An automated facial recognition coding system uses images and videos to determine specific emotions in livestock. | Screencap via farmworx.nl

Emotion identification can improve welfare

An automated facial recognition coding system uses images and videos to determine specific emotions in livestock

Advances in precision agriculture have made it possible to track beef or dairy cow movements, feed and water consumption, body weight and basic behaviour patterns, which can help limit disease and increase production. Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags and readers, electronic scales and implanted chips send data to smartphones and computers when locations or routine behaviours […] Read more

The livestock industry says there has been steady improvement in animal health emergency preparedness. | Wendy Dudley photo

Steps taken to mitigate disease emergencies

Diseases and pandemics can and do happen swiftly and with limited warning. Recent history has confirmed this, along with hard lessons on appropriate response, communication and organization. “The human pandemic we’re going through has taught all of us about the severity, emergence and spread of disease. It can have a profound effect and be tough […] Read more

Cattle industry leaders say optimal animal welfare should be and always has been part of their business equation. | Mickey Watkins photo

Cracking the sustainability puzzle

The beef industry is faced with an interesting, yet frustratingly complex riddle: how to help feed a growing world population but still protect the environment and the animals, satisfy the consumer and create a reasonable living while addressing these matters. The answer often put forward is sustainability, but this leads to many more questions. Can […] Read more


Some cattle diseases are harder to control and require a solid understanding of vaccine science. | File photo

Gram-negative vaccines need caution

Veterinarians who look after cattle are shifting priorities to emphasize disease prevention over treatment, says Gordon Atkins of the University of Calgary’s veterinary school. The change is occurring as greater focus falls on reducing antibiotics in livestock production. Overall management, nutrition practices and the need to gain a better understanding of the advantages of appropriate […] Read more

Cattle need to walk, move freely, track and travel properly with soundness, whether they are in the pasture or the show ring. The confines of the ring help the judge get close enough to inspect feet, legs, shoulders, backs and hocks while animals walk, move, stop and pose. | File photo

Does show ring reflect ‘real’ cattle industry?

Do show ring cattle work in the “real” world? It’s a question asked over decades of competitions in hushed tones behind the scenes of tiny 4-H events and large national championships alike. At times, it’s proclaimed argumentatively in small-town diners or between ranching neighbours sitting ringside of the action. Many responses to the query fall […] Read more


As an example of how the technology might work, breeding males of the hardy Nelore cattle of South America could be sterilized using the CRISPR tool and used as surrogates receiving sperm-producing stem cells from Angus donors. | Reuters/David Mercado photo

Surrogate sires may boost production

According to the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the world’s population is expected to reach about 9.7 billion by 2050. Jon Oatley, director of the Center for Reproductive Biology at Washington State University, has been working in the molecular biosciences field for 20 years researching strategies to provide nutritional requirements for this […] Read more

Almost all of today’s Holstein sires descend from two bulls born in the 1960s, resulting in genetic challenges that continue for the breed.  | File photo

Inbreeding remains a challenge for Holsteins

Researchers say dairy producers have done reasonably well at keeping problems under control, but more could be done

The genetics of the Holstein breed are studies in discovery and obsession — literally. “When people say 99 percent of Holstein sires in the U.S. today can be traced to only two bulls, both born in the 1960s, it’s absolutely true,” said Chad Dechow, associate professor of dairy cattle genetics at Penn State University. “And […] Read more

Orphaned and individually raised intact males, likely bottle fed by people, can become a danger to humans later on in life. | File photo

When imprinting goes terribly wrong

The dangers of intact mature male animals is a story that needs to be repeated, says Joe Stookey, a researcher and animal behaviour scientist at the University of Saskatchewan. “Too many people are being injured or killed,” he said. “And while the story is often about mature dairy bulls, people who don’t know any better […] Read more


While downy brome is green for a time, to the trained eye it provides only the illusion of quality. This managed area shows how early growth turns quickly into lesser valued feed and chokes out other species.  |  Bruce Derksen photo

Invasive grasses can hurt pastures

Just because it’s green out there doesn’t mean it will make your wallet that way or keep your cattle happy

For some cattle producers, the positivity of spring’s green grass is just a colourful illusion. Green represents new growth and vitality but if this grass is of the invasive annual cheat grass variety, also known as downy brome, optimism quickly fades. It is a common issue throughout the United States Great Plains, Great Basin and […] Read more

Genetic puzzle takes form

The old saying “to understand the future, we must first understand the past” rings especially true when discussing genetics in the beef cattle industry. Research, DNA testing and genomics appear poised to leave only a vapour trail for the average cow-calf producer to grasp. Before this occurs, it’s prudent to examine the realities of what […] Read more