Different approaches/same goal for winter management of heifers

Recognizing replacement and first calf heifers need extra management, producers take different paths to get to the same destination.



Beef producers like Darren Bevans in Alberta, Tyler Fulton in Manitoba and Murray Shaw in southwest Ontario know that replacement and first calf heifers need some extra attention, especially heading into and over winter — the heifers are not only pregnant and about to produce calves, but these young females are still growing themselves.

The “extra attention” doesn’t require over the top management, but just paying attention to feed and weather conditions to ensure heifers maintain a proper body condition to meet the nutritional requirements of the unborn calf as well as to support their own body growth.

In their respective operations, with extended fall and winter grazing programs, Bevans and Fulton manage heifers separate from their main cowherds so that Continue reading

3 Tips for Swath and Bale Grazing



We’ll soon see cattle out in fields cleaning up swaths or feeding on bales. If you’re planning to feed your cattle this way into the winter months, here are a few recommendations to consider from a recent BCRC webinar.

Extended grazing methods, including swath, stockpiled and bale grazing, have considerable economic benefits over traditional winter feeding systems, such as reduced labour, equipment, feed and manure handling costs.

The related webinar, held last fall, featured Vern Baron, PhD, a Research Scientist for Agriculture Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) in Lacombe, Alberta, and John Duynisveld, a Research Biologist for AAFC in Nappan, Nova Scotia.

They discussed both swath and bale grazing and offered tips for producers across the country, including: Continue reading

Another Look at the Costs and Benefits of Swath Grazing

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the August 2017 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.


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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

Will Swath Grazing in Late Summer Help Maintain Alfalfa in Rested Perennial Pastures?

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the April 2015 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.


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Background:
Numerous studies have shown that maintaining 40% alfalfa in a forage stand is the most economical way of improving soil fertility, forage yields and animal grazing performance. Unfortunately, alfalfa drops below the 40% threshold level after several years of grazing.

Alfalfa drops out of perennial pastures partly due to Continue reading

New resources added to BodyConditionScoring.ca help cow-calf producers increase profits


cattle feed costs calculator to add body condition
New resources have been added to www.BodyConditionScoring.ca to help cow-calf producers make decisions about managing body condition in their cow herd. Cattle producers know that fat cover plays a crucial role in the reproduction, health and welfare of their animals. These new resources will help guide them when modifying practices on farm to better manage body condition and increase their herds’ productivity and profitability.

The new feed cost calculator gives producers the opportunity to compare the extra expense of adding condition to thin cows in the Fall to the extra value gained by the resulting larger calf crop. The calculator is Continue reading

Improved swath grazing through new annual forage varieties and grazing management

By improving agronomic and grazing management practices, researchers and producers have increased the yields of crops seeded for swath grazing. This has reduced overwintering feed costs for the cow herd. Aspects of swath grazing that could be improved are the overall nutritive value of the swathed-grazed crop and weathering during fall, winter and spring, which reduces carrying capacity.


Lead researcher Dr. Vern Baron offering tips when swath grazing in an episode of the Beef Research School: http://youtu.be/EzQ8KZoaG-8

Research currently underway and funded by the National Check-off and Canada’s Beef Science Cluster is working to further improve pasture carrying capacity and reduce overwintering costs by evaluating new annual forage varieties and developing management strategies with improved forage quality that can be maintained throughout the swath grazing season.

This research will Continue reading

Creating a forage industry chair to maintain research expertise


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Cow-calf producers in Western Canada have widely adopted extended fall and/winter grazing practices using both annual and perennial forages. However, competition with high value annual crops has resulted in higher land prices and decreased land base for forage production in many beef producing areas. Therefore, having expertise in integration of land, plant and animal management is critical to increasing the productivity of both the forage land base and cow herd.

Work funded by the National Check-off and Canada’s Beef Science Cluster is supporting the establishment of a permanent Western Canada Forage Industry Chair at the University of Manitoba. The project will also provide leadership and technology transfer for Continue reading

Ergot: Low Levels Cause Big Problems

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the July 2014 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.



Ergot develops when a fungus called Claviceps purpurea infects susceptible grass and grain plants during flowering. Rye is most susceptible annual crop, followed by triticale, then wheat. Barley and oats are less susceptible but not completely resistant. Ergot is not a concern in corn. Ergot can also infect a number of perennial grasses. Cool, damp weather conditions during the flowering period (like those in Western Canada over the last few years, and that appear to be shaping up again this summer) cause the flowers stay open longer. This allows more opportunities for ergot spores to spread and infect the seed head. Ergot spores can survive for a year on the soil surface. Less summer fallow, continuous grain-on-grain rotations and un-mowed grass in road allowances allow ergot spores to build up in the soil and help the disease cycle to continue and build.

Continue reading

Cold Enough for You?

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission.



Red Deer, Alberta had three times as much snow as normal last November and December. This winter brought more snow and cold to the rest of Canada as well. Canfax reports that low temperatures contributed to a 35lb drop in Western Canada’s January carcass weights compared to January 2013. If low temperatures can impact bedded feedlot cattle sheltered by a porosity fence and fed a high energy finishing diet… how has it affected your cows?

Cold and wind: In 1970, the University of Alberta showed that cows could tolerate -26oC without increasing their heat production, provided they were in good condition, had a good hair coat, a good diet, and there was no wind (Can. J. Anim. Sci. 50:563). But wind changes the picture considerably. Cows need to produce 20% more heat at -20oC with an 8mph wind than at -26oC with no wind, and nearly 30% more heat at -20oC with a 12mph wind. Continue reading