BCRC releases the results of the first ever Beef Cattle Industry Science Cluster
The Beef Cattle Research Council says Beef Cluster 1 reduced duplicated research efforts and ensured trained research expertise in key areas is maintained for future research
Calgary – The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) has released the results of the 2009-2013 Canadian Beef Cattle Industry Science Cluster (or Beef Cluster 1).
BCRC is Canada’s industry-led funding agency for beef research. The BCRC welcomed the government’s Science Clusters in 2009. Beef Cluster 1 ensured that funding went to priority research and activities that have the greatest potential to benefit the competitiveness of Canada’s beef cattle industry.
Beef Cluster 1 brought together Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and research funders BCRC and the Alberta Beef Producers. The cluster funded 32 research activities, which involved 51 lead researchers at seven federal sites and five universities in six provinces, in addition to several provincial government institutions and industry facilities.
Some of the areas of research included Animal Health and Welfare, Feed Grains and Feed Efficiency, Forage and Grassland Productivity, Beef Quality, Food Safety, and Specified Risk Material.
The report explains that minimizing the costs of animal health issues and production-limiting diseases is critical to the economics of cow-calf and feedlot production. A two per cent improvement in reproductive efficiency decreases the cost of cow-calf production by $16.50 per head, and a one per cent decrease in pre-weaning death loss reduces cost of production by $7.45 per head. It is recognized that changes in management may require investment in order to achieve these results.
One of the results of Beef Cluster 1 research was more cost-effective diagnostic tests for two diseases that can seriously impair the reproductive performance in cow-calf operations – vibriosis and trichomoniasis.
Researchers also found that improving feedlot feed efficiency will have measurable environmental benefits. In fact, a 20 per cent improvement in feed efficiency translates to a 30 per cent decrease in manure production, as well as a 30 per cent reduction in methane production.
Beef Cluster I research identified native grass and legume cultivars suitable for semi-arid rangelands, developed a new variety of a non-bloating legume, and discovered genetic markers that are significantly associated with barley silage digestibility. Appropriate forage and legume mixtures can provide an optimal ratio of forage quality and yield in Central and Eastern Canada.
Research evaluated the effectiveness of various food safety interventions applied to cattle, whole carcasses, beef cuts and trim routinely applied at commercial beef processing facilities. Modern beef packing plants using multiple interventions can produce dressed carcasses carrying as few as four (4) viable E. coli cells per carcass.
However, beef can be contaminated with pathogens during carcass breaking. Contamination from personal equipment can be wholly avoided by ensuring that hands, cotton gloves, steel mesh gloves and knives are thoroughly and regularly cleaned, and by wearing disposable rubber gloves between cotton gloves and steel mesh gloves.
While lactic acid sprays and washes are very beneficial for reducing microbial contamination on dressed carcasses, they had limited benefit on beef trim.
E-beam treatment achieves more comprehensive pathogen control on trim. Treatment with a 1kGy e-beam eliminated more than 99.99 per cent of the VTEC and 99 per cent of the Salmonella. A trained panel observed no effects of irradiation on the colour, aroma, texture, juiciness or flavour of beef patties made with a variety of treated and non-treated ground beef mixtures, even with patties made entirely with beef that had been e-beam treated.
Technology transfer activities were significantly enhanced through Beef Cluster I. A 10-year Technology Transfer and Knowledge Dissemination Strategy was developed and led to the hiring of a Beef Extension coordinator. Consequently, the Canadian beef industry’s communication regarding the value and results of applied cattle, beef and forage research has reached unprecedented levels. Much of this communication has occurred through the beefresearch.ca website developed in 2012, with continued communication through the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association’s (CCA) Action News e-newsletter, regular articles in Canadian Cattlemen – the Beef Magazine, a Beef Research School video series developed in collaboration with realagriculture.com, as well as more traditional communication through the Verified Beef Production program, agricultural print media and speaking engagements at various industry events.
Increased investment into technology transfer ensures that research results from Beef Cluster I will be communicated to industry and its partners, with the enhanced opportunity for greater and faster uptake of innovation.
Beef Cluster 1 trained highly skilled personnel specializing in food safety, beef quality, forage and grassland productivity and feed efficiency. One of these individuals has been hired as a food safety researcher at AAFC Lacombe, one of the forage researchers trained has become a Forage Management Specialist with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture, and one feed efficiency researcher was hired at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College of Dalhousie University.
The second Beef Science Cluster is underway, with 26 research projects to be completed by March 31, 2018. Industry and government have committed $20 million to this cluster.