Meet the council: thinking outside the box pays off

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 three 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 one and part two of this series.

Although location and climate vary among these three producers, trying new and different systems have helped them save time and money, and enabled them to diversify their operations.

Corn Grazing to Get Cattle Through the Winter

Ryan Beierbach – Saskatchewan

Ryan and his family ranch near Whitewood, Saskatchewan, where they try to keep cattle grazing as many days of the year as possible. Cattle are selected to tolerate winter on the prairies as they strive to select easy-doing, deep and thick heifers as replacements. They use Hereford bulls on Black Angus cows then use Angus bulls on the heifers they keep as replacements. Continue reading

Meeting Your Production Goals: Records for Animal Health and Performance – Webinar January 13th



Keeping track of your animal health treatments and performance indicators throughout the year can be useful information to have when evaluating your production goals. Having readily accessible records can also be handy when marketing cattle to prospective buyers. This webinar will discuss the records for animal health and performance to support your production goals.

Registering on your smartphone? After you click ‘I am not a robot’, scroll up until you find the task to complete.

When
Wednesday, January 13th at 7:00 pm MT

  • 6:00pm in BC
  • 7:00pm in AB
  • 8:00pm in SK and MB
  • 9:00pm in ON and QC
  • 10:00pm in NS, NB and PEI

Continue reading

Calving Season Timing and Transition – Fast Forward, Rewind, or Press Play

For many cow-calf producers, calving season is a favourite time of year. After waiting 283 days, farmers are finally able to see the result of their breeding decisions as well as welcome a new crop of animals that will likely become a large portion of their annual revenue.

Just as every farm operates with an independent set of circumstances, and every farmer is unique themselves, calving season is going to look different on every operation. There is no one right method or time of year to calve a cow herd.

There are many interconnected variables that affect – or are affected – by calving season. Length and timing of breeding season, bull power, grazing and feed resources, target weaning time, marketing windows and methods, heifer development, mortgage payment deadlines, herd size, available labour, infrastructure, and tradition are a few different factors that play an important part in calving.

Looking at survey data over the past thirty years, there has been a trend, at least in western Canada, with producers transitioning from late winter/early spring calving in February and March, to later calving in April, May or June. Whether producers are thinking about making a shift in timing, or simply reassessing their decision to calve when they do, they should think about the risks and rewards of timing their most critical phase in cow-calf operations. What are the advantages or disadvantages of keeping the same season? What are the greatest challenges during calving on my farm and how can I manage them? What are the benefits of my existing calving season, and what are the drawbacks? How much labour do I need and how much do I have to get the job done?

The following producers have done their homework and planned ahead before shifting their seasons back or ahead in order to meet the needs of their particular farms and families. Continue reading

Reproductive Failure in the Beef Herd: Causes, Effects and When to Intervene – Webinar December 2nd



Reproductive failure can pose a significant threat for cow-calf operations, particularly when an issue affects a large portion of the cow herd such as early pregnancy loss. This panel of veterinarians will share case studies of reproductive wrecks on beef operations and how these operations overcame and solved the problem.


Registering on your smartphone? After you click ‘I am not a robot’, scroll up until you find the task to complete.

When
Wednesday, December 2nd at 7:00 pm MT

  • 6:00pm in BC
  • 7:00pm in AB
  • 8:00pm in SK and MB
  • 9:00pm in ON and QC
  • 10:00pm in NS, NB and PEI

Continue reading

Do Cattle Bacteria Contribute to Antibiotic Resistance in Human Medicine?

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the November 2020 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.

E. coli live in the digestive tracts of warm-blooded animals and birds. Most are harmless, some are beneficial, and some (like E. coli O157:H7) can be very dangerous. E. coli are also involved in antibiotic resistance.

“Extended-spectrum beta-lactamase producing” (or ESBL) E. coli are a major concern in human medicine. These bacteria are resistant to many antibiotics used in both human and veterinary medicine. Ordinary E. coli can cause urinary tract or bloodstream infections in people. They’re usually quite easy to treat with antibiotics. But if ESBL E. coli are responsible, the infection can’t be easily treated with antibiotics, and the illness can be much worse or even fatal.

E. coli rarely causes disease in feedlot cattle. But ESBL E. coli are still a concern, because antibiotic resistance genes are often located on “mobile genetic elements” that bacteria can trade with each other, even with completely unrelated bacteria. So antibiotic resistant BRD bacteria like Mannheimia, Pasteurella or Histophilus can spread their antibiotic resistance genes to each other, or possibly to E. coli. That’s like a border collie developing horns after a day of herding Herefords. Continue reading

Beef Cattle Nutrition: New Topic Page



Through the action of a diverse microbial community in the rumen, cattle have a digestive system that allows them to digest roughage, like hay and grass, and concentrates such as barley grain or dry distillers’ grains. Feed costs, including both grazed and conserved feed, are the greatest expense associated with beef cattle operations. Since nutrition is often the most important factor influencing reproductive performance, managing feed resources at a reasonable cost to consistently achieve high reproductive rates will help ensure profitability for beef cattle operations.

Key Nutrients Required by Cattle

Cattle require energy, protein, water, vitamins and minerals in suitable amounts to provide adequate nutrition. Young, actively growing forages and legume blends can often meet the nutritional requirements for normal growth and maintenance of cattle herds. Mature pastures, crop residues, or other low-quality forages may have reduced nutritive value, requiring supplementation of protein, energy or additional vitamins and minerals to maintain optimal health. Certain nutrients are required in the daily ration, while others can be manufactured and stored in the body. Continue reading

Don’t be Lame – New Web Page with Resources for Preventing and Managing Lameness in Beef Cattle

Not all lameness is caused by foot rot. Getting a proper diagnosis is the key to determining the appropriate treatment and management for any lameness condition. Lameness can affect any type of cattle including feedlot animals, breeding bulls, range cows, or animals confined to a corral. It limits an animal’s interest in eating, drinking, or breeding resulting in lower weight gains and conception rates, making it an animal health and welfare concern, as well as a production and economic issue.

A 2019 study
reported that lameness is the leading cause for health treatments in breeding cows and bulls. However, diagnosing lameness isn’t always straightforward as the condition can be caused by multiple inter-related factors. Another recent feedlot study analysed health records from 28 different western Canadian feedlots over a ten-year period to determine common lameness conditions. Overall, lameness was diagnosed in 4.4% of steer and 4.7% of heifer placements. Comparing diagnoses by class of cattle, 4.9% of calves were diagnosed with lameness compared with 4.0% of yearlings. Of the lameness diagnoses, foot rot was most common at 74.5% of lameness cases, followed by joint infections at 16.1%, then lameness with no visible swelling at 6.1%, followed by lameness due to injury 3.1%. Continue reading

Prevent External Parasites from Sucking the Life Out of Your Herd

External parasites, such as lice, ticks and flies, live on and feed off their host animal. Parasites can cause stress and irritation, reduced weight gain, and production losses in beef cattle, and can also be a vector for diseases. They can pose a problem any time of year for beef producers, however, as winter approaches and cattle start to spend more time in close quarters, parasites such as lice can be a challenge.

Why does it seem like parasites persist in beef herds even after a control product has been applied? What is integrated pest management? What are practices that farmers can do to optimize control? Shaun Dergousoff, PhD, with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and Kateryn Rochon, PhD, from the University of Manitoba gave an overview of Canadian parasites, and addressed common concerns during a recent BCRC webinar. Continue reading

A New Approach to Cost of Production Benchmarking

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

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

When getting a clear financial picture for your operation, basic record keeping often isn’t enough. That’s why it’s essential to know your cost of production.

While many aspects of the industry are uncertain, thankfully there is the opportunity to examine what can be, for the most part, controlled – your cost of production.  As a producer, the ability to measure and manage those components of your operation that are within your control is a powerful tool. Why not take advantage of that tool by signing up to participate in an upcoming focus group?

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 limitations and opportunities where greater focus may be beneficial. Continue reading

Everything Old is New Again – Treating Chronic Mycoplasma

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the October 2020 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.

Cattle were ideally created (or evolved) to consume and digest high fiber diets. Whoever (or whatever) was responsible for designing the rumen so elegantly probably should have paid more attention to the respiratory tract.

The design of the bovine respiratory tract makes it easy for BRD bacteria like Mannheimia, Pasteurella, Histophilus and Mycoplasma to move deep into the lung and find places to hide and makes it hard for the animal’s immune system to counterattack them. The bovine lung is so susceptible to infection and damage that it has been used as an “animal model” of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in humans.

This is a problem because cattle need a lot of oxygen. Cattle need nearly three times as much oxygen as a similar-sized horse just to stay awake and lie around. But the horse has nearly three times more lung capacity than the steer. Lung damage is one of the reasons that BRD hits cattle so hard, so fast. Continue reading