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THE CANADIAN COW-CALF SURVEILLANCE NETWORK

Animal health, welfare, and antimicrobial resistance can have significant impacts on the economic, environmental, and social sustainability of the beef sector. Surveillance provides quantitative evidence that helps to understand how management practices and decisions on our beef operations impact animal health and welfare and helps prioritize checkoff research investments. Understanding the extent to which producers are adopting animal health and welfare management practices informs extension efforts. Animal health monitoring and surveillance programs also provide objective evidence to help producers, veterinarians, industry leaders and other policymakers to manage these risks and support public and consumer confidence as well as international trade of Canadian cattle and beef products.  

The first iteration of the surveillance network was established in the previous cluster (ANH.23.13) and included 100 herds in Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Information gathered was focused on animal welfare, marketing, and production practices. ANH.21.17 saw the expansion of this network to garner key Canadian insights. 

OBJECTIVES

  • Recruit a group of 175 herds that will serve as the network core. These herds and producers will provide a platform that will be able to provide baseline information regarding the national beef cow herd. Baseline information on herd productivity, welfare practices, health, nutrition, and biosecurity will be collected through regular surveys. 
  • Collect biological samples such as serum and fecal samples from the core herds at regular intervals to provide meaningful estimates of various production limiting diseases in these herds. 
  • Use the resulting prevalence estimates and production parameters in various economic models or modelling systems to provide stakeholders in the beef industry with baseline information that may affect the productivity and efficiency of cow-calf production. 

WHAT THEY DID

181 cow-calf herds from across Canada were recruited as a resource for data and samples over 5 years. Criteria for participation was based on a minimum herd size of 40 cows, maintenance of basic production records, as well as a willingness to participate. Two annual surveys were completed by producers every year to evaluate productivity data, one after the end of the calving season and the second after pregnancy checking and weaning. An annual survey was also completed on a specific management topic. These surveys focused on topics such as animal welfare and pain management practices, antimicrobial use, vaccine use, technology adoption and record keeping, and management factors affecting pre-weaning calf mortality. At two time points (fall of 2019 and fall of 2021), samples were collected from a subsample of animals in participating herds to evaluate antimicrobial resistance of fecal bacteria in cows and calves, antimicrobial resistance of nasal bacteria in calves, the presence of production limiting diseases such as bovine leukosis virus, Johne’s disease, bovine viral diarrhea virus and leptospirosis, and trace mineral levels in cows and calves. Data was analyzed from the surveys to provide estimates of productivity and various management practices being carried out in Canadian cow-calf herds.

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