What a Year — Top 10 Articles from the BCRC Blog in 2021


top 10 blog posts of 2021

This past year presented Canadian beef producers with a lot of different circumstances. Some challenges, such as a widespread drought, required responsive decision-making at times. Yet production cycles continue, and breeding, weaning and feeding activities need to be planned and prepared for. 

Throughout the year, the BCRC published blog posts once or twice a week. Articles provide science-based insight into issues impacting Canada’s beef sector. Some articles from the past year featured producers’ perspectives and tips on topics such as animal-handling or how to improve forages. Other articles featured calculators and tools designed to help beef producers make strategic decisions. Some featured new research, while others focus on a timely response to on-the-ground challenges. 

The BCRC strives to provide relevant science and economic-based information to producers throughout the year and we value the feedback of our audience. Which posts stood out for you? What are some topics you would like to see as we flip the calendar to a new year?

Below are the BCRC’s Top 10 blog posts of 2021.   
Canadian beef cattle during drought in pasture with dwindling water supply
10. Decision Making During Drought

Dealing with drought is hard, but there are some strategies producers can use to help them make the best of a tough situation. Marketing cull cows earlier than normal, drylotting cows or weaning calves earlier can reduce pressure on feed and pastures.  Continue reading

Every Farm Has Different Goalposts – Setting Goals and Defining Success

What does a “successful” Canadian beef farm look like? How do you define success on your farm?

Canfax and the Beef Cattle Research Council recently released the results from their Canadian Cow-calf Cost of Production Network. The project collected data from 115 beef producers across Canada and summarized production benchmarks such as cow size, weaning weight and calf mortality. The network also looked at profit and expense benchmarks like feed costs, cow depreciation, enterprise revenue and more. A detailed summary of these results can be found here.

Interested in the Canadian Cow-Calf Cost of Production Network?

Producers receive:

  • Opportunity to learn from and share experience with other similar producers
  • $500 honorarium
  • Farm summary of production system including physical performance indicators
  • Summary of the whole farm, cow-calf enterprise and retained ownership enterprise, with 2020 baseline and five years of historical indexing
  • Summary of future farm scenarios

Sign up at: https://www.canfax.ca/COPNetwork.aspx

While profit and production numbers are often touted as measures of success, participants in the Cost of Production Network pointed out that fiscal targets are not their only focus. Success looks different for every farm because individual goals and values vary. Some producers may put a spotlight on strategies to increase revenue and reduce costs while other farmers view success as working well with family members or having less overall stress. All definitions are important and worth striving for.

Andre and Katie Steppler were named Manitoba Region’s Outstanding Young Farmers (OYF) in 2020. They manage the cattle division of Steppler Farms, where they run purebred and commercial Charolais herds as well as the recent addition of a registered Black Angus herd.

While winning the OYF award may be the very definition of success for most farmers, Steppler, who works alongside his three brothers, their families and his parents near Miami, Manitoba, is quick to point out that there is no single goal or target that makes their multigenerational farm work. “It’s about shared visions and goals and it’s a revolving thing,” he says. “You can’t stand still.” Continue reading

Canadian Cow-calf Cost of Production Network – 2021 Results

 



You may know what you want out of your operation, but do you record what you put into it? Knowing the difference between what you get and what you give is essential for profitable decision-making. This is the purpose of calculating cost of production.



The Canadian Cow-calf Cost of Production Network launched in 2020 with the objective to benchmark different production systems across Canada. Baseline data was collected from 115 producers who attended virtual focus groups between January and March 2021. This created 25 cow-calf and 3 dairy-beef production systems. These benchmarks are the first set in a standardized pan-Canadian process looking at the many types of cow-calf production systems across the country. The network only requires data to be submitted every five years; and should reduce response burden for producers while allowing for improvements to be tracked into the future. Results from the 2020 reference year are now available online  Continue reading

Drought-Related Resources for Cattle Producers

General

Experts Respond To Drought QuestionsBlog Post with Webinar Recording – August 10, 2021
Includes key points and the full recording of a webinar held on July 29, 2021 that answered producer questions about feeding cattle during a drought. https://www.beefresearch.ca/blog/expert-responses-to-drought-questions/

Decision Making During Drought – Blog Post – August 18, 2021
Considerations that may be helpful when making herd decisions such as culling, early weaning and winter feeding. https://www.beefresearch.ca/blog/decision-making-during-drought/

Drought Management Strategies – Topic Webpage
A complete overview that covers many producer considerations during and after a drought. Includes links to additional resources and calculators.
http://www.beefresearch.ca/droughtmanagement

Resources for Drought Management – Blog Post – April 29, 2021
Includes 8 tips for dealing with drought as well as links to BCRC and other resources that producers may find useful while in a drought.
http://www.beefresearch.ca/blog/resources-for-drought-management/

Feed Value, Options and Quality

Salvaging a Crop? Here Are Some Things to Consider When Valuing a Crop for Feed – Blog Post and Calculator – July 23, 2021
Intended to aid producers when determining the value of salvaged crop for feed.
http://www.beefresearch.ca/blog/salvaging-a-crop-here-are-some-things-to-consider-when-valuing-a-crop-for-feed/
* Note: Potential residue from chemical use should be a consideration. Download the VBP+ Salvaging Damaged Crops for Livestock Feed Fact Sheet.

Feed Testing & Analysis for Beef Cattle – Topic Webpage and Interactive Decision Tool
It is essential, especially in drought conditions, that producers test their feed and balance rations accordingly. This webpage includes information on how and why to test feed as well as an interactive calculator. Producers can input their feed test results to determine whether the feed should be supplemented based on the group of cattle they plan to feed it to. **It is important to note this tool does not take into account other antinutritional factors (e.g. nitrates and sulfates) that can be a more common problem with alternative feeds.
http://www.beefresearch.ca/research/feed-value-estimator.cfm

Alternative Feeds – Topic Webpage
With drought being so widespread, producers will be turning to different crops to help get them through the fall and winter. This webpage includes information on things to consider when feeding alternatives as well as specific information on many of the feed sources producers may be considering. http://www.beefresearch.ca/research-topic.cfm/alternative-feeds-100

Winter Feed Cost Comparison Calculator – Excel Calculator
This Excel-based calculator allows producers to compare cattle diets on a low-cost basis. It is not designed for balancing rations. https://www.beefresearch.ca/files/xls/Winterfeed_Cost_Calc_Final_Locked.xlsx

Water

Test Stock Water to Reduce Worry Blog Post – May 19, 2021
http://www.beefresearch.ca/blog/test-stock-water-reduce-worry/
What’s in Your Stock Water – Blog Post – August 27, 2019
https://www.beefresearch.ca/blog/whats-in-your-stock-water/
These two blog posts include information on why and how to test, where to send samples, and how to interpret results.

Water Systems for Beef Cattle Topic Webpage
Includes graphics on water quality and things to consider when setting up a new or temporary water source, as well as information on different types of watering systems.  http://www.beefresearch.ca/research-topic.cfm/water-systems-for-beef-cattle-104

What’s in your Water? Water Quality and the Economics of Pump Systems WebinarWebinar Recorded March 2019
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRixe81liXU&t=328s

Feed and Water Testing DemonstrationVideo Recorded August 2020
2020 Canadian Beef Industry Conference Bov-Innovation Session
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kY9apaZs1rw

Additional Resources

Pregnancy Detection ­– Topic Webpage
With low feed supplies, producers may consider early culling of open animals. This webpage includes information on pregnancy detection as well as a calculator that allows producers to determine whether preg checking will pay off on their operation.
http://www.beefresearch.ca/research-topic.cfm/pregnancy-detection-90

Mycotoxins ­– Topic Webpage
Many producers may be turning to feeds they aren’t used to feeding this fall. Mycotoxins are more of a risk in wet conditions but they still can be present when it is dry as well. This page includes information on mycotoxins, testing, and what producers can do about them:  http://www.beefresearch.ca/research-topic.cfm/mycotoxins-94

Creep Feeding – Blog Post – August 20, 2015
Nutritionist John McKinnon explains how creep feeding can reduce stress on cows during a drought and what to consider when making the decision to creep feed.
http://www.beefresearch.ca/blog/creep-feeding-mckinnon/

Body Condition Topic Webpage and Blog Post – October 19, 2021 
With short feed supplies it can be tempting to feed cows lower quality or less feed. Dropping body condition in cattle, especially those in later pregnancy in the fall and winter, can have negative effects on animal welfare, herd productivity, and long-term economics. This webpage includes information on how to accurately score body condition, the risks of low body condition scores, and a calculator producers can input numbers into to determine the economic effects of changing body condition scores in their herds. https://www.beefresearch.ca/blog/optimum-condition-maximum-production/
http://www.beefresearch.ca/research/body-condition-scoring.cfm

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Attn Researchers And Extension Agents: BCRC Opens Two Calls For Expressions Of Interest



The Beef Cattle Research Council invites expressions of interest (EOIs) for research projects as well as for technology transfer and production economics projects. The application deadline for these separate but concurrent calls is February 26, 2021 at 11:59 PM MT.

The purpose of these two targeted calls is to achieve specific objectives in the Canadian Beef Research and Technology Transfer Strategy and the National Beef Strategy. These calls for research and technology transfer EOIs are made possible by the recent increase in the Canadian Beef Cattle Check-Off in most provinces.

Approved projects, funded by Canadian cattle producers through the Canadian Beef Cattle Check-Off, will be required to use the industry funding to leverage additional funds from government or other funding organizations to fulfill project budgets.

Through extensive consultation with research teams and industry stakeholders to identify critical needs and key areas where the BCRC can have the greatest impact, target outcomes have been clearly defined for both calls. Please refer to the problem statements listed within the documents linked below before deciding whether to submit an EOI. Continue reading

Attention Extension Specialists and Production Economists: Upcoming Meeting about Two Extension Challenges



The current BCRC Call for Expressions of Interest (EOIs) related to technology transfer and production economics is focused on initiatives that will increase the efficacy of vaccination programs and utilization of feed test results by beef producers across Canada.

Join us on Thursday, February 11th to discuss opportunities, barriers and potential extension strategies to employ in these areas, as well as an overview of the funding application process and guidelines for EOI submissions.

In preparation for the online meeting, visit our website for complete information about the Call and to view the forms and downloads.

The virtual meeting will be held on Thursday, February 11, 10:00-11:00 am MT
9:00am in BC
10:00am in AB
11:00am in SK and MB
12:00pm in ON and QC
1:00pm in NS, NB, PE and NL

To join the Zoom meeting, you must register in advance.

Continue reading

Research Chair Proposal & Proof of Concept Proposal deadlines 2 Weeks Away

The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) invites proposals related to the establishment of research chairs and proof of concept research and clinical trials. The application deadline for both calls is October 1, 2020 at 11:59 PM MT.

Currently, a shortage of scientific experts and research capacity in some areas of beef, cattle and forage research are hindering the ability to conduct priority research that supports improvements in productivity and demand and responds to emerging issues. To fill these gaps, the BCRC is exploring options to establish Research Chairs in key areas with investment of Canadian Beef Cattle Check-Off funding in partnership with other funders.

To procure the strongest opportunities for capacity development and encourage matching investments, Research Chair concepts will be considered through an open call for proposals.  The BCRC welcomes proposals that work towards the achievement of its three core research objectives:

  • To enhance industry competitiveness and reduce production costs, priority outcomes are to enhance feed and forage production, increase feed efficiency, and decrease the impact of animal health issues and production limiting diseases.
  • To improve beef demand and quality, priority outcomes are to reduce food safety incidences, define quality and yield benchmarks supporting the Canadian Beef Advantage, and improve beef quality through primary production improvements and the development and application of technologies to optimize cut-out values and beef demand.
  • To improve public confidence in Canadian beef, outcomes are to improve food safety, strengthen the surveillance of antimicrobial use and resistance, develop effective antimicrobial alternatives, ensure animal care, demonstrate the safety and efficacy of new production technologies, improve environmental sustainability and measure the beef industry’s environmental benefits.

The intended start date for a Research Chair funded through this call will be July 2022, unless clear justification for an alternate date is provided and accepted by the BCRC. The interval between BCRC funding decisions and Research Chair start date is intended to allow time for necessary matching funds to be procured.

The BCRC intends to commit funding to support one Research Chair through this call with additional calls in subsequent years subject to annual BCRC funding allocations.

This research capacity development initiative, in support of the National Beef Strategy, is made possible by the increase in the Canadian Beef Cattle Check-Off in most provinces.

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 time frame.

The purpose of this call is to fund proof of concept research and clinical trials that will lead to the achievement of objectives in the Canadian Beef Research and Technology Transfer Strategy and the National Beef Strategy. Leveraging producer check-off funds allocated to approved projects with other industry or government cash contributions is encouraged but not required for this call.

All call-related information can also be found at www.beefresearch.ca on the Forms and Downloads page.

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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.

An(other) Ounce of Prevention

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

My first fire drill in grade one was absolute chaos, screaming and panic as we all circled the teacher, who was likely wondering how our parents had managed to keep us alive this long. By grade three, we yawned and strolled to the nearest door. Fire drills teach kids what to do when there’s no real threat, so that they react calmly and automatically if a real fire happens. Fire drills save lives. Vaccines are for disease what fire drills are for kids.

When an animal is exposed to a disease-causing microbe, the immune system activates a variety of self-defence weapons to combat it. The immune system often responds a bit slowly the first time the microbe is encountered, because it’s starting from scratch. But the immune system has a “memory” that allows it to respond much more quickly and automatically the next time that microbe re-appears.

Like a fire drill, a vaccine mimics exposure to disease-causing microbes without causing the disease. Nearly all vaccines recommend two doses, given a few weeks apart. The initial vaccination is like the fire drill in grade one. It teaches the animal’s immune system to recognize particular features of a microbe that causes a specific disease. The second “booster” dose given a few weeks later is like the fire drill in grade three. It stimulates the immune system’s memory and generates a much stronger and long-lasting immune response and enables the immune system to spring into action if the microbe itself appears. Reproductive diseases also require an annual booster for the breeding herd. Proper vaccination allows the animal’s immune system to respond much more quickly, automatically and effectively when a real disease challenge occurs. Continue reading

Attention Researchers and Extension Agents: BCRC Opens Two Calls for Letters of Intent



The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) and Alberta Beef Producers (ABP) invite letters of intent (LOIs) for research projects as well as for technology transfer and production economics projects. The application deadline for these separate but concurrent calls is August 7, 2020 at 11:59 PM MT.

The purpose of these two targeted calls is to achieve objectives in the Canadian Beef Research and Technology Transfer Strategy and the National Beef Strategy. These calls are made possible by the recent increase in the Canadian Beef Cattle Check-Off in most provinces, along with funds provided and administered by ABP. Producer check-off funds allocated to approved projects will need to be leveraged by other industry or government cash contributions. Match leverage funding does not have to be confirmed at the time an LOI is submitted but must be in place prior to BCRC contracting an approved project.

Target outcomes have been clearly defined for both calls through extensive consultation with research teams and industry stakeholders to identify critical needs and key areas where the BCRC and ABP can have the greatest impact. Please refer to the target outcomes listed within the Call for Letters of Intent documents linked below before deciding whether to submit an LOI.

All call-related information can also be found at www.beefresearch.ca on the Forms and Downloads page.

Continue reading