Transfer of knowledge and technologies more useful, more relevant
When the Beef Cattle Research Council was established nearly 25 years ago, we simply funded research projects and relied on provincial researchers and extension services to help producers learn about and adopt the relevant results on their operations. . We deliberately didn’t do much extension because we didn’t want to give governments an excuse to cut their extension services.
It didn’t work – traditional extension services were drastically reduced. Agriculture Canada and most universities do not encourage their researchers to help producers adopt innovations. In most provinces, the battalions of district, regional, and provincial specialists who helped farmers troubleshoot and solve problems have been greatly reduced, and many have been reassigned to administering government programs.
Sensing that this trend was not going to reverse, BCRC developed a knowledge and technology transfer (outreach) strategy in 2011. In 2012, we launched beefresearch.ca, intending to be a one-stop shop unique, comprehensive and renowned for useful research on Canadian beef. and extension information. Our extension activities have grown considerably since then. We learned a lot as the landscape of the set evolved. After 10 years, it’s time to reassess our approach and identify how we can continue to improve.
What we have done: Last year, we hired an independent company (Framework Strategies) to conduct this review because we wanted to know what people really thought of us. Framework conducted an online survey, interviewed people with strong extension knowledge and experience, and held separate focus groups with extension workers and producers. They asked a series of questions to find out what BCRC is doing well and what we can do better and summarized their findings in a 95-page report.
What we’ve learned and what we’re doing about it: Most of the feedback was positive. When asked to describe BCRC’s outreach program in one word, the most common responses were ‘useful’ and ‘relevant’. It’s nice to hear. But the report also suggested how we could make our outreach program even more useful and relevant. Here are three suggestions:
We can strengthen links with existing extension experts: The beefresearch.ca website is a great way for our small outreach team at BCRC to cost-effectively distribute a wealth of sound production science information and decision-making tools to producers across Canada. But no two producers or operations are the same, and one-size-fits-all solutions are rare. Some producers need help implementing recommendations or tools in their particular situation. Technical sales and service representatives, forage associations and provincial extension specialists can help. This is mutually beneficial. For example, provincial staff are often so busy with administration that they do not always have time to develop new extension materials.
We are strengthening the Canadian Beef Technology Transfer Network to connect extension workers across Canada with each other and with extension resources that already exist and to help us identify additional information and production tools that we can develop that will benefit producers across Canada.
We can strengthen links with veterinarians: Many producers rely on their veterinarian and clinic staff for more than just animal health advice. At the same time, optimizing herd health, fertility and production typically involves fine-tuning nutritional, grazing and other management practices. Your veterinarian knows your operating and management practices better than we do, but it may be years since he or she has studied some of these topics.
We’ve put together a collection of tools and information that can help you and your vet get the most out of your vet-patient-client relationship. We actively work with veterinary associations to ensure that the veterinary community is aware of these resources.
We can expand to more regions: Livestock, forage and beef production systems, management practices and challenges vary greatly from coast to coast, but much of BCRC’s information and tools apply primarily to Western Canada. The BCRC is funded by the Canadian Beef Cattle Check-Off, paid for by producers across the country, but producers in Central and Atlantic Canada have not always seen their production systems reflected in enough information. published by the BCRC.
We are working with more producers and extension experts in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada to identify existing content that is relevant to producers further east and to recognize the significant information gaps that the BCRC can help fill the gap. We also strive to add and update resources on www.beefresearch.ca that producers across the country will find locally relevant.
What does that mean: We are constantly working to find better ways to turn the results of the applied forage, cattle and beef research you fund through your levy into meaningful information and tools you can use to solve problems, reduce your risks and improve your profitability. If you haven’t visited beefresearch.ca (or not lately), take another look. It’s updated to make it even easier for you (and extension, veterinarian and other experts) to find what you’re looking for. We appreciate your positive and constructive comments and suggestions.
If you would like to see BCRC’s extension staff and program in action, consider attending our Bov-Innovation sessions at the Canadian Beef Industry Conference August 16-18 in Penticton, BC.
The Beef Cattle Research Council is funded by the Canadian Beef Cattle Check-Off Program. The BCRC partners with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, provincial beef industry groups and governments to advance research and technology transfer in support of the Canadian beef industry’s vision of being recognized as a preferred supplier of healthy, high quality beef, cattle and genetics.