Tues. February 27th: Check-off Town Hall being held online

Each time you sell cattle in Canada, you pay a national check-off. If you want a better understanding about where your national check-off dollars are spent and the increase from $1/head to $2.50/head, join the Canadian Beef Check-Off Agency’s online town hall on Tuesday, February 27th.

Note: if you registered for all upcoming BCRC webinars, you have not been registered for this webinar, because it is hosted by the Canadian Beef Check-Off Agency, not the BCRC, so you need to click the link below to register for this webinar separately.  

We encourage beef producers from across the country to join this town hall webinar and ask questions live. Register here: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/rt/5080677593959345410


There will be two sessions on Tuesday, February 27th to accommodate producers across Canada:

  • 3:00pm – 4:30pm MST (2pm PST; 4pm CST; 5pm EST; 6pm AST)
  • 6:00pm – 7:30pm MST (5pm PST; 7pm CST; 8pm EST; 9pm AST)

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Getting the most out of your corn silage: Webinar March 28

Update: Missed the webinar? Find the recording and check for future webinars on our Webinars page: http://www.beefresearch.ca/resources/webinars.cfm

Join this webinar to hear the latest recommendations on making and storing corn silage. The recommendations provided in this webinar will be from western Canadian research but tips will also be applicable to producers in Eastern Canada.

Wednesday, March 28 at 7:00 pm MT

  • 6:00pm in BC
  • 7:00pm in AB and SK
  • 8:00pm in MB
  • 9:00pm in ON and QC
  • 10:00pm in NS, NB and PEI 

Interested but aren’t available that evening?
Register anyway! This webinar will be recorded and posted online at a later date. All registrants will receive a link to the recording and additional learning resources. By attending the live event, you’ll have the opportunity to interact and ask questions too.

Register now

Find and register for more BCRC webinars here.

Watching on a tablet or mobile device?
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One week remaining: attention BC, AB, SK and MB cow-calf producers

Do you wonder how your cow-calf operation compares with others in your region, province or herd size range on matters like conception rate and weaning weight? A joint effort representing the cow-calf industry from BC, AB, SK and MB is helping Western Canadian cattle producers do just that.

The deadline to participate is February 28, 2018.

By participating in the second Western Canadian Cow-Calf Survey, you can choose to receive a complementary report that allows you to compare your own operation with benchmarks (average numbers from a region).

To thank you for completing the survey, which will provide very valuable and needed information to guide research and extension, you will receive up to $50 in gift cards, in addition to the complementary report.

The survey takes about 45-60 minutes to complete and asks questions related to the 2016 breeding season all the way through to weaning of 2017 calf crop, as well as typical management practices. Many of the questions are the quick check-box style. Any question you are unable to answer can be left blank.

Every cow-calf producer in BC, AB, SK and MB is encouraged to complete the survey. All of the information collected will remain confidential. Information cannot be linked to individual operations as data will be aggregated into averages and benchmarks.

The complementary report will Continue reading

Pasture Blends

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the February 2018 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.

Most forage seed companies offer a pasture blend. Some customize their blend to the customer’s situation, but others use a least-cost formulation to produce a more attractively priced blend. Ideally, the blend should contain grasses and legumes that grow well together, are well-adapted to the environment and soil type they will be seeded in, will tolerate grazing, and produce good animal performance. Seed companies often don’t have all the information they need to formulate these ideal blends. As one example, forage breeding plots are typically far too small to graze, so forage yield is evaluated using a plot harvester. This means that forage varieties are being selected for their ability to produce and recover from mechanical harvesting rather than grazing. Forage improvement programs that integrate the breeding, agronomics, and grazing management research programs to gather the data needed to develop effective pasture blends take a long time and are very costly.

To help address this issue, Continue reading

Good records help guide efficient production and profitability say producers

Editor’s note: The following is the second in a two part series. See part one about the value of benchmarking and record keeping for all cattle operations. 

Keeping proper and useful beef herd production records is essential if you believe in the adage “you can’t manage what you don’t measure”. Records don’t have to be overly complicated, but do need to be thorough, say producers who rely on them for a lot of their management decisions.

Setting up a record keeping system properly will take a bit of time, but once the format is established keeping records current really isn’t that onerous — updating records is something that can even be done in front of the computer while having an early morning coffee, or taking a few minutes here and there during the month as new information comes along. Continue reading

Making farm decisions easier

Keep good records and refer to benchmarks to help successfully manage your cattle business

Editor’s note: The following is the first in a two part series on the value of record keeping and benchmarking. In part two, you’ll hear from producers on how and why they keep detailed records.

Keeping records and doing comparisons takes time and effort, and most of us prefer to be outside getting things done than being inside doing paperwork. Your time is limited so you want to be sure added paperwork has advantages and helps you focus on maintaining or improving the important things outside. Keeping detailed records and benchmarking does.

Producers who use benchmarking have higher production with an average of 60 more lbs of calf weaned per cow exposed (Manglai, 2016). Assuming a herd with 100 exposed cows, this is the equivalent to an additional 6,000 lbs weaned for the herd (+11%) valued at $13,200 per year in a high price environment (550 lb calf at $220/cwt), and $9,600 at long-term average prices ($160/cwt).

Producers who use benchmarking have higher production with an average of 60 more lbs of calf weaned per cow exposed (Manglai, 2016). That’s worth $9,600 for every 100 cows (based on 550 lb calf at the long-term average price of $160/cwt).

It has been noted by economists that a major challenge facing North American cow-calf producers is the development, understanding, and use of their own farm production cost and returns information. It is critical for producers to keep records and use their ‘own farm facts’ in making knowledgeable business management decisions.

Whole Farm Financials

Whole farm financials only provide a starting point on the overall financial health of the operation. This high level view of your farm’s financial situation can be evaluated with four major statements:

  • Net Worth Statement – Summarizes the property and financial assets owned, the debts owed, and the net worth of the business at a point in time
  • Net Income Statement – Summarizes the income generated, the expenses incurred, and the net income earned by the business during a period of time.
  • Statement of Cash Flows – Summarizes all the sources and uses of cash by the business during a period of time.
  • Statement of Owner Equity – Shows how net worth changed from the beginning to the end of the year.

It is useful to look at the rate of return to farm equity (ROE) which represents changes in your retirement fund and capacity to finance farm expansion and/or improvements. If ROE is low, you may have to ask whether your operation can support your retirement and/or improvement plans.

Whole farm financials can tell you if there is a problem, but they provide limited direction on where to focus efforts in the coming year. For example, they don’t offer direction on which enterprise (cow-calf, replacements, backgrounders, grassers, hay, pasture, etc.) you should focus on reducing costs or improving productivity in order to reach a higher ROE.

Per Unit Cost of Production

Economists stress the importance of calculating the per unit cost of production. For example, cow-calf producers should divide total input costs by the total pounds of calf weaned to yield the unit cost of production or break-even price on calves. 

Calculating per unit cost of production requires having both your financial and production data on hand.

Knowing per unit cost of production helps in developing a marketing and risk management plan. Sitting down and making a plan now can make decisions during the busy production season easier and gives peace of mind. Although agriculture in general has a hard time getting exact numbers throughout the production year because things are constantly in flux, estimates are better than no data at all so don’t let the inability to determine exact numbers stop you from calculating an approximate per unit cost of production.

Having per unit cost of production data also ensures that you take into account the cost of achieving higher productivity for any one measure. Sometimes you have to spend some money to make more money, but you’ll want to be careful your extra investment pays off. Chasing productivity benchmarks without the financial picture can be detrimental. For example, if increasing reproductive productivity by 2% costs 3% per cow, the net increased revenue may be positive, but if it costs 4% more per cow, the net return may turn negative (see the example in Table 1 below). You need to record and consider both financial and productivity information.

Table 1. Gain/Loss of Improved Reproductive Efficiency

Assumptions: # of cows = 100, weaning weight = 550 lb

Calving Rate Extra Cost Cost of Production ($/cow) Calf prices($/lb) Total Net Return Change in Net Return
90% $684 $2.10  $35,550 (90 calves)
92% 3% $705 $2.10 $35,760 (92 calves) $210
92% 4% $711 $2.10 $35,160 (92 calves) -$390

Is this important now?

Those who take advantage of high priced years to improve their operations and strengthen their balance sheets reap the reward by being more resilient during low price years.

When markets are stable, and finances are well in the black, it can be tempting to “coast” and not critically analyze your information and decisions. Keeping costs under control during high priced years takes discipline and careful monitoring, but those who take advantage of high priced years to improve their operations and strengthen their balance sheets reap the reward by being more resilient during low price years. Record keeping and benchmarking can help in that objective.

What is it?

Record keeping and benchmarking help a producer identify productivity gaps and make management changes to improve profitability.

Record keeping includes:

  1. Production records – cattle inventories, pregnancy rate, birth date, birth weight, weaning weight, weaning rate, pounds weaned per cow exposed, death loss, culling rate, pasture or feed usage, feed inventories, animal health treatment records, treatment rates, etc.
  2. Operational records – overhead, unpaid labour hours, etc.
  3. Financial records – expenses, revenue, assets, liabilities, etc.

When making management decisions, it is important for producers to identify the information they need, and tailor their record keeping system to suit their needs. A complete set of detailed records ensures that as issues from today are addressed and new ones come up in the future, you have your own set of comparisons on-farm to look back on. Many of the records are also useful or necessary in programs like Verified Beef Production Plus.

Benchmarking is the practice of comparing one’s own operation numbers (productivity and financial) against other farms with similar enterprises; this can use a regional or provincial average.  A common set of cow-calf production benchmarks are the “GOLD” indicators:

  • Growth,
  • Open cows,
  • Length of calving season, and
  • Death loss of calves.

Results from the 2014 Western Canadian Cow-Calf Survey provide the following GOLD benchmark targets:

  • Growth measured as a percentage of pounds weaned per mature cow weight at 43%[1] or better,
  • Open cows to be less than 7%,
  • Length of calving to be 63 days or less, and
  • Death loss of calves to be less than 7%.

How does your operation’s GOLD indicators compare to these 2014 Western Canadian averages? Comparing to more regional benchmarks would be even more beneficial. Provincial averages that take numbers from operations at opposite ends of the province with winter feeding periods ranging from 100 to 160 days can create difficulties in making comparisons, but even if there is no benchmark available for a particular measure, keeping records is still beneficial for monitoring your own operation year over year so you can see improvements or areas that are slipping.

Remember that oftentimes a focus on production maximums (like reproductive efficiency) and minimums (like death loss) do not result in optimal profitability because of trade-offs with per unit costs. Production measures should always be evaluated in terms of overall profitability.

Who is keeping records?

In June 2015, a small survey of 67 cattle producers in the prairie provinces found that more than 90% of the respondents recorded birth dates and kept individual ID, calf IDs linked to dam ID records, and culling/death loss records; and 86% of respondents kept health records. However, only 41-48% of the respondents kept records on birth weight, weaning weight, or had more detailed record keeping.  The survey reported that only 40.6% of respondents keep detailed production records and only 36.7% indicated that they were familiar with and used benchmarking (Manglai, 2016).

The survey reported that only 40.6% of respondents keep detailed production records and only 36.7% indicated that they were familiar with and used benchmarking.

Producers who were more likely to use and keep detailed production records had more years of experience, were older, set production goals and were learning oriented (open-minded and committed to learning). Learning orientation and the use of a banker/accountant also positively impacted the use of benchmarking.

The survey also found that Saskatchewan and Manitoba producers were less likely to use detailed record keeping than producers in Alberta; Manitoba producers were more likely to use benchmarking.

The reason behind these regional differences could be explained by differences in extension programs that are available in each province. Extension programs provide resources and support in developing record keeping systems that covers the needs of today as well as into the future.

It is not surprising to find a low proportion of producers in the prairie provinces use benchmarking as the availability of benchmarks has largely disappeared outside of AgriProfit$, which is a free-of-charge program run by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. Participating in surveys and extension programs will help ensure that benchmarks are developed and available.

How to get started:

Explore www.cowprofits.ca

Other resources 
If you’re in Alberta, participate in AgriProfit$, which is a free-of-charge program run by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.

Texas A&M Key Performance Indicator Targets for Beef Cow-calf Operations. Fact Sheet. Image.

Farm Financial Statements. https://www.extension.iastate.edu/agdm/wholefarm/html/c3-56.html

Farm Financial Ratios. https://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/econ2198


Manglai (2016). Examining Record Keeping and Benchmarking Effects on the Production and Performance of Cow-calf Farms in Canada. Master’s Thesis, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of Saskatchewan. https://ecommons.usask.ca/bitstream/handle/10388/7283/MANGLAI-THESIS.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y, accessed on Jan 25, 2018

Millang, J, Key Success Factor in Cow Calf Enterprise Profitability http://www1.foragebeef.ca/$foragebeef/frgebeef.nsf/all/ccf120/$FILE/keysuccessfactors.pdf, accessed on September 6, 2017

The Beef Cow-Calf Manual. Alberta, 2008.

[1] Alberta Agriculture, 2013-15 average

Read part two, “Good records help guide efficient production and profitability, say producers“.

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Canadian Beef Cattle Check-Off Town Hall Webinar: February 27, 2018

Editor’s note: The following is a guest post by the Canadian Beef Check-Off Agency 

The Canadian Beef Check-Off Agency will be hosting an online town hall event for producers, to talk about the Canadian Beef Check-Off, and how it is collected, remitted and invested, and concrete examples of the return on investment for Canadian producers. There will also be information on the check-off increase, from the initial concept to roll out to the projected timeline for the increase across Canada.

We encourage producers from across the country to join the webinar and ask questions live.


There will be two sessions on Tuesday, February 27th to accommodate producers across Canada:

  • 3:00pm – 4:30pm MST (2pm PST; 4pm CST; 5pm EST; 6pm AST)
  • 6:00pm – 7:30pm MST (5pm PST; 7pm CST; 8pm EST; 9pm AST)

How to Register:

Sign up for one of the two sessions here: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/rt/5080677593959345410

Featuring: Continue reading

This December, you’ll need a prescription to buy virtually any livestock antibiotic

Note: Updated version published here September 10, 2018.

If you haven’t done so already, the first few months of 2018 would be an excellent time to develop a relationship with a beef veterinarian.

Starting late in 2018, Health Canada is introducing a couple of important changes affecting the way animal antibiotic products can be accessed by producers. And having an established Veterinary-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR) will be an important part of a smooth transition. (see sidebar below)

Click to download a two page handout on the changes to how antibiotics can be purchased. Handout includes a list of cattle products that will need a prescription as of December 1, 2018.

The key point is, starting Dec. 1, 2018, all livestock producers will need a prescription from a licenced veterinarian, before they can buy a medically important antibiotic (MIA) for therapeutic use in livestock production. This applies to all beef cattle sectors using antibiotics — cow-calf operators, feedlots and feedmills Continue reading