BSE Case, A Positive For The Canadian Beef Industry

IMG_2313I’m sure some people may have heard about the positive BSE cow that was recently found in Alberta. This is one of the main reasons I wanted to start a blog to clarify things that happen in the industry that maybe aren’t portrayed very well in the media. I think this case is a perfect example of something that is actually a positive for the beef industry when we really take an in depth look at the situation and not simply rely on the media’s interpretation of the event.

Firstly, it would be great if we could stop referring to it as “mad cow”. I think that conjures horrible images in consumer’s minds and is unrelated to the actual prognosis. The proper name is Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). BSE is a progressive neurological disease in cattle. In addition, humans cannot contract BSE unless eating certain parts of the animal: the Specified Risk Material or (SRM). All SRM material is removed in animals who are 30 months and over in all slaughter facilities in Canada.

It was very unsettling news for cattle producers in Canada to hear the words BSE in the media. It takes us back to the dark years (2003) when our cattle were instantly worth nothing. For about ten years after that prices were still very low and it was hard and sparse years owning cattle. For example on our family ranch we probably lost over 1 million dollars of income during that ten year span. I am proud to say we made it through those years with our ranch (most of our land and cattle herd) still in tact. We had to find ways to subsidies our business of cattle production. We were lucky enough to have merchantable timber on our place so we did some logging, we also found a gravel vein so developed a gravel pit and sold gravel and unfortunately we had to sell some land as well to make it through. In addition, we could not make any positive progress because there was simply no money. We had to rely on what we already owned and lived very modestly. We have had some positive years lately, but the words BSE still make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. However, once the initial fear from the word subsided I got to thinking that this finding was actually very positive for the Canadian Beef Industry. This case was found because of the ongoing screening and surveillance Canada does for BSE. Canada, because of our status as “controlled BSE risk country”, needs to test 30 000 head of dead, dying or diseased cattle per year. These cattle being tested are not going into the food supply chain and the cow that recently tested positive was found from this screening and was not in the food supply chain. That means Canada’s surveillance system is working because we found this animal and she never made it into the human food system. I think this really shows how far Canada has come since our initial outbreak in 2003. I wish that was the story the media told!

I have attached some links to some websites with factual information regarding what is happening with the BSE case found in Alberta. I challenge and encourage our followers to find real information to base opinions and judgments on.

Canadian Cattlemen’s Association BSE Update

Canadian Cattlemen’s Association webpage

Canada Food Inspection Agency

Real Agriculture

14 In One Day

Erika Fossen beat me to the punch on her last Blog, February 25- 12 New Babies. I was going to write a very similar blog, but ya snooze ya lose! We chatted about it and decided I should go ahead and post my blog even though they would be very similar in content. I thought I’d at least give you guys (our readers a couple days in between)!
On February 25 (our cows must be on the same schedule) we set a calving record at our ranch, we had 14 babies in one day. It makes for a very busy day, but we love it! We love it for various reasons
1) I am nervous even to write this, but the weather has been fantastic -5 overnight so the ground stays hard, so we don’t have mud, but it’s not too cold for the babies to be born. It is the perfect time for the cows to calve, so when the weather is good we like to have as many baby calves born as possible to take advantage of the gift of good weather in February from Mother Nature.
2) It’s nice to have a calving period that is short and sweet. Calving makes long days and nights checking on cows and making sure things are going smoothly. It is great to have a condensed calving period and get it over with as quickly as possible and go back to sleeping full nights!
3) It means our bulls are doing a good job and our cows are cycling early. A cow only cycles every 21 days, so she can only get bred every 21 days. When we have a big groups calving all together like that that makes us happy that our cows and bulls are healthy and fertile. It is also a bit of reassurance that our management practises are working. In my area of BC, because we turn our cows out on huge amounts of crown range land with little fences, it is worrisome that the cows can take off and not be with bulls, and therefore miss a cycle and our calving can stretch out for months. How we manage this is we keep the cows closer to home for the first cycle and a half and have them in smaller pastures locked in with the bull. This is great for our calving, but costly for hay, because most of the time there is not enough grass by the first of May to totally sustain the cows, their calves and breeding bulls, so we have to feed into May, but when we have majority of our calves born in February and March it definitely validates this decision.
In total as of February 28 we have 109 healthy calves on the ground. Not quite half way there! Keep going girls!

Here are some pictures of our girls with their calves!



February 25th – 12 New Babies

It was a big day of calving yesterday. Here are pictures of the mothers and baby calves born on February 25th. The information is below the picture.

51Z had her heifer calf unassisted @ 6:00 am and it nursed on its own.

S61Z had her heifer calf unassisted @ 7:00 am and it nursed on its own. She had her 1st calf last year and now this is her 2nd calf.

K264U had her heifer calf unassisted @ 8:30 am and it nursed on its own. This cow has a tendency to ‘show her reed’, which means in the last weeks of her pregnancy, her cervix pushes out and could prolapse. Because her calf is a heifer, we have noted this. We will not keep her in our herd.

T601A had her bull calf unassisted @ 10:00 am and it nursed on its own. This is her 1st calf.

52X had her heifer calf unassisted @ 10:30 am and it nursed on its own. This is her 4th baby. We bought this cow as a bred heifer at an auction.

N234T had her bull calf unassisted @ 1:30 pm and it nursed on its own. He was a big boy when he came out. As you can see by the position of her (the cow’s) head, she is NOT happy that we are near her new calf!

127P had her bull calf @ 2:00 pm and we had to assist her. It was a large calf. This cow’s name is ‘Fertile Mertal’ because she accidentally got bred in the fall, as a calf. When she was 15 months old, and was in a pasture with her pen-mates and a bull, she gave birth to a healthy calf! Thus she has had a calf every year for 12 years. She is a good cow.

U13Z had her heifer calf unassisted sometime in the morning, although wasn’t found until after lunch. It had slipped under the fence and wandered off with the older calves. Because the mom was separated for 3 hours we then had to help it nurse, as she was kicking at it. As you can see by the picture and how far away she is standing, she’s still uncertain about the baby.

570S had her bull calf @ 5:00 pm with help from us. It was another big boy. We bought this cow as a year old heifer in the spring, from a ranch in Lumby. They have been good cows. This is this cows’ ninth calf.

234S had her heifer calf unassisted @ 7:00 pm and it nursed on its own. This line of cows has been in our herd for a long time, the black cow (6th picture) is her niece. This picture of her and her calf shows the excellent mothering qualities. She has her leg back, so the calf can get at her udder with ease, and the cow is licking her baby’s butt and pushing her into nurse.

S13U had her bull calf unassisted @ 7:15 pm and it nursed on its own. The ’13’ line has also been in our herd for a long time and are awesome cows.

219T had her bull calf unassisted @ 7:20 pm and it nursed on its own. This cow is a good producer, but she makes us a little frustrated when she has her calf. She likes to hurl insults (beller loudly) from about 40 feet away, but not help him get up and nurse. Thankfully there was no snow on the ground this year so we knew we could leave him and eventually he would get up and get going.

Today, February 26th, is turning out to be another big day with already 7 born and it is only 1:00 pm. ooh, now 8! Bring ‘em on girls!
~Erika Fossen~

Even Vegetarians Need Meat!

(This is my Birthday/Christmas gift from my husband)

Here are a couple videos of our cows eating their placenta’s. They often do this as it gives them a boost of protein and energy after calving. It is also natures way of ‘cleaning up’ the calving grounds, which helps keep predators away.
~Erika Fossen~

Just In Time

Disclaimer… This blog should have been posted right after my last one about bringing our new bought cows home! Things have gotten crazy quickly and we are in full swing of calving, so this post is a bit late! SORRY!

We ended up getting our girls home just in time! We brought the last 2 loads home on Friday and Saturday morning we had our first calf! Our first calf gave us quite the scare… Everything started our normally we saw 24W (her tag number to us their tag numbers are like their names) she was off by her self and her tail was lifted (a pretty good indication that she is starting to calve), so we kept an eye on her. In an hour when I checked on her things had progressed, but there were 2 back feet sticking out first instead of two front feet! Ideally we want a forward presentation of a calf at birth the two front feet coming and the head right behind! However 24W was calving backwards two back feet coming first. This makes us very nervous because if the umbilical cord breaks the calf’s head is still inside and can suffocate! As soon as I saw two back legs I yelled at my husband to grab the calving chains from the barn and bring them down to the pen! He was taking along time and I was getting annoyed and anxious when he yelled down the chain weren’t there! What the heck I thought where else could they be? When suddenly the light bulb went off… I had brought them to Vancouver for the Ag In The Classroom presentations and had not put them back! :( ooooops! My husband, Cyle,  sprinted from the barn up to our house to retrieve the missing chains! Once we had them we pulled the calf out! It was a beautiful ring eyed bull calf (intact male).

That evening we had another calf! A heifer calf (a female)! Our timing on bringing our new cows home could not have been any better!IMG_2241
yle and I’s first calf, the ring eyed bull calf.

ur second calf, the heifer calf!

In Debt For The Love Of Cows

We were approved for the loan to buy the 30 bred cows that I blogged about earlier! We are so excited! That means this year my husband and I will have a total of 41 cows to calve out that are ours and the ranch will have a total of 280 cows to calve out! We are really excited to been expanding at this time in the cattle business.
Now that we know we have the loan things have to move quickly because the cows we are wanting to buy are due to calve very soon! Since we found out things had to happen very fast because the cows are due to calve very soon. Right away we called Echo Valley and started making pick up arrangements. They very graciously offered to help us haul the cows to our place so they took two loads in their stock trailer and we took 2 loads in ours and got all 30 of our girls home!
Things had been falling into place way too well, usually that is not the case for me! I usually do not have very good luck and there are usually some glitches along the way, so this was looking good! We got the loan quickly before any cows started calving, they were helping us haul them home, so we didn’t have to spend more money paying for a liner! Things were really looking good!
Our first day we got to Echo Valley to haul our first load, we loaded 7 of the older bigger cows in each trailer and were off! About half way into our trip we could no longer see Fred, so we pulled off of the road and waited and waited. Turns out he had a flat tire! Oh no I knew things were going too smoothly and I jinx us by mentioning it! He got it changed and we were back on the road! We were very excited to unload 14 of our very own cows in the calving pen that evening at our ranch.
The next trip to go get the remainder of our 16 cows (this time we loaded 8 smaller cows in each trailer) started off very well! We were making excellent time and we were about an hour away from home on the Coquihalla Freeway when WE got a FLAT TIRE!!!! I was like no way 2 flat tires what are the odds of that! I promise I am not making this up this is just my luck! Anyhow, we got it changed on the side of the highway, now that Fred had experience, and we were off again! We finally made it home and unloaded the remained of our cows! We were so thrilled to see all 30’of OUR beautiful cows in our field!

Us pulled over on the side of the highway fixing our flat tire :(


IMG_2233Our girls waiting patiently in the back, until we could get back on the road again!






Like I stated in my previous blog cattle prices have been record high in 2014 and now into 2015. That is a huge plus for ranchers wanting to sell calves, but not such great news for ranchers wanting to buy cows and expands their herds. My husband and I find ourselves in the latter position. We have been really wanting to expand and add more cows to our personal herd, not just the family ranch’s herd. Even though price are high, we feel that it is still a wise business decision because we will be buying the cows for a high price, but their calves in the fall will be selling for a high price as well. We have been scouting out different auction sales, but felt more comfortable buying cows from somebody we knew and knew their health records, especially considering we would be bringing these animals back to our ranch right before our cows are due to calve. This is a concern because some herds may carry different diseases that our cows may not be vaccinated for or are not use to and that can cause health issues. My dad is very strict on keeping a closed herd, that means not bringing any outside cows into our herd, which I agree with because it makes for a healthy herd and we know everything about our cows. However, it makes it very difficult to increase your herd because the only means to increase is to retain more heifer calves in the fall. This process is great and the only one we have used since I can remember, but it only allows for minimal and slow herd expansion. One day when my blogging partner Erika Fossen and I were chatting she mentioned that Echo Valley Herefords, the people they buy bulls from, were wanting to decrease their herd and selling 30 bred cows. My husband and I were very interested in this. That night we called them and had a great chat with them over the phone about their cattle and the cattle business in general. We decided we were serious about this so our next step was to contact FCC (Farm Credit Canada) an agriculture lending institution to see if they would give us the money required to make the purchase. Next, we decided to take the 3 hour drive to go look at these cows ourselves. The cows were fantastic exactly the type of cows we were looking for, so everything was a go, now we just have to wait patiently to see if we are approved for a loan.