Cow-Calf surveys show many changes in the industry

By Dori Modney with files from Alberta Beef Producers
December 19, 2018 - 6:45pm

LETHBRIDGE --  Recent Cow-Calf surveys across Canada were conducted to establish industry benchmarks for producion indicators and management practices, establish industry trends and guide research and extension efforts.  Results from across Canada show significant differences region-by-region.
Brenna Grant, Manager, Canfax Research Services Manager Brenna Grant, commented on some of the findings.
"This is the first time we've had national representation of production benchmarks of different practises at the cow/calf level and this is valuable for producers to understand where their regional average is for different adoption rates and to see what they're doing, in terms of different performance thinking of conception rates, weaning rates, calf death loss, or even the length of their calving season." 

Grant highlighted the regional differences and noted the financial benefits to some practices.

"We expected those regional differences to show-up, in term of performance, as well as adoption of different practices.  The reason for that is, when you look at the different environments that producers are operatng in and the production practices that they're using, it really does affect the cost benefit of adopting different practices and the decisions that the individual producers make for their operations."

There were some major changes that came to light, which Grant refers to.

 "We've had some increased up-take across Canada, specifically in peg checking of females, both cows and heifers and there are some regional differences for lower adoption rates in Atlantic Canada but, overall, the numbers are higher than what we saw in historical surveys."

The surveys showed that further changes have occurred since previous surveys.

"Adoption of mitigtion for different painful practices like de-horning and castration increased significantly in 2017, to almost 50 per cent of producers in the west to most or all of the time. Another practice is actual weaning methods - historically there's been a lot of tranditional separation, with calves going directly to the auction market, and in western Canada that's decreasing to where it's down at 48 per cent. Iin eastern Canada we don't have historical rates to companre it to but, it ranges between 44 and 67 per cent.

 "There are areas where changes that weren’t expected, or we would like to see changed,” concluded Grant.

"One of those is feed testing, which is only used by 25 to 60 per cent of producers, with lower rates seen in eastern Canada and this is an area that's important because we really want to catch low levels of toxin in feeds and variations in nutrient quality that can impact cattle performance, specifically body condition over the winter.  One other area is around body condition scoring.  We've actually seen adoption of visual inspections increase, while hands-on approaches have declined over the past four years. Research has really shown that the accuracy of body condition scoring, hands-on, is higher than when doing a visual assessment."

More information on the surveys can be found on the Canadian Beef Cattle Council webiste.

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