Handling practices still have room to improve

Last year’s Western Canadian Cow Calf Survey found only 24 percent of producers use an analgesic when dehorning

SWIFT CURRENT, Sask. — Preliminary results of last year’s Western Canadian Cow Calf Survey show producers aren’t always using recommended management practices.

Kathy Larson, acting director of the Livestock and Forage Centre of Excellence, said the use of some practices is up compared to 2014 when the survey was last conducted.

“I did see an improvement in pain mitigation,” she said.

About 24 percent of the survey respondents indicated they used an analgesic when dehorning and 28 percent used medication during castration.

Implanting calves remains a low priority for many.

The survey found that only 27 percent of the respondents implant calves before weaning and about a third of them said they didn’t do so because they were philosophically opposed to it.

“To me that was a bit surprising that that was the top reason,” Larson said.

Only 27 percent of respondents breed their heifers earlier than their cows, and the average breeding season was 92 days, compared to the recommended 63 days.

Larson said the top reason for having a longer breeding season, given by 35 percent of those who replied, was other farming activity. Similarly, 29 percent gave that reason for why they didn’t breed heifers earlier.

Lack of labour is another reason for not wanting to extend the calving season.

“This is actually what happens at Western Beef (Development Centre),” said Larson, referring to what is now known as the Forage and Cow-Calf Research and Teaching Unit at the LFCE. “Our calving season is long enough so we don’t have the heifers bred earlier, to be honest with you all.”

Other production questions included whether producers pregnancy checked and semen tested and whether they used artificial insemination.

The survey involved 262 ranchers in the West with about 100 of them from Alberta. The average herd size was 140 cows but ranged from 20 to 1,500.

The average producer respondent was male, 52 and had 32 years of experience.

Surveys were also conducted in Ontario and Atlantic Canada last year. Brenna Grant from Canfax is compiling the data from all three studies and is expected to release it later this year.

Larson said having a picture of practices from across Canada will be useful for researchers and producers.

She said more information is still to come from the western survey, including a comparison of the key indicators that drive whether a practice is adopted or not. For example, does the age of the producer influence a certain practice.

Meanwhile, cattle will begin moving from the University of Saskatchewan feedlot to the LFCE in July, she said.

Forages have been planted for grazing trials to begin next year and cattle from the former WBDC at Lanigan will begin moving later this year.

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