Rebuild & Recover – Two Producers Share their Experiences with Fire and Drought

For many beef producers across Canada, the past year was challenging because of environmental conditions. Many producers experienced and continue to withstand extreme weather, which is testing their production and profit potentials, but also their mental resolve and financial resilience.

When things aren’t going well, farmers may feel like everything is out of their control. However, thinking strategically, reaching out and building a community of peers and professionals can help producers navigate through tough times and come out stronger in the end.

Finding silver linings in the ashes

For Andrea Haywood-Farmer and her husband Ted, last summer they were running from one fire to another — literally. “Our whole ranch burnt except our homeplace,” Andrea says, yet she remains optimistic. “It was really scary. But we’re going to be okay.”

Wildfire is a primary risk for their multi-generational ranch, located near Savona, BC. The Haywood-Farmers run about 1,200 cow-calf pairs (collectively with a cousin) on fire-prone timber mountain range. “Fire can start anywhere and it can go anywhere, depending on the wind and conditions,” explains Andrea. “Not knowing where it might start or where it’s going is a significant vulnerability for us.”

Beef producers moving cattle to safety away from wildfires


The Haywood-Farmer family spent much of the summer moving their herd out of the path of wildfires in British Columbia. Photo courtesy of the Haywood-Farmer family.

Where practical, they implement prevention practices. “There are things like your homeplace – you think about fire exposure and mitigating fire risk,” she says, and adds that they have hay fields strategically located around their yard for protection. When it comes to their range however, the uncertain nature of fire limits pre-planning. “You go and start opening gates and, to the best of your ability, if there are cattle in the pasture, you move them out of harm’s way,” explains Andrea. “And you keep doing it until you don’t have to do it anymore.” Continue reading

Meet the Council: Flexibility and Creative Solutions Provide Opportunity for These Beef Stakeholders

The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) is made up of producer members from across Canada, appointed by each of the provincial beef organizations that allocate part of the Canadian Beef Cattle Check-Off to research. The number of members from each province is proportional to the amount of provincial check-off allocated to research.

The following is part five in a series to introduce you to this group of innovative thinkers that set BCRC’s direction by sharing practices, strategies, or technologies that they have integrated into their own operations. Read part onepart two, part three and part four of this series. 

Regardless of what Canadian region beef producers are from, creative marketing strategies can help farmers profit as much as possible when they sell their cattle.

Keeping Things Flexible
Beef Cattle Research Council member Lee Irvine and family at home on the farm
Lee Irvine – Alberta

Lee Irvine and his family raise cattle outside of Cochrane, Alberta. They purchased their new place just over a year ago and are still working on getting things transitioned from what was primarily a horse facility back to a working cattle operation. Their new place is 80 acres of pasture and they also have some lease land with Lee’s family that they run cattle on.

Lee works off the farm in the auction industry so having a production system that can accommodate his schedule is important. They choose the class of cattle that they run based on current markets and opportunities on their farm. This year they have been running grasser cattle.

Continue reading

Meet the Council: Unique marketing opportunities bring more profit to these producers.

The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) is made up of producer members from across Canada, appointed by each of the provincial beef organizations that allocate part of the Canadian Beef Cattle Check-Off to research. The number of members from each province is proportional to the amount of provincial check-off allocated to research.

The following is part four in a series to introduce you to this group of innovative thinkers that set BCRC’s direction by sharing practices, strategies, or technologies that they have integrated into their own operations. Read part onepart two, and part three of this series. Regardless of what Canadian region beef producers are from, creative marketing strategies can help farmers profit as much as possible when they sell their cattle.

Working With Neighbours to Market Cattle

Ron Stevenson – Ontario

Ron and his family operate a 100 head commercial cow-calf operation in Walton, Ontario. Being located in the Great Lakes basin, rainfall is abundant in their area which is both a challenge and a benefit. Excess mud can cause animal health issues, especially in the springtime, but on the other hand, the Stevensons only need about 1.5-2 acres to support a cow-calf pair. Continue reading

Meet the council: thinking outside the box pays off

The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) is made up of producer members from across Canada, representing and appointed by each of the provincial beef organizations that allocate part of the Canadian Beef Cattle Check-Off to research. The number of members from each province is proportional to the amount of provincial allocation to research.

The following is part three in a series to introduce you to this group of innovative thinkers that set BCRC’s direction by sharing practices, strategies, or technologies that they have integrated into their own operations. Read part one and part two of this series.

Although location and climate vary among these three producers, trying new and different systems have helped them save time and money, and enabled them to diversify their operations.

Corn Grazing to Get Cattle Through the Winter

Ryan Beierbach – Saskatchewan

Ryan and his family ranch near Whitewood, Saskatchewan, where they try to keep cattle grazing as many days of the year as possible. Cattle are selected to tolerate winter on the prairies as they strive to select easy-doing, deep and thick heifers as replacements. They use Hereford bulls on Black Angus cows then use Angus bulls on the heifers they keep as replacements. Continue reading

Bale Grazing Checks the Boxes for Three Canadian Producers

Editor’s note: The following is the final instalment of a two-part series that will help you to evaluate different considerations for bale grazing across Canada. Click here to read part one.

Beef farmers everywhere are looking to reduce costs, decrease their workload, and improve the carrying capacity of their pastures. Bale grazing is a production practice that can help.

There is a learning curve with any grazing method, especially when it’s planned for winter, arguably one of the most unpredictable seasons. Three producers across Canada share their experiences with bale grazing, provide their top tips, and explain why extending the winter grazing period has been a game changer on their farms.

John Duynisveld
Wallace, Nova Scotia

John Duynisveld operates a beef and sheep farm on 250 acres of pasture land on the north shore of Nova Scotia. He calves his herd of 25 to 30 cattle in May and June, and markets his grass-finished beef directly to consumers.

John says they started doing things differently on their farm after his dad attended a grazing seminar more than 30 years ago. Later, when he was working on his Master’s degree, grazing management became a big focus once again. “As you delve into more ways of trying to extend your pasture and ways to be more cost effective and labour efficient, bale grazing becomes sort of an obvious choice,” he says. They’ve been bale grazing for 20 years and purchase dry hay from a neighbour who sets the bales up in the field for Duynisveld. Continue reading

Meet the Council: Willingness to Adapt is Key for Managing Canadian Beef Operations

The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) is made up of producer members from across Canada, representing and appointed by each of the provincial beef organizations that allocate part of the Canadian Beef Cattle Check-Off to research. The number of members from each province is proportional to the amount of provincial allocation to research.

The following is part one in a series to introduce you to this group of innovative thinkers that set BCRC’s direction by sharing practices, strategies, or technologies that they have integrated into their own operations. Read part two of this series.

Although located in different regions across the country, the following three producers all agree that being able to change and adapt is key when implementing new practices on their operation.

Rotating Wintering Sites in Treed Landscapes

Dean Manning – Nova Scotia

Dean and his family have a mixed farm in the Annapolis Valley near Falmouth, Nova Scotia. There they raise vegetables to sell at farmers’ markets and have a herd of 80 Angus crossbred cattle. Farming in this unique area, alongside all forms of agriculture from greenhouses and wineries to dairy and hogs, has provided the Mannings with opportunities and challenges. With a limited land base that is surrounded primarily by housing developments, the Mannings realized that to produce more they had to become more efficient as expansion is not an option. The advantage is that land is very productive, and the moisture received makes for favourable growing conditions for forages and other crops. Continue reading

Cover Crop Capabilities – Producer and Researcher Experiences


Cover crop in Saltcoats, SK. Photo courtesy of Kevin Elmy .

Forage cover crops are annual or biennial plants that farmers seed, often in mixes, in order to “cover” the soil. Also known as cocktail crops or polycrops, producers often seed these blends to accomplish goals like increasing production, reducing evaporation, improving soil biology, providing pollination opportunities, increasing natural nutrient cycling, and providing forage.

As with any practice that gains momentum quickly and offers so much promise, there are some risks and rewards. Read how three producers and one researcher have earned practical experience through trial and error, as well as applied and scientific research. At the end of each profile they share some pointers learned along the way.

Blair Williamson
Lambton Shores, Ontario

Blair Williamson is a purebred beef farmer who has been gaining experience with cover cropping the past few years by working with his uncle. He rents pasture and incorporates cover crops and crop residue before or after traditional cash crops are grown and harvested. Continue reading

Silage is top choice for these three beef producers



Editor’s note: The following is part two of a two-part series that will help you to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of silage production across Canada. Read part one on silage cost of production. 

Many Canadian beef producers have been harvesting and feeding silage for decades, while others are relatively new to the practice. There are upsides to silage, including the ability to harvest forage during variable weather, being able to produce more feed on fewer acres, and the potential for a more economical feed ration. There are also drawbacks to consider, including additional feeding infrastructure and equipment investment. Also, as with any new method or management practice, producers considering silage need to do their homework, develop a new skillset and be prepared to adapt and adjust as they learn.

Read about the experiences of three beef farmers from across Canada who have incorporated silage on their farms.

Kevin Duddridge
Pansy, Manitoba

Kevin Duddridge describes silage as the “future of beef production” and has been relying on silage to feed his cow herd for the past five years. Duddridge and his family run a 220 head cow-calf operation that they started in 2003 and they feed a total mixed ration based on corn silage. “We don’t use dry bales at all because it’s hit and miss from year to year,” says Duddridge, who added that their cost of production has reduced since shifting away from dry hay. “Corn is an amazing plant. It has a root that will find water in dry years, and in years where conventional hay fails, you will still get a crop of corn,” Duddridge explains. “It’s basically half the price per pound of dry matter for our production costs,” he adds. Continue reading

Three producers share ideas that improve efficiency

Editors note: This article is the third in a series featuring ideas from beef producers across the country. See the first: Eight beef producers share their recent changes and second: Five Producers Share Ideas That Have Made Their Farms And Ranches More Efficient

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:

Continue reading

How to get new feedlot calves settled and gaining quickly; advice from producers, veterinarians and feedlot consultants

Getting calves settled, keeping them healthy and getting them gaining involves serious management that considers many variables. A successful program to keep these calves healthy and growing should involve co-operative consultation between the feeder, herd health veterinarian and the livestock nutritionist. Stress on calves is the number one offender and the degree of stress can vary widely between calves and loads of calves. If not managed properly, freshly weaned calves heading to a feed yard can be very susceptible to pneumonia and other illnesses.

While herd health veterinarians and feedlot production specialists can each have slightly different approaches to getting new feeders ramped up to the intended full-feed ration, all have a common starting point — get calves unloaded into a receiving pen, don’t over crowd them, make sure they have access to good quality grass hay, are drinking water, the lot is well bedded, and the cattle get a few hours of rest before processing.

It sounds like a simple enough plan when introducing newly weaned calves to the feed yard. But, to successfully get calves eating and gaining, ideally from day one, takes both planning and management. Continue reading