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