Meet the Council: Willingness to Adapt is Key for Managing Canadian Beef Operations

The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) is made up of producer members from across Canada, representing and appointed by each of the provincial beef organizations that allocate part of the Canadian Beef Cattle Check-Off to research. The number of members from each province is proportional to the amount of provincial allocation to research.

The following is part one in a series to introduce you to this group of innovative thinkers that set BCRC’s direction by sharing practices, strategies, or technologies that they have integrated into their own operations.

Although located in different regions across the country, the following three producers all agree that being able to change and adapt is key when implementing new practices on their operation.

Rotating Wintering Sites in Treed Landscapes

Dean Manning – Nova Scotia

Dean and his family have a mixed farm in the Annapolis Valley near Falmouth, Nova Scotia. There they raise vegetables to sell at farmers’ markets and have a herd of 80 Angus crossbred cattle. Farming in this unique area, alongside all forms of agriculture from greenhouses and wineries to dairy and hogs, has provided the Mannings with opportunities and challenges. With a limited land base that is surrounded primarily by housing developments, the Mannings realized that to produce more they had to become more efficient as expansion is not an option. The advantage is that land is very productive, and the moisture received makes for favourable growing conditions for forages and other crops. Continue reading

Silage is top choice for these three beef producers



Editor’s note: The following is part two of a two-part series that will help you to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of silage production across Canada. Read part one on silage cost of production. 

Many Canadian beef producers have been harvesting and feeding silage for decades, while others are relatively new to the practice. There are upsides to silage, including the ability to harvest forage during variable weather, being able to produce more feed on fewer acres, and the potential for a more economical feed ration. There are also drawbacks to consider, including additional feeding infrastructure and equipment investment. Also, as with any new method or management practice, producers considering silage need to do their homework, develop a new skillset and be prepared to adapt and adjust as they learn.

Read about the experiences of three beef farmers from across Canada who have incorporated silage on their farms.

Kevin Duddridge
Pansy, Manitoba

Kevin Duddridge describes silage as the “future of beef production” and has been relying on silage to feed his cow herd for the past five years. Duddridge and his family run a 220 head cow-calf operation that they started in 2003 and they feed a total mixed ration based on corn silage. “We don’t use dry bales at all because it’s hit and miss from year to year,” says Duddridge, who added that their cost of production has reduced since shifting away from dry hay. “Corn is an amazing plant. It has a root that will find water in dry years, and in years where conventional hay fails, you will still get a crop of corn,” Duddridge explains. “It’s basically half the price per pound of dry matter for our production costs,” he adds. Continue reading

Silage Cost of Production

Editor’s note: The following is part one of a two-part series that will help you to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of silage production across Canada.

Hay is a major forage source over the winter-feeding season in the cow/calf sector, but an increasing number of producers are considering silage if they aren’t already using it.

According to the 2016/17 Western Canadian Cow-Calf Survey, most respondents practiced some type of extensive feeding method, such as in-field feeding, for most of the winter. While all respondents used rolled bales (baled hay or straw) as part of their feeding program, about 30% also used other winter-feeding methods and materials including silage and chopped hay with a bale processor. In the east, the 2015/16 Ontario Cow-Calf Survey shows that 91% of producers winter their cattle using baled hay, while 45% reported feeding silage. According to the 2016/17 Atlantic Cow-Calf Survey, average days on feed by feed type (non-exclusive to one feed type) are 83 days on silage, 74 days on baled hay, and 52 days on crop residues.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Silage

A major benefit to putting up silage is that, provided the crop is at the right stage, it can be harvested in almost any weather condition. Lengthy dry down times can be avoided and harvest operations can continue even in cool or moist conditions. When harvesting silage, it is recommended that the crop be at 60-65% moisture level to maximize quality and packing effectiveness.

Compared to most other systems, such as baling dry hay, silage has fewer harvesting losses and more nutrients can be harvested per acre. Ensiling permits the use of a wider range of crops including grasses, legumes, grains, corn and salvage crops that have suffered weather damage or weed infestation. Also, silage harvest can typically be done in a much shorter timeframe compared to hay.

The major disadvantage of silage compared to hay is that it requires more capital investment or cash costs. Due to the high costs of planting and harvesting equipment, many livestock producers choose to not own the equipment, but rather hire custom operators. As custom operators are usually booked well in advance, producers need to plan seeding and harvest well ahead of time and make sure they have custom operators lined up. Also, silage has limited market potential, because trucking costs restrict the distance hauled, so it must be produced near the location where it will be fed. Continue reading