Animal Health & Welfare

Major production limiting diseases can be costly, even devastating for an individual herd, and have the potential to harm the entire beef cattle industry.  Applied research works to develop effective and economical management practices, and diagnostic and treatment tools.  These reduce costs and losses associated with animal health and production limiting diseases in primary production sectors.

Further research is needed to improve prevention and surveillance of production limiting disease and welfare issues, and improve understanding and management of pain and stress in beef cattle.

Acidosis
Anaplasmosis
Anthrax
Antimicrobial Resistance

Antimicrobial resistance occurs naturally when the genetic make-up of microbes is altered in a manner that makes them no longer susceptible to antimicrobials designed to kill them or prevent their growth. In Canada, surveillance indicates that resistance levels in cattle are extremely low and have not increased over time. Research and surveillance evidence suggests that eliminating antimicrobial use in beef production will have clear negative health consequences for cattle with no obvious benefit for human health. Read More...

Basic Immunology
Bluetongue
Bovine Respiratory Disease

Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) is the most common and costly disease affecting the North American beef cattle industry. In the broadest sense, BRD refers to any disease of the upper or lower respiratory tracts. BRD is commonly associated with infections of the lungs causing pneumonia in recently weaned and feedlot cattle, nursing beef calves, housed dairy calves, and lactating dairy cows.
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Castration

Castration is the removal or inactivation of the testicles. In earlier times, castration was used to help control cattle used to pull plows and wagons; oxen are tamer than bulls. Castration is now used as a management tool in modern agriculture for many reasons, including to:

  • Cease the production of male hormones
  • Prevent mating of genetically inferior livestock
  • Decrease aggression to enhance on-farm safety for handlers and animals
  • Decrease costs of managing bulls (larger, stronger facilities)
  • Avoid price discounts from feedlots and meat packers
  • Produce meat with a quality acceptable to consumers (higher grade, more marbling, more consistent)
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Dehorning

Horns consist of a shell made of keratin and other proteins over a core of living bone.  Removing horns allows cattle to be handled more safely and reduces injury to other cattle, which can also result in financial losses due to trimming of bruised carcasses.

According to the latest National Beef Quality Audit, fewer than 11% of non-fed cattle and fewer than 13% of fed cattle processed in Canada in 2010-11 had any type of horns, and fewer than 3% had full horns, but the few horns that remain are costly. The economic loss to the industry caused by bruising is estimated at $2.10/head processed in addition to $0.06/head due to extra packing plant labor costs to remove horns from the carcass before skinning. Horn levies in Saskatchewan ($2) and British Columbia ($10), which are intended to encourage the dehorning of cattle in order to reduce injuries and economic impacts, add additional expense.

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Disposal of Cattle Mortalities

Cattle mortalities need to be disposed of within forty-eight hours after death to control the spread of disease, prevent contamination of air or ground water and for the cattle producer to avoid the risk of prosecution. How best to dispose of dead cattle is an important question. After the advent of BSE in Canada, disposal through traditional channels such as rendering has become more expensive and in some cases less available.

Alternatives for disposal of cattle mortalities, along with their pros and cons, are listed below. Because regulations differ across provinces, it would be wise to check local regulations before adopting a particular method. Be aware that legality of disposal is subject to interpretation by local authorities who may restrict the use of a particular method if too many complaints are received.

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Distillers' Grains

Distillers’ grains are a by-product from the process of grain-based ethanol production and can be used as an economical commodity in feeding cattle. As long as bioethanol production continues at current levels, the feedlot industry in Canada will feed distillers’ grains in order to produce beef as efficiently as our trading partners. Most distillers’ grains in North America come from corn with some from sorghum and wheat. Corn distillers’ grains are sold produced in Eastern Canada and the U.S. Wheat distillers’ grains, or a mixture of wheat and corn, are produced in Western Canada. Read More...

Impact of Oil and Natural Gas Production

Raising livestock adjacent to oil and gas production facilities is a reality for cattle producers in many parts of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and northern British Columbia. These herds can be exposed to emissions due to routine production activities and accidental releases of volatile products such as H2S, SO2 and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). It is also possible for cattle to be exposed to liquid products such as crude oil, drilling mud, frac fluid, high salt produced water, and a variety of products used to assist in production or movement through gathering systems. Read More...

Internal Parasites
Johne's Disease

Johne’s disease (pronounced “Yo-knees”), also known as paratuberculosis, is a long standing  infection that causes a very gradual thickening of the intestines reducing the nutrients the cow can absorb, resulting in weight loss, diarrhea and eventually death.  Johne’s disease primarily affects cattle and other ruminants, but has also been reported in pigs. Read More...

Lameness

Lameness is leg or foot pain that affects how cattle move. There are many different kinds of lameness, with many different causes, such as genetics, environment, injury, nutrition, and a variety of infections. Lameness can negatively affect both animal welfare and growth performance, because animals may be reluctant to eat or drink if standing or walking is painful. Read More...

Neonatal Disease

One of the most important production factors influencing the economics of the beef cow calf farm is the calf crop percentage. This is defined as the percentage of cows exposed to the bull that raise a calf to weaning. In order to achieve this, a cow must become pregnant, successfully carry the calf through to term, give birth to a live calf and raise it to weaning age. Many factors can influence the calf crop percentage including reproductive management as well as calf losses through abortions, stillbirths, and other mortalities. A number of studies have demonstrated the importance of perinatal and neonatal losses in beef cattle in affecting the calf crop percentage. Read More...

Reproductive Failure

Reproductive failure is extremely costly for producers, and goes undiagnosed in 25% of affected herds. Common known causes for reproductive failure are bull infertility, venereal diseases, such as trichomoniasis (trich) and vibriosis (vibrio), and poor cow nutrition. Reproductive failure is the most common reason associated with culling cows from the breeding herd.

The expense of an open cow to a producer is not only the lost value of a calf (approximately $800-900), but also the cost of maintaining the cow for a year without a calf being produced ($600-750).

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Transport

Transportation is a critical element of modern cattle production and marketing. Nearly all cattle are transported several times in their lives. Successfully hauling livestock poses particular challenges and requires particular skills. Read More...

Weaning

Calves are weaned to make sure that cows can recover their body condition before heading into winter, and to allow for specialized feeding of those calves. The abrupt separation of calves from their dams is the most common approach to weaning, but it’s also the most stressful, and calves that experience a lot of stress underperform. Read More...

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