Today’s Research Provides Tomorrow’s Solutions

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

Today’s research won’t help you weather this year’s drought, but the practical information and advice you’ll read elsewhere in this issue (and at will. Those pasture management, early weaning, creep-feeding, feed and water testing, alternative feeds and ration balancing tips all originate from past research done by scientists and refined by producers. But producer-funded research underway today will help us cope with future droughts.
beef cattle kicking up dust in dry pasture
Crops, pastures and haylands throughout Western and Central Canada are parched. In a lot of places, the only green and thriving forage plants are forage legumes like alfalfa, vetches, trefoil, sweet clover and sainfoin. Legumes have specialized roots that allow them to capture nitrogen from the air and convert it into plant protein. This improves soil fertility and forage and animal productivity. Their root systems can also extend very deep into the soil and allow them to access subsoil moisture that shallow-rooted plants can’t reach during times of drought. Canada’s forage researchers are working hard today to develop tomorrow’s forage varieties and management practices that will improve productivity, nutritional quality and resilience under challenging environmental conditions. Continue reading

Pasture Blends

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the February 2018 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.

Most forage seed companies offer a pasture blend. Some customize their blend to the customer’s situation, but others use a least-cost formulation to produce a more attractively priced blend. Ideally, the blend should contain grasses and legumes that grow well together, are well-adapted to the environment and soil type they will be seeded in, will tolerate grazing, and produce good animal performance. Seed companies often don’t have all the information they need to formulate these ideal blends. As one example, forage breeding plots are typically far too small to graze, so forage yield is evaluated using a plot harvester. This means that forage varieties are being selected for their ability to produce and recover from mechanical harvesting rather than grazing. Forage improvement programs that integrate the breeding, agronomics, and grazing management research programs to gather the data needed to develop effective pasture blends take a long time and are very costly.

To help address this issue, Continue reading

Making forage mixtures work for you: Webinar February 15

Update: Missed the webinar? Find the recording and check for future webinars on our Webinars page:

ge mixtures are a great way to optimize energy:protein with forage yield and animal gain. Join this webinar to learn which forages may work well together on your pastures, and how to improve pastures that are under-performing.

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Wednesday February 15,  7:00 pm EST

  • 4:00pm in BC
  • 5:00pm in AB
  • 6:00pm in SK and MB
  • 7:00pm in ON and QC
  • 8:00pm in NS, NB and PEI 

Interested but aren’t available that evening?
Register anyway! This webinar will be recorded and posted online at a later date. All registrants will receive a link to the recording and additional learning resources. By attending the live event, you’ll have the opportunity to interact and ask questions too.

Find and register for more BCRC webinars here, including:

  • Managing Internal parasites – March 28, 2017
  • Managing native forages – April 6, 2017

Watching on a tablet or mobile device?
If you plan to join the webinar using your tablet or mobile device, you will need to Continue reading

Forage stand mixtures

Establishing new pastures can be expensive and producers often prioritize stand life over yield. Seeding complex mixtures of grasses and legumes that maintain highly diverse botanical composition in pastures can contribute to increased persistence, yield stability and improved productivity. Yields benefit from including highly productive as well as drought-tolerant species. While some species will not persist beyond the first three or four years, other species in the mix can fill in the gap to maintain overall yields, to a degree.

Schellenberg (2013)1 assessed the productivity and crude protein content of forage stands to determine if species show complementarity in Swift Current, Saskatchewan. The fast growing and highly competitive species dominated biomass production in the early establishment phase.  Including less productive species in the forage sward had minimal impact on pasture productivity or nutritional value under good growing conditions. However, less productive species should be included in pasture mixes when they bring beneficial traits (i.e. increasing nitrogen availability, drought resistance) to the forage stand that provide ‘insurance’ for less optimal years.

Continue reading

Determining optimal forage species mixtures

Forages are a major feed component for the cow-calf and backgrounding sectors of the beef industry. Appropriately managed pasture with a significant legume component is inherently one of the most sustainable feed sources. Because forage species have different yield potential and nutritional quality, the mixtures of forage species in pastures can influence the productivity of the grazing cattle.

AAFC Nappan Research Farm (Photo credit: Tracy Sakatch, BCRC)

Cattle grazing at the AAFC Nappan Research Farm, one of the sites involved in this research.


L-R: Dr. Yousef Papadopoulos and John Duynisveld, lead researchers of this study.

Work funded by the National Check-off and Canada’s Beef Science Cluster is working to identify forage species mixtures that provide the best opportunity to enhance beef productivity both on pasture and with stored forages.  This research will Continue reading