Growth Promotants and the Environment

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the October 2021 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.
growth promotants improve feed efficiency of beef cattle and also have environmental benefits
Growth promotants dramatically improve the growth rates and feed efficiency of beef cattle. Trenbolone acetate (TBA) behaves like testosterone and is used in several feedlot implants (Component, Revalor, and Synovex). Melengestrol acetate (MGA) behaves like progesterone, a pregnancy hormone. Some feedlots feed MGA to suppress estrous cycles and riding activity in heifers until a few days before slaughter. Ractopamine (Actogain, Optaflexx) is a feed additive that improves weight gain, feed efficiency and leanness in the last 28-42 days before slaughter.

Growth promotants also have environmental benefits; reducing the number of days (and amount of feed) needed to finish cattle means fewer days producing greenhouse gases and manure, and less water, feed and fossil fuel inputs per pound of beef.

Animals metabolize and excrete these growth promotants over time – that’s why growth promotant residues in beef are too low to pose any risk to consumers. But do these excreted residues and metabolites pose a risk to the environment? How long do they persist in soil and manure, and is there a risk they could enter surface or groundwater?

A Beef Cluster study led by Frank Larney and co-workers at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Lethbridge Research & Development Centre and the University of Saskatchewan’s Toxicology Centre is examining these questions. Their first study was published earlier this year (Ractopamine and Other Growth-Promoting Compounds in Beef Cattle Operations: Fate and Transport in Feedlot Pens and Adjacent Environments; Environmental Science & Technology. DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.0c06450). Continue reading

Survey Says…?

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the August 2021 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.
Canadian beef producer standing in pasture taking BCRC's online beef industry survey
In February’s column I encouraged you to fill out our online beef research survey to help the Beef Cattle Research Council and other industry and government funders develop a clear set of priorities to guide our funding decisions over the next five years. Thanks for responding – we had nearly twice as many responses this time as we got five years ago. The more responses we get, the more confidence we have in the feedback that comes in. Here are some of the highlights of what you told us.

What We Did:

The survey was open between January 5 and March 5, 2021. It asked you to rate a variety of research issues as Extremely, Very, Moderately, Slightly or Not Important in the areas of feed efficiency and utilization, forage and grassland productivity, environmental sustainability, animal health and welfare, beef quality and food safety. We also asked how often producers used different communication channels for production information and how influential they were in their decision making.

A total of 878 Canadians responded to the survey. This article focuses on the responses provided by the 65 seedstock, 497 cow-calf and 33 feedlot producers, as well as the 39 veterinarians (for the animal health and welfare section) and 26 non-governmental organization (NGO) representatives (for the environmental sustainability section). We paid particular attention to issues that were rated as Extremely or Very Important by 75% or more of respondents, as well as issues that were rated as Slightly or Not Important by 25% or more of respondents.

What We Learned:

Feed efficiency and utilization: Cow-calf and seedstock respondents prioritized differences in wintering costs between efficient and inefficient cows, while feedlot operators prioritized the impacts of feed quality and feedlot management practices on feed efficiency. Not surprisingly, feedlot operators rated barley and corn yields more highly than cow-calf or seedstock producers.

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Renewed Research and Extension Objectives Support a Thriving Beef Sector

Strategic and collaborative investments in research and technology transfer bolster the Canadian beef sector’s leadership in responsibly meeting rising global food production needs. Today, the Beef Cattle Research Council and its industry partners released a renewed five-year strategy to help target funding toward achieving highpriority beef research and extension objectives.  

The Five-Year Canadian Beef Research and Technology Transfer Strategy supports increasing productivity while building upon the sector’s leadership in environmental, social and economic sustainability. It builds upon the success of previous iterations and complements the National Beef Strategy’s ambitious 10-year goals 

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