Here’s a look at 5 headlines that appear to be at the top of everyone’s mind this week. It is National BEEF month so that means cattlemen and women have been spreading the word about what is going in the beef markets. Here are the top stories this week:
- A Virginia Tech extension beef specialist says crossbreeding beef cattle can offer a lot of advantages to a beef breeding program.
Scott Greiner, extension beef specialist at Virginia Tech, says crossbreeding beef cattle offers two primary advantages: 1) crossbred animals exhibit heterosis (hybrid vigor), and 2) crossbred animals combine the strengths of the various breeds used to form the cross.
The goal of a well-designed, systematic crossbreeding program is to simultaneously optimize these advantages of heterosis and breed complementarity.
Heterosis or hybrid vigor refers to the superiority in performance of the crossbred animal compared to the average of the straightbred parents. Improvements in production from heterosis may be captured by having both a crossbred calf and a crossbred cow. The advantage of the crossbred calf is twofold: an increase in calf livability coupled with an increase in growth rate.
Perhaps the most important advantage for crossbreeding is realized in the crossbred cow. Maternal heterosis results in improvements in cow fertility, calf livability, calf weaning weight and cow longevity. These improvements result in a significant advantage in pounds of calf weaned per cow exposed and superior lifetime production for crossbred females.
The other important advantage to crossbreeding is the ability to take advantage of the strengths of two or more breeds to produce offspring that have optimum levels of performance in several traits.
The design of any crossbreeding program should take advantage of both heterosis and breed complementarity.
An ideal crossbreeding program should 1) optimize, but not necessarily maximize, heterosis in both the calf crop and particularly the cow herd, 2) utilize breeds and genetics that fit the feed resources, management, and marketing system of the operation, and 3) be easy to apply and manage.
- R-CALF USA has announced the launch of “No Rancher Left Behind,” a rancher/farmer conversation and awareness campaign. The campaign is a collaboration between R-CALF USA and Coy Young, a Missouri cattle rancher who recently testified before Congress about the stresses he faces as a cow-calf producer during this time of chronically depressed cattle prices and high input costs.
"No Rancher Left Behind” is set to feature informational graphics on social media and a resource webpage with hotline numbers and links to other helpful information, but perhaps most notably, weekly support group style, virtual meetings for ranchers to gather and converse in a safe place.
Young came up with the idea for the campaign after struggling with his own market-related financial challenges and recently shared his story with the New York Times.
“If we can help each other when we’re hurting and in need, that's the greatest accomplishment that could ever come from this campaign and these meetings,” said Young. “I hope we come together to talk about the issues that farmers and ranchers are currently facing and can be there for one another because we are all going through the same types of things.”
Young shared that the CDC also reports that suicide among workers ages 16 to 64 has increased 34% and farmer suicides are 1.5 times higher than the national average. He also learned these numbers could be higher as some farm suicides could be ruled farm-related accidents.
All ranchers and farmers are welcome to attend the virtual meetings, which will be led by Young and held every Wednesday at 7 p.m. MDT on Zoom, beginning May 18. Contact NRLB@r-calfusa.com to get meeting details or learn more at www.r-calfusa.com. Struggling ranchers, farmers and their families and friends are encouraged to visit R-CALF USA’s “No Rancher Left Behind” resource page and R-CALF USA’s social media for more information on the meetings, various suicide hotline phone numbers and other areas for support.
- Arby’s has added a new menu item—something they have never had on the menu: Hamburgers.
For a limited time, Arby’s will offer the new “Wagyu Steakhouse Burger” for $5.99. The burger is set to be available for about a month from Monday through July 31. The burger comes with American cheese, shredded lettuce, pickles, red onion, tomato and burger sauce all between a brioche bun.
Arby’s new Wagyu Steakhouse Burger is made using a blend of your typical ground beef as well as Wagyu beef. Wagyu is known not only for its flavor but its rarity.
Wagyu beef is beef made specifically from one of four breeds of cow—Japanese Black, Japanese Polled, Japanese Brown and Japanese Shorthorn—all of which originated in Japan. The term “wagyu” literally means Japanese cow.
Arby’s says it has come out with the new items simply because of too many bad burgers in the world.
- In an effort to help beef cattle producers impacted by the Road 739 Fire, leadership of the Nebraska Cattlemen Disaster Relief Fund announced they have activated the disaster relief account and are now accepting monetary donations until May 31.
The Nebraska Cattlemen Disaster Relief Fund is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) charitable organization and donations made to the Disaster Relief Fund may be tax deductible — a receipt will be sent upon deposit of funds. Those donating should consult with their tax advisor for final determination.
Funds will only be distributed to producers who experienced property loss or damage in areas where a state of emergency was declared by the Nebraska governor. Further, money donated to the fund can only be used for the current Road 739 Fire and not for future disasters.
For those needing to apply for disaster relief, applications will be made available soon and an announcement will be made when the application period opens. Membership in Nebraska Cattlemen is not required for future applicants to receive relief.
Individuals who would like to donate either online or by mailing a check can visit www.nebraskacattlemen.org/disaster-relief-fund to learn more.
To learn more about other ways to help beef cattle producers recovering from the Road 739 Fire, please visit www.nebraskacattlemen.org/wildfire-resources/
- SDSU Extension and South Dakota Animal Industry Board veterinarians are encouraging South Dakota cattle producers to include the anthrax vaccine in their vaccination program when they turn out cattle to summer pastures this spring.
Anthrax is a disease of cattle and other ruminants that results in sudden death in affected animals. It is also a potential human pathogen. Anthrax is caused by bacteria that take an environmentally resistant, or spore, form in the soil. When the right conditions exist, these spores can be made available for cows to graze. Once eaten by cattle, the spores become activated and produce toxins within the body that cause rapid death.
“While the anthrax risk is well-documented in many parts of South Dakota, and anthrax vaccination of cattle is routine in those areas, it is not always possible to predict where cases may occur,” said Russ Daly, professor, SDSU Extension Veterinarian and State Public Health Veterinarian. “South Dakota producers are encouraged to use anthrax vaccine in their herds going to summer pastures. Cattle going onto pastures that may become heavily grazed, have experienced flooding or in areas where anthrax has been documented in the past, should especially be candidates for vaccine.”
One of the environmental factors that may aid in making the anthrax spores available to cattle is drought. When cattle graze pastures close to the ground, they are more likely to ingest or inhale spores in the soil. Other environmental factors that may increase cattle exposure to anthrax spores is pasture flooding, which washes up spores from lower soil levels, and recent excavation in cattle grazing areas.
Anthrax vaccine for cattle is widely available, inexpensive and very effective.
During the summer, producers should take time to check all cattle every day and promptly investigate any unexpected deaths on pasture, whether in cows, bulls, or calves. With anthrax, and many other diseases, treatments and preventive measures are available, and prompt action can help prevent excessive losses. Suspected cases should be reported immediately to local veterinarians or to the State Veterinarian Beth Thompson at 605-773-3321 or www.aib.sd.gov. Suspect carcasses should not be moved or disturbed until a diagnosis has been made.