Copper deficiency takes heavy toll

Water testing can help prevent a wreck in reproductive performance

GarretHill


Garret Hill, Duval, SK. Photo courtesy of the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association.

Garret Hill couldn’t figure out what was wrong.  Cattle had plenty of grass, clean water, a standard mineral mix in front of them, they appeared to be in good condition, yet conception rates among cows and heifers on his family’s central Saskatchewan ranch were declining.

This problem came to a head about six years ago. Their area around Duval, about an hour north of Regina, had experienced a succession of particularly wet growing seasons. There was plenty of grass and a relatively deep (150 foot) well on the farm supplied water to the herd as needed during the year.

“We didn’t know what was wrong,” says Hill, who along with brother Greg and other family members today run about a 1,000 head cow-calf operation. “But at that time we had about one-third of the cow herd open and it seemed to be increasing by about five per cent per year.  The problem was getting worse.” Continue reading

More questions on mineral nutrition

This article written by Dr. John McKinnon, University of Saskatchewan beef cattle nutrition researcher and professor, originally appeared in the March 2017 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.


beef cattle mineral
Last month I had the opportunity to attend the Saskatchewan Beef Industry Conference. As with similar events held across the country, the objective was to transfer current research and technology to beef producers. One of the most interesting aspects of this conference was a bear-pit session hosted by the Beef Cattle Research Council which focused on reproductive rates in spring calving cows. This session addressed the question: “Were producers who had moved to later calving experiencing a drop in their pregnancy rates?” What really got my attention was when the discussion turned to trace minerals. While I was not surprised to hear that trace mineral deficiency is associated with open cows, I was surprised about the wide range of questions and to some extent the confusion that producers had with respect to trace mineral nutrition. Questions included: Continue reading

Barley Variety and Silage Quality

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the December 2016 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.


packing sileage
Barley silage is the main roughage fed in Western Canadian feedlots, but few barley breeders try to improve its feed quality. Most breeders focus on improved grain yields, malting characteristics and better disease and lodging resistance, and pay little attention to feed quality traits like protein, starch, or neutral detergent fiber (NDF) content and digestibility (NDFD).

NDF is a measure of “structural carbohydrates”, the parts of the plant that hold it up. Cattle digest NDF slowly, so NDF contributes to gut fill and can limit feed intake, growth and efficiency. In a Beef Cluster funded study published earlier this year, Dr. John McKinnon and colleagues compared 80 silage samples collected from farms from across Saskatchewan and Alberta, that had been produced from seven different barley varieties (Nair et al., Can. J. Anim. Sci. 96:598-608). In an upcoming paper, they compared three of the two-row varieties that had produced silage with similar protein, starch and NDF levels, but different NDFD, and their effects on feedlot performance and carcass traits. Continue reading

Dr. John McKinnon named inaugural recipient of the Canadian Beef Industry Award for Outstanding Research and Innovation


2015 Cdn Beef Industry Award Outstanding Research and Innovation Dr J McKinnon
Saskatoon, SK – A researcher respected nationally and internationally as a leading expert on beef cattle nutrition and management has been awarded the 2015 Canadian Beef Industry Award for Outstanding Research and Innovation.

Presented at the Saskatchewan Beef Industry Conference among many past and present colleagues and students, Dr. John McKinnon was surprised and honored by the announcement.

Dr. McKinnon is a researcher, professor and the Saskatchewan Beef Industry Research Chair at the University of Saskatchewan.   He has made phenomenal contributions to advancements in the competitiveness and sustainability of the Canadian beef industry through his long-term passion and dedication to progressive science, and exceptional collaboration, leadership and communication with industry.

His research focuses on nutritional and environmental factors influencing the Continue reading

Is Creep Feeding an Answer to Your Pasture Woes?

This article written by Dr. John McKinnon, University of Saskatchewan beef cattle nutrition researcher and professor, originally appeared in the August 2015 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.


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As this summer unfolds, drought has reared its head across much of western Saskatchewan and Alberta. As a result many producers are scrambling to find alternative pasture and hay supplies and soon will be looking for alternatives to traditional winter-feeding programs. When the quantity and quality of pasture starts to decline due to drought stress, there are several management steps that producers can take to decrease grazing pressure. Two of these involve creep feeding and early weaning. The concept of early weaning has been addressed in a separate article in this issue by Dr. Reynold Bergen. This article will focus on creep feeding and its potential to increase calf performance and reduce grazing pressure.

Creep feeding in its simplest form is the practice of providing supplemental feed to nursing calves prior to weaning. The intent is to make up for Continue reading

Managing a year-round mineral program that’s right for you: Webinar on Nov. 4

Updated November 6, 2014: Missed the webinar? Find the recording and check for future webinars on the Webinars page: http://www.beefresearch.ca/resources/webinars.cfm


Click to register

Some herds across Canada aren’t getting enough of some necessary minerals, and yours might be one of them.

If animals’ mineral needs are not met, the results are costly. Without adequate mineral intake, cow-calf producers will see poor performance, disease resistance and reproduction in their herds. Mineral requirements for cattle depend on their weight, age, and expected performance (maintenance vs. weight gain vs. pregnancy). Mineral supplementation needs also depend on the feed, water and soil chemistry around the herd.

Register for this free webinar to hear from experts on how to develop and manage a mineral program that works for your cows to improve your bottom line. You’ll learn:

  • why the cost of buying minerals is worth the expense
  • which minerals to feed, at what concentrations and when
  • how to better understand mineral tags to compare different mixtures
  • advice on getting your cows to consume the right amount
  • how to troubleshoot an existing mineral program

You’ll also hear about the latest research done on mineral supplementation strategies, and have the opportunity to ask questions. Continue reading

Ergot: Low Levels Cause Big Problems

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the July 2014 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.



Ergot develops when a fungus called Claviceps purpurea infects susceptible grass and grain plants during flowering. Rye is most susceptible annual crop, followed by triticale, then wheat. Barley and oats are less susceptible but not completely resistant. Ergot is not a concern in corn. Ergot can also infect a number of perennial grasses. Cool, damp weather conditions during the flowering period (like those in Western Canada over the last few years, and that appear to be shaping up again this summer) cause the flowers stay open longer. This allows more opportunities for ergot spores to spread and infect the seed head. Ergot spores can survive for a year on the soil surface. Less summer fallow, continuous grain-on-grain rotations and un-mowed grass in road allowances allow ergot spores to build up in the soil and help the disease cycle to continue and build.

Continue reading

Save costs by fine-tuning mineral supplementation: two new videos

If animals’ mineral needs are not met, the results are costly, including decreased performance, disease resistance and reproduction. Mineral requirements for cattle depend on their weight, age, and expected performance (maintenance vs. weight gain vs. pregnancy) and mineral supplementation needs also depend on the feed, water and soil chemistry around the herd.

The two latest episodes of the Beef Research School feature Dr. John McKinnon, Beef Industry Research Chair and professor and researcher of cattle nutrition at the University of Saskatchewan. In part one, Dr. McKinnon explains the symptoms of mineral deficiency, how to choose a mineral feeding program that suits your herd, the economic advantage of investing in supplements, and tips for preventing over or under-consumption. Continue reading

Feed testing explained in Beef Research School video

A new video is now available on www.BeefResearchSchool.com

Feed testing is a fundamental tool to assist cow-calf producers, backgrounding operations and feedlots develop sound feeding programs. By knowing the nutritional qualities of feeds, producers are better able to achieve desired production targets and save on supplemental feed costs. Feed testing is especially important to accurately determine the feed quality of forages, because visual appraisal of colour, plant species and leaf content, and knowledge of cutting time, can be misleading and should not be relied upon to determine feed quality. Continue reading

Have You Had Your Feed Tested?

This is a guest post written by John McKinnon, Ph.D. at the University of Saskatchewan.

As a nutritionist, feed testing is a fundamental tool that I rely on to assist beef producers with their feeding programs. This is true whether I am dealing with feedlots or cow-calf operations.  Accurate knowledge of feed quality, particularly the operation’s forage base allows one to develop feeding strategies for specific production scenarios and minimize the over- or under-feeding of nutrients. By so doing, one is able to achieve desired production targets and save on supplemental feed costs.

While feed testing seems like a “no brainer”, it is surprising how many cattlemen skip this critical management tool. It seems many would rather rely on visual appraisal (i.e. colour, plant species, and leaf content) or knowledge of cutting time to judge quality. While these are all indicators of forage quality, they do not substitute for a feed test particularly when it comes to the energy and protein content of that forage. For example, the protein content of brome hay can range from as low as 5 to 6% up to 18% depending on stage of maturity at cutting. While visual appraisal may help separate the good from the poor quality hay, it is not going to help you decide how much protein supplement, if any, you need to background calves when feeding this hay. Only a feed test can accurately help you make this decision. Continue reading