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Beef cattle husbandry practices across ecoregions of canada in 2011

Sheppard, S.C., Bittman, S., Donohoe, G., Flaten, D., Wittenberg, K.M., Small, J.A., Berthiaume, R., McAllister, T.A., Beauchemin, K.A., McKinnon, J., Amiro, B.D., Macdonald, D., Mattos, F., Ominski, K.H. (2015). Beef cattle husbandry practices across ecoregions of canada in 2011, 95(2), 305-321.


Beef production in Canada is diverse in many dimensions with numbers of cattle per operation ranging over 10 000-fold, pasture usage from nil to 100%, and types of operations from solely cow-calf to exclusively feedlot finishing. This study summarizes management information obtained from a survey conducted in 2012 (about 2011) on 1009 beef operations in Canada. Many of the results clearly differentiate the practices in the Prairies from those in Ontario and Quebec. Compared to eastern Canada, the Prairies had earlier and shorter calving seasons, higher weaning weights, utilized more winter grazing with a variety of strategies, grew and fed more barley than corn, used more seasonal feeding areas and feedlots (and hence fewer barns), and more commonly spread manure in the fall. Many of the management practices used by cow[1]calf operations would have low environmental impact, including extensive use of grazing even in winter, low fertilizer inputs and feeding perennial forages with a high content of legumes. Some practices such as not covering forages or manure storage structures were common and could be changed to improve forage quality and reduce manure emissions. Most forage was harvested 3-7 d after full bloom. Earlier harvest has the potential to improve forage quality, which could reduce dependence on arable crops. Finishing operations used more housing, fed more arable-land crops and less perennial forages, and practiced little grazing. Rationale regarding the adoption of many of the management strategies was reported by the producers. For example, winter grazing was adopted primarily to reduce costs and labour, but for some it was also linked to a late calving season. Preferred sources of technical information included their own experience, farm print media, producer organisations and demonstrations at field days. The survey also identified several areas in which the industry may realize improved sustainability.

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