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RANCH MUSINGS: Dairy and beef research, part of the story for B.C.

One organization to watch and support is the BC Forage Council
Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File photo)

Before I get into this week’s musings, let me correct the record on a statement I made in my last column wherein I referenced a visit to “the federal dairy research station at Agassiz.”

In fact, the particular research I referenced, was actually the work done at the same address as the federal research station, by a separate University of B.C. entity, the UBC Dairy Education and Research Centre.

The facility is on land leased from the federal government adjacent to the federal research station. The lease is part of the station which does research on forages, beef/dairy, pork, poultry and other livestock.

On the Government of Canada website other research takes place which “… includes improving manure management in corn and grass forage for the dairy sector: reducing greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions, improving nutrient management, and efficient use of natural resources for dairy, swine, poultry, and other livestock operations.”

I need to give credit where credit is due: the research into the care of dairy calves that my article refers to, was done by UBC at the Agassiz location. Thanks to the BC Dairy Council for alerting me and my editors to the error.

Most readers are probably aware that governance of agriculture under Canada’s constitution is a joint responsibility of the government of Canada and the provinces. Major funding programs directed to producers are usually the result of five-year, federal-provincial agreements.

It can be complicated trying to figure out who does what since some independent entities such as the UBC Dairy Education and Research Centre are unique enterprises often with multiple sources of funding.

Worthy of note is the fact that about half of B.C.’s beef comes from the dairy sector: retired cows and male calves raised to maturity.

That said, most of the research into the raising of beef cattle is under the oversight of different university and industry organizations. I mention two of these in Canada.

The first is the Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) which is Canada’s industry-led funding agency for beef, cattle and forage research. Its funding comes from levies on the sale of cattle, other industry, and government funding. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada fund a Sustainable Beef and Forage Science cluster.

BCRC operates as a division of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, being established in 2001.

Some producers will remember research on the beef industry coming out of the Western Beef Development Centre, a division of the Prairie Agriculture Institute, over the years. It has morphed into a new facility at the University of Saskatchewan called the Forage and Cow-calf Research and Teaching Unit.

An evolving and increasing emphasis is on getting research results out to users (producers). This works best if producer oversight and input is put into the design and implementation of the research.

The B.C. picture is a whole other story which will come in a subsequent article here. I want to delve into the development of the capacity of the beef industry to provide oversight to knowledge development and transfer to those who would use research results.

One organization to watch and support is the BC Forage Council.

Our food security and the beef industry depend on it.

David Zirnhelt is a rancher in the Cariboo Chilcotin

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