Resources for Drought Management


dry dugout in Canadian pasture
Recurring drought is a natural part of the climate in many areas of Canada and creates a challenge when managing grazing and forage resources. Although droughts are often unpredictable, they are inevitable, meaning they are often at the back of every producer’s mind. Long-term farm and ranch management must include planning for and consideration of how drought will affect the entire system – including plants, livestock and water sources.

Eight tips for drought management

    • When managing through a drought, consider combining groups of animals to encourage grazing of less desirable plants and grazing pastures with species that are more tolerant of increased grazing pressure. It is important to monitor for toxic or poisonous plants, which are more likely to be grazed during dry years.
    • Sources of water for grazing animals can quickly become limited or unavailable during drought periods. It is recommended that any pastures that could possibly run out of water be grazed first. In some cases, it may become necessary to use a portable stock water supply in order to continue grazing a forage source where water has become limited.
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“Beefed up” methods to study prebiotics

This guest post is written by Wade Abbott, PhD, a research scientist at AAFC Lethbridge focused on agricultural glycomics, functional genomics, carbohydrate modification and the gut microbiome in livestock.

The cattle industry is the largest source of farm cash receipts in Canada and contributes $18 billion to Canada’s economyAs the world’s third largest producer and exporter of high-quality beef and cattle, Canada’s beef industry is an essential component of global food security and the Canadian economy. To facilitate its ongoing efforts towards sustainable intensification and to shrink the environmental footprint of beef production, the industry has historically relied on technologies ranging from improved animal health management, feed processing and diet formulation, feed additives, and growth implants. Improved understanding of the respiratory microbiome, gut microbiome, and gut-lung axis will support researchers in their search for additional strategies to further enhance animal health and productivity and contribute to continued improvements in the sustainability of Canadian beef production.   

Preventable diseases and inefficient feed conversion present significant costs to the bottom line of Canada’s beef industryIn healthy cattle, beneficial microbes and host immunity keep pathogens in check and assist with digestion. The genetic make-up of both beneficial and pathogenic microbes is called a microbiomeThe gut and lung microbiomes are key players in the fight against pathogens and support the cattle immune system. New research also suggests the gut and lung microbiomes do not operate independently and can even influence each other through the gut-lung axis. That means that rumen acidosis may impact lung health, or BRD could impact gut health. If that’s the case, a more holistic approach to preventing or treating animal disease may be beneficial. Researchers are working to develop therapeutic tools that can strengthen the integrity of microbiomes.   Continue reading

To Sell or Background Calves? – Introducing the BCRC Backgrounding Calculator



“Should I sell or background my calves?” is a question most cow-calf producers face every year. Producers need to project whether it will be profitable to feed their calves on a backgrounding program rather than sell them at weaning. There are many deciding factors including current calf prices, cost of gain, and projected feeder prices. These variables are all different for each producer, depending on their cattle, and their cost structure, therefore each operation needs to crunch their own numbers.

The Beef Cattle Research Council’s new Backgrounding Calculator can help make the decision. This decision-making tool is designed to identify economic opportunities and risks from backgrounding cattle. Continue reading

Waste Not Want Not

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

When I was a kid, “no dessert if you don’t finish your supper” encouraged us to eat everything on our plates. Others grew up with the guilt-based “children are starving in the third world” approach. There are more than twice as many people on earth today as there were 40 years ago, so issues like food security and “food loss and waste” are gaining attention. Every year in Canada nearly a tonne of food is lost or wasted per person. The federal Food Waste Challenge is part of Canada’s commitment to the United Nations (UN) goal to reduce global food loss and waste by 50% by 2030.  Food waste is more than just the unidentifiable and vaguely menacing leftovers in the back of your fridge. In fact, food loss and waste are defined as any crop or livestock product that doesn’t directly reach a human mouth.

But some of this food loss and waste does reach human mouths indirectly, through livestock. As part of a Beef Cluster project, Dr. Kim Ominski and collaborators from the Universities of Manitoba and Lethbridge and Agriculture Canada are examining how livestock help reduce food loss and waste. Their first report “Utilization of by-products and food waste in livestock production systems: A Canadian Perspective” will be published in Animal Frontiers. Here are some of their key findings so far. Continue reading

Reminder: Mentorship Program Applications due May 1st!

Applications for the 2021-22 term of the BCRC Beef Researcher Mentorship Program are now being accepted.  The deadline to apply is May 1, 2021.


The 2020/2021 mentees participated in a virtual event with the Cattlemen’s Young Leaders Program.

Six researchers were selected to participate in the program this past year. Each was paired with two mentors – an innovative producer and another industry expert which will provide valuable opportunities for greater engagement with Canada’s beef industry. Each of the researchers have reported very successful and valuable experiences through the opportunities provided, including:

  • Establishing partnerships with industry and other researchers to further their research programs
  • Meeting several producers and industry leaders with whom they ask questions and have meaningful discussions about cattle production, beef quality and safety, and the Canadian beef value chain
  • When possible, attending industry events and touring farms and ranches to better understand the impacts, practicalities and economics of adopting research results

The BCRC is excited to continue the program and invite applications from upcoming and new applied researchers in Canada whose studies are of value to the beef industry, such as cattle health and welfare, beef quality, food safety, genetics, feed efficiency, or forages. A new group of participants will begin their mentorships on September 1st.

The Beef Researcher Mentorship Program launched in August 2014 to facilitate greater engagement of upcoming and new applied researchers with Canada’s beef industry.

Learn more about the program and **download an application form at: http://www.beefresearch.ca/about/mentorship-program.cfm**

Continue reading