Decision Support Materials for Comparison for Productive, Economical & Environmental Efficiencies of Beef Production Systems in Manitoba


Cow-calf producers in Western Canada are confronted with high production costs that are impeding their competitiveness. Like most livestock production systems, feed costs are the major production costs in cow-calf operations. There are alternative strategies that offer opportunities to reduce production cost in cow calf operations. These strategies may involve increasing the number of days cows graze and decreasing the amount of harvested and purchased feed fed per cow. In addition to their impacts on productivity and economic performance of the operations, alternative cow-calf production strategies commonly bring about changes in the type and magnitude of energy inputs such as fossil fuel, fertilizer and pesticides. The viability of these alternative beef production strategies will depend on the optimal use of inputs with the purpose of addressing environmental concerns and enhancing profitability. Limited information is available about the economic benefits and energy use of incorporating alfalfa into pasture mixtures for cow-calf production, particularly when integrated with alternative winter-feeding systems. The objective of this study was, therefore, to evaluate the effects of alternative summer pasture and winter feeding strategies on production costs and use of non-renewable energy.

The present project builds on a project started in July 2009, where data from the long term Beef Systems Project at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Brandon Research Centre (AAFC-BRC), were analyzed to study the impact of various alternative forage-based beef production management systems on performance of cattle and methane emissions. Diet composition and animal data were collected over five production years (1998-2003) with British-Continental crossbred cows assigned to each strategy for the duration of the trial. Each production year began in June with 288 cow-calf pairs assigned to graze either alfalfa-grass or grass pastures until weaning. In autumn after weaning, one half of the 240 pregnant cows were assigned to extended-grazing of stockpiled pasture and swathed annual crops, and the other half were assigned to one of three diets fed in drylot: hay, straw/barley , and silage/straw. The economic analysis in this study focuses on comparing and ranking feeding strategies with regard to production costs using partial budgeting. Costs associated with each feeding system were compiled based mostly on the resources used during the study period. The analysis of non-renewable energy use in this study focuses on comparing and ranking feeding strategies according to energy inputs. The physical quantities of production inputs used in each production system were converted to energy values using energy coefficients appropriate to the western Canadian conditions

Project Contact(s): Dr Gary Crow
Ph: (204) 474-9102
Start Date: April 2012
Completion Date: March 2013
Funding Partners: Growing Forward Agri-Extension Innovation Program

Project Results: 

The following two technical bulletins have been developed:
1. Technical Bulletin #2013-01 – Economic performance of various summer pasture and winter feeding strategies for cow-calf production
2. Technical Bulletin #2013-02 – Energy-use of various summer pasture and winter feeding strategies for cow-calf production

In the previous project period, the following three technical bulletins were released:
1. Technical Bulletin #2012-01 – Effects of Summer Pastures with and without alfalfa on cow-calf productivity
2. Technical Bulletin #2012-02 – Effects of winter feeding strategies with and without extended grazing on cow-calf productivity
3. Technical Bulletin #2012-03 – Effects of summer pastures and winter feeding strategies on reproductive performance of beef cows