Dr. Surya Acharya Receives 2021 Canadian Beef Industry Award for Outstanding Research and Innovation

Dr. Surya Acharya receives 2021 Canadian Beef Industry Award for Outstanding Research and Innovation from Beef Cattle Research Council


Pictured l to r:  Beef producer Darren Bevans, BCRC Science Director Reynold Bergen, BCRC Executive Director Andrea Brocklebank, beef producer Doug Wray, 2021 Canadian Beef Industry Award for Outstanding Research & Innovation recipient Dr. Surya Acharya, beef producer and BCRC Vice Chair Craig Lehr, AAFC Forage Breeder Hari Poudel, beef producer and BCRC Council Member Graeme Finn and AAFC Forage Agronomy Technician Brandon Eisenreich.

An innovative and industry-engaged forage breeder has been granted the 2021 Canadian Beef Industry Award for Outstanding Research and Innovation. Dr. Surya Acharya received this award today at the 2021 virtual Canadian Beef Industry Conference to recognize the positive impacts of his research on beef industry advancement.  

“Dr. Acharya is respected and appreciated by academics and producers alike,” said Matt Bowman, chair of the Beef Cattle Research Council and a producer from Thornloe, Ontario. “His work addresses real industry obstacles with solutions that consider producers’ needs through direct communication with stakeholders.”   

Dr. Acharya is a research scientist and forage breeder at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) in Lethbridge, Alberta, where he specializes in breeding legumes. His current research focuses on developing new cultivars of legume species with improvements in yield, nutritional quality and persistence, among other traits. His unique approach to plant breeding incorporates a consideration of multiple factors to best serve the needs of end-users, including beef producers. Indeed, many of Dr. Acharya’s past cultivars are appreciated for their practical use in solving industry challenges, such as his AC Oxley II and AC Veldt cicer milkvetch varieties, both of which are much quicker to establish than predecessors. Similarly, he assisted in the development of the online Forage U-Pick tool, which aids western Canadian producers in choosing appropriate forage species for their operations.  

Dr. Acharya’s most recent project aims to enhance the lipid content of legume vegetative tissues to improve their energy content for grazing livestock. Using conventional and genomic breeding techniques, his team has been able to select for plants with approximately five percent lipid content, compared to virtually none in the original plants. His project will have environmental benefits by using conventional breeding to reduce methane production through increased digestibility, which will allow western Canadian alfalfa producers to export to nations that avoid the GMO designation.   Continue reading

Survey Says…?

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the August 2021 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.
Canadian beef producer standing in pasture taking BCRC's online beef industry survey
In February’s column I encouraged you to fill out our online beef research survey to help the Beef Cattle Research Council and other industry and government funders develop a clear set of priorities to guide our funding decisions over the next five years. Thanks for responding – we had nearly twice as many responses this time as we got five years ago. The more responses we get, the more confidence we have in the feedback that comes in. Here are some of the highlights of what you told us.

What We Did:

The survey was open between January 5 and March 5, 2021. It asked you to rate a variety of research issues as Extremely, Very, Moderately, Slightly or Not Important in the areas of feed efficiency and utilization, forage and grassland productivity, environmental sustainability, animal health and welfare, beef quality and food safety. We also asked how often producers used different communication channels for production information and how influential they were in their decision making.

A total of 878 Canadians responded to the survey. This article focuses on the responses provided by the 65 seedstock, 497 cow-calf and 33 feedlot producers, as well as the 39 veterinarians (for the animal health and welfare section) and 26 non-governmental organization (NGO) representatives (for the environmental sustainability section). We paid particular attention to issues that were rated as Extremely or Very Important by 75% or more of respondents, as well as issues that were rated as Slightly or Not Important by 25% or more of respondents.

What We Learned:

Feed efficiency and utilization: Cow-calf and seedstock respondents prioritized differences in wintering costs between efficient and inefficient cows, while feedlot operators prioritized the impacts of feed quality and feedlot management practices on feed efficiency. Not surprisingly, feedlot operators rated barley and corn yields more highly than cow-calf or seedstock producers.

Continue reading

Decision Making During Drought


Canadian beef cattle during drought in pasture with dwindling water supply
Producers coping with severe drought and feed shortages have tough decisions to make about culling, weaning and cow management. The following considerations may be helpful when making herd decisions in the coming weeks and into the fall:

Culling

  • Know what feed sources you have available and the true nutritional quality of them so you can make the best decisions for your herd. Sending representative feed samples to a lab for analysis and working with a nutritionist or livestock specialist who can interpret the results and help develop balanced rations is crucially important.
  • Prevent cows you plan to keep in the herd from losing too much condition. Cows with an ideal amount of fat cover (a body condition score of 3.0) eat less and are easier to maintain through the winter and get rebred. Cull early to help keep the remainder of the herd in good condition.
  • Now is a good time to let go of any cattle you have let slide through in previous culls. Check your records. Cull anything that has a bad temperament, that has been treated repeatedly for health issues or that weans calves that perform below your herd benchmarks.
  • The value of the investment in pregnancy checking your herd is even more evident in dry years as it allows you to cull any open or late-calving cows.
  • Consider culling any bulls that are older or that are producing less desirable progeny based on your records.

Continue reading

Experts Respond to Drought Questions


Experiencing drought stress? Watch recording of webinar for beef producers.
On July 29, the Beef Cattle Research Council hosted a webinar that allowed beef producers to ask drought-related questions to a panel of nutrition and animal health experts. Producers asked for everything from recommendations for grazing canola, how to manage for antinutritional factors, tips on ammoniation and to how to manage grass into the fall. While questions were varied and diverse, a few main themes emerged.

Feed testing:

In a drought year, testing your feed sources is more important than ever. Especially when using alternative feed sources, a feed test allows you to understand what you have in terms of energy and protein and therefore what you will need to supplement to maintain the health and body condition of cows and other classes of cattle. A feed test will also identify some of the antinutritional factors and potential toxic levels of substances such as nitrates or sulfates that are more prevalent in drought years or unconventional feeds. Feed tests can be performed on standing or swathed crops, bales or silage. A feed test can be instrumental in determining how a particular feed will fit into your overall feeding strategy. Continue reading

Renewed Research and Extension Objectives Support a Thriving Beef Sector

Strategic and collaborative investments in research and technology transfer bolster the Canadian beef sector’s leadership in responsibly meeting rising global food production needs. Today, the Beef Cattle Research Council and its industry partners released a renewed five-year strategy to help target funding toward achieving highpriority beef research and extension objectives.  

The Five-Year Canadian Beef Research and Technology Transfer Strategy supports increasing productivity while building upon the sector’s leadership in environmental, social and economic sustainability. It builds upon the success of previous iterations and complements the National Beef Strategy’s ambitious 10-year goals 

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Test Stock Water & Reduce Worry

When stock water appears abundant and water quality has been consistent in previous years, it’s easy to focus on other things but don’t overlook water testing. Poor quality stock water can lead to reproductive inefficiency, poor gains, disease and in extreme circumstances, death. Even when water supplies appear abundant, stock water may contain high levels of sodium, sulphates or other compounds that lead to toxicity.

cattle grazing near water


Photo credit, Tamara Carter

Water quality can be especially variable in surface water sources, such as dugouts, ponds or dams, and weather doesn’t necessarily need to be hot and dry to warrant regular testing. Precipitation levels in the previous years, groundwater recharge, runoff conditions, evaporation levels and adjacent land use can all impact water quality in both the short- and long-term.

It’s also important to monitor well water conditions. Quality in well water can change quickly, even if wells have had suitable water in the past.

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How Mother Nature Hedges Her Bets

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

Pasture plants are generally classified as decreasers, increasers and invaders. Decreaser species are the plants you want to see and your cattle prefer to eat, so they face the most grazing pressure. Increaser plants tend to thrive when the decreaser species are challenged by overgrazing, drought or other sub-optimal conditions. Invaders (weeds) proliferate when increasers and the remaining decreasers are so weakened by overgrazing or environmental extremes that they have a hard time competing for nutrients, water and sunlight. 
cattle grazing on healthy, green pastures
Healthy, productive pastures are dominated by decreasers. The composition of the decreaser community in healthy native rangelands was shaped by thousands of years of natural selection and environmental pressures. In tame pastures, humans take the wheel from Mother Nature as we seek to establish and maintain a stand of tame decreaser species that can be productive and long-lived in our particular soil and climate conditions. In both native and tame pastures, good grazing managers adjust stocking densities, grazing intensities, grazing and rest period length and frequency, etc. based on annual and seasonal variations in growing conditions to maintain pasture health and optimize long-term forage and animal productivity. Continue reading

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.
    • Continue reading