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

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

Renewed Research and Extension Objectives Support a Thriving Beef Sector

Strategic and collaborative investments in research and technology transfer bolster the Canadian beef sector’s leadership in responsibly meeting rising global food production needs. Today, the Beef Cattle Research Council and its industry partners released a renewed five-year strategy to help target funding toward achieving highpriority beef research and extension objectives.  

The Five-Year Canadian Beef Research and Technology Transfer Strategy supports increasing productivity while building upon the sector’s leadership in environmental, social and economic sustainability. It builds upon the success of previous iterations and complements the National Beef Strategy’s ambitious 10-year goals 

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Waste Not Want Not

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the April 2021 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.

When I was a kid, “no dessert if you don’t finish your supper” encouraged us to eat everything on our plates. Others grew up with the guilt-based “children are starving in the third world” approach. There are more than twice as many people on earth today as there were 40 years ago, so issues like food security and “food loss and waste” are gaining attention. Every year in Canada nearly a tonne of food is lost or wasted per person. The federal Food Waste Challenge is part of Canada’s commitment to the United Nations (UN) goal to reduce global food loss and waste by 50% by 2030.  Food waste is more than just the unidentifiable and vaguely menacing leftovers in the back of your fridge. In fact, food loss and waste are defined as any crop or livestock product that doesn’t directly reach a human mouth.

But some of this food loss and waste does reach human mouths indirectly, through livestock. As part of a Beef Cluster project, Dr. Kim Ominski and collaborators from the Universities of Manitoba and Lethbridge and Agriculture Canada are examining how livestock help reduce food loss and waste. Their first report “Utilization of by-products and food waste in livestock production systems: A Canadian Perspective” will be published in Animal Frontiers. Here are some of their key findings so far. Continue reading

Winter Feed Cost Comparison Calculator – Regional Trends and Opportunities

Feed prices are driven by supply, demand and the price of alternatives. Winter feed presents the largest variable cost for producers. As producers look for ways to protect margins and minimize losses this fall, there are opportunities to be found in examining low-cost feed alternatives.

While the cost of some inputs cannot be controlled by any one operation, producers can control their budget for high-quality rations. Knowing where a crop may fall short on nutrition is a critical first step, and a feed test will point out where supplementary nutrients may be required for a herd. The next step is sourcing nutrients at the lowest price, choosing from a variety of feedstuff that offer nutrient balance. The Beef Cattle Research Council’s Winter Feed Cost Comparison Calculator is a decision-making tool that helps producers compare the cost of feed alternatives available in their area.

Regional Conditions and Trends to Consider                                                                            Continue reading

It’s Time to Start Thinking About Feed Testing

With cattle feed being swathed, harvested, or already in the silage bunk or bale now is the time to start thinking about testing feed. Although it is best to feed test as close as possible to the day the animal will be consuming it, testing now, as well as again closer to the time of feeding, can help you determine if supplemental feed will be needed and provide time to source it.

A common question from producers is, now that I have my feed test results, what do I do with it? What do all those numbers mean? And how do I make use of this information on my operation? Recognizing this need for some general information to help producers better utilize their feed tests, the Tool for Evaluating Feed Test Results was developed by the Alberta Beef, Forage and Grazing Centre. This tool allows you to input the results of your feed test along with the class of animal you intend to feed and it will give you a green light (OK to feed), yellow light (be cautious if feeding as a stand-alone feed source), or red light (don’t feed this as a stand-alone feed source).

Note that this tool is not intended for use in ration balancing, but rather to alert you to potential issues with individual feed ingredients. It is strongly recommended that producers seek advice from a qualified professional to develop a balanced ration or familiarize yourself with ration balancing software like CowBytes. Continue reading

Feed Grains for Beef Cattle: New Web Page

Feed grains, such as corn, barley, oats, and wheat, are important for Canadian beef production. Cereals are used as forage, including silage, swath grazing, or baled green feed, however cereal grains are a particularly attractive energy and protein source for the feedlot sector because of their high nutritional value, competitive pricing, and ready supply. Continue reading

Where Does Short-Season Corn Fit?

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

Statistics Canada reports that Western Canada’s silage corn acreage has grown significantly in recent years. Nearly 30% of seeded corn silage acres aren’t harvested, suggesting it’s likely being used for grazing. The potential for a 50% higher yield compared to barley may offset corn’s 30% higher input costs, but only if growing conditions are right.

It is critically important to pick a hybrid that can grow under local conditions. A hybrid with a higher corn heat unit (CHU) rating than local conditions provide will not have time to reach optimal maturity before it is harvested or frozen, and will contain more fiber, more moisture, fewer cobs and less starch than ideal. It will also be less palatable and nutritious, whether it’s harvested for silage or left for grazing. On the other hand, a short season hybrid grown in a historically hot area would be ready to harvest before the growing season is over, sacrificing some potential yield. Corn silage that is harvested too late will be too dry, making it harder to pack and reducing silage palatability. Not every year is ‘average’, and year-to-year variations in growing conditions also need to be considered before deciding whether to try corn, or which hybrid to try. Continue reading

Barley Comes up the Backstretch

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

Like cattle performance, crop yields reflect the interplay between genetics, management practices and environmental conditions. Statistics Canada reports show that barley yields weren’t keeping up with other feed crops for decades. Barley yields increased 0.39 bushels/acre/year between 1980 and 2009, slower than either wheat (0.44) or corn (1.66). But since 2010, Canada’s barley yields have improved faster (1.32) than both wheat (0.84) and corn (0.66). This apparent tripling of barley yield gains is remarkable, especially considering that canola, corn and wheat development receive tremendous research investment, and their expanding acreages have squeezed barley’s shrinking acres onto less productive farmland.

Canada’s beef industry can share some credit for barley’s improved performance. Alberta Beef Producers, Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association and the Beef Cattle Research Council have supported Alberta Agriculture’s Field Crop Development Center, where Dr. Flavio Capettini leads Canada’s only dedicated feed and forage barley breeding program. This team’s work under the 2013-18 Beef Science Cluster illustrates how much effort it takes to breed a new, improved feed grain variety. Continue reading