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 four 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 one, part two, and part three 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.
Working With Neighbours to Market Cattle
Ron Stevenson – Ontario
Ron and his family operate a 100 head commercial cow-calf operation in Walton, Ontario. Being located in the Great Lakes basin, rainfall is abundant in their area which is both a challenge and a benefit. Excess mud can cause animal health issues, especially in the springtime, but on the other hand, the Stevensons only need about 1.5-2 acres to support a cow-calf pair. Continue reading
Carbon is a hot topic these days with individuals, organizations, and entire industries working to better understand the environmental implications of their activities. Terms like “carbon sequestration,” “climate change,” “carbon footprint,” and “greenhouse gas emissions” are often used in the news and on social media. What do these terms mean? What role does beef production play in the carbon cycle? How can carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions impact beef producers on their farms?
The Carbon Cycle
Every living thing contains carbon and everything – including cattle and grasslands – are part of a carbon cycle. Carbon cycles are dynamic and vary around the world, by region, and even by farm, depending on different management practices.
Measuring emissions and sequestration in beef production depends on the type of life cycle analysis performed (i.e., birth-to-consumption vs. birth-to-slaughter). When people attempt to compare carbon footprints that analyse different portions of the beef production life cycle – or entirely different industries – these comparisons can be inaccurate and even misleading.
Raising cattle can have both positive and negative impacts on the carbon cycle and different management practices can increase or decrease the sector’s carbon footprint.
On one side of the equation, cattle emit greenhouse gases like enteric methane (CH4), a natural by-product of rumen fermentation. A management practice, such as including a feed additive like monensin, can help reduce enteric methane emissions while still enabling cattle to convert roughage into nutrient-rich beef. Burning fossil fuels for feeding or forage operations is another example of emissions, this time carbon dioxide (CO2). Producers can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by implementing extended grazing to reduce reliance on daily feeding. Continue reading
This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the June 2021 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.
When I was a kid, my dad found Russian knapweed in a pasture along an irrigation canal. He explained that it was important to catch this weed quickly, because it can spread very aggressively. Russian knapweed reproduces using seeds as well as by buds growing from its roots (somewhat similar to the sod-forming grasses in last month’s column). But Russian knapweed roots also release a chemical that weakens other plants, like an underground herbicide. This superpower is called “allelopathy”, and helps knapweed establish itself and spread. His explanation was much more interesting than pulling out all the plants later that day.
Weeds aren’t the only plants that can do this. While collecting field data for a project aimed at developing new tame and native varieties and mixtures, researchers at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Swift Current Research Station and the University of Saskatchewan noticed that there seemed to be fewer weeds in plots that contained western wheatgrass (on its own or in mixtures). This led them to conduct a greenhouse study to learn whether forage plants can also make their own herbicides. These results were published in 2017 (The potential of seven native North American forage species to suppress weeds through allelopathy; Canadian Journal of Plant Science https://cdnsciencepub.com/doi/10.1139/cjps-2016-0354).
What They Did: They seeded five native grasses (western wheatgrass, bluebunch wheatgrass, nodding brome, little bluestem and sideoats grama) and two native legumes (purple and white prairie clover) in individual pots. Each pot contained only one forage species. Continue reading
It’s important to understand how what we eat impacts our health and daily life but it can be hard to sift through the volume of information – and disinformation – that is out there. The BCRC has updated a web page that focuses on facts about beef nutrition. We also encourage you to check out www.thinkbeef.ca, which contains current Canadian beef nutritional information.
Beef is increasingly being portrayed as an optional protein however beef contains a total package of nutrients that are essential at every life stage. Beef contains essential nutrients including protein, iron, zinc, selenium, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, phosphorus, pantothenate, magnesium, and potassium. It is impossible to get this combination of nutrients, in a single, dense package, from plant-based foods. In fact, a recent Canadian study demonstrates that gram-for-gram, beef is more nutrient dense and more economical than many other protein foods.
Canadian diets are changing and not necessarily for the better. Nutritional guidelines are largely based on whole ingredients and home-cooked foods, however today, more foods than ever are processed, packaged, and eaten with minimal home-preparation. On average, Canadians are consuming nearly half of their daily calories from ultra-processed foods, which are often high in sodium, fat, calories, and sugar. Meanwhile, only five per cent of their calories are consumed from nutrient-rich red meat, such as beef. Continue reading