New Tool to Improve Cross Breeding in Cattle

A new genomic tool Alberta researchers are calling for cows, is now available for beef producers to use.

As of February 2017, a tool called EnVigour HX gives producers the ability to determine the sire, breed composition, and hybrid vigour score of a beef animal with 97 percent accuracy.

The tool was designed for beef producers to measure and utilize hybrid vigour to increase profitability in their herds and make breeding management decisions accordingly.

EnVigour HX was presented at the Cow- Forage Gentec Field Tour at the Lacombe Research Centre on August 22.

Speaker John Basarab, Senior Research Scientist at Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, says increasing hybrid vigour is directly related to fertility, and results in increase yield grade and pre-weaning average daily gain.

"The tool is the service of taking a DNA sample, the hair from the animal, putting it in an envelope and sending it off to the lab, and they will give you the results. The results would be sire, some progeny you wanted to know, what the breed composition of an individual is, and what it's hybrid vigour score is."

If you are interested in the tool, contact Delta Genetics to send in hair samples. Through their research, they found a $161 per cow per year benefit because of the breeding decisions based on the information given by EnVigour HX.

One point of interest to note, is the tool was developed and researched right here in Alberta. EnVigour HX is the first genomic tool made in Canada for crossbred beef cattle.

john basarab 2017John Basarab, Senior Research Scientist at Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.

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Alberta Crop Report

Combines have been rolling for a couple weeks now with harvest 2017 well underway.

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry released their crop report for the week of August 15, and Southern Alberta is leading the way with a quarter of their crops in the bin.

As a province, six percent of crops are in the bins, up from the 5-year average of three percent. There was no surprises with four percent of crops swathed, which is in line with the 5-year average for this time of year.

In Southern Alberta, 33 percent of crops range from good to excellent condition, which is down 35 percent from last year.

They also reported, cattle producers may have to start feeding earlier than normal due to pastures not recovering from heat stress.

In the Central regions, most areas received 5 mm of rain, which helped to fill the late seeded crops. Only 1.1 percent of crops in this region are either combined or swathed.

North West Regions, including Edmonton and Area, hadn't started harvest as of August 15, and 48 percent of their pasture conditions rated as being in excellent condition.

31 percent of dry peas in the Province and 10 percent of Alberta's barley have been combined.

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CN Rail Moved Record Crop Last Year

CN Rail says that western Canadian farmers moved a record 21.8 million metric tonnes of grain during the 2016/17 crop year.

This exceeded the previous record set in 2014/15 by two per cent.

"Through innovation, collaboration and improved communication with our supply chain partners, CN moved more grain in a single crop year than ever before," said Doug MacDonald, CN vice president of bulk. "We did this by further developing our supply chain ingenuity with our partners to meet demand, resulting in improvements in the use of equipment and better than ever efficiencies in size of trains."

One of the key factors that contributed to the large amount of grain being moved was the introduction of 200-car grain trains to improve efficiency.

CN said more rail capacity is needed in Vancouver to meet forecasted demand driven by new and ongoing investment in export grain terminals.


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Pastures are Taking a Lot of Heat

With pastures experiencing a lot of heat stress this year, livestock producers may need to get a little creative in feeding their cattle in the coming months.

Karin Lindquist, Beef and Forage Specialist with the Ag Info Centre, says even though it will be harder this year, try not to graze pastures so they look golf greens.

"There is always the common misconception of wasting grass. Sometimes you have to not be afraid of wasting grass. When you think you're leaving too much grass behind, you're probably leaving enough behind. And when you think you're wrong about moving them, that's probably the right time to move them."

She say's water positioning can also play a key role.

"If you can station water points around the pasture, so they're not travelling so far, that's also important. And I've found those producers who actually save their dugouts or their wetland areas by fencing them off, those areas provide a really good source of emergency forage when they need to."

To cut down on grazing, producers may also want to take this opportunity to cull cattle and wean early.

Lindquist says, producers should definitely be thinking about feeding hay early instead of over grazing pastures this year.

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Online Canola Calculator to Check Pre-Harvest Intervals

The Canola Council of Canada wants producers to protect the quality of their loads, and the industry, by leaving the right Pre-Harvest Interval. Export customers have strict regulations on the trace residues they allow in canola.

To help producers out, the Council has created a Spray to Swath Interval Calculator.

The tool determines the length of time you have to wait before swathing after you spray by entering what you sprayed and when. It can also tell you what to spray, and when to spray, based on when you want to swath.

If you're using your iPhone, you can download the swathing date into the calendar on your phone.

To view the calculator, visit this link.

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Alberta Researchers Making Progress Reducing Methane in Cattle

Researchers have been able to draw conclusions about methane production in cattle with the help of a machine called Green Feed.

The machine measures methane from cattle through their exhaled breath when they come to eat pellets out of the hood. Green Feed uses RFID technology to track and record each animal.

Carolyn Fitzsimmons, a researcher with Agriculture and Agri- Food Canada, says they have been using the machine for three summers, and have drawn a couple conclusions.

"Our first conclusion is that there is variation in methane emissions in cattle. And that's exciting because that says, well maybe we can select for cows that produce less methane. The second thing we've found, is that cattle that have low RFI's, so they're more feed efficient, produce less methane over the day than cattle who that have high RFI."

Fitzsimmons says, solely focusing on methane production when selecting cattle probably isn't the best choice.

"You could select for more efficient cattle, and get reasonable methane production, but you want animals that have high fertility and high productivity. If they're on the ground producing calves, they're not producing methane for nothing because you're getting a product out of it. But if it's a cow that's just eating, and not producing anything, that's a huge source of methane production without any output. If you can get your beef production system to run better, you can have a much larger impact on methane production, than just selecting for methane it's self. "

The machine can measure 30 animals for 30 days, so they've been moving it to a number of research centres around Alberta to collect as many animal phenotypes for methane.


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Vulcan County is About Halfway Done Harvest

Farmers in Vulcan County have been hard at work getting their crops off. Kelly Malmberg, Director of Agricultural Services for Vulcan County, says about 40-50 percent of their crops are already in the bin.

Some areas of the county saw showers during the Calgary Stampede week, but Malmberg says, a lot of farmers missed out on the moisture.

"The moisture quit at the end of June, and some guys are pretty frustrated with how the yields are. We've had some good years, and I think we've been brought down to earth. It can be dry country, and we found that out first hand this year."

Malmberg is pleasantly surprised at how well the spring wheats have been doing. The spring wheat has very high protein, but the bushel weights are variable around the county.

The peas are yielding anywhere from 10 bushels in areas which didn't get rain, to 55 bushels in northern areas of the county.

Although some producers are disappointed by the dry weather this year, it's made for an easier haying season.

"We had some pretty decent hay come off early, and a lot of guys were happy with how it turned out yield wise. But second cut, just through my travels, I don't think there was a lot."

Malmberg says, some farmers in the county have already finished harvest because of the dry conditions, but hopefully, they can get back to normal next year.

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The Alberta Canola Producers Commission is looking for Directors

The Alberta Canola Producers Commission is looking for four new directors to serve on their board. Directors serve a three-year term, and must be canola producers.

To be considered an eligible canola producer, you to have paid a service charge to Alberta Canola since August 1, 2015.

Greg Sears, Chair of the Alberta Canola Producers Commission, says being a director has been a great opportunity, and he would encourage anyone with time to give back to the farming community to become one.

"The responsibilities are primarily to help direct the organizations strategy, ensure producer funds are managed appropriately, and also to represent agriculture to broader audiences such as the government, the urban public, or other stakeholders."

Sears says, being a director takes up a minimum of 12-15 days a year with meetings, conferences, and special events. Being a director will also give you a chance to be a advocate for the industry.

"We are at a point in time where agriculture needs strong voices to represent the interests with the greater public. It's important that were able to communicate with the urban public and those that make policies which affect us."

Directors are needed in regions 2, 5, 8 and 11.

Region 5 is North of Edmonton and includes Sturgeon County, Region 8 surrounds Calgary and includes the M.D. of Foothills, and Region 11 is East of Red Deer and includes the County of Camrose and Stettler.

All directors running must be nominated by October 31, 2017.

For more information, you can visit their website.

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University Student From Austria visits Alberta to Learn About Ag

The end of the summer means back to school, but one student has a longer trip back than most.

23 year-old Manuel Winter from Austria has now spent his second summer in Canada learning more about agriculture, specifically the beef industry.

Winter is working towards his Masters Degree in Animal Science in Austria, with hopes to become a consultant for pasture management.

The student took in a number of grazing and cattle handling workshops in Alberta, but has also experienced agriculture in other Provinces.

"I started in Alberta visiting different ranches and travelling around, then I stayed three weeks in Saskatchewan on a ranch and did some pasture walks in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and then flying to the east coast visiting some dairy farms."

Winter says in Austria, the agriculture sector is mostly made up of dairy and grain farms.

He'll be flying back September 1 to hit the books and prepare for another year of studies at University.  

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CCA Watching NAFTA Negotiations Closely

Representatives from the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) were on hand for the first round NAFTA renegotiation talks.

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association is watching the discussions closely to make sure COOL doesn’t find its way into the agreement, they also would like to move away from re-inspection at the borders to a pre-clearance approach.

Dennis Laycraft is the group's Executive Vice President and says that the groups are doing their best save the NAFTA agreement.

"Everybody is putting in a great effort to make sure first of all we salvage what is arguably the best trade deal in the world, we've got the largest two way trade between any two countries on earth, between Canada and the United States and when we are just about 10th of the population, so it’s a pretty remarkable thing."

Laycraft added what he wants to see improved.

"Certainly from Canada's and Mexico's point of view, we believe there is an opportunity here to modernize the agreement," Laycraft said. "There was what I would call a little-unfinished business, and even though the agreement dates back almost 20 years there are parts that can certainly improve and the ability to promote more regulatory cooperation."

The second round of talks are set to take place later this week and he’s hoping negotiators will start moving on a more positive note.

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