Tips for Successful Extended Grazing to Reduce Winter Feeding Costs

This is a guest post written by Karin Schmid, Beef Production Specialist with the Alberta Beef Producers, in collaboration with Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director.

Extended grazing systems have a number of benefits.  By extending grazing into the winter months, costs related to traditional winter feeding and the labour it requires can be significantly reduced. For example, research indicates that swath grazing can reduce total daily feeding cost per cow by 41 to 48%. This is based on a 78% reduction in yardage costs and a 25% reduction in feed costs.  Extended grazing can also have environmental benefits, such as residue and manure management.

However, extended grazing in our Canadian winters requires some added planning and management.  Replacement heifers, young cows and mature animals all have different nutritional requirements due to their age and physiology.  These differences are fairly easy to manage in a confined feeding system; however, managing the different classes of cattle during winter grazing requires more care. Continue reading

Shipping Cull Cows: Responsible Welfare Considerations

This is a guest post written by Karin Schmid, Beef Production Specialist with the Alberta Beef Producers, in collaboration with Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director.

With cows and calves coming off pasture in the coming weeks, some of these cows will likely be going to market.  Producers are reminded to be very cautious when facing a temptation to market thin, weak, lame, or sick cows that are unfit for transport.

Some auction markets will refuse to accept cows that are unlikely to sell, and some sales yards and packing plants will bill producers who deliver cattle that are condemned.  Moreover, producers, cattle buyers and transporters have an ethical and legal obligation to ensure the well being of the cattle under their care. Continue reading

Reducing Weaning Stress Part 2 – Improving Profits

This is a guest post written by Karin Schmid, Beef Production Specialist with the Alberta Beef Producers, in collaboration with Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director.

In the previous post, we talked about methods to reduce weaning stress in calves.  In this article, we’ll highlight the economic benefits of doing so.

Making weaning a low stress event should always be the goal, whether the calves will stay at home for breeding or feeding, go through internet, satellite or auction mart sales, or head directly to a backgrounding or finishing feedlot. Minimizing stress makes for happy calves, spouses and neighbors, and likely has economic benefits as well, especially for those who sell ’reputation’ cattle or retain ownership. High levels of stress or sickness can negatively impact the profits of producers who retain an ownership stake in their calves past weaning. Continue reading

Reducing Weaning Stress

This is a guest post written by Karin Schmid, Beef Production Specialist with the Alberta Beef Producers.

It’s approaching quickly, that time of year when you start to think about weaning your calves. Calves are weaned to make sure that cows can recover their body condition after raising a calf all summer, and to allow for specialized feeding of those calves. All producers do it, but not everyone approaches weaning in the same way.

The most common method of weaning is the abrupt separation of calves from their dams. This method is arguably the most stressful event of a young calf’s life. Not only are the calves abruptly deprived of a ready source of milk, but also social contact with their dams. Then add vaccinations, dietary changes, and transportation to a different environment, with unfamiliar animals, and it’s easy to see why weaning is stressful on calves. Stress depresses the immune system, which makes freshly weaned calves the most susceptible to bovine respiratory disease (BRD) infections.

Alternative weaning methods exist, if you are willing to spend a little more time on the process. Continue reading