Salvaging a crop? Here are some things to consider when valuing a crop for feed.



With moderate to severe drought in many areas of Canada and the northern United States, many beef producers are looking for alternative feed sources to get their cattle through the coming months. With drought causing lower crop yields, many beef producers are hoping to work with neighbouring farmers to graze, bale, or silage crops. The question is how to value that feed in a way that provides value to both the farmer and the cattle producer.

When considering salvaging crops for feed, beef producers need to consider accessibility, availability, yield, transport costs, potential anti-nutritional factors or other animal health impacts, and feed quality. On the other hand, farmers are thinking about residue management, long term land impacts, contracted crop acres, costs to harvest, etc. When establishing prices, it is important to be clear in your communications about what each party hopes to gain as well as each party’s responsibilities. While grazing cattle on crop land or residues isn’t new, the salvaging of crops may put some unique options on the table for 2021.

The value of crops for livestock feeds calculator was developed to help beef producers work with their neighbors to determine a value for salvaged crops. For example, a barley field with 14 bu/acre of grain at current prices of $7.95/bushel results in a grain value of $111.30/acre. When you subtract the costs of combining the field ($32.33/acre according to the Saskatchewan Custom and Rental Rates Guide from August 2020) the harvest value is $78.97/acre. This provides a starting price to be considered. If a crop is being sold to a livestock producer as greenfeed, there is also the value of the straw.  Continue reading

Experiencing Drought Stress? Ask the Experts



Large parts of Canada and the Northern Great Plains are currently facing mild to severe drought. With feed supplies low and demand high you may be considering non-traditional feeds for your cattle. If you are thinking about grazing something new, questioning your water quality, wondering about animal health concerns you should be watching out for, considering purchasing greenfeed from non-traditional crops, or have general questions about managing cattle during a drought, here is your chance to get answers straight from the experts.

The BCRC is putting together a panel of nutrition and animal health experts to answer your drought-related nutrition questions. Questions will be answered live during an upcoming webinar on July 29th at 7:00pm MST. Continue reading

New Research Chair at USask will help maximize environmental, economic benefits of forage crops

SASKATOON – A new Beef Industry Integrated Forage Management and Utilization Chair will be established at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) to connect the study of soils, plants, animals, economics, and ecosystems to tap into forage crops’ full range of benefits.


The new Beef Industry Integrated Forage Management and Utilization Chair will connect the study of soils, plants, animals, economics, and ecosystems. (Photo: Cassidy Sim).

“The Chair will help to address concerns raised for a number of years by producers searching for expanded forage management information,” said Matt Bowman, chair of the Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) and a producer from Thornloe, Ont. “We need the science in order to better manage complex forage systems, implement effective utilization strategies, and understand the associated environmental benefits created through the dynamic soil-plant-animal interface.”

Funding for the research chair will be provided from a variety of sources. Industry contributions include $2.5 million from the Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) and $1 million from the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association (SCA). The governments of Canada and Saskatchewan will provide $750,000 through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership. The Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS) at USask will contribute $320,000. Continue reading

The BCRC invites proposals related to proof of concept research and clinical trials

The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) invites proposals related to proof of concept research and clinical trials. The application deadline for this call is September 1, 2021 at 11:59 PM MT.

With increased investment in research through the Canadian Beef Cattle Check-off, the BCRC has committed to provide research funding in two key areas that have previously had limited funding:

  1. Proof of Concept – proposals to help inform whether a concept is worth pursuing as a larger, more defined funding request
  2. Clinical Trials – proposals to validate practices or technologies that have been discovered through research projects and/or to facilitate the adaptation of technologies utilized in other sectors, commodities, or countries

The BCRC has committed funding to short-term projects in these two areas, with a maximum of $50,000 per project regardless of duration. Project duration should not exceed six months to one year unless a clear rationale can be provided demonstrating the need for a longer timeframe. Continue reading

Meet the Council: Unique marketing opportunities bring more profit to these producers.

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 onepart 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

Beef Cattle & the Carbon Cycle – a New Webpage

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

Underground Herbicides

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.


Western wheatgrass

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

Nutritional Qualities of Beef

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.

Dietary Patterns

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

Weed and Brush Control in Pastures



Healthy and productive pastures are the foundation of a successful and sustainable beef cattle operation. When weeds and brush spread into hay fields, rangelands and pastures, desirable forage species are replaced, reducing productivity and profitability.

Pastures can be impacted by annual, biennial and perennial weeds, and each region across Canada will have different weeds that are problematic.

Weeds can be introduced through many ways including:

  • purchasing feed such as baled hay, greenfeed, or straw that contains weed seeds
  • seed distribution by wind (e.g., kochia or baby’s breath)
  • flooding that carries seeds onto a pasture (e.g. red bartsia)
  • in contaminated soil or gravel
  • animals returning from weed-infested pastures that bring back weed seeds in their manure.

Continue reading

Seeing the Forest Through the Trees: Tips for Forest Grazing Cattle


Cattle grazing in Canada's forested rangelands | Beef Cattle Research Council
Forested rangelands and partially or completely forested areas are widespread in many areas of Canada. The benefits of using forested areas in grazing includes increased pasture acres, temporarily or permanently, while providing protection for livestock from the elements.

The integration of livestock into agroforestry systems has many benefits for both the livestock and the environment including fire suppression/prevention by reducing fuel load on the forest floor, shade and protection for livestock, protection from winter winds and other inclement weather patterns, provides wildlife habitat, diversification opportunities, carbon sequestration and opportunities to rest other pastures.

While forest grazing can offer many benefits to the land and the animals, some risks exist and must be managed for, such as impacts on forest regeneration, altered forest composition, water quality, compaction and erosion.

Continue reading