on August 13-15, 2019 at the BMO Centre on Stampede Park in Calgary, Alberta.

Bov-Innovation features producer-focused sessions designed to highlight practical ideas that are rooted in research. Speakers will share their perspectives along with tried-and-true tips that beef farmers can implement immediately. This year the two sessions, Alternatives to Antimicrobials and Dealing with Drought, fit well with the overall conference theme of “Securing our Future.”

  • Since 2018, beef producers in Canada require a veterinary prescription to treat cattle with medically important antibiotics. Bov-Innovation 1.0 Alternatives to Antibiotics is a timely take on practices producers can adopt that may prevent the need for antimicrobials. While not every illness or infection can be avoided, Steve Hendrick, DVM, a Coaldale, AB veterinarian, will explain some preventative methods farmers can adopt. Producer Stephen Hughes will share some of the benefits he has found with reduced antibiotic use. He will also describe strategies he uses on his Longview, AB ranch to minimize his use for veterinary drugs.
  • Drought has affected many regions of Canada in recent years. Finding enough forage to meet the nutritional needs of a beef herd can be challenging and expensive in dry times. In Bov-Innovation 2.0 Dealing with Drought, John McKinnon, PhD, and Alberta producer Graeme Finn will provide their insight on making things work in less than ideal conditions. McKinnon, an Emeritus Professor at the University of Saskatchewan, will highlight balancing rations, using creative feed sources, and preventing nutritional nightmares that can happen in drought. Finn, who operates Southern Cross Livestock, has firsthand experience dealing with severe drought. He will offer practical suggestions for planning ahead for grazing and forage management, including maintaining healthy pastures better able to withstand low precipitation.

“Bov-Innovation has proven popular with conference attendees because it combines a research perspective with real life situations that producers are challenged with,” says Ryan Beierbach, Chair of the BCRC. “I really encourage producers and audience members to join Bov-Innovation, to ask questions, and really consider new strategies that will help them proactively manage their farms in the future,” said Beierbach.

Conference goers will have two opportunities to participate in the Bov-Innovation sessions at the Canadian Beef Industry Conference on Wednesday, August 14. Both topics will be covered from 10:15am to 12:00pm, and again later that day from 2:45pm-5:30pm.

Information and resources from previous Bov-Innovation sessions held in 2016, 2017, and 2018 can be found online at http://www.beefresearch.ca/resources/bovinnovation.cfm .

Beef industry stakeholders and producers are also invited to attend the BCRC Open House on Thursday, August 15 starting at 1:15pm. Examples of research, innovations, and science-based tools will be featured as well as objectives for current and future research priorities. Conference registration is not necessary to attend the open house.

Registration for the Canadian Beef Industry Conference is now open. Producers are encouraged to register before June 15 to take advantage of a reduced rate and secure their spot at the beef event of the year. Full conference information, including registration details, accommodations, speakers, and agenda, can be found at www.canadianbeefindustryconference.com .

Bov-Innovation is possible because of funding through the Canadian Beef Cattle Check-Off and the Beef Science Cluster, and partnerships with other stakeholders dedicated to advancing the goals in the National Beef Strategy.

Click here to subscribe to the BCRC Blog and receive email notifications when new content is posted.

The sharing or reprinting of BCRC Blog articles is welcome and encouraged. Please provide acknowledgement to the Beef Cattle Research Council, list the website address, www.BeefResearch.ca, and let us know you chose to share the article by emailing us at info@beefresearch.ca.

We welcome your questions, comments and suggestions. Contact us directly or generate public discussion by posting your thoughts below.

Rangeland and Riparian Health: New web page!

Editor’s note: Relevant and up-to-date information that had been available on Foragebeef.ca is gradually being added to BeefResearch.ca. (More information). The new Rangeland and Riparian Health page, which is previewed below, is one example. Further webpages will be added or updated on BeefResearch.ca to include the valuable content from Foragebeef.ca, ensuring that information remains freely available online. Completion is expected by Spring 2020.

Rangeland, or range, is land supporting native or introduced vegetation that can be grazed and is managed as a natural ecosystem. Rangeland includes grassland, grazeable forestland, shrubland, pastureland and riparian areas.

Healthy rangelands:

  • produce forage for livestock and wildlife
  • maintain and protect soil from erosion
  • capture and release water
  • cycle nutrients and energy, and
  • maintain biological diversity.

Learning to recognize range plants and their role in the ecosystem is key to good range management. Continue reading

Drought Management Strategies

Editor’s note: Relevant and up-to-date information that had been available on Foragebeef.ca is gradually being added to BeefResearch.ca. (More information). The new Drought Management Strategies page, which is previewed below, is one example. Further webpages will be added or updated on BeefResearch.ca to include the valuable content from Foragebeef.ca, ensuring that information remains freely available online. Completion is expected by Spring 2020.

Recurring drought is a natural part of the climate in many areas of Canada and creates a challenge when managing grazing and forage resources. Although droughts are often unpredictable, they are inevitable in many regions, so long-term farm and ranch management must include planning for and consideration of how drought will affect the entire system – including plants, livestock and water sources.

Tips for drought management

  • The benefits of rotational grazing and litter (plant residue) are especially evident during drought
  • When managing through a drought consider combining groups of animals to encourage grazing of less desirable plants, and grazing pastures with species that are more tolerant of increased grazing pressure
  • Extended rest periods and increased recovery times are necessary to protect plants during dry periods
  • Feed testing and water testing are especially important during times of drought
  • Drought plans should identify the group or class of livestock to be de-stocked first if necessary and at what point each group will be removed if the drought persists
  • It is important to monitor for toxic or poisonous plants, which are more likely to be grazed during dry years
  • Drought management strategies should be a permanent part of every grazing plan

Continue reading

Reminder: Nominations for Outstanding Researcher due May 1st



The Canadian Beef Industry Award for Outstanding Research and Innovation is presented by the Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) each year to recognize a researcher or scientist whose work has contributed to advancements in the competitiveness and sustainability of the Canadian beef industry.

Nominations are welcome from all stakeholders of the Canadian beef industry and will be reviewed by a selection committee comprised of beef producers, industry experts and retired beef-related researchers located across the country.

Nominations will be kept on file and re-considered for up to two additional years. In such cases, the nominator will be contacted each year and given the opportunity to revise the nomination.

To be eligible, nominees must be Canadian citizens or landed immigrants actively involved in research of benefit to the Canadian beef industry within the past 5 years. Benefit to the industry must be evident in a strong research program aligned with industry priorities, a demonstrated passion and long-term commitment through leadership, teamwork, and mentorship, involvement in ongoing education and training (where applicable), and active engagement with industry stakeholders.

Nominations for the 2019 award will be accepted until May 1, 2019.

The 2019 award will be presented at the Canadian Beef Industry Conference in August.

Past recipients of the Canadian Beef Industry Award for Outstanding Research and Innovation are:

Learn more and find the nomination form at http://www.beefresearch.ca/about/award.cfm

Continue reading

Stored Forages: Hay, Greenfeed and Silage

Editor’s note: Relevant and up-to-date information that had been available on Foragebeef.ca is gradually being added to BeefResearch.ca. (More information). The new Stored Forages page, which is previewed below, is one example. Further webpages will be added or updated on BeefResearch.ca to include the valuable content from Foragebeef.ca, ensuring that information remains freely available online. Completion is expected by Spring 2020.

Feed is the major input cost in cattle production, therefore producers must evaluate the cost of production for all stored forage systems.

The objective of harvesting any type of forage for storage is to preserve resources produced in the summer months in order to provide winter feed for livestock when grazing is not feasible or accessible. It is essential to harvest forage at the appropriate time, based upon nutritional quality, forage yield and climatic conditions, and then to store it properly to reduce losses.

Stage of plant maturity at cutting is the most important factor influencing hay quality. Young, vegetative forage is higher in protein and energy than older, flowering material. As forages mature, stem is increased in the total forage mass and the leaf-to-stem ratio is reduced. As a result, fibre increases while protein and digestibility decreases. Continue reading

Applications open for the Beef Researcher Mentorship Program

Applications for the 2019-20 term of the BCRC Beef Researcher Mentorship Program are now being accepted.  The deadline to apply is May 1, 2019.

Four researchers were selected to participate in the program this past year. Each was paired with two mentors – an innovative producer and another industry expert – for a one year term (ending July 31, 2019). Each of the researchers have reported very successful and valuable experiences through the opportunities provided, including:

    • Establishing partnerships with industry and other researchers to further their research programs
    • Meeting several producers and industry leaders with whom they ask questions and have meaningful discussions about cattle production, beef quality and safety, and the Canadian beef value chain
    • Attending industry events and touring farms and ranches to better understand the impacts, practicalities and economics of adopting research results

The BCRC is excited to continue the program and invite applications from upcoming and new applied researchers in Canada whose studies are of value to the beef industry, such as cattle health and welfare, beef quality, food safety, genetics, feed efficiency, or forages. A new group of participants will begin their mentorships on August 1st.

The Beef Researcher Mentorship Program launched in August 2014 to facilitate greater engagement of upcoming and new applied researchers with Canada’s beef industry.

Learn more about the program and **download an application form at: http://www.beefresearch.ca/about/mentorship-program.cfm**

Continue reading

Bull Selection: New Calculator to Determine the Value of a Bull

Editor’s note: The following is part four of a four-part series that helps you to evaluate different breeding programs, which bulls are optimal for your herd, and how much they’re worth. (See part onepart two and part three).



Different traits of bulls can contribute to different impacts on the bottom line of the operation. For example, a bull with a higher calving ease EPD may contribute to more live calves. Not surprisingly, bulls with higher calving ease (or lower birth weights) sell for a higher price (Simms et al., 1997). With the large variation in bulls available, bull prices extend over a wide range from $3,000 to over $20,000 per head.

Identifying a fair price during sire selection contributes to higher efficiency in operation economics. To estimate breakeven bull price, a bull valuation calculator has been developed. The purpose is to provide a general idea of how much a bull is worth based on key farm parameters.

Bull Values – two Scenarios

The value a bull provides depends on his individual performance, the environment (ex: pasture productivity), management (cow:bull ratio) and markets (calf price). For example, large framed bulls require more feed, leading to a higher maintenance cost, but that may be offset by heavier calves at sale time.

Two scenarios were studied – a low maintenance farm versus a high maintenance farm. Table 1 shows the parameters entered for each farm. The default values in the calculator are the averages of the two scenarios. Continue reading