Vaccination of the Beef Herd: New Topic Page

Vaccines stimulate the immune system of the animal to produce antibodies.  Antibodies (or immunoglobulins) are proteins created by cells in the blood or in various lymphoid tissues that can be found in the intestine or upper respiratory tract. These specific proteins help to destroy various infectious organisms that can cause disease. Cattle also produce antibodies when they are naturally exposed to infectious organisms.

Vaccines are certainly a primary component of our modern herd health programs, but it is important to remember that they rarely provide absolute protection and other management components such as biosecurity, nutrition and environmental management also play important roles in protecting the herd from infectious diseases.

When cattle are exposed to infectious pathogens, the immune system is stimulated to respond to these infections. It takes time for this complex machinery to respond to a pathogen when it is initially exposed to the antigen (either through vaccination or natural infection). As a result, antibodies aren’t created in time to prevent disease from occurring on initial exposure. However, the immune system is able to “learn” and develop a specific response to a pathogen (a disease-causing agent) such as a particular bacteria or virus or parasite. This is important because when an animal is exposed to the disease for a second time, the immune system has memory cells that are programmed to respond to antigens they have previously encountered. Continue reading

Calculating Net Returns from Preconditioning Programs

Low calf prices, low feed costs and good grass conditions make hardy arguments for retained ownership. Depending on the market in your area, it could make economic sense to hold on to calves a bit longer this year. The Beef Cattle Research Council’s Preconditioning Calculator is a decision-making tool designed to identify economic opportunities and risks from adding a preconditioning program to traditional management.

The BCRC preconditioning topic page provides an overview on the advantages of preconditioning for animal health. Preconditioned calves may return higher gross revenues because they sell at higher weights. They often have lower cost of gain at the feedlot, improved feed efficiency, require fewer treatments and have lower death loss; for these reasons, preconditioned calves may be sold with an added premium. These higher revenues may however come with added costs.

The disadvantages of preconditioning? It costs more to retain ownership, through added feed and labour. Greater input costs don’t necessarily mean margins will shrink though. The balance of net returns will depend on both the cost of retained ownership as well as the projected price at a later sale date. These are unique to each operation.

Deciding if preconditioning makes economic sense? That’s where the decision-making tool can help. The calculator provides a summary of estimated net returns and projected breakeven price premiums based on your costs for up to three different preconditioning programs. While the length of preconditioning programs can be adjusted in the calculator, typical time periods are 30, 45 or 60 days. The tool has a built-in database going back 10 years for price projection comparisons. Continue reading

Networks Make The Dream Work

This is Part Two of a three-part series (see Part One and Part Three in the coming weeks).

Editor’s note: this article is also available in French. Download the translated version here. 

As the industry has been rocked by COVID-19, volatile market prices and uncertainty have occurred. There is an opportunity for producers to examine what they can control – their cost of production. During the boom years when prices are high it is easy for costs to get out of hand. You may be considering changes to your operation but are not sure where you will get the biggest bang for your buck.

The Canadian Cow-Calf Cost of Production Network (CDN COP Network) will develop benchmarks for specific production systems and ecoregions across the country. Scenarios will be developed for what future farms could look like utilizing the 5% Rule to identify where incremental improvements could be made around productivity, input costs, and output prices. Each production system will have its own set of opportunities, limitations, and areas where greater focus may be beneficial. Consider cattle operations with different production systems:

  • A beef operation in the east is considering raising dairy-beef but is uncertain about the costs and management changes needed to succeed.
  • A small, land-locked operation may be utilizing multiple income streams from multiple different commodities to manage risk. The focus is on using each acre in different ways throughout the year to generate revenue.
  • A large, specialized operation may be focused on economies of scale in purchases and sales and efficiencies in labour productivity.

When looking at competitiveness and profitability, each region needs to evaluate the limitations and opportunities unique to them. Is land, labour, or capital the limitation? Will the biggest impact for the operation come from reducing input costs, or improving productivity, or increasing price? Continue reading

Registration now open for 2020/2021 Webinar Series



This year’s webinar series will cover a range of topics including record keeping, invasive weed species, and reproductive failure in the cow herd, all focused on practical, science-based information for Canadian beef producers.

Register here.
 You can register for as many (or all!) of the webinars you’re interested in at once. After you click the link above, be sure to scroll down to see and select for all six (6) dates.

See topics and descriptions below. Continue reading

Why a Cost of Production Network?

This is Part One of a three-part series (watch for Part Two and Part Three in the coming weeks).

Editor’s note: this article is also available in French. Download the translated version here. 

Canada is the sixth largest beef exporter in the world. Live cattle to the United States are also a substantial business. Cost of production and price competitiveness are key aspects to any major exporting commodity, along with regulatory environment and available resources. The beef industry must be profitable and competitive to secure land, labour, and capital otherwise those investments will go into other commodities that provide a greater return on investment.

The Canadian Cow-Calf Cost of Production Network (CDN COP Network) has been developed collaboratively with provincial coordinators and funded by the Beef Cattle Research Council. Industry has taken a lead role in coordinating the Network working with local expertise in each province. This information will support cow-calf producers as they evaluate how to evolve with new technologies and enhance competitiveness in an international marketplace. Continue reading

New Resource: Record Keeping and Benchmarking Level 3



The final level of Record Keeping and Benchmarking resources for beef producers is now available.

Level 1 was previously launched for farm managers who are new to record keeping or who may already keep records but are unsure what information is worth keeping or how these records can be used.

The Level 2 resource was developed to build upon the themes covered in Level 1 but also goes more in depth on some of the analysis that can be accomplished once you have established a set of records. The purpose of Level 3 is to dig deeper into analysis and application of collected farm data.

The Level 3 resources include the following topics: Continue reading

Meet the Council: Willingness to Adapt is Key for Managing Canadian Beef Operations

The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) is made up of producer members from across Canada, representing and 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 allocation to research.

The following is part one 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.

Although located in different regions across the country, the following three producers all agree that being able to change and adapt is key when implementing new practices on their operation.

Rotating Wintering Sites in Treed Landscapes

Dean Manning – Nova Scotia

Dean and his family have a mixed farm in the Annapolis Valley near Falmouth, Nova Scotia. There they raise vegetables to sell at farmers’ markets and have a herd of 80 Angus crossbred cattle. Farming in this unique area, alongside all forms of agriculture from greenhouses and wineries to dairy and hogs, has provided the Mannings with opportunities and challenges. With a limited land base that is surrounded primarily by housing developments, the Mannings realized that to produce more they had to become more efficient as expansion is not an option. The advantage is that land is very productive, and the moisture received makes for favourable growing conditions for forages and other crops. Continue reading

New Resource: Record Keeping and Benchmarking Level 2



Successful farm management begins with accurate and up to date records. The process of record keeping allows the farm manager to collect and save data so it can be analyzed and used to make better decisions and turn information into actions.

Level 1 was previously launched for farm managers who are new to record keeping or who may already keep records but are unsure of what information is worth keeping or how these records can be used.

The newly released Level 2 resource has been developed to build upon the themes covered in Level 1 but also goes more in depth on some of the analysis that can be accomplished once you have established a set of records. This includes: Continue reading

Guidelines for Conducting On-farm Research: COVID-19 Information for Researchers & Canadian Beef Operations

 

Download the full PDF version here.

Consider postponing on-farm research activities that require more than one person or interaction with farm operators whenever possible until provincial health guidelines relax physical distancing recommendations.



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Resources for Beef Producers during Market Disruptions



Beef supply chain disruptions due to COVID-19 are challenging producers to make difficult decisions and adapt to changing situations. As beef farmers consider making strategic production and management adjustments in response to shifting cattle markets, the resources listed below provide information and may support you in assessment, planning, and decision-making.

If you are looking for additional information, let us know in the Comment box at the bottom of this page. We will continue to add to this resource list as needed or as more information becomes available. Continue reading