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Strategies for Managing Cattle Through Drought -- BCRC Webinar Recap

The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) premiered its 2023-24 webinar series with the live airing of “Drought: More Than a Summer Challenge.” Dr. John Campbell, a leading expert in beef cattle production medicine from the University of Saskatchewan, and Alberta beef producer Jesse Williams of Whiskey Creek Ranch shared their perspectives on managing a cow herd through drought and beyond.


Dr. Campbell points out that 72% of Canada is currently classed as abnormally dry. “We have very little control over how much rainfall we get,” says Campbell. “We are often placed in some pretty tough situations and have to make some pretty tough decisions.”  

In the first half of the hour-long webinar, Campbell addresses six cattle health problems commonly associated with drought, how to best manage those problems and how to prevent them.

Six Cattle Health Problems Associated with Drought

1. Vitamin A deficiency (6:39)

2. Vitamin E deficiency (10:43)

3. Nitrate toxicity (12:13)

4. Copper deficiency (15:11)

5. Winter feed issues (i.e. impactions) (19:41)

6. Loss in body condition and the reproductive effects (20:52)

For more information about Vitamin A deficiency associated with drought conditions, read Dr. Campbell’s Nov. 30, 2023 column in The Western Producer.

Adapting to On-Farm Drought Challenges

On her ranch in the Special Areas of Alberta, Jesse Williams is no stranger to the adversities presented by abnormally dry conditions. “Desperation breeds innovation,” she says.

Williams begins the second half of the webinar describing her beef operation’s methods of culling. (31:00)

Cow grazing fall salvaged lentils

“If you remove the underperformers, you are going to improve your herd genetics and be in a more profitable stance to build a higher performing herd when the drought does break.”

Photo & quote by Jesse Williams, Whiskey Creek Ranch

Williams also details the ways her ranching operation has used drought to maximize efficiency to provide solutions to drought-related problems. Her advice includes:

1. Strategic culling (31:10)

2. Optimized cattle feeding (35:24)

3. Creative drought management planning (47:16)

Whether a beef cattle producer is facing tough culling decisions, coming up with alternatives for maintaining herd numbers, or some combination of both, this drought webinar will support those decisions with practical advice that can be easily implemented in difficult times. 

Find additional drought management resources for beef producers on the BCRC Drought Management Strategies topic page.

This webinar is available for one CE credit for RVTs and Veterinarians.  

Register now for the remaining two webinars in the BCRC 2023-24 webinar series:

  • Raising Heifers for Reproductive Success
  • Early Calf Survival
2023-24 beef webinar series

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