A Year in Review: Outcomes of Your Investments in Canadian Beef Research and Extension

 

Where exactly are my Canadian Beef Cattle Check-Off funds allocated to research going? How have the circumstances of the past year impacted beef research and extension? What has the Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) been up to lately? Answers to these questions and more can be found in the BCRC’s new report.  
BCRC 2020-2021 Year in Review Report
The 
2020-2021 Year in Review provides a visual representation of the BCRC Results Report, which is submitted annually to the Canadian Beef Cattle Check-Off Agency. The new report offers a reader-friendly snapshot of the fiscal year’s activities and results 

“So much has happened during the past year – from the COVID-19 pandemic to the drought that impacted cattle producers across much of the country,” said BCRC Executive Director Andrea Brocklebank.  “While there has been much uncertainty in the industry in 2020-2021, Canada’s beef producers remain tenacious, researchers have proven to be innovative and the Beef Cattle Research Council is resolute to move forward as a leader in beef research and extension.”  

The 2020-2021 Year in Review spotlights a few of the key research and extension projects that were funded during the past year. There were 23 research and extension projects reporting activities between April 2020 and March 2021 through the current Beef Cattle Industry Science Cluster, as well as 25 priority research projects. While most results will be presented upon completion, the new report features a few of the preliminary findings.  Continue reading

Optimum Condition = Maximum Production



When feed supplies are short, it may be tempting to feed less and allow cows to lose body condition, but this short-term solution can have a long-term impact on the performance and profitability of a cow herd. A herd of cows maintained in the right condition with an ideal layer of fat cover will have more (and heavier!) calves than a herd of thin or over-fat cows.

In a drought year, when feed access and quality is uncertain, hands on body condition scoring (BCS) is a simple and accurate method to assess the condition and productivity of your herd. Continue reading

Canadian Cow-calf Cost of Production Network – 2021 Results

 



You may know what you want out of your operation, but do you record what you put into it? Knowing the difference between what you get and what you give is essential for profitable decision-making. This is the purpose of calculating cost of production.



The Canadian Cow-calf Cost of Production Network launched in 2020 with the objective to benchmark different production systems across Canada. Baseline data was collected from 115 producers who attended virtual focus groups between January and March 2021. This created 25 cow-calf and 3 dairy-beef production systems. These benchmarks are the first set in a standardized pan-Canadian process looking at the many types of cow-calf production systems across the country. The network only requires data to be submitted every five years; and should reduce response burden for producers while allowing for improvements to be tracked into the future. Results from the 2020 reference year are now available online  Continue reading

Meet the Council: Flexibility and Creative Solutions Provide Opportunity for These Beef Stakeholders

The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) is made up of producer members from across Canada, 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 check-off allocated to research.

The following is part five 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. Read part onepart two, part three and part four of this series. 

Regardless of what Canadian region beef producers are from, creative marketing strategies can help farmers profit as much as possible when they sell their cattle.

Keeping Things Flexible
Beef Cattle Research Council member Lee Irvine and family at home on the farm
Lee Irvine – Alberta

Lee Irvine and his family raise cattle outside of Cochrane, Alberta. They purchased their new place just over a year ago and are still working on getting things transitioned from what was primarily a horse facility back to a working cattle operation. Their new place is 80 acres of pasture and they also have some lease land with Lee’s family that they run cattle on.

Lee works off the farm in the auction industry so having a production system that can accommodate his schedule is important. They choose the class of cattle that they run based on current markets and opportunities on their farm. This year they have been running grasser cattle.

Continue reading

Is This a Good Investment?

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in a September 2021 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.

The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) projects featured in this column are funded by the Canadian Beef Cattle Check-Off. When the checkoff increased a few years ago, the BCRC’s budget rose from around 15 cents to 67 cents per head marketed. This allowed us to start some new research programs. Now that we’re a few years in I can update you on how they’re going.

One is our “Proof of Concept” program. Research is complicated and costly, so we have independent scientists review each research proposal to make sure it is scientifically sound and likely to achieve its goal before investing your dollars into it. Sometimes the reviewers say, “This is an interesting project, but it’s really costly, and it all hinges on an untested idea. It’d be better if they had some preliminary evidence that this new idea is worth pursuing, before funding a costly, full-scale project.”

In 2018 the BCRC started funding Proof of Concept projects to gather these preliminary results and help decide whether these new ideas are worth scaling up into full-scale research trials. Here’s what two of the first Proof of Concept projects told us.
intercropping corn and high-protein forages for better beef cattle nutrition
Exploring corn intercropping strategies to increase protein and profitability of beef cattle grazing:
Corn’s high yields and energy content make it a popular wintering grazing crop for some Western Canadian producers. However, it’s low protein content may make it unsuitable for younger, growing cattle. Seeding corn together with high protein forages may be a way around this challenge.

Continue reading

What’s the most profitable post-weaning choice for your calves? Try our updated calculator!


Backgrounding, preconditioning, calf, calculator
Drought conditions across the country this year remind us of the importance of a drought management plan. Diversifying a cow-calf operation with a backgrounding enterprise could be part of a drought mitigation strategy as backgrounded cattle can be sold or move to a feedlot to free up feed supplies or pasture for the cow herd. While backgrounding may not be an option of many producers this year due to tight feed supplies, now might be a good time to start thinking if this strategy fits your operation.

The Beef Cattle Research Council’s Preconditioning and Backgrounding Calculator (download the .xlxs file) is designed to identify economic opportunities and risks from preconditioning or backgrounding cattle. The calculator has recently been updated to allow more flexibility in price projections. The cattle price index database embedded in the calculator is updated with the latest five-year (2016-2020) provincial data from British Columbia to Quebec.

Continue reading

Today’s Research Provides Tomorrow’s Solutions

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the September 2021 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.

Today’s research won’t help you weather this year’s drought, but the practical information and advice you’ll read elsewhere in this issue (and at www.beefresearch.ca) will. Those pasture management, early weaning, creep-feeding, feed and water testing, alternative feeds and ration balancing tips all originate from past research done by scientists and refined by producers. But producer-funded research underway today will help us cope with future droughts.
beef cattle kicking up dust in dry pasture
Crops, pastures and haylands throughout Western and Central Canada are parched. In a lot of places, the only green and thriving forage plants are forage legumes like alfalfa, vetches, trefoil, sweet clover and sainfoin. Legumes have specialized roots that allow them to capture nitrogen from the air and convert it into plant protein. This improves soil fertility and forage and animal productivity. Their root systems can also extend very deep into the soil and allow them to access subsoil moisture that shallow-rooted plants can’t reach during times of drought. Canada’s forage researchers are working hard today to develop tomorrow’s forage varieties and management practices that will improve productivity, nutritional quality and resilience under challenging environmental conditions. Continue reading

Announcing the Beef Researcher Mentorship Program Participants 2021-2022 *New Video*

Researchers are critical for our industry. Engaging researchers who study cattle, beef, genetics, feed or forage production with the Canadian beef cattle industry is mutually beneficial; it allows researchers to be better informed of what the industry needs are and more likely to share their findings with a practical, solution-based focus. The BCRC Beef Researcher Mentorship Program provides opportunity for new researchers to be paired with two mentors that are relevant to their career as well as a travel budget to attend industry events.

A new video has been released which provides more information about the researcher mentorship program. As past program mentee Robert Gruninger, a research scientist at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Lethbridge Research and Development Centre, said, “For me, the knowledge that I gained from the mentorship program has been invaluable not only for me being able to get the job that I’m in, but also to be successful in securing funding that has relevance to producers.”

Watch the new video:

The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) is pleased to announce the participants in the 2021-22 Beef Researcher Mentorship program. Following an open application process, four researchers from across Canada have been selected. Each has been paired with notable leaders in the Canadian beef industry and given a travel budget for the next year, which will provide valuable opportunities for greater engagement with Canada’s beef industry. Continue reading

Registration Now Open For 2021/2022 Webinar Series



This year’s Beef Cattle Research Council webinar series will cover a range of topics including backgrounding, record keeping and grazing plans, all focused on practical, science-based information for Canadian beef producers. 

Register here. (This link will allow you to register for the entire webinar series.)

See topics and descriptions below. Continue reading

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