A log fence is one of the many alternatives producers have when fencing in difficult terrain. | HEATHER SMITH THOMAS PHOTO

Fencing in difficult terrain has options

Building a good permanent fence can be challenging in rocky, frozen or swampy ground when it’s impossible to dig post holes efficiently, or set posts with a tractor-mounted post-pounder. Most fences for cattle use barbed wire, especially for large pastures. A good barbed-wire fence is effective and cheaper to build and maintain than rail fences […] Read more

Water quality can be affected by higher concentrations of total dissolved solids such as sodium and magnesium. | Buddy Westphal photo

Drought worsens water woes

Water is cattle’s most important nutrient, but quality can be inconsistent during exceptionally dry years

When water sources dry up and cattle are wading into the mud of a dugout, it can be unhealthy for both cattle and the water source. Even if cattle are not allowed into the pond or dugout, a diminishing water supply may contain concentrated salts and toxic substances that could put cattle health at risk. […] Read more

If cattle are allowed access to depleted ponds or dugouts, they may damage them or pollute what little bit of water is left. | Heather Smith Thomas photo

Innovation required when the tap runs dry

Some prairie producers use portable water systems such as troughs on wheels, while others use solar-powered pumps

Some farmers and ranchers are forced to find innovative ways to supply their cattle with good water during drought. Regions that rely on dugouts can become short of water if snow melt or rainfall is lacking. If cattle are allowed access to depleted ponds or dugouts, they may damage them or pollute what little bit […] Read more


Wet conditions can make hoofs soft and vulnerable to injury, and dry conditions can make the hoof wall more brittle and susceptible to cracking. | Heather Smith Thomas photo

Dry conditions often main factor in hoof cracks in cattle

Hoof cracks are common in beef cattle, sometimes due to environmental factors or genetics because some cattle have stronger hoof horns than others. Wet conditions can make hoofs soft and vulnerable to injury, and dry conditions can make the hoof wall more brittle and susceptible to cracking. Dr. Michael Jelinski, a partner with Veterinary Agri-Health […] Read more

Producers who see green grass coming up through stockpiled forage in a dry year may be tempted to turn out their cattle early, but they are advised to delay grazing until the new grass has more growth and structure. | Jim Bauer photo

Careful management helps in drought

This spring has been very dry in much of the western United States and Canada, and if dry conditions continue, there will be management issues cattle producers must address. Jim Bauer, a rancher near Acme, Alta., has been involved with forage associations and grazing management for years. In 1984, he helped start the Grey Wooded […] Read more


Protein supplements can enable cattle to continue grazing if there is grass but it’s simply dry. | Bart Lardner photo

Dry pastures may need supplemental protein

Supplement options include cereal grains and alfalfa pellets; dried distillers grain is considered one of the best choices

In a dry year, various strategies can be helpful, such as supplementing dry pastures. Bart Lardner of the University of Saskatchewan says producers can provide a supplement if mature dry grass is not providing adequate protein. “Look at the various protein sources in your area that might work; it might be a cereal grain (barley, […] Read more

A hot cow tries to cool off on a hot summer day. | Cheryl Waldner photo

Producers can beat the heat on the range

There is not much that can be done to cool the weather, but cattle can be managed in the summer to prevent heat stress

During a hot summer, cattle need adequate water and shade. The shade can be from trees or brush, or manmade. “Don’t clear off every acre for crops; leave a few trees for winter windbreaks and summer shade,” says Bart Lardner of the University of Saskatchewan. “Feedlots often put up overhead shade structures. In a pasture, […] Read more

Cattle are one of most prominent species affected by anthrax. | Dr. Jason K. Blackburn photo

Drought conditions increase risk of anthrax

Producers are urged to take precautions this summer because of how dry it has been; vaccinations are recommended

Anthrax is one of the oldest killers of humans and livestock, mentioned in some of the earliest recorded history. It has been called splenic fever, charbon, milztrand and woolsorter’s disease and is caused by a bacterium, Bacillus anthracis, which occurs sporadically in the United States and Canada. The disease is seen worldwide, and associated with […] Read more


Cattle drink from a portable water tank on the Branvolds’ ranch. | Supplied photo

Healthy soil a priority

Cheryl and Trevor Branvold raise registered Angus on their farm in Saskatchewan that’s been in Cheryl’s family since 1888. Over the years, it was a mixed farm with grain and cattle but today the focus is on holistic management, improving the soil with cattle. “Our neighbour down the road is Ralph Corcoran, a holistic management […] Read more

Steve McElroy introduced cattle by buying heifers and introducing them to small parts of his farm. | Supplied photo

Cattle help organic operation save its soil

Steve McElroy started his farm in Hillsdale, Michigan, in 1989 as a conventional crop operation. He became a certified organic grower about 12 years later. He grew organic grains and row crops for 15 years. “Our soil is short of organic matter and wasn’t in good condition to go organic,” he says. “It was becoming […] Read more