5 Trending headlines in the beef world 122541

Here’s a look at 5 headlines that will be on everyone’s mind this week.

Kristy Foster Seachrist, Digital editor

August 23, 2022

8 Min Read

There is good news for consumers on the buying end of beef but a big problem could be looming for beef producers in the nation’s corn fields. Check out these five stories that are in the news this week.

1. Steak, anyone? Prices for the best cuts of beef are falling

Inflation has been hitting people’s grocery-store receipts quite hard, but the price of beef is dropping, especially for higher-end cuts.

Compared with the same time a year ago, the four-week period ending Aug.7 saw retail beef prices drop 0.7 percent, according to The Wall Street Journal. During the prior four-week period, prices dropped a full 1 percent, the first monthly decline since June 2021.

The cost decrease is thanks in part to lower demand for some more expensive cuts, such as ribeye and New York strip. In response to that, many supermarkets are marking down prices for those more costly steaks.

“Promotional prices have come back to where they were two years ago,” one shopper in Scottsdale, Arizona, told the WSJ. “I always eat red meat. I’m happy.”

Over the past several months, as prices have increased across the board, some of the biggest jumps came in beef. That caused shoppers to switch to lower-cost proteins such as chicken or buy cheaper meat such as ground beef. In fact, despite overall beef prices dropping recently, the price of ground beef is still growing. Over the same four-week period ending August 7, ground-beef prices jumped about 7 percent compared with the same timeframe last year. (In contrast, the price of ribeye and beef loin fell nearly 10 percent.)

Related:Study finds pulsed light technology kills pathogens in food


2Drought blamed for dozens of cow poisoning deaths in Italy

The Piedmontese cattle on the farm in Sommariva del Bosco, near Turin in northwest Italy, died suddenly due to acute prussic acid poisoning on August 6, according to the local IZS animal welfare body.

This acid comes from dhurrin, which is naturally present in young sorghum plants, although not in the same high concentrations as those found in samples taken at the site.

"We suspect that the drought caused this very large quantity of dhurrin within the sorghum plants," said Stefano Giantin, a vet at the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale for northwest Italy, who is on the case.

Prussic acid poisoning in cattle is quick and brutal, with symptoms occurring 10-15 minutes after ingestion and death some 15-30 minutes later. It causes respiratory, nervous and muscular disorders.

3Woman celebrating 100th birthday still raises and sells cattle

Age is no factor for 100-year-old Ethel Diehl. She still prefers to work, raising and selling cattle.

Related:Farm Progress America, August 23, 2022

“I prefer working to just doing nothing, watching TV, you know, or reading books,” she told KWCH. “I want to do my work first and then I have my evenings for that.”

Diehl turned 100 on Aug. 4 but was treated to another birthday celebration this week while selling her cattle in Kansas.

Having lived on a dairy farm as a child, Diehl has been around livestock most of her life, and she’s been raising cattle for the better part of a century.

She said staying active helps her manage the farm, even after her husband’s death.

“Because I worked and got in and out of four-wheel-drive trucks and things like that, I had the muscular ability to continue,” she said. “Never spent a day where I didn’t work, unless I was ill.”

The working mentality is also what Diehl believes the younger generations should adopt to have long and prosperous lives.

 Cowboys on horseback, may have some competition when it comes to moving a cattle herd.

4With virtual fencing, ranchers can herd cows from a computer

From their home in southern Okanogan County, Mike and Joy Wilson inspected the dozens of black cow icons across their computer screen.It was a Thursday afternoon in July, and every several minutes they watched as the icons jumped a centimeter or two within bright yellow lines across a satellite map. Around the cows were water-tap icons and a scattering of long white lines indicating roads.

Joy Wilson noticed one cow had turned red.“We aren’t getting the messages we should be from that cow,” she said as she zoomed in on the animal known as cow 151. She moved her cursor to the edit button, and after a few clicks had turned the cow yellow, meaning it was back in “transmitting” mode.

No, this isn’t some type of strangely specific video game. For more than two months, the map has provided the couple with nearly real-time accounts of the location of their 275 cows across thousands of acres about 40 miles from their home. The mapping software allows them to make major fencing changes to their pastures by simply adjusting yellow lines on their computer screen.

The project on the Okanogan County property is the first of a series of virtual fences set to be erected over the next year across 12 ranches in Washington. A conservation organization, ranchers, local officials and a California-based company are teaming up to add these innovative, environmentally friendly and essentially invisible devices where barbed or hot wire fences have traditionally been.

“The most wildlife-friendly fence you can have is no fence at all,” said Jay Kehne, of Conservation Northwest, a nonprofit environmental organization that has been leading the way on some of the state’s inaugural projects. “But that doesn't allow ranchers to properly graze. … Virtual fence gives the ability to have no fence and be able to manage your animals in a grazing rotation.”

A company called Vence offers the only commercially available virtual fence product for livestock in the U.S., according to C.K. Wisniewski, the company’s rancher success manager. The product, which they launched last year, consists of 7-foot-high, often solar-powered towers, cattle collars and the map-based software Herd Manager. Once a rancher draws a virtual fence using the software and assigns it to a herd, those assignments are transmitted to the towers, which then send that information to each collar, explained Wisniewski. Depending on the topography, each tower can read collars across 10,000 to 30,000 acres.

Based on how the rancher has set their system, the collar will beep when a member of the herd gets within a certain distance of the boundary, and then typically beep and emit a very short, low-voltage shock if the animal gets even closer. The shock, according to Wisniewski, is 400 volts less than a hot wire fence. Some ranchers, she added, don’t actually use that function at all.

“I've seen ranchers that only have sound zones, because the cows have been trained so well that they will respond to sound and never have to get a shock,” she said.

Kehne said the decision for Conservation Northwest to help fund the project in Okanogan County, and push for more virtual fences across the state, came after a series of large fires in Washington in 2020.

Kehne had spoken with some of the ranchers who had been through these fires. “They said they never really wanted to rebuild any more fences. They would much rather go with this new technology called virtual fence,” recalled Kehne. “That's the first time I heard the term virtual fence.”

After doing some research, he said he quickly realized that this new technology could be “game changing.” Fences could be less vulnerable to fires and more easily manipulated by ranchers, while also more wildlife friendly.

Barbed wire fences and electric fences have been around for decades, serving as perimeter barriers, as well as internal barricades. In the western U.S. alone, there are more than 1 million kilometers or about 62,000 miles of fences (not including urban and suburban property fences).

But these fences can ensnare and kill wildlife, as well as block them from migrating from their summer to winter range or through calving and fawning areas, explained Kehne.

Being able to adjust fences with a few clicks on a computer can also make it easier for ranchers to keep cattle out of more sensitive areas, such as streams and breeding grounds, said Kehne. They can also put inclusionary virtual fences around areas that need to be grazed more heavily because they’re infested with invasive species, such as cheatgrass, or to create a firebreak.





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