Platform to boost Manitoba beef and forage sectors

Producers, scientists and others coming together for research and development

The Beef Forage Platform - a new public-private initiative aimed at boosting the industry - is bringing together producers, scientists, natural resource associations, extension providers and the private sector to develop ways to address economic, environmental and social sustainability matters.

"An initiative like this is integral for a province that relies on agriculture and beef production," said Glenn Friesen, project manager with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development. "We believe it will bring a lot of progress and change to production, management and research practices in the beef industry."

The Beef Forage Platform is funded in part by the Growing Forward 2 - Growing Innovation program, in collaboration with Manitoba Beef Producers, Ducks Unlimited Canada and the Manitoba Forage and Grassland Association, with input and support from other industry stakeholders. These project partners have formed a committee to manage the initiative.

Education and research key components

While the initiative will be active across the province, it has chosen the Brandon area as its home base for producers and researchers.

It has created a field research laboratory to conduct foundational research. The new beef and forage extension and knowledge transfer farm will test new practices and technologies in a field scale and on-farm setting.

The platform is looking to:

  • help advance new market opportunities
  • measure the industry's stewardship of the environment
  • study methods for producers to survive significant weather events or commodity market swings

Study topics will include:

  • improving feed efficiency
  • improving cow longevity to extend production life
  • reducing animal mortality rates 
  • management practices to improve animal and environmental health

At least three full-time positions, including a herd manager and two technicians, will be hired to manage on-farm research animals.

"It's exciting to merge public education with production research in an on-farm environment. The cow-calf herd is being raised on 640 acres that includes a wide range of soil classifications suitable for annual crops, hay and rangeland. The farm includes wetlands with riparian zones, brush and wildlife, making the research site similar to many Manitoban cattle farms," Friesen said.

The field research laboratory and extension and knowledge transfer farm gives the industry an innovative way to verify and adopt new practices and technology coming from leading scientists, by putting the research into practical working methods.

Universities will be able to use the laboratory and farm for practical research. The people behind the initiative hope that having this in place will increase the number of graduates with experience in livestock and forage production - encouraging young professionals to enter Manitoba's beef and forage sector.

The farm will be a key part of a number of demonstration and applied research projects. It will function as a learning centre that will be used for outreach to producers, extension staff and researchers. It will also help engage and educate those who want to learn more about the agriculture industry in a real farm setting.