Unintended Consequences

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

I once spent a summer working for canola breeders. Some used traditional selection, while others were experimenting with transgenics. One traditionalist was known to say “sticking a new gene into a plant and expecting it to grow better is like throwing a new gear into a watch and expecting it to keep better time. It’ll probably get worse”. This article isn’t about canola or genetics, but it is about time and unintended consequences. Specifically, it’s about the timing of the breeding and calving seasons.

Canada’s cow-calf sector has moved towards fewer, larger beef cow herds. Calving later, on pasture has been a widely adopted strategy allowing producers to expand their cow herds without a proportional increase in equipment, labor, and facilities. When John Basarab led Alberta’s Cow-Calf Audits in the late 1980’s and late 90’s, breeding often started in May and calving started in late February. In contrast, 70% of the producers responding to the 2017 Western Canadian Cow-Calf Survey started breeding in June or July to calve in March or April.

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Replacement heifers – Money, management, and momentum


Photo submitted by Brian Trueman

Do you raise your own heifers? Or do you prefer to purchase your replacements? Regardless of your choice, developing heifers costs money and requires careful management.

Ideally, replacement heifers will go on to become long-term producers in the herd sothoughtful selection is critical. “Each producer has different resources and goals when they make the decision of whether they want to buy or retain heifers,” said Kathy Larson, a University of Saskatchewan economist. “Part of that decision needs to involve cost of production,” she advised during a recent BCRC webinar.

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Economic and reproductive factors of replacement heifer development – Webinar October 3rd

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



Join this webinar to discuss dollars, sense, and fertility – economic and reproductive management considerations for successful replacement heifer development. Learn about recommended practices, biological hurdles, and money matters that will aid you in your own heifer development strategies.

 

Registering on your smartphone? After you click ‘I am not a robot’, scroll up until you find the task to complete.

When
Wednesday, October 3 at 7:00 pm MT

  • 6:00pm in BC
  • 7:00pm in AB and SK
  • 8:00pm in 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 broadcast, you’ll have the opportunity to interact and ask questions too. Continue reading

Pain, Pain, Go Away



Beef producers are busy in the spring and summer months processing cattle, performing common procedures such as castration and dehorning. Producers may also brand their cattle as a form of identification. These practices are commonplace on beef farms across Canada, and in many cases are necessary for the long-term health and welfare of the animals, however they cause pain. Reports show that producers and veterinarians who incorporate pain control measures during painful procedures often describe ease of use and potential improved gains in their herds.

Pain control is becoming a priority among producers and scientists as anesthetics and analgesics, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, are more readily available.

How can producers mitigate pain in beef cattle effectively? Are there practical ways to manage pain in real life conditions? What is a Continue reading

Maintaining momentum during the breeding season



Reproductive wrecks can happen all at once or slowly over several years. With breeding season just around the corner, producers should be considering ways to maximize conception rates in their cow herds. Using fertile bulls is one part of the equation, but what about the reproductive management of cows? What are some strategies producers can use this season to make sure their cows are reaching their breeding potential?

John Campbell, DVM, from the University of Saskatchewan’s Western College of Veterinary Medicine, shared his insight on boosting calf crop percentage and achieving reproductive goals during a BCRC webinar. Continue reading

Practical and effective methods of pain control: Webinar October 21

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

The knowledge of pain in livestock has advanced steadily over the past 20+ years. Behavioral and physiological indicators of pain have been identified, and researchers’ ability to measure animal responses associated to painful procedures have improved. Research has developed new pain control drugs that are registered for use in cattle in Canada, and knowledge is building on the appropriate dosage, routes of administration and synergy between anesthetics and analgesics.

Meanwhile, consumer pressure is building to avoid painful practices on cattle when possible, and to reduce pain when castration, dehorning, or branding are necessary. The new Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Beef Cattle also makes strong statements about pain control.

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Establishing a long term surveillance network to support Canadian beef cattle research


long-term-surveillance-network
Currently there is no structured surveillance program to collect animal health, management, or disease incidence information in the Canadian beef industry. When surveillance and research information for the cow-calf industry is required, significant time, effort, and resources are needed to recruit herds for relatively short-term projects. In the USA, the National Animal Health Monitoring Service (NAHMS) has a long term surveillance network that supports a variety of animal industries and is a critical resource for specific research initiatives. A similar strategy would be beneficial in Canada.

Funded by the National Check-off and Canada’s Beef Science Cluster, researchers are currently working to establish Continue reading

Boosting the calf crop percentage in your beef herd: Webinar on Feb. 25

 

Updated February 28, 2014: Missed the webinar? Find the recording and check for future webinars on the Webinars page: http://www.beefresearch.ca/resources/webinars.cfm

Reproduction is the basis of profitability in the cow-calf sector.  Of course the closer a producer can get to having 100% of their cows deliver healthy, uniform calves that thrive through to weaning, the better their bottom line.  Register for this free webinar to hear from industry experts on how those reproductive goals can be achieved. You’ll also hear how ongoing investments in research have improved reproductive efficiency in Canada’s beef herd, and what issues still need to be tackled. Continue reading

Q&A on the science that informed a renewed Beef Code



Following an extensive process that began in 2010, the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Beef Cattle is now available. The Beef Code is an important tool for the Canadian beef cattle industry to educate producers and to support the industry when challenged by animal care concerns. The previous edition of the Beef Code was published in 1991.

The renewal process was led by National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) and followed the NFACC code development process set out for the different species of farmed animals. Continue reading

Preventing wrecks caused by infectious disease: new video

There’s no question – the introduction, re-occurrence or spread of cattle diseases can be absolutely devastating to your herd and surrounding animals. Everyday risk management goes a long way to protect cattle. Although “biosecurity” is not a term we often use in the beef industry, implementing the principles certainly reduces the risk of infectious disease, which saves costs and prevents losses.

The latest video in the Beef Research School series, featuring Dr. John Campbell from the University of Saskatchewan and Dave Zehnder, a cow-calf producer from Invermere, BC, explains how biosecurity applies to beef cattle production, and offers straight-forward tips to cattlemen on how to lessen the risk of infectious disease in their herds. Continue reading