How fresh pens and pastures prevent calf losses

Whether it is the Sandhills Calving System or a variation, the objective is the same.


Photo supplied by Dr. Claire Windeyer

Doug Wray believes in keeping newborn calves separated as much as possible from other two-week and older calves on his south-central Alberta farm to avoid livestock congestion and dramatically reduce the risk of congregated calves developing and spreading scours. And for the past several years the plan has worked.

Wray, who along with family members operates Wray Ranch near Irricana, north of Calgary, has developed this calving-on-pasture system over the past 10 years. In his year-round grazing system, his herd of about 300 bred cows moves onto grass about May 10. They actually begin calving May 1 on swath grazing and then by May 10 the pregnant cows move to grass and the first batch of cows-with-calves stay behind.

The first grass pasture is 160 acres in size, divided into eight 20-acre paddocks.

“The herd is managed in one group on pasture for about two weeks before we make the first split,” says Wray. At roughly the first two-week mark cows with calves (usually about 120 head) “are taken to fresh pasture in one direction, while the bred cows head to new grass in another direction,” he explains. Wray essentially runs two herds at Continue reading

That’s gotta hurt

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the January 2017 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.


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Marketing executives for grocery and restaurant chains track consumer perceptions and attitudes towards issues like livestock production practices, animal welfare and pain control. These surveys sometimes lead to initiatives that impose specific production standards on suppliers so the company can distinguish itself and showcase its products.

From the other side, animal welfare researchers study how beef cattle respond to painful procedures like castration, dehorning and branding, and the benefit of providing pain medication. This knowledge is central to updating the science-based Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Beef Cattle.

But what about the producer, who’s responsible for day to day animal care, and who pays for the added costs of any production requirement that is ultimately imposed by law, industry standard, or marketing programs? A better understanding of what motivates (or discourages) producers when it comes to animal care is critical, if new pain control practices are to be adopted.

An upcoming Continue reading

Tips to improve calf health this calving season



We know that disease causing agents are present in beef cattle herds, even when?the most careful biosecurity procedures are followed. In general, basic management of calves and calving groups will play a greater role in whether or not calves get sick than the presence or absence of most disease causing pathogens.

During?a webinar hosted by the BCRC in 2015,?Dr. Claire Windeyer, veterinarian, professor and researcher at the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, discussed management during the calving season that can lead to?healthier and more productive calves. During the webinar, she provided numerous tips on how to manage both cows and calves to reduce disease incidence and increase calf survival rate.

Here are three highlights from that webinar, followed by the full recording: Continue reading

Managing young calves to prevent disease: Webinar December 8

Update: Missed the webinar? Find the recording and check for future webinars on our Webinars page: /e8f/resources/webinars.cfm

Calves are at a higher risk for sickness and disease in the first months of life. Join this webinar to hear this veterinarian’s tips on how to manage calves through this critical time for a healthier, more productive calf crop.

When

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Thursday December 8,?at 7:00 pm MT

  • 6:00pm in BC
  • 7:00pm in AB
  • 8:00pm in SK and MB
  • 9:00pm in ON and QC
  • 10:00pm 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.

Register now

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Find and register for more BCRC webinars?here, including:

  • Swath and bale grazing strategies?– November 23, 2016
  • What is the environmental footprint of beef production? – November 28, 2016

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

Tips to improve the health and vigor of newborn calves

We know that disease causing agents are present in beef cattle herds, even if the most careful biosecurity procedures are observed. In general, basic management of calves and calving groups will play a greater role in whether or not calves get sick than the presence or absence of most disease causing pathogens.
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In a webinar hosted by the BCRC last winter, Dr. Claire Windeyer, veterinarian, professor and researcher at the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, discussed management during the calving season for healthier and more productive calves. During the webinar, she provided numerous tips on how to manage both cows and calves to reduce disease incidences and increase calf survival rate.

Here are three highlights from that webinar, followed by the full recording: Continue reading

How to improve weaning weights, conception rates and calf health: Webinar November 24

Update: Missed the webinar? Find the recording and check for future webinars on our Webinars page: /e8f/resources/webinars.cfm

It is clear?that the value of a calf crop is?related to the number and weight of calves, but you may be very surprised by how much those factors are?influenced by the?cows’ body condition.

Join this free webinar to learn more about the impact?cows’ fat cover?has on?conception rates, calf health and weaning weights. Our guest speakers?will explain how to accurately determine whether cows are under- or over-conditioned, and offer?practical tips on how to manage their nutrition?accordingly in order to economically increase the value of your?calf crop.

When



Tuesday November 24th at 7pm MST

  • 6:00pm in BC
  • 7:00pm in AB
  • 8:00pm in SK and MB
  • 9:00pm in ON and QC
  • 10:00pm in NS, NB and PEI?

Duration

Approximately 1 hour.

Cost

BCRC webinars are available and free of charge thanks to guest speakers who volunteer their time and expertise to support advancements in the Canadian beef industry, and through the Knowledge Dissemination and Technology Transfer project funded by the National Check-off and Canada’s Beef Science Cluster.

Register now


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https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1156073074814546177 Continue reading

Management during calving season for healthier, more productive calves and cows: Webinar on Dec. 18

Update: Missed the webinar? Find the recording and check for future webinars on our Webinars page: /e8f/resources/webinars.cfm

With calf prices as high as they are, cow-calf producers are motivated as ever to know what more they can do to get through calving season with as many live, healthy calves as possible, and healthy cows that rebreed early. Research offers evidence-based clues and tips for best practices during calving season. A survey of Alberta cow-calf producers in 2013 discovered how management during calving season relates to death loss and illness rates of calves. Join this webinar for advice that can help producers across the country make more informed choices during Continue reading

Calculator: What is the Value of Preconditioning Calves?

Preconditioning is a management method that prepares calves to enter the feedlot, reducing stress and disease susceptibility. Preconditioned calves are weaned at least 30-45 days prior to sale, put on a vaccination program, and introduced to processed feedstuffs, feedbunks and waterbowls. The intent is to spread out the stressors that calves experience: weaning, vaccination, transportation, unfamiliar animals and environment, dietary changes, etc., so that the immune system is not overwhelmed.

Many studies have shown that preconditioned calves have a lower cost of gain at the feedlot with improved rates of gain and feed efficiency, as well as lower treatment rates and death loss. These attributes contribute to higher profits in later phases of beef production and allows cattle buyers to pay a premium for preconditioned calves. Additional weight gain during the preconditioning phase as well as reduced shrinkage associated with stress during transportation and the marketing process also contributes to higher returns from preconditioned calves.

While there are clear benefits to the feedlot for purchasing preconditioned calves, is it worthwhile to the cow-calf producer to retain ownership? Continue reading

Reducing Weaning Stress Part 2 – Improving Profits

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.

In the previous post, we talked about methods to reduce weaning stress in calves.? In this article, we’ll highlight the economic benefits of doing so.

Making weaning a low stress event should always be the goal, whether the calves will stay at home for breeding or feeding, go through internet, satellite or auction mart sales, or head directly to a backgrounding or finishing feedlot. Minimizing stress makes for happy calves, spouses and neighbors, and likely has economic benefits as well, especially for those who sell ’reputation’ cattle or retain ownership. High levels of stress or sickness can negatively impact the profits of producers who retain an ownership stake in their calves past weaning. Continue reading

Reducing Weaning Stress

This is a guest post written by Karin Schmid, Beef Production Specialist with the Alberta Beef Producers.

It’s approaching quickly, that time of year when you start to think about weaning your calves. Calves are weaned to make sure that cows can recover their body condition after raising a calf all summer, and to allow for specialized feeding of those calves. All producers do it, but not everyone approaches weaning in the same way.

The most common method of weaning is the abrupt separation of calves from their dams. This method is arguably the most stressful event of a young calf’s life. Not only are the calves abruptly deprived of a ready source of milk, but also social contact with their dams. Then add vaccinations, dietary changes, and transportation to a different environment, with unfamiliar animals, and it’s easy to see why weaning is stressful on calves. Stress depresses the immune system, which makes freshly weaned calves the most susceptible to bovine respiratory disease (BRD) infections.

Alternative weaning methods exist, if you are willing to spend a little more time on the process. Continue reading