Looking to Make the Most of Forage Quality? Consider These Factors

Editor’s note: To support current extension initiatives and provide enhanced resources, the Beef Cattle Research Council has increased collaboration and subsequent delivery of extension content that reflects the production practices and needs of eastern Canadian beef producers. This blog post is the first in an ongoing series of content delivery. Suggestions, ideas, and comments are always welcome.   



Thank you to New Brunswick Cattle Producers and Les Producteurs de bovins du Québec for providing access to a French version of this blog post, available here. 

Forage quality is an important factor to consider when feeding cattle. While this may seem obvious, maximizing forage quality is sometimes not the focus when management decisions are being made. Yet focusing on quality might enable producers to save costs by getting more out of the forage they have and reducing reliance on expensive concentrates and feed additives.  Continue reading

Tips for Starting Lightweight Calves on Feed



Many cow-calf producers from B.C. through Ontario are planning to wean and sell their calves earlier this year. Others are reluctant to sell lightweight calves into a flooded market so are thinking about retaining ownership, putting extra pounds onto lightweight calves, and selling into a more promising feeder market in early 2022.   

Many factors need to be considered when preparing to feed lightweight calves 

Calves face health and nutritional hurdles as they are weaned and transitioned to a backgrounding diet. Because of Mother Nature’s cruel summer, those hurdles may be

even higher for this year’s lightweight calves. 

Despite producers’ diligence, calves from drought-stricken pastures will face unique challenges getting started on feed. The following tips and considerations can help calves be more resilient in the face of these added challenges.  Continue reading

Dr. Surya Acharya Receives 2021 Canadian Beef Industry Award for Outstanding Research and Innovation

Dr. Surya Acharya receives 2021 Canadian Beef Industry Award for Outstanding Research and Innovation from Beef Cattle Research Council


Pictured l to r:  Beef producer Darren Bevans, BCRC Science Director Reynold Bergen, BCRC Executive Director Andrea Brocklebank, beef producer Doug Wray, 2021 Canadian Beef Industry Award for Outstanding Research & Innovation recipient Dr. Surya Acharya, beef producer and BCRC Vice Chair Craig Lehr, AAFC Forage Breeder Hari Poudel, beef producer and BCRC Council Member Graeme Finn and AAFC Forage Agronomy Technician Brandon Eisenreich.

An innovative and industry-engaged forage breeder has been granted the 2021 Canadian Beef Industry Award for Outstanding Research and Innovation. Dr. Surya Acharya received this award today at the 2021 virtual Canadian Beef Industry Conference to recognize the positive impacts of his research on beef industry advancement.  

“Dr. Acharya is respected and appreciated by academics and producers alike,” said Matt Bowman, chair of the Beef Cattle Research Council and a producer from Thornloe, Ontario. “His work addresses real industry obstacles with solutions that consider producers’ needs through direct communication with stakeholders.”   

Dr. Acharya is a research scientist and forage breeder at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) in Lethbridge, Alberta, where he specializes in breeding legumes. His current research focuses on developing new cultivars of legume species with improvements in yield, nutritional quality and persistence, among other traits. His unique approach to plant breeding incorporates a consideration of multiple factors to best serve the needs of end-users, including beef producers. Indeed, many of Dr. Acharya’s past cultivars are appreciated for their practical use in solving industry challenges, such as his AC Oxley II and AC Veldt cicer milkvetch varieties, both of which are much quicker to establish than predecessors. Similarly, he assisted in the development of the online Forage U-Pick tool, which aids western Canadian producers in choosing appropriate forage species for their operations.  

Dr. Acharya’s most recent project aims to enhance the lipid content of legume vegetative tissues to improve their energy content for grazing livestock. Using conventional and genomic breeding techniques, his team has been able to select for plants with approximately five percent lipid content, compared to virtually none in the original plants. His project will have environmental benefits by using conventional breeding to reduce methane production through increased digestibility, which will allow western Canadian alfalfa producers to export to nations that avoid the GMO designation.   Continue reading

Survey Says…?

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the August 2021 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.
Canadian beef producer standing in pasture taking BCRC's online beef industry survey
In February’s column I encouraged you to fill out our online beef research survey to help the Beef Cattle Research Council and other industry and government funders develop a clear set of priorities to guide our funding decisions over the next five years. Thanks for responding – we had nearly twice as many responses this time as we got five years ago. The more responses we get, the more confidence we have in the feedback that comes in. Here are some of the highlights of what you told us.

What We Did:

The survey was open between January 5 and March 5, 2021. It asked you to rate a variety of research issues as Extremely, Very, Moderately, Slightly or Not Important in the areas of feed efficiency and utilization, forage and grassland productivity, environmental sustainability, animal health and welfare, beef quality and food safety. We also asked how often producers used different communication channels for production information and how influential they were in their decision making.

A total of 878 Canadians responded to the survey. This article focuses on the responses provided by the 65 seedstock, 497 cow-calf and 33 feedlot producers, as well as the 39 veterinarians (for the animal health and welfare section) and 26 non-governmental organization (NGO) representatives (for the environmental sustainability section). We paid particular attention to issues that were rated as Extremely or Very Important by 75% or more of respondents, as well as issues that were rated as Slightly or Not Important by 25% or more of respondents.

What We Learned:

Feed efficiency and utilization: Cow-calf and seedstock respondents prioritized differences in wintering costs between efficient and inefficient cows, while feedlot operators prioritized the impacts of feed quality and feedlot management practices on feed efficiency. Not surprisingly, feedlot operators rated barley and corn yields more highly than cow-calf or seedstock producers.

Continue reading

Decision Making During Drought


Canadian beef cattle during drought in pasture with dwindling water supply
Producers coping with severe drought and feed shortages have tough decisions to make about culling, weaning and cow management. The following considerations may be helpful when making herd decisions in the coming weeks and into the fall:

Culling

  • Know what feed sources you have available and the true nutritional quality of them so you can make the best decisions for your herd. Sending representative feed samples to a lab for analysis and working with a nutritionist or livestock specialist who can interpret the results and help develop balanced rations is crucially important.
  • Prevent cows you plan to keep in the herd from losing too much condition. Cows with an ideal amount of fat cover (a body condition score of 3.0) eat less and are easier to maintain through the winter and get rebred. Cull early to help keep the remainder of the herd in good condition.
  • Now is a good time to let go of any cattle you have let slide through in previous culls. Check your records. Cull anything that has a bad temperament, that has been treated repeatedly for health issues or that weans calves that perform below your herd benchmarks.
  • The value of the investment in pregnancy checking your herd is even more evident in dry years as it allows you to cull any open or late-calving cows.
  • Consider culling any bulls that are older or that are producing less desirable progeny based on your records.

Continue reading

New Video: The Canadian Beef Industry Award for Outstanding Research and Innovation

In a new video spotlighting the Canadian Beef Industry Award for Outstanding Research and Innovation, 2020 winner Karen Beauchemin says, “It’s so fantastic to know that the work that we have been doing is important and recognized by the industry.”

The Canadian Beef Industry Award for Outstanding Research and Innovation is presented by the Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) each year to recognize a researcher or scientist whose work has contributed to advancements in the competitiveness and sustainability of the Canadian beef industry. The 2021 award will be presented virtually at the Canadian Beef Industry Conference on Wednesday, September 1, 2021, at 12:00 PM MST. To watch the award ceremony, you may register for the conference or use the following link: https://web.cvent.com/event/85eb671e-34f6-4cee-8c8b-4ecfb6435fac/regProcessStep1 and use the code: BCRCAWARDS.

Nominations for the award are welcome from all stakeholders of the Canadian beef industry and will be reviewed by a selection committee comprised of beef producers, industry experts and retired beef-related researchers from across the country.  Nominations are kept on file and reconsidered for up to two additional years. In such cases, the nominator will be contacted each year and given the opportunity to revise the nomination.

To be eligible, nominees must be Canadian citizens or landed immigrants actively involved in research of benefit to the Canadian beef industry within the past five years. Benefit to the industry must be evident in a strong research program aligned with industry priorities, a demonstrated passion and long-term commitment through leadership, teamwork and mentorship, involvement in ongoing education and training (where applicable) and active engagement with industry stakeholders.

Do you know a researcher to nominate? Nominations for the 2022 award will be accepted until May 1, 2022.

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The sharing or reprinting of BCRC Blog articles is welcome and encouraged. Please provide acknowledgement to the Beef Cattle Research Council, list the website address, www.BeefResearch.ca, and let us know you chose to share the article by emailing us at info@beefresearch.ca.

We welcome your questions, comments and suggestions. Contact us directly or generate public discussion by posting your thoughts below.

Patience, Silence & Observation – Practical tips to reducing stress when handling cattle



Many farmers truly enjoy working cattle but for some producers (and perhaps their family members) sorting and processing cattle may not bring out the best in everyone. The good news is reducing stress is entirely possible. In many cases, inexpensive changes or tweaks can benefit herd – and family – dynamics.

Joseph Stookey, PhD, Professor Emeritus with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan, dedicated his career to studying animal behaviour and has a special interest in looking at ways to reduce stress during cattle handling. Continue reading

Experts Respond to Drought Questions


Experiencing drought stress? Watch recording of webinar for beef producers.
On July 29, the Beef Cattle Research Council hosted a webinar that allowed beef producers to ask drought-related questions to a panel of nutrition and animal health experts. Producers asked for everything from recommendations for grazing canola, how to manage for antinutritional factors, tips on ammoniation and to how to manage grass into the fall. While questions were varied and diverse, a few main themes emerged.

Feed testing:

In a drought year, testing your feed sources is more important than ever. Especially when using alternative feed sources, a feed test allows you to understand what you have in terms of energy and protein and therefore what you will need to supplement to maintain the health and body condition of cows and other classes of cattle. A feed test will also identify some of the antinutritional factors and potential toxic levels of substances such as nitrates or sulfates that are more prevalent in drought years or unconventional feeds. Feed tests can be performed on standing or swathed crops, bales or silage. A feed test can be instrumental in determining how a particular feed will fit into your overall feeding strategy. Continue reading

Drought-Related Resources for Cattle Producers

General

Experts Respond To Drought QuestionsBlog Post with Webinar Recording – August 10, 2021
Includes key points and the full recording of a webinar held on July 29, 2021 that answered producer questions about feeding cattle during a drought. https://www.beefresearch.ca/blog/expert-responses-to-drought-questions/

Decision Making During Drought – Blog Post – August 18, 2021
Considerations that may be helpful when making herd decisions such as culling, early weaning and winter feeding. https://www.beefresearch.ca/blog/decision-making-during-drought/

Drought Management Strategies – Topic Webpage
A complete overview that covers many producer considerations during and after a drought. Includes links to additional resources and calculators.
http://www.beefresearch.ca/droughtmanagement

Resources for Drought Management – Blog Post – April 29, 2021
Includes 8 tips for dealing with drought as well as links to BCRC and other resources that producers may find useful while in a drought.
http://www.beefresearch.ca/blog/resources-for-drought-management/

Feed Value, Options and Quality

Salvaging a Crop? Here Are Some Things to Consider When Valuing a Crop for Feed – Blog Post and Calculator – July 23, 2021
Intended to aid producers when determining the value of salvaged crop for feed.
http://www.beefresearch.ca/blog/salvaging-a-crop-here-are-some-things-to-consider-when-valuing-a-crop-for-feed/
* Note: Potential residue from chemical use should be a consideration. Download the VBP+ Salvaging Damaged Crops for Livestock Feed Fact Sheet.

Feed Testing & Analysis for Beef Cattle – Topic Webpage and Interactive Decision Tool
It is essential, especially in drought conditions, that producers test their feed and balance rations accordingly. This webpage includes information on how and why to test feed as well as an interactive calculator. Producers can input their feed test results to determine whether the feed should be supplemented based on the group of cattle they plan to feed it to. **It is important to note this tool does not take into account other antinutritional factors (e.g. nitrates and sulfates) that can be a more common problem with alternative feeds.
http://www.beefresearch.ca/research/feed-value-estimator.cfm

Alternative Feeds – Topic Webpage
With drought being so widespread, producers will be turning to different crops to help get them through the fall and winter. This webpage includes information on things to consider when feeding alternatives as well as specific information on many of the feed sources producers may be considering. http://www.beefresearch.ca/research-topic.cfm/alternative-feeds-100

Winter Feed Cost Comparison Calculator – Excel Calculator
This Excel-based calculator allows producers to compare cattle diets on a low-cost basis. It is not designed for balancing rations. http://www.beefresearch.ca/files/xls/Winterfeed_Cost_Calc_Final_Locked.xlsx

Water

Test Stock Water to Reduce Worry Blog Post – May 19, 2021
http://www.beefresearch.ca/blog/test-stock-water-reduce-worry/
What’s in Your Stock Water – Blog Post – August 27, 2019
https://www.beefresearch.ca/blog/whats-in-your-stock-water/
These two blog posts include information on why and how to test, where to send samples, and how to interpret results.

Water Systems for Beef Cattle Topic Webpage
Includes graphics on water quality and things to consider when setting up a new or temporary water source, as well as information on different types of watering systems.  http://www.beefresearch.ca/research-topic.cfm/water-systems-for-beef-cattle-104

What’s in your Water? Water Quality and the Economics of Pump Systems WebinarWebinar Recorded March 2019
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRixe81liXU&t=328s

Feed and Water Testing DemonstrationVideo Recorded August 2020
2020 Canadian Beef Industry Conference Bov-Innovation Session
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kY9apaZs1rw

Additional Resources

Pregnancy Detection ­– Topic Webpage
With low feed supplies, producers may consider early culling of open animals. This webpage includes information on pregnancy detection as well as a calculator that allows producers to determine whether preg checking will pay off on their operation.
http://www.beefresearch.ca/research-topic.cfm/pregnancy-detection-90

Mycotoxins ­– Topic Webpage
Many producers may be turning to feeds they aren’t used to feeding this fall. Mycotoxins are more of a risk in wet conditions but they still can be present when it is dry as well. This page includes information on mycotoxins, testing, and what producers can do about them:  http://www.beefresearch.ca/research-topic.cfm/mycotoxins-94

Creep Feeding – Blog Post – August 20, 2015
Nutritionist John McKinnon explains how creep feeding can reduce stress on cows during a drought and what to consider when making the decision to creep feed.
http://www.beefresearch.ca/blog/creep-feeding-mckinnon/

Body Condition – Topic Webpage
With short feed supplies it can be tempting to feed cows lower quality or less feed. Dropping body condition in cattle, especially those in later pregnancy in the fall and winter, can have negative effects on animal welfare, herd productivity, and long-term economics. This webpage includes information on how to accurately score body condition, the risks of low body condition scores, and a calculator producers can input numbers into to determine the economic effects of changing body condition scores in their herds.
http://www.beefresearch.ca/research/body-condition-scoring.cfm

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Join the CCA for “Mental wellbeing in times of crisis”

 

Missed this webinar? Watch the recording here.



Please join the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association for a virtual conversation on the evening of Tuesday, August 24, 2021 with rancher and rural mental health provider, Cynthia Beck. With extreme weather events affecting producers across the country, it is a time of high stress and uncertainty for many. Cynthia will provide practical tips and strategies for mental wellbeing in times of crisis.

Speaker:

Cynthia Beck is a Master’s student in the Clinical Psychology program at the University of Regina. She works in rural mental health and provides volunteer suicide intervention response services to south east Saskatchewan. Cynthia and her husband, Wade, along with their two children, farm in partnership with Wade’s family. The Becks operate a multi-generational mixed cattle and grain farm near Milestone, SK, consisting of purebred Charolais and a commercial beef herd.

Register Here: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/2616281101459/WN_MO8HfNCcRKahsQOv_HtfAQ

After registering, you will receive an email with instructions on how to join the webinar, including by phone.