Looking to Make the Most of Forage Quality? Consider These Factors

Editor’s note: To support current extension initiatives and provide enhanced resources, the Beef Cattle Research Council has increased collaboration and subsequent delivery of extension content that reflects the production practices and needs of eastern Canadian beef producers. This blog post is the first in an ongoing series of content delivery. Suggestions, ideas, and comments are always welcome.   



Thank you to New Brunswick Cattle Producers and Les Producteurs de bovins du Québec for providing access to a French version of this blog post, available here. 

Forage quality is an important factor to consider when feeding cattle. While this may seem obvious, maximizing forage quality is sometimes not the focus when management decisions are being made. Yet focusing on quality might enable producers to save costs by getting more out of the forage they have and reducing reliance on expensive concentrates and feed additives.  Continue reading

Tips for Starting Lightweight Calves on Feed



Many cow-calf producers from B.C. through Ontario are planning to wean and sell their calves earlier this year. Others are reluctant to sell lightweight calves into a flooded market so are thinking about retaining ownership, putting extra pounds onto lightweight calves, and selling into a more promising feeder market in early 2022.   

Many factors need to be considered when preparing to feed lightweight calves 

Calves face health and nutritional hurdles as they are weaned and transitioned to a backgrounding diet. Because of Mother Nature’s cruel summer, those hurdles may be

even higher for this year’s lightweight calves. 

Despite producers’ diligence, calves from drought-stricken pastures will face unique challenges getting started on feed. The following tips and considerations can help calves be more resilient in the face of these added challenges.  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

Patience, Silence & Observation – Practical tips to reducing stress when handling cattle



Many farmers truly enjoy working cattle but for some producers (and perhaps their family members) sorting and processing cattle may not bring out the best in everyone. The good news is reducing stress is entirely possible. In many cases, inexpensive changes or tweaks can benefit herd – and family – dynamics.

Joseph Stookey, PhD, Professor Emeritus with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan, dedicated his career to studying animal behaviour and has a special interest in looking at ways to reduce stress during cattle handling. Continue reading

**REMINDER**WEBINAR: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Beef Cluster* (*But Were Afraid to Ask)

The BCRC is hosting a webinar on Wednesday, August 4th for researcher teams intending to apply for funding under the 2023-28 Beef Science Cluster (Cluster IV). 

Have questions? Submit them in advance when you register

This webinar will cover topics including: 

  • Canada’s Beef Industry Strategy  
  • Canada’s Beef Research & Technology Transfer Strategy 2023-28 
  • Research priorities targeted for the Beef Cluster IV 
  • The BCRCs LOI and proposal review and selection process 
  • Tips, cautions and considerations for preparing Letters of Intent and Full Proposals 
  • Researcher FAQs about research proposals 

The webinar will be recorded and posted on www.beefresearch.ca for future reference. 

Please share this blog announcement to students and postdocs in your circles who you are likely to participate in the project brainstorming and proposal development process.

For more information about the BCRCs current Call for Letters of Intent click here

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The sharing or reprinting of BCRC Blog articles is welcome and encouraged. Please provide acknowledgement to the Beef Cattle Research Council, list the website address, www.BeefResearch.ca, and let us know you chose to share the article by emailing us at info@beefresearch.ca.

We welcome your questions, comments and suggestions. Contact us directly or generate public discussion by posting your thoughts below.

REMINDER: Experiencing Drought Stress Webinar July 29th



Don’t forget to register for Thursday’s webinar. By registering you can watch it live or view the recording later at your convenience.

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 hosting a panel of nutrition and animal health experts to answer your drought-related nutrition questions. Questions will be answered live Thursday, July 29th at 7:00pm MST.

Speakers:

Cheryl Waldner, PhD
is the NSERC/Beef Cattle Research Council Senior Research Chair in Beef Cattle Health in Large Animal Clinical Sciences at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine. Much of her current focus is on antimicrobial use and resistance in cow-calf herds and feedlots. Much of her current focus is on antimicrobial use and resistance in cow-calf herds and feedlots. She is also actively involved in research examining factors affecting the productivity of cow-calf herds in Western Canada.

Bart Lardner, PhD
 is a Professor in the Department of Animal and Poultry Science at the University of Saskatchewan where he supervises students and teaches courses in forages and beef cattle nutrition. For the past 25 years, Dr. H.A. (Bart) Lardner has managed a research program focusing on beef cattle management and forage production research. His expertise lies in pasture and water management in cow-calf systems, summer and winter grazing systems, and ruminant nutrition.

Andrew Acton, DVM
graduated from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in 1992 and has been practicing at Deep South Animal Clinic ever since. He became a Diplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners in Beef Cattle Practice in 2008. Andy grew up on a farm in Lemberg, SK with his parents and two siblings. After finishing high school, he moved to Saskatoon where he attended university before moving to Ogema. He and his wife, Yvonne have two kids, Kelsey and Corin, and operate a herd of commercial Simmental and Angus cows.

John McKinnon, PhD is a Professor Emeritus in Department of Animal and Poultry Science at the University of Saskatchewan and owns and operates a nutrition consulting company by the name of JJM Nutrition Services Inc. During his tenure at the university, he occupied the Saskatchewan Beef Industry Chair, an industry funded position that focused on extension and research related to beef cattle. His research interests included growth and carcass quality of beef cattle as well as on the feeding value of byproduct feeds. Presently, John works with cow-calf and feedlot producers as well as the pharmaceutical industry across western Canada on issues related to feeding management. As well he writes a monthly nutrition column for the Canadian Cattleman’s Magazine.

Continue reading

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

Attn Researchers: BCRC Opens Call For Cluster IV Letters Of Intent *Webinar*



The Beef Cattle Research Council invites letters of intent (LOIs) for the fourth Beef Cattle Industry Science Cluster. The application deadline for this call is October 1, 2021 at 11:59 PM MT.

The purpose of this call is to achieve specific objectives in the Five-Year Canadian Beef Research and Technology Transfer Strategy and the National Beef Strategy. This call for research LOIs is made possible by the recent increase in the Canadian Beef Cattle Check-Off in most provinces.

Approved projects can be up to five years in length and will commence no earlier than April 1, 2023, subject to the approval of the Beef Cattle Science Cluster by AAFC. Projects will be funded by Canadian cattle producers through the Canadian Beef Cattle Check-Off and matching funding BCRC will apply for through the Agri-Science Clusters Program under the next agricultural policy framework.   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