Shipping Cull Cows: Responsible Welfare Considerations

This is a guest post written by Karin Schmid, Beef Production Specialist with the Alberta Beef Producers, in collaboration with Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director.

With cows and calves coming off pasture in the coming weeks, some of these cows will likely be going to market. ?Producers are reminded to be very cautious when facing a temptation to market thin, weak, lame, or sick cows that are unfit for transport.

Some auction markets will refuse to accept cows that are unlikely to sell, and some sales yards and packing plants will bill producers who deliver cattle that are condemned.? Moreover, producers, cattle buyers and transporters have an ethical and legal obligation to ensure the well being of the cattle under their care. Continue reading

Have You Had Your Feed Tested?

This is a guest post written by John McKinnon, Ph.D. at the University of Saskatchewan.

As a nutritionist, feed testing is a fundamental tool that I rely on to assist beef producers with their feeding programs. This is true whether I am dealing with feedlots or cow-calf operations.? Accurate knowledge of feed quality, particularly the operation’s forage base allows one to develop feeding strategies for specific production scenarios and minimize the over- or under-feeding of nutrients. By so doing, one is able to achieve desired production targets and save on supplemental feed costs.

While feed testing seems like a “no brainer”, it is surprising how many cattlemen skip this critical management tool. It seems many would rather rely on visual appraisal (i.e. colour, plant species, and leaf content) or knowledge of cutting time to judge quality. While these are all indicators of forage quality, they do not substitute for a feed test particularly when it comes to the energy and protein content of that forage. For example, the protein content of brome hay can range from as low as 5 to 6% up to 18% depending on stage of maturity at cutting. While visual appraisal may help separate the good from the poor quality hay, it is not going to help you decide how much protein supplement, if any, you need to background calves when feeding this hay. Only a feed test can accurately help you make this decision. Continue reading

E. coli O157:H7: an Industry Research Priority

E. coli O157:H7, the cause for the recent, extensive beef recall, is one of the few types of E. coli that is dangerous to humans.? It is shed in the feces of many warm-blooded animals, including deer, geese, dogs and cattle. E. coli O157:H7 is harmless to most animals but can be dangerous to humans if contaminated water or undercooked meat is consumed, especially to those with an immature or weakened immune system.? Beef can become contaminated by cattle hides and equipment during slaughter and processing or by food handlers in the retail sector.

Potentially dangerous pathogens are uncommon in beef, which is due in large part to the industry focus on combatting E. coli O157:H7. Continue reading

Broken Needles in Beef: Prevention and Responsibility

Suspected broken needles are rare, but imagine the food safety risk if a broken needle

were to end up in a meat product, and potential harm to the industry’s?reputation.? As a producer, it is very important to take steps to prevent needles from breaking, and to know what to do if a broken needle is suspected.

The following advice is courtesy of the Verified Beef ProductionTM (VBP) program. Continue reading