How Mother Nature Hedges Her Bets

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the May 2021 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.

Pasture plants are generally classified as decreasers, increasers and invaders. Decreaser species are the plants you want to see and your cattle prefer to eat, so they face the most grazing pressure. Increaser plants tend to thrive when the decreaser species are challenged by overgrazing, drought or other sub-optimal conditions. Invaders (weeds) proliferate when increasers and the remaining decreasers are so weakened by overgrazing or environmental extremes that they have a hard time competing for nutrients, water and sunlight. 
cattle grazing on healthy, green pastures
Healthy, productive pastures are dominated by decreasers. The composition of the decreaser community in healthy native rangelands was shaped by thousands of years of natural selection and environmental pressures. In tame pastures, humans take the wheel from Mother Nature as we seek to establish and maintain a stand of tame decreaser species that can be productive and long-lived in our particular soil and climate conditions. In both native and tame pastures, good grazing managers adjust stocking densities, grazing intensities, grazing and rest period length and frequency, etc. based on annual and seasonal variations in growing conditions to maintain pasture health and optimize long-term forage and animal productivity. Continue reading

New Webpage: Forage Species



Forages are a major feed component for the cow-calf and backgrounding sectors of the beef industry, and are made up of grasses, legumes, forbs and shrubs. Eighty percent of a beef animal’s diet over its lifetime comes from forages.

Climate, local soil conditions and management objectives determine the best forage species and variety for each planting area and application. Forage crops add to the diversity and beauty of landscapes, provide habitat for wildlife, can play a role in soil improvement and water conservation, reduce erosion, and contribute to the carbon cycle as a carbon sink.

Most cultivated grasses grown in Canada, referred to as tame species, are introduced species from Europe or Asia that have been bred and adapted to perform in Canadian conditions. The unique characteristics that various species have will provide an advantage over other species under different growing conditions. Some grasses have superior adaptation to soil and climate conditions such as heat, drought, flooding, cold, salinity and acidity. The fibrous root systems of grasses stabilize soil and reduce erosion. Continue reading