Registration now open for 2020/2021 Webinar Series



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

New Resource: Record Keeping and Benchmarking Level 3



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 Benefits of Bringing Cattle and Crops Together

Grazing cattle on neighbouring farmland can have benefits to both the cattle producer and the farmer if done properly. From Saskatchewan to Manitoba and Ontario the following producers have had success with grazing cattle on neighbouring crop land.

Leanne Thompson and Tannis Axten are neighbours in southeastern Saskatchewan. The Thompsons own and operate a cow-calf and backgrounding operation with 500-800 head of mother cows as well as backgrounding cattle. The Axten family owns and operates a 6,000 acre grain farm that is highly diverse, focusing heavily on soil health and intercropping. Both operations have experienced mutual benefits by arranging to have the Thompsons’ cattle graze stubble and cover crops on the Axtens’ landbase. 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

What Makes Soil Healthy?


Photo credit to Cover Crops Canada

Soil health has been defined as “the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living system, within ecosystem and land-use boundaries, to sustain biological productivity, maintain the quality of air and water environments, and promote plant, animal, and human health”. The challenge with this poetic definition is that, while it does describe the functional abilities of soil, it does not provide quantifiable values or measurements. There are no metrics to determine what makes soil healthy or to help identify the current soil health status (i.e. is it healthy or does it still need work?).

Although most producers can agree that soil health is important, actual measurable values of what makes soil “healthy” will vary from farm to farm. Numerous research projects across the globe are working on gaining a better understanding of soil health and what that means for individual operations but have yet to come up with specific, global parameters other than the definition provided in 1996. This challenge makes sense – consider Canada for instance. Values for pH, salinity, water infiltration, and organic matter vary significantly across the country and what is considered “good” in one area may not be considered valuable in another region. Continue reading

Meet the Council: Willingness to Adapt is Key for Managing Canadian Beef Operations

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.

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

Corn Silage in Backgrounding Diets

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the June 2019 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.

Recent columns indicated that corn’s potential to produce 50% higher silage (and starch) yields than barley may offset its 30% higher growing costs, provided the right corn hybrid is selected for the local growing conditions, and provided growing conditions cooperate. The higher starch content of corn silage also means that feedlot diets may need to be re-examined. If corn silage is supplying more starch to the diet, perhaps backgrounding diets can feed less barley grain, or maybe cattle can be backgrounded to heavier weights with a shorter grain finishing period, provided growth rates, feed conversion and carcass grade aren’t adversely affected.

Karen Beauchemin of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (Lethbridge) recently published a Beef Cluster study examining whether replacing barley grain with corn silage in backgrounding diets impacted animal performance and carcass characteristics (Effects of feeding corn silage from short-season hybrids and extending the backgrounding period on production performance and carcass traits of beef cattle, doi:10.1093/jas/sky099). Continue reading

New Webpage: Forage Species



Forages are a major feed component for the cow-calf and backgrounding sectors of the beef industry, and are made up of grasses, legumes, forbs and shrubs. Eighty percent of a beef animal’s diet over its lifetime comes from forages.

Climate, local soil conditions and management objectives determine the best forage species and variety for each planting area and application. Forage crops add to the diversity and beauty of landscapes, provide habitat for wildlife, can play a role in soil improvement and water conservation, reduce erosion, and contribute to the carbon cycle as a carbon sink.

Most cultivated grasses grown in Canada, referred to as tame species, are introduced species from Europe or Asia that have been bred and adapted to perform in Canadian conditions. The unique characteristics that various species have will provide an advantage over other species under different growing conditions. Some grasses have superior adaptation to soil and climate conditions such as heat, drought, flooding, cold, salinity and acidity. The fibrous root systems of grasses stabilize soil and reduce erosion. Continue reading

Hooves not Harrows – Harnessing Cow Power to Rejuvenate Forages

As forage stands age, plant species composition shifts and production declines over time. There are many different methods of rejuvenating or renovating forage stands and strategies vary in intensity, effectiveness, and cost. Breaking old stands and re-seeding forages, while effective, is among the most expensive rejuvenation methods. More producers are opting to improve their older tame pastures and re-seed legumes using a key resource they already have on hand – their cattle herd.


Nerbas Brothers Angus use rotational and stockpiled grazing on their Manitoba farm. Photo courtesy of Twitter.com/NerbasBrosAngus

Arron Nerbas with Nerbas Brothers Angus explains how they take a “hooves not harrows” approach to improving older pastures. “We just try and use grazing as much as possible to take the mechanical component out of it,” explains Nerbas, who operates on his family’s multigenerational farm near Russell, Manitoba.

On Nerbas’ purebred and commercial Angus cow-calf operation, they have no cover crops or annual species and rely solely on perennial forages. Their goal is to try and graze as long as they can each season, and minimize the number of months they have cattle on winter feed, which is typically provided through bale grazing. Continue reading

Forage U-Pick: A new interactive forage species selection tool for Western Canada

The Forage U-Pick project was supported by over 13 different organizations through contributions of time and expertise. Funding was provided by the Beef Cattle Research Council, Alberta Beef, Forage and Grazing Centre, Saskatchewan Forage Council, and the Government of British Columbia and Government of Canada through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership.

Forages for hay and pasture are essential for beef production. Ensuring forage species are well-matched to growing conditions improves establishment rates, yield, vigour and quality. This can reduce costs, improve utilization and number of grazing days, and increase profitability.  Using accurate production information can produce positive impacts on beef and forage productivity, sustainability, and competitiveness.

Forage U-Pick is a tool designed to provide users with information for forage selection, forage seeding rates, and weed management. Continue reading