Can cow/calf production efficiency be explained by maternal habitat selection and dietary composition in diverse pastures?

Project Details

Status: Completed
Investment: $275,273
Commodity: Beef Cattle
Organization: University of Alberta
Investigator: Edward Bork

The cattle industry represents Alberta's largest agricultural commodity, responsible for nearly $4B in primary sales, and more than $10B in value add to the economy.

Why is this research important for Alberta ag?

Beef production is a major driver of western Canada's economy and uses >20 M ha of grazing land. To support production efficiency, profitability and environmental sustainability, strategies are needed to align cattle use of habitats and forage species with animal nutritional needs across diverse pasture. Tech advances have increased the potential to continuously monitor and manipulate animal activity and use genomic data to select cattle consistent with optimizing production and environmental outcomes.

This concept, "precision ranching", ensures that cattle remain in the right location at the right time to optimize economic and environmental outcomes. Precision ranching is enabled by two emergent technologies — automated platforms for animal tracking and genomic databases for cattle and forage plants.

What benefits can producers expect from this research?

Results from this research will lad to novel knowledge generation in several areas:

  1. The relationship between cattle behavioural traits and cow/calf weight gain

  2. Provide for a practical means for cattle producers to screen their cattle in order to improve production efficiency on pasture

The results of this project also have the potential to lower the costs of beed production for the industry both directly and indirectly through things like virtual fencing and identifying cattle that have increased efficiency of gain on pasture.

How will these research findings reach producers on-farm?

Findings will be presented at a variety of industry events, including local, regional, and provincial venues. Local events like field days for Gentec, the Battle River Research Group, and other local stakeholders. Results will also be presented at provincial and national events like the Canadian Forage and Grassland Association, the Alberta Beef Producers annual meeting, and the Western Canadian Grazing Conference.

In addition, results will also be shared via published articles in magazines and scientific journals.