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.
Selecting a corn seed hybrid starts by determining your intended end use for the product. Photo credit to Ontario Cattle Feeders
When grown and harvested properly, corn silage can be an excellent source of energy and fibre for beef cattle. Selecting a corn hybrid starts by determining your intended end use for the product. Are you planning to use corn silage as feed for mature cows or as part of a complete ration for feeder cattle? The answer to this question can change the variety of corn that producers should select. For example, if the silage will be used as a winter feed source for the cow herd, a higher energy corn variety may be better suited than a high fibre variety that would be used in a feeder ration where corn silage is used as a fibre source.
Much of Canada is suited to cool-season plants, but plant breeding companies have developed corn hybrids that require fewer corn heat units (CHU) during the growing season. The minimum CHU rating for corn hybrids has fallen from 2300 to 2000 over the past 40 years. Continue reading →
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 →
This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the May 2020 issue ofCanadian Cattlemenmagazine 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 →
Beef producers across the country are always looking to improve management and production practices that not only benefit cattle, but also reduce their workload, and help to save time and money.
It may involve improved calf identification measures, installing remote cameras to monitor watering systems, or adopting quiet livestock handling practices in a flexible year-round grazing system. They all help to improve beef production efficiency.
Here are some measures three beef producers say has benefited their operations:
Fine-tuned management decisions with quick results and bigger management changes that may take a few years for benefits to materialize — these are ideas that Canadian beef producers are applying to their farming and ranching operations.
Good ideas can range from improving pasture watering systems and regularly testing winter feeds, to reducing costs during the fall/winter grazing period, to simple ideas that reduce the stress of calving out heifers, to more sweeping approaches on how to manage an intensive grazing system — all have a common objective to improve beef herd performance in sustainable farming systems.
Here are some ideas that Canadian beef producers have shared that help them produce more pounds of beef, reduce workload, improve overall efficiency and benefit cattle and the environment: Continue reading →
Corn grazing is becoming more popular across Canada because producers can grow more biomass on less land. If you are planning on grazing corn this winter, here are 5 tips to help you make the most of the corn grazing season:
Ease cattle into grazing corn
If this is the first time you are grazing corn, it may take some time for cattle to realize what they are supposed to do with the tall stalks. It is a good idea to slowly transition cattle from summer pasture to fall corn grazing. Regardless of how familiar they are with grazing, the rumen also takes some time to adapt to the new feed source. One way to do this is to provide access to only a couple days’ worth of feed and also supply cattle with an alternative feed source such as a bale of hay to help them through the transition period.
Limit cows to 3-4 days of feed
Inevitably when cattle are turned out, they will eat the best (more palatable) parts of the plant first, which is the cob. If cows Continue reading →
It will soon be time to start thinking about next year’s winter feed. If you plan to graze your cows on corn next fall or winter, consider these recommendations on planting corn for grazing purposes from Breeanna Kelln, a PhD student at the Western Beef Development Centre (WBDC) who also ranches near Duval, SK, and Dr. Bart Lardner, Senior Research Scientist at the WBDC:
1. First time? Start small
Corn is a high input crop. It requires more time and inputs at the beginning of the growing season than cereals used for grazing. Kelln says there is a learning curve for both the producer and the cattle, especially for cattle who have never been exposed to extended grazing. Lardner recommends Continue reading →
Thinking about turning your cattle out on corn? Want to be sure you are up to date with the latest corn grazing recommendations? Join us to learn more about this extended grazing practice with advice on maintaining good profitability and animal performance.
Thursday, October 12 at 7:00 pm MT
6:00pm in BC
7:00pm in AB and SK
8:00pm in MB
9:00pm in ON and QC
10:00pm in NS, NB and PEI
Interested but aren’t available that evening? Register anyway! This webinar will be recorded and posted online at a later date. All registrants will receive a link to the recording and additional learning resources. By attending the live event, you’ll have the opportunity to interact and ask questions too.
This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the August 2017 issue ofCanadian Cattlemenmagazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.
Well-managed swath grazing has well-known economic benefits for producers. But research results from a study funded by the Beef Science Cluster showed that it can have environmental benefits as well. Dr. Vern Baron and coworkers at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Lacombe Research Station recently published Swath grazing triticale and corn compared to barley and a traditional winter feeding method in central Alberta (Canadian Journal of Plant Science 94:1125-1137) and Effect of winter feeding systems on farm greenhouse gas emissions (Agricultural Systems 148:28-37).
What they did: A five-year winter feeding study was conducted in central Alberta (2008-09 through 2012-13). Angus x Hereford and Red Angus x Charolais cows were fed barley silage, barley grain, barley straw and hay in confinement, or swath-grazed on triticale or corn for 120 days. Confined cows were Continue reading →