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

Dr. Surya Acharya Receives 2021 Canadian Beef Industry Award for Outstanding Research and Innovation

Dr. Surya Acharya receives 2021 Canadian Beef Industry Award for Outstanding Research and Innovation from Beef Cattle Research Council


Pictured l to r:  Beef producer Darren Bevans, BCRC Science Director Reynold Bergen, BCRC Executive Director Andrea Brocklebank, beef producer Doug Wray, 2021 Canadian Beef Industry Award for Outstanding Research & Innovation recipient Dr. Surya Acharya, beef producer and BCRC Vice Chair Craig Lehr, AAFC Forage Breeder Hari Poudel, beef producer and BCRC Council Member Graeme Finn and AAFC Forage Agronomy Technician Brandon Eisenreich.

An innovative and industry-engaged forage breeder has been granted the 2021 Canadian Beef Industry Award for Outstanding Research and Innovation. Dr. Surya Acharya received this award today at the 2021 virtual Canadian Beef Industry Conference to recognize the positive impacts of his research on beef industry advancement.  

“Dr. Acharya is respected and appreciated by academics and producers alike,” said Matt Bowman, chair of the Beef Cattle Research Council and a producer from Thornloe, Ontario. “His work addresses real industry obstacles with solutions that consider producers’ needs through direct communication with stakeholders.”   

Dr. Acharya is a research scientist and forage breeder at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) in Lethbridge, Alberta, where he specializes in breeding legumes. His current research focuses on developing new cultivars of legume species with improvements in yield, nutritional quality and persistence, among other traits. His unique approach to plant breeding incorporates a consideration of multiple factors to best serve the needs of end-users, including beef producers. Indeed, many of Dr. Acharya’s past cultivars are appreciated for their practical use in solving industry challenges, such as his AC Oxley II and AC Veldt cicer milkvetch varieties, both of which are much quicker to establish than predecessors. Similarly, he assisted in the development of the online Forage U-Pick tool, which aids western Canadian producers in choosing appropriate forage species for their operations.  

Dr. Acharya’s most recent project aims to enhance the lipid content of legume vegetative tissues to improve their energy content for grazing livestock. Using conventional and genomic breeding techniques, his team has been able to select for plants with approximately five percent lipid content, compared to virtually none in the original plants. His project will have environmental benefits by using conventional breeding to reduce methane production through increased digestibility, which will allow western Canadian alfalfa producers to export to nations that avoid the GMO designation.   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

Experts Respond to Drought Questions


Experiencing drought stress? Watch recording of webinar for beef producers.
On July 29, the Beef Cattle Research Council hosted a webinar that allowed beef producers to ask drought-related questions to a panel of nutrition and animal health experts. Producers asked for everything from recommendations for grazing canola, how to manage for antinutritional factors, tips on ammoniation and to how to manage grass into the fall. While questions were varied and diverse, a few main themes emerged.

Feed testing:

In a drought year, testing your feed sources is more important than ever. Especially when using alternative feed sources, a feed test allows you to understand what you have in terms of energy and protein and therefore what you will need to supplement to maintain the health and body condition of cows and other classes of cattle. A feed test will also identify some of the antinutritional factors and potential toxic levels of substances such as nitrates or sulfates that are more prevalent in drought years or unconventional feeds. Feed tests can be performed on standing or swathed crops, bales or silage. A feed test can be instrumental in determining how a particular feed will fit into your overall feeding strategy. 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

Attn Researchers – SK Ministry of Ag launches Call for Proposals

The Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture invites collaborative, multi-disciplinary, cross-institutional teams to develop and submit integrated research proposals that will significantly advance the empirical quantification and the regional mapping of soil carbon sequestration under pasture and forage resources in Saskatchewan.

Under this competition, the ministry will award up to $2.5 million to a single successful applicant. Approved funding will be dispersed over a five-year term (i.e. up to $500,000 per year). Individual research proposals must include and address both of the two sub-themes listed below:

  • The development or adaptation of models characterizing carbon storage magnitude and variability under managed forage and pasture, and
  • Empirical quantitative research to substantiate and support the models (and sub-regional variations).

Applicants are to consult with Dr. Jeff Braidek, Agriculture Research Branch, on the development of their proposal (tel. 306-966-6016; jeff.braidek@gov.sk.ca) or for further information.

Interested applicants must provide a preliminary LOI to the agriculture research branch no later than 5 pm, October 5th, 2021. For more information visit the program website

LOI forms are available from the Agriculture Research Branch, contact: Dr. Jeff Braidek. jeff.braidek@gov.sk.ca, tel. 306-933-6016 or Navit Asres evaluation.coordinator@gov.sk.ca, tel. 306-787-2837

When seeking funding, researchers are encouraged to refer to the priorities and target research outcomes in the Canadian Beef Research and Technology Transfer Strategy.

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