This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in a September 2021 issue ofCanadian Cattlemenmagazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.
The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) projects featured in this column are funded by the Canadian Beef Cattle Check-Off. When the checkoff increased a few years ago, the BCRC’s budget rose from around 15 cents to 67 cents per head marketed. This allowed us to start some new research programs. Now that we’re a few years in I can update you on how they’re going.
One is our “Proof of Concept” program. Research is complicated and costly, so we have independent scientists review each research proposal to make sure it is scientifically sound and likely to achieve its goal before investing your dollars into it. Sometimes the reviewers say, “This is an interesting project, but it’s really costly, and it all hinges on an untested idea. It’d be better if they had some preliminary evidence that this new idea is worth pursuing, before funding a costly, full-scale project.”
In 2018 the BCRC started funding Proof of Concept projects to gather these preliminary results and help decide whether these new ideas are worth scaling up into full-scale research trials. Here’s what two of the first Proof of Concept projects told us.
Saskatoon, SK – With $2.35 million from the federal government and the Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC), University of Saskatchewan (USask) veterinary researcher Dr. Cheryl Waldner will undertake a major five-year research program to advance beef cattle health and productivity, helping to sustain the profitability and competitiveness of Canada’s $17-billion-a-year beef industry.
USask veterinary researcher Dr. Cheryl Waldner is the new NSERC/BCRC Industrial Research Chair in One Health and Production-Limiting Diseases. Photo: Amanda Waldner
“This timely and cutting-edge research builds on our university’s strengths in agriculture and ‘One Health’ to help advance the livestock industry’s economic contributions to the country and ensure continued consumer confidence in the safety and quality of Canadian beef,” said USask President Peter Stoicheff in announcing the new chair Jan. 30.
The $750,000 award from the federal Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) is matched by $750,000 in producer check-off funding from the BCRC. USask is contributing $850,000. Continue reading →
This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the October 2019 issue ofCanadian Cattlemenmagazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.
I once spent a summer working for canola breeders. Some used traditional selection, while others were experimenting with transgenics. One traditionalist was known to say “sticking a new gene into a plant and expecting it to grow better is like throwing a new gear into a watch and expecting it to keep better time. It’ll probably get worse”. This article isn’t about canola or genetics, but it is about time and unintended consequences. Specifically, it’s about the timing of the breeding and calving seasons.
Canada’s cow-calf sector has moved towards fewer, larger beef cow herds. Calving later, on pasture has been a widely adopted strategy allowing producers to expand their cow herds without a proportional increase in equipment, labor, and facilities. When John Basarab led Alberta’s Cow-Calf Audits in the late 1980’s and late 90’s, breeding often started in May and calving started in late February. In contrast, 70% of the producers responding to the 2017 Western Canadian Cow-Calf Survey started breeding in June or July to calve in March or April.
This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the September 2018 issue ofCanadian Cattlemenmagazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.
Antibiotic use records are important for producers who want to track the effectiveness of the antibiotics they use. Industry groups need antibiotic use data to refute misleading claims about our production practices. Even restaurant chains and meat companies marketing “antibiotic-free” beef need records to keep treated animals out of their “never-ever” supply stream. When it comes to antibiotic use in the beef industry, most of the attention is focused on the feedlot sector. That’s because most of the antibiotic use occurs there, and because large feedlots work closely with specialized veterinarians and have developed sophisticated software to support animal health protocols and recording of animal health treatments. But antibiotic use at the cow-calf level is also important. For example, calves may not respond as well to antibiotics at the feedlot if they have been exposed to a related antibiotic before leaving home.
The most recent reports on antibiotic use in cow-calf operations in Eastern Canada (Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research 72:109) and Western Canada (Preventive Veterinary Medicine 90:55) are nearly 10 years old. The Western Canadian Cow-Calf Surveillance Network (WCCCSN) initiative supported under the 2013-18 Beef Science Cluster provided an opportunity to gather updated information regarding antibiotic use on cow-calf operations.
What they did: Dr. Cheryl Waldner and co-workers at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine surveyed 100 cow-calf operations in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba about Continue reading →
Water testing can help prevent a wreck in reproductive performance
Garret Hill, Duval, SK. Photo courtesy of the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association.
Garret Hill couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Cattle had plenty of grass, clean water, a standard mineral mix in front of them, they appeared to be in good condition, yet conception rates among cows and heifers on his family’s central Saskatchewan ranch were declining.
This problem came to a head about six years ago. Their area around Duval, about an hour north of Regina, had experienced a succession of particularly wet growing seasons. There was plenty of grass and a relatively deep (150 foot) well on the farm supplied water to the herd as needed during the year.
“We didn’t know what was wrong,” says Hill, who along with brother Greg and other family members today run about a 1,000 head cow-calf operation. “But at that time we had about one-third of the cow herd open and it seemed to be increasing by about five per cent per year. The problem was getting worse.” Continue reading →
This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the May 2014 issue ofCanadian Cattlemenmagazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.
Trichomoniasis (trich, or “trick”) and bovine genital campylobacteriosis (vibrio) are venereal diseases that cause early embryonic death, repeat breeding, large numbers of open cows at the end of the breeding season, an extended calving season, and enormous economic losses. The microbes that cause trich and vibrio live in the reproductive tracts of infected cattle, but don’t enter the tissues or the bloodstream. Cows and heifers can clear these infections but bulls generally can’t, because the microbes live in the folds of the foreskin. These diseases are difficult to treat, because Continue reading →