Despite cold, windy conditions, Manitoba Beef and Forages Initiatives (MBFI) in Brandon held its first tour of a new pasture recently, attracting about 75 people to view studies in leafy spurge and foxtail barley control, rotational grazing systems and pasture rejuvenation with alfalfa seeding.
The MBFI runs studies at three sites in the area, including research farms north and east of the city, as well as a 426-acre area called the First Street Pasture, considered the organization’s newest site. The recent tour of the First Street plot hosted producers, Manitoba Agriculture staff, Assiniboine Community College staff and representatives from other organizations working in the cattle industry.
“We have a few projects taking place out there,” said Jane Thornton, Manitoba Agriculture forage and pasture specialist. Thornton, herself, is conducting a study to see how pastures perform under continuous grazing conditions compared to being split into a paddock grazing system.
“My project is set up to see if it can lengthen the life of the grazing capacity of the land. We’re seeing if what we’re doing will extend its life to keep cattle out there longer or if it can possibly be stocked heavier. These studies take years to figure out because we’re on weather cycles. Right now, we’re on a wet cycle and we have to be careful what we conclude while on a wet cycle.”
Another project is studying the ability of beef cattle to be trained to eat leafy spurge, a weed that infests more than 1.2 million acres of land in the province and costs the livestock industry $10.2 million based on lost grazing capacity. The study is based on the work of Kathy Voth, a livestock expert who developed a way to motivate cattle to consume weeds.
“Cows aren’t like sheep or goats that will consume these plants,” Thornton said. “We’re trying to see if they will overcome their aversion (to leafy spurge). Is it the case that some can and some can’t? Is it dependent on the time of year? We’re documenting what happens with the cattle now that we have them trained to eat it, the lasting impact and whether they will train their young.”
A bio-control study is also taking place to see if Brown Dot beetles, Black beetles and other insects will eat leafy spurge. Furthermore, participants in the pasture tour checked out research into whether the seeding of alfalfa can rejuvenate pastures and the efficiency of managing foxtail barley through grazing.
Although the MBFI has hosted up to 100 people at their tours, Thornton was happy with the turnout of the event, which took place late June, considering the inclement weather, which included cold, windy and rainy conditions.
MBFI conducts science-based research to benefit valuable ecosystems, improve producer profitability and build social awareness around the beef and forage industry. The organization is a collaboration between Manitoba Agriculture, Manitoba Beef Producers (MBP), Ducks Unlimited Canada and the Manitoba Forage and Grassland Association.