Don't forget the South

I'd like to compliment you on your 2010 Cow-Calf Issue. The genetics articles are very well written and useful, and I have recommended all of our Brahman breeders read this publication. My concern is that your magazine is being sent to southern readers, even though I fully realize it's directed more to northern beef producers

I'd like to compliment you on your 2010 Cow-Calf Issue. The genetics articles are very well written and useful, and I have recommended all of our Brahman breeders read this publication.

My concern is that your magazine is being sent to southern readers, even though I fully realize it's directed more to northern beef producers. If your publication is going to be mailed south, then southern breeding programs should be included in your writings. I find nothing about what we call crossbreeding in the south. Here we think of crossbreeding as using a Brahman bull on the English breeds.

As I read the “Crossbreeding Arrives” article by Wes Ishmael, I kept thinking this is describing Brahman crosses very well, but Brahmans were never mentioned. Brahman blood in our southern cattle is vital to survival in our harsh climate.

We are certainly willing to acknowledge each breed has an area in which they do best. I just feel your magazine should also report on what is proven to be successful in the south. Check out our American Brahman Breeders Association (ABBA) website at
Billy Dan Lindley
President, ABBA

More than ethanol

Troy Marshall's March issue commentary, “The Ethanol Effect” (page 62), seems to give the ethanol industry far too much credit for single-handedly decimating the beef industry.

As executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board, I represent Nebraska corn producers but I've also earned my stripes at losing a few dollars in feeding cattle over the years. I learned in the 1970s from my father that if you're going to feed cattle you'd best either have deep pockets or not be faint of heart. Since that time, there's been plenty of money made and lost in cattle feeding, and it wasn't all due to corn/ethanol.

The crash of the subprime housing market, the drop in value of the dollar, and flight of investors to other commodities, along with weather scares, have all impacted corn, wheat and soybean prices. But, too often, those factors aren't mentioned. Corn at $7+ didn't do anyone much good, including the ethanol industry.

Marshall didn't mention packer concentration or ownership of cattle, or the fact that pork and poultry have increased overall supply, or a sliding economy that's weakened beef consumption. How about Australian competition post BSE? He references only a “post-ethanol-subsidized world,” a “cycle driven by ethanol,” and “the ethanol effect,” when there's more to the issue than ethanol.

U.S. corn growers recognize and appreciate our number-one customer — livestock feeders; it's an unbalanced argument to single out one component on which to blame the decrease in cowherd numbers. What makes U.S. beef taste so good is corn, and corn growers want nothing more than to see the cattle industry succeed. We need each other more than ever.

Today, we're growing more corn, on fewer acres, with fewer inputs, which hopefully will help to keep a healthy supply of corn for all value-added industries. I'd never have believed when I was farming in the 1970s that we'd one day produce 13-14 billion bu. of corn, but we have, and we've yet to realize the total value of the mapping of the corn genome, along with new biotech seeds and precision application techniques.
Don Hutchens
Executive Director
Nebraska Corn Board

Pew missed the issue

After reading the Pew Commission's March issue response (page 8) to DVM Mike Apley's column, “We still need you,” February BEEF (page 16), it is necessary to point to a serious flaw in the Pew Commission's report concerning antibiotic resistance and the use of antibiotics in food animals.

While attending a seminar on public health that involved medical professionals, there was a very revealing statement made about antibiotics. An infectious disease specialist physician openly stated his opinion that the largest reason for development of antibiotic resistance is that physicians prescribe antibiotics like they are jelly beans.

If one is to believe data from the pharmaceutical industry, according to their figures in 2008, there were 140 million prescriptions for antibiotics delivered in this country. Human nature being what it is, how many of those prescriptions were not taken as directed for the time length prescribed?

Following 9-11-2001 there seemed to be agreement in the medical community to retain ciprofloxacin for the specific use of possible anthrax exposure; it was reputed to be the very best antibiotic available at the time. In 2008 there were 21 million prescriptions for ciprofloxacin used. Why the change in attitude or were there that many life-threatening infectious conditions?

There has been an attempt to correlate the use of antibiotics in food animals with an increase of MRSA infections in people. Evidence shows that a percentage of people carry this organism either on their body or in their nasal passages. It is held in check until the body is weakened; then it may become active.

We have seen the transmission of MRSA infections between persons either in athletic events or at athletic facilities where skin contact commonly occurs. An interesting news report about one hospital that changed the type of gowns used and decreased the use of in-hospital antibiotics resulted in marked reduction of MRSA infections.

In all the discussion about antibiotic resistance there has been mention of how and why antibiotics are used in people. That has to be a significant part of the discussion. Is there overuse? Do we need better understanding about how and when to use them? Personal responsibility has to enter into this. Granted people are busy but either the physician or pharmacist is going to have to accept responsibility so that people understand what may occur if prescription directions are not followed.

The Pew Commission report is an attempt to answer a very complex issue with an easy-to-understand statement placing the blame for antibiotic resistance in only one specific area. The debate over antibiotic resistance will continue and legislators are going to rely upon incomplete information formulating rules and laws that will not be effective. It is unfortunate this Commission has chosen this route arriving at this answer while ignoring what may well be the most significant part of this total issue.
Don Cobb DVM
Casper, WY

Efficiency will feed us

I enjoyed the point-counterpoint regarding antibiotics in March BEEF (page 8). In its letter, the Pew Commission claims it took an unbiased approach to the issue, yet in the first three paragraphs they twice refer to “industrial farms.”

According to USDA, over 97% of beef producers are family farms, so what is an industrial farm? No, they don't mean a farm with a tractor; Pew used this phrase to try to influence the opinion of its audience. If the Pew Commission had used the phrase “family farms,” people would not have near the negative reaction that they would get from the term “industrial farms.” Thus, they betray their bias very quickly.

The Pew Commission letter also refers to “scientific consensus,” a handy phrase people like to use in lieu of actual scientific fact. They think that we will be intimidated into accepting ideas if they represent “scientific consensus.”

Conversely, I noticed DVM Mike Apley used facts and specific studies in his response.

The truth is that in the next 40 years someone is going to have to produce 100% more food to feed the world. Returning to the old model where 25-30% of the people worked to produce the food for the world won't cut it.

Yes, modern family farms are “industrial” if that means “efficient.” Modern farms also produce more and safer food, and with less environmental stress. It is only by being modern and efficient that the future will have a chance at the prosperity and stability that a secure food supply creates.
Tony McReynolds
Stockton, KS

Find more letters from fellow readers at the BEEF mailbag.

TAGS: Breeding