An international Hereford tour in Saskatchewan

Peace to Canada, says Shokhan Mussabalin in Kazakh.

“My father says he likes how people treat their work here, living with their families on the farms and organizing programs like Agribition to help beef. He means peace to Canada so people can continue to work as they do,” interprets Daulet Ualikhanov.

The family from Almaty, Kazakhstan, started a 1,000-head seedstock operation with the first 800 purebred Herefords and 200 purebred Simmentals purchased from Australia in 2014. Financial assistance from the Kazakhstan government under a program to help establish a beef industry in the country has to be repaid after three years.

Before those imports Ualikhanov says they had 500 “Kazakhstan cows” and 1,500 horses, so part of their reason for visiting Canadian Western Agribition was to learn about feeding cows and feedlots.

Canadian Hereford Association (CHA) executive director Stephen Scott organized the Hereford tour for international guests with that in mind and included visits to Border Line Feeders near Ceylon, and the Western Beef Development Centre (WBDC) near Lanigan, along with stops at McCoy Cattle Co. Ltd. of Milestone, Crittenden Bros. at Imperial, and Triple A Here­fords near Moose Jaw.

“They wanted to learn about feedlot management because they are trying to develop a feeding industry there,” Scott explains. “They were most impressed with the facilities, handling and (growth) technology. It’s a completely different mindset for them because they don’t have feedlots.”

Also on the tour were four guests from Uruguay, two from Australia and six from the United Kingdom, who are more familiar with systems in use here because of recent visits to Canada and through activities of the World Hereford Council, including the 2012 World Hereford Conference hosted by the CHA in Calgary.

Among those from Uruguay was José Bonica, the current secretary general of the World Hereford Council and the first South American ever elected to the position. He was in Canada to promote the 17th World Hereford Conference to be held in his home country this April.

The Uruguayans are serious about their Herefords. There are three million people and 12 million head of cattle, six million of which are Herefords, in this small country dwarfed by neighbouring Brazil and Argentina.

That works out to two Herefords for every person, says Bonica, a third-generation Hereford breeder who has a long involvement with Hereford Uruguay.

With Uruguay being the eighth-largest exporter of beef in 2015, just a notch behind Canada, a focus for Hereford Uruguay in recent years has been finding premium markets for grass-fed beef.

Dr. Bart Lardner, research scientist with WBDC, says the topics that really caught the interest of this group were the centre’s research on extensive winter grazing systems and our use of annual cereals. Even though there are distinct differences in climates and regulations among the visitors’ countries (for instance some European countries don’t allow cattle to be outside because of wet falls and winters), they were interested to see alternatives and think about how they could be adapted to their countries.

Lardner showcased some of the ongoing applied beef and forage research on calving systems, energy and protein supplementation in extensive grazing, breeding for feed efficiency, parentage testing, and the economic importance behind alternative winter feeding systems in Canada.

A stop at the forage processing lab brought forward a lot of questions about the need to supplement cows for proper nutrition whether it’s a purebred or commercial operation, in the heat of summer or cold of winter, to produce healthy calves year after year.

They saw cattle grazing barley straw and chaff piles where researchers are evaluating the durability of pellets and whether cows eat adequate amounts when they are fed on snow. They also heard about some new research into the impact on the dam, fetus and calves when pregnant cows are supplemented with fat from canola and flax.

Grazing whole-plant (not threshed) corn was of particular interest, as Lardner explained that whole corn can provide complete nutrition without supplementing the ration with grain. He also explained the importance of the stage of maturity at first frost and controlling access to feed with portable electric fencing.

Lardner says the Kazakhs were quite at home during the field tour because Kazakhstan’s climate is similar to Saskatchewan’s. It was a good day to demonstrate the effect of wind chill for visitors from warmer climates, and why Canadians need to protect their cattle from the wind with portable windbreaks and natural shelterbelts.

Overall, Agribition reported a 25 per cent increase in active international buyers this year with more than 800 international guests from 70 countries.

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