New technologies to breed better barley

The nutritional value of barley grain comes from its seed starch content, but a great deal of barley is used for silage, greenfeed or swathgrazing. Therefore, it is important to know the nutritional value of the cut plant.

Nutritional value largely depends on how digestible the fiber (lignin, cellulose and hemicellulose) in the stem and leaves are. Barley varieties with higher whole plant digestibility allow cattle to obtain more nutrients per tonne of feed. Some barley varieties have more digestible fiber than others.

A recently-completed research project funded by the National Check-off and Canada’s Beef Science Cluster studied the use of genomic technologies to make selection for improved digestibility in feed barley easier and faster. Continue reading

Fertilizing pastures and hay: Beef Research School episode

In the previous episode of the Beef Research School, Dr. Paul Jefferson explained how to maximize your forage acres, including when to rejuvenate and when to reseed.  In this episode, we take a closer look at rejuvenation methods.

Dr. Bart Lardner with the Western Beef Development Centre discusses why producers should consider fertilizing hay and pasture land. In addition to chemical fertilizer or composted manure, in-field winter feeding systems are another strategy to consider. Continue reading

Improved test for vibriosis in bulls

Venereal diseases like trichomoniasis (trich) and vibriosis (vibrio) remain common causes of reproductive failure in cow-calf herds in western Canada. Unlike trich, there is no good diagnostic test available for vibrio.

A recently-completed research project funded by the National Check-off and Canada’s Beef Science Cluster studied polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, which detect specific DNA sequences, as a potentially cost-effective and practical diagnostic testing strategy for identifying beef cattle with vibrio. Continue reading

Maximizing forage acres: Beef Research School episode

Rejuvenating or reestablishing your summer pastures can allow you to graze more cows per acre for more days of the year. If you’re worried you’ve got too many cows on your pastures, are reluctant to rent or buy more acres or even tempted to sell some pasture land because of high land prices, consider how to get better forage production out of the acres you’ve got.

In the latest Beef Research School video, Dr. Paul Jefferson of the Western Beef Development Centre explains that adding alfalfa, fertilizing forages and rotational grazing will boost production. He also describes when it’s time to reseed a pasture, and gives tips on the best time to establish new forages.

Also beware that grazing forages too early in the spring, before plants have reached the 3 or 3 ½ leaf stage, will reduce yields and shorten your grazing season.

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Preventing wrecks caused by infectious disease: new video

There’s no question – the introduction, re-occurrence or spread of cattle diseases can be absolutely devastating to your herd and surrounding animals. Everyday risk management goes a long way to protect cattle. Although “biosecurity” is not a term we often use in the beef industry, implementing the principles certainly reduces the risk of infectious disease, which saves costs and prevents losses.

The latest video in the Beef Research School series, featuring Dr. John Campbell from the University of Saskatchewan and Dave Zehnder, a cow-calf producer from Invermere, BC, explains how biosecurity applies to beef cattle production, and offers straight-forward tips to cattlemen on how to lessen the risk of infectious disease in their herds. Continue reading

Studying biting flies that spread Bluetongue

Bluetongue, a viral disease of ruminants, spreads from one animal to another through a biting fly.  Although cattle do not usually become sick from the disease and Bluetongue does not have a strong foothold in Canada, it’s biting fly vectors are found in parts of southern BC, AB, and likely SK. Climate change can make conditions favorable for disease outbreaks in new areas.

To prepare for the possibility of an outbreak, it is important to identify potential vector species and develop information on their seasonal abundance, biology, and population dynamics. Continue reading