Antibiotic Use in Canadian Feedlots

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the October 22, 2018 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.



September’s column summarized a Beef Cluster project that evaluated antibiotic use in Western Canadian cow-calf operations. Nearly all cow-calf farms used antibiotics, but very few animals were treated, and most of the antibiotics used were not related to the antibiotics most commonly used in humans. But when it comes to antibiotic use in the beef industry, most of the attention is focused on the feedlot sector.

Until recently, the best Canadian feedlot antibiotic use information came from a small 2006 project (Antimicrobial Resistance in Escherichia coli Recovered from Feedlot Cattle and Associations with Antimicrobial Use, PLoS ONE 10: e0143995). Antibiotic use practices change over time, so a Beef Science Cluster 2 project updated and expanded this knowledge. Continue reading

Developing Faster, Less Expensive Diagnostic Tests

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the October 1, 2018 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.



Last month’s column discussed how antibiotics are used in Western Canadian cow-calf operations. Respiratory diseases are a common reason for antibiotic treatment in cows, bulls, and calves and diarrhea is a common reason for antibiotic treatment in young calves. Because both respiratory and intestinal infections can involve many different microbes, having a better understanding of what microbes may be causing a particular animal to be sick could allow more appropriate treatment decisions. For example, antibiotics don’t kill viruses, so using antibiotics won’t help an outbreak of scours that is primarily viral in nature. Similarly, some antibiotics are more effective against some bacteria than others, so being able to select the antibiotic that is most appropriate for the bacteria that are involved would be helpful.

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Antibiotic Use on Canadian Cow-Calf Operations



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

Antibiotic use records are important for producers who want to track the effectiveness of the antibiotics they use. Industry groups need antibiotic use data to refute misleading claims about our production practices. Even restaurant chains and meat companies marketing “antibiotic-free” beef need records to keep treated animals out of their “never-ever” supply stream. When it comes to antibiotic use in the beef industry, most of the attention is focused on the feedlot sector. That’s because most of the antibiotic use occurs there, and because large feedlots work closely with specialized veterinarians and have developed sophisticated software to support animal health protocols and recording of animal health treatments. But antibiotic use at the cow-calf level is also important. For example, calves may not respond as well to antibiotics at the feedlot if they have been exposed to a related antibiotic before leaving home.

The most recent reports on antibiotic use in cow-calf operations in Eastern Canada (Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research 72:109) and Western Canada (Preventive Veterinary Medicine 90:55) are nearly 10 years old. The Western Canadian Cow-Calf Surveillance Network (WCCCSN) initiative supported under the 2013-18 Beef Science Cluster provided an opportunity to gather updated information regarding antibiotic use on cow-calf operations.

What they did: Dr. Cheryl Waldner and co-workers at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine surveyed 100 cow-calf operations in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba about Continue reading

Beef Quality Audit

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



Canada’s fourth Beef Quality Audit was completed in March 2018, following previous audits in 1995, 1998 and 2010/11. The carcass audit measured the incidence and economic costs of avoidable defects in Canadian slaughter cattle and beef and identified opportunities to avoid these losses.

What they did: Mark Klassen, Joyce van Donkersgoed and a team of technicians visited slaughter plants across Canada in the fall of 2016 and winter and spring of 2017. Thousands of cattle and carcasses were examined for a wide variety of possible defects. This column focuses on the most common and costly defects, specifically tag, carcass weight, excess fat and liver abscesses. Continue reading

This Column is Brought to you by Your National Check-Off

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



The third annual Canadian Beef Industry Conference (CBIC) takes place in London, Ontario on August 14-16. The CBIC is co-hosted by the BCRC, Canada Beef, Canadian Beef Breeds Council, and the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA). The CBIC’s Bov-Innovation session is a popular, interactive, fast-paced, workshop full of tips, ideas, and concepts that cow-calf and feedlot producers can take home and adopt on their farms. Bov-Innovation pairs an expert explaining the science behind best practices with a leading producer explaining how they have adopted these practices to benefit their cattle and their profitability. This year’s topics were carefully chosen based on producer suggestions: Continue reading

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

This Will Make Your Skin Crawl

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



Cattle won’t be the only creatures enjoying fresh pasture this spring; so will the Rocky Mountain wood tick and the American dog tick, which can transmit anaplasmosis and other bloodborne diseases. Anaplasmosis was removed from the Federally Reportable Disease list in 2014, so the government is no longer responsible for dealing with anaplasmosis outbreaks or compensating producers with affected herds. Understanding where these ticks are and what influences their population will help develop proactive strategies to avoid the spread of tickborne disease.

Ticks have a three-stage life cycle. Tick larvae emerge from the egg and feed once on blood from small mammals (mice, voles, squirrels, etc.). The engorged larvae then molt into nymphs that also feed once on small mammals. The engorged nymphs molt into adults that feed on larger animals, including dogs, sheep, deer, and cattle. If the adult ticks cannot find a host, they may overwinter under plant material on the ground and re-emerge in spring. Adult ticks begin Continue reading

How Castration Method and Age Affect Pain in Young Calves

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



Canada’s Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Beef Cattle requires that castration be performed by an experienced person who uses proper, clean, well-maintained equipment and accepted techniques. A producer is expected to seek guidance from their veterinarian on the optimum method and timing of castration, as well as the availability and advisability of pain control drugs for castrating beef cattle. Calves must be castrated as young as practically possible, and pain control is required when castrating bulls older than six months of age.

The requirement to use pain control in older calves was based on research demonstrating its effectiveness in feedlot bulls. A lot of information was also available regarding the use of pain drugs in baby dairy calves, but the beef producers and researchers on the Code committee felt that the vast differences in genetics, herd dynamics and familiarity with people meant that nursing beef calves may respond differently to castration than individually-housed dairy calves that had been weaned at birth. A research project funded by the Beef Science Cluster is helping to determine when pain control is beneficial in beef calves. As a first step, students working with Karen Schwartzkopf-Genswein (AAFC Lethbridge) and Ed Pajor (University of Calgary) examined how Continue reading

Pasture Blends

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



Most forage seed companies offer a pasture blend. Some customize their blend to the customer’s situation, but others use a least-cost formulation to produce a more attractively priced blend. Ideally, the blend should contain grasses and legumes that grow well together, are well-adapted to the environment and soil type they will be seeded in, will tolerate grazing, and produce good animal performance. Seed companies often don’t have all the information they need to formulate these ideal blends. As one example, forage breeding plots are typically far too small to graze, so forage yield is evaluated using a plot harvester. This means that forage varieties are being selected for their ability to produce and recover from mechanical harvesting rather than grazing. Forage improvement programs that integrate the breeding, agronomics, and grazing management research programs to gather the data needed to develop effective pasture blends take a long time and are very costly.

To help address this issue, Continue reading

Maintaining Momentum

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



Canada’s pasture and rangelands have drier, colder, and shorter growing seasons than many other beef producing areas in the world. The forage varieties that perform best in Canada are generally the ones that have been bred, selected and developed to germinate, grow, survive and thrive here. Forage varieties developed in foreign countries are sometimes marketed in Canada, but they weren’t developed under our climate and may not perform as well as home-grown varieties.

A total of 144 new perennial forage cultivars (grasses and legumes) were developed in Canada and registered between 1932 and 2017. Although private or not-for-profit companies often sell these seeds, these companies rarely did the actual breeding and development work. Nearly all (98%) of these 144 cultivars were developed by public (government and university) breeding programs. It is critically important that universities and governments continue these breeding programs, because when a program stops it takes years to rebuild its momentum.

Here are a few examples. Continue reading