FAQs

General

Is ‘Genomics' a BCRC research priority?

Genomics is a tool used within all of BCRC's five research priorities . For example, “effectiveness and value of genetic markers for tenderness validated in commercial cattle” is a short term objective within the Beef Quality research priority.

Is the BCRC the only funder of beef and beef cattle research in Canada?

BCRC is the leading industry funder of beef research in Canada, and is responsible for managing the research allocation of the National Check-off. The leading government funder is Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Several other groups across Canada also sponsor research related to the beef industry, including provincial ministries of agriculture, provincial organizations of beef producers, and regional forage associations. The National Research Strategy is working to improve coordination among all the funders to ensure all of industry's research priorities are adequately addressed and maximize the value of all investments in research within the Canadian beef cattle industry.

Animal Health and Welfare

What is the difference between antimicrobials and antibiotics?

Antibiotic: an antimicrobial substance produced by a microorganism (or a synthetic version) that can kill or prevent the growth of another microorganism. In human and veterinary medicine, antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections.

Antimicrobial: a substance that can destroy or prevent the growth of microorganisms. There are many different types of antimicrobial substances, including antibiotics, anti-protozoals (e.g. ionophores for coccidiosis), alcohol, soap and bleach.

All antibiotics are antimicrobials, but not all antimicrobials are antibiotics. The two terms are often mistakenly used interchangeably.

Beef Quality

Does the BCRC fund grass-finished beef research?

The BCRC has funded a number of studies that have examined the performance and meat quality of grass-finishing cattle. Most of our forage research is focused on improving the productivity of tame and native grasses and forages, which has benefits for the cow-calf, backgrounding, and finishing (both grain- and grass-based) sectors.

Feed Grains and Feed Efficiency

Why is so much of the feed efficiency research focused on distillers' grains?

Recent renewable fuel standards require bioethanol or biodiesel to be blended with gasoline and diesel fuels. As a result, by-products of biofuel production have become popular nutrient sources for cattle. As long as production bioethanol continues at current levels, the feedlot industry in Canada will feed distillers' grains in order to produce beef as efficiently as our trading partners. The industry is now focused on studying the effects of using distillers' grains as a feed source to better understand how different types and formulations of distillers' grains in diets affect feed efficiency and manure nutrient levels.

Is the BCRC funding feed grain breeding research to address low feed grain yields in Canada?

Corn yields increased by 35 bushels per acre between 1990 and 2010, while barley yields have increased by 14 in the same time period. Barley acreage has also declined. This has prompted Alberta's beef industry to invest in research aimed at increasing feed barley yields. The March 2012 Beef Cattle Industry Research Workshop convened by the National Beef Value Chain Roundtable identified a number of priority research outcomes focused on improving feed grain yields and nutrient quality.

Food Safety

Can E. coli be avoided by feeding forage instead of grain?

A number of research projects have examined whether feeding forage-based finishing diets instead of grain-based finishing diets influences E. coli shedding by cattle. The results have been conflicting; some studies indicate that E. coli shedding is lower on grain-based diets, some suggest that shedding is lower on forage-based diets, and others have shown no difference. However, no nutritional strategy has been shown to completely eliminate E. coli shedding. Industry efforts have focused on in-plant practices to minimize the risk of E. coli contamination, as well as developing food safety interventions to effectively mitigate multiple pathogens that may be transferred to meat.

Why is so much research focus placed on E. coli? Aren't there other pathogens as well?

E. coli has been a major research focus because it is the most common and highest profile food safety pathogen associated with beef. However, most of our research projects are focused on developing interventions that will simultaneously and effectively combat multiple potential pathogens (e.g. E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria).

Forage and Grasslands

Why doesn't the beef industry fund more forage research?

BCRC support for forage research has doubled between 2000-2008 and 2009-2013. One of the limiting factors is simply a lack of scientists and infrastructure involved in forage research. The BCRC has been actively involved in efforts to increase Canada's forage research capacity.

With grain prices so high, why not finish cattle on forage?

Finishing cattle on forage typically takes at least twice as long as finishing cattle on grain based diets. Feed efficiency is also considerably better on grain-based finishing diets. These costs can be recovered when beef is sold to niche markets. However, that cost return would be lost if forage-finishing was a more common practice by the industry, because increased supply would decrease prices. In addition, the quality of forage-finished beef does not meet the highest standards within the Canadian grading system, so forage-finished carcasses are subject to discounts. That said, forage is used in all stages of beef production (cow-calf, backgrounding and finishing), so improved forage yields and quality are a research priority for the BCRC.

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