There are weather obstacles popping up across the country that are directly impacting cattle producers. We've gathered 5 stories that could impact the beef markets or industry. Check out what everyone is talking about in the beef world this week.
1. Minnesota cattle producers gathered on the capital in St. Paul to ask for drought assistance from the wicked weather in 2021.
The Minnesota State Cattle Association set up grills in front of the capitol and served beef tenderloin medallions to lawmakers, staff, lobbyists and others. They wanted to make sure legislators don't forget about an industry that employs tens of thousands of Minnesotans and has a $4.9 billion economic impact.
Seven months have gone by since Gov. Walz called on lawmakers to pass a $10 million drought relief package for cattle producers and specialty vegetable farmers.
In mid-August 2021, a record 90% of the state was in severe drought. Pastures dried up quickly, forage crops needed for winter were lost and cattle producers took on heavy losses buying hay. Some sold off herds or left the business completely
But there's still no agreement between the DFL-controlled House and GOP-controlled Senate on how to deliver that assistance.
"The drought this past year was an absolute nightmare for cattle producers across the state, especially the northern two-thirds of the state," Grant Breitkreutz, who raises cattle with his wife Dawn near Redwood Falls and heads the Minnesota State Cattlemen's Association, told KARE.
"Cattle operations in Minnesota and across the nation, we don’t have insurance for production, or loss of forage production. There's a little bit of government assistance that comes to buy hay, but there’s no hay to be bought in the upper Midwest or Canada."
Breitkreutz said thousands of cows were moved out of the state last summer due to lack of feed, and the feed put away for winter didn't stretch as far as expected because of extreme cold.
The House bill would spend a $5.1 million on aid, with a maximum of $10,000 available per farmer. It also includes $13 million for the Department of Natural Resources to replace trees lost in the drought.
The Senate bill has $10 million in relief, with up to $5,000 available for each farmer, but restricted to areas the USDA declared as primary natural disaster areas. The Senate bill includes no money for the DNR.
2. And while we are talking about nasty weather, let’s consider the ranchers in North Dakota.
Blizzards and blizzard conditions have hit cattle ranchers in North Dakota hard. They have endured up to 18 inches of snow plus blowing winds and cold temperatures. All a time when it was calving season.
North Dakota State University (NDSU) Extension specialists encourage ranchers to inquire about the Livestock Indemnity Program provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA).
“The Livestock Indemnity Program provides benefits to agricultural producers for livestock deaths in excess of normal mortality caused by adverse weather, disease or by attacks by animals reintroduced into the wild by the federal government,” says Karl Hoppe, NDSU Extension livestock systems specialist at the Carrington Research Extension Center. “Eligible weather events include earthquake, hail, lightning, tornado, hurricane, flood, blizzard, wildfire, extreme heat, extreme cold, straight-line winds, and eligible winter storms.”
The Livestock Indemnity Program applies to the loss of cattle, poultry, swine, sheep, horses, goats, bison and other eligible livestock.
A fact sheet for the livestock indemnity program is available on the FSA website. Search “FSA Livestock Indemnity Program.”
The fact sheet provides what is eligible livestock, eligible loss conditions, payment rates, how to file for the Livestock Indemnity Program and loss documentation.
“Ranchers must file a notice of loss with FSA within 30 days of when the loss is apparent,” says Hoppe. “They also must file an application for payment no later than 60 calendar days after the end of the calendar year in which the eligible loss occurred.”
The Livestock Indemnity Program requires a deduction for normal mortality and these need to be documented, he adds. These normal mortalities do not have to be weather related.
3. And in Africa, a genetic breakthrough may control East Coast Fever in the continent.
A serendipitous discovery has led researchers from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Kenya and the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland to identify a genetic marker that accurately predicts whether an individual cow is likely to survive infection with East Coast fever—making possible breeding programs that could improve the livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers.
The severe cattle disease East Coast fever is caused by the Theileria parva parasite and transmitted by ticks, causing a kind of leukemia. It kills a million animals a year in the 13 African countries where it is endemic—that's one cow every 30 seconds. Those losses cost an estimated US$300 million yearly, and can devastate the livelihoods of smallholder farmers.
If the cattle are susceptible, without treatment a rancher can lose 100% of your herd in two or three weeks. Because it doesn't affect wealthy countries, there has historically been limited funding for research into the disease.
A vaccine for East Coast fever exists and usually gives cattle lifelong immunity. However, making it is time-consuming, and it costs ten to twenty times more than other common livestock vaccines (it involves making a kind of "tick smoothie" by crushing up hundreds of thousands of infected ticks in an industrial blender).
The other option is regularly dipping animals in acaricides—pesticides that kill ticks—but this is also labor-intensive, polluting, and in some places farmers have to dip their cows more than once a week.
4. In politics, Grassley bills on cattle market fairness go to Ag Committee for hearing.
The U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee is holding a hearing on two of Senator Chuck Grassley’s bills which he says aim to improve fairness and competition in the cattle industry.
“Lawmakers have begun to realize that they have a sustainable and affordable supply of meat in our country,” Grassley says. “We need to restore transparency in the marketplace and we need to protect the market from collapsing when there are supply chain disruptions.”
The Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act is designed to help independent cattle producers get a fair price for their livestock. That would be done through a public contract library and by setting a minimum level of cattle sales.
There’s also the Meat and Poultry Special Investigator Act which would create a dedicated office at USDA to investigate anticompetitive behavior in the ag industry.
Grassley says, “During my county meetings, I hear from cattle producers at nearly every stop who fear that if changes are not made, they’ll have to go out of business.” Grassley says he has a long, bipartisan list of co-sponsors for the pair of bills.
“This comes down to Congress listening to the needs of our country’s cattlemen,” Grassley says, “not to the fear tactics of the Big Four packers and their army of lobbyists.”
Grassley says the nation’s four major meatpackers — Cargill, Tyson Foods, JBS, and National Beef Packing — control up to 85-percent of the hog, cattle and chicken markets.
5. And in Iowa, residents in the eastern part of the state are concerned about a cattle feedlot attempting to renew its water use permit.
The residents who spoke at the meeting for the Monona cattle feedlot say they are concerned that the feedlot would use more water than stated in the application.
Supreme Beef wants to withdraw up to 21.9 million gallons of water a year from two wells in the Jordan aquifer near the 11,600-head facility in Clayton County. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources permitted this use back in 2017 and staff have recommended renewal, but opponents want the agency to reconsider.
The permit would allow for six gallons of water per cow per day.
The permit renewal application also doesn’t reflect changes in the Supreme Beef operation, which was called Walz Energy in 2017 and planned to use an anaerobic digester to convert manure into digestate. The earlier permit called for 10,000 cattle, not 11,600.
The feedlot has met ongoing opposition from environmental groups and some neighbors for reasons that include its proximity to Bloody Run, a treasured trout stream and an Outstanding Iowa Water.
Iowa law requires water drawn from underground resources to have a “beneficial use” for Iowans.