This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the June 2019 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.
Recent columns indicated that corn’s potential to produce 50% higher silage (and starch) yields than barley may offset its 30% higher growing costs, provided the right corn hybrid is selected for the local growing conditions, and provided growing conditions cooperate. The higher starch content of corn silage also means that feedlot diets may need to be re-examined. If corn silage is supplying more starch to the diet, perhaps backgrounding diets can feed less barley grain, or maybe cattle can be backgrounded to heavier weights with a shorter grain finishing period, provided growth rates, feed conversion and carcass grade aren’t adversely affected.
Karen Beauchemin of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (Lethbridge) recently published a Beef Cluster study examining whether replacing barley grain with corn silage in backgrounding diets impacted animal performance and carcass characteristics (Effects of feeding corn silage from short-season hybrids and extending the backgrounding period on production performance and carcass traits of beef cattle, doi:10.1093/jas/sky099). Continue reading
April 22nd is Earth Day. Earth Day is recognized globally by people from all walks of life as a way to foster environmental respect and celebrate conservation.
Cattle producers across Canada chose to make their living as stewards of the land and certainly appreciate and depend on a healthy environment. Earth Day is an excellent time for all of us in the industry to celebrate environmental achievements, and cultivate discussion about further advancement.
Let’s ask questions, seek answers and talk about how we can make continual improvements related to greenhouse gas and manure management, carbon sequestration, biodiversity, nutrient cycling and more.
Water conservation is a hot topic. As concerns rise about depletion of water resources both locally and globally, livestock production and other agriculture sectors are often criticized for water use.
What can the Canadian beef industry do to conserve water?
First we need to Continue reading
Producing beef with lower GHG emissions and using fewer resources
Over the years, Canada’s beef industry has invested a lot of time and resources in, and reaped considerable economic benefits, from improvements in productivity and efficiency. With higher forage and feed crop yields, less land needs to be bought, leased or rented to produce the same number of calves or the same amount of beef. Similarly, improved feed conversions mean that less forage is needed to winter the cow herd or less feed grain is needed to grow a pound of beef.
These improvements in productivity and efficiency have also produced environmental benefits. To produce high yields, forages need an extensive root system that promotes healthy soil, healthy soil microbes, improves structure, reduces soil losses due to wind and water erosion, and builds up soil organic matter (also known as carbon sequestration). Better feed conversion efficiencies are accompanied by reductions in methane and manure production.
While the beef industry was pursuing business-focused improvements in productivity and efficiency, a lot of farm kids moved to town, and raised their families in urban settings that rarely (if ever) come in contact with agriculture. This knowledge gap about how beef is produced has provided opportunities for the beef industry’s opponents to undermine our environmental reputation. Our industry is particularly maligned for producing greenhouse gases linked to climate change.
Practically every living organism produces greenhouse gases, even plants, but cattle produce more than other livestock because rumen bacteria produce methane as they digest feed. Additional greenhouse gases come from manure (methane and nitrous oxide) and fossil fuel use (carbon dioxide). However, like the Continue reading
To maintain profitability w
ith rising feed grain prices, feedlots are required to consider alternatives to purchased grains. Traditionally forages are avoided because of their higher fiber content and lower energy content which leads to lower feed conversion efficiency and increased manure production. The highly variable energy content of corn silage makes it challenging to maintain animal growth rate when cattle are fed higher forage diets.
Research currently underway and funded by the National Check-off and Canada’s Beef Science Cluster is working to obtain Continue reading
This post was written in collaboration with Fawn Jackson, Canadian Cattlemen’s Association Manager of Environment and Sustainability.
Earth Day, celebrated annually on April 22nd, began in the 1970’s and is often cited as the start of the modern environmental movement. But it isn’t just for the hippie children of the 1970’s anymore. Today Earth Day is recognized globally by people from all walks of life as a way to foster and celebrate environmental respect and behavioural changes that lessen our impact on the earth.
Cattle producers across Canada, who Continue reading