Your reading list

Canola’s credibility

Sure, we can all say canola’s great for your health, but who would believe us? We have a vested interest.

That’s why it is nice right now to be hearing from Dr. Dean Ornish, from the University of California, as he extols the many benefits of canola oil.

Dean Ornish
PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE, Man. - Beef producers can cut costs by matching cattle and pasture cycles.Paul McCaughey, a researcher at Agriculture Canada's research centre in Brandon, said the many cycles in the beef business make it almost impossible to predict profits.Reproductive and life cycles are mixed with cyclical cattle prices, feed prices, weather patterns and currency markets.So cattle producers should focus on controlling costs by calving in the spring, weaning calves on pasture and keeping cattle out as long as possible, said McCaughey.In Manitoba, producers typically feed cattle 150 to 210 days during the winter at costs around $1.40 per cow per day, he said.By extending the grazing season until Christmas, producers cut costs to 50 cents per cow per day day on stockpiled pasture, or $1 for swath-grazed barley. They can also feed straw, chaff and other crop residues.Depending on the price of weaned calves, producers can also increase grass yields in summer by fertilizing with nitrogen, renting extra pasture or adding alfalfa into grass pastures.Healthier, heavierFarmers can save money by weaning calves on pasture, said McCaughey, because they get sick less often and gain more weight at lower costs.Backgrounding calves on pasture, depending on their genetics, can cost as little as 65 cents per pound of gain. After some winter feeding and another summer on pasture, they can be ready for strong feedlot demand in mid-August.McCaughey said Manitoba cattle typically spend between 100 to 200 days in the feedlot at costs of 55 to 75 cents per pound of gain, depending on grain prices.But it's possible to finish early maturing breeds with good marbling characteristics on pasture at costs of 35 to 40 cents per pound of gain, with profits up to $160 per head when barley prices are high.However, McCaughey warned producers that later-maturing steers may not finish well, and others may build a yellow fat, meaning price discounts at slaughter.In his research projects, heifers finished on pasture have graded A, while 70 percent of steers made the grade.McCaughey said ultrasound imaging should help producers pick which cattle need to be finished with more grain.McCaughey suggested retained ownership can be a safety valve for farmers. When pasture is scarce because of dry conditions, yearlings can be sent to feedlots.Farmers make the most money on cows between the bottom and top of the cattle cycle, while yearlings are most profitable on the down-side because of narrow buy-sell margins, he said.When cattle are bought and sold two or three times during their life cycle, producers add at least $200 per finished animal to their costs through commission, transportation costs, shrink, and unnecessary health treatments."Some of them have seen more of Canada than you and I," said McCaughey.

I particularly enjoyed hearing him say he thinks canola oil is superior – by a lot – to olive oil. Outside of Canada, most people believe the opposite, so it’s nice to hear from a world-renowned scientist backing canola’s claims. That’s canola’s market edge.

About the author


Stories from our other publications