www.beef-mag.com gets a makeover

Check out our redesign of BEEF magazine's Web site at www.beef-mag.com. The new look is designed for easier reading and quicker access. From this home page, you can subscribe to BEEF magazine and our weekly newsletter BEEF Cow-Calf Weekly, or link into our unique cow-calf research Web site www.beefcowcalf.com or our stocker information Web site www.beefstockerusa.org. The new look debuted in July.

Check out our redesign of BEEF magazine's Web site at www.beef-mag.com. The new look is designed for easier reading and quicker access. From this home page, you can subscribe to BEEF magazine and our weekly newsletter BEEF Cow-Calf Weekly, or link into our unique cow-calf research Web site — www.beefcowcalf.com — or our stocker information Web site — www.beefstockerusa.org.

The new look debuted in July. You'll still find our monthly issue content on the site, as well as story archives going back to 1997. The Web site's opening page also features a special section of economic and management information provided by BEEF magazine's monthly “Market Advisor” columnist, Harlan Hughes.

You can also gain quick access to all the major beef industry organizations and breeds, as well as all the top animal science departments in the U.S. and Canada. We'll be adding even more features to the site in the coming weeks so be sure to check back.

The American Council on Science and Health, a consortium of more than 350 physicians and scientists, recommended last month that local school boards and parents familiarize themselves with the safety benefits of the irradiated ground beef that will become available for serving through the federal school lunch program in January 2004.

Ruth Kava, ACSH director of nutrition, says: “Some groups urge consumers to avoid irradiated foods because of purely hypothetical concerns about the process. We think that consumers should embrace the process because of its proven ability to improve food safety.”

ACSH says irradiated meat is especially appropriate through the school lunch program because young children are among the groups most at risk to the most serious consequences of E. coli 0157:H7. Therefore, parents should be relieved to learn this technology will now be available for their children's protection, ACSH says.

For more info on food irradiation, see ACSH's recently updated booklet, “Irradiated Foods.” It can be downloaded from: www.acsh.org/publications/booklets/irradiated2003.html.

The Noble Foundation Grazing School is set for Oct. 6-9. The four-day, high-impact event in Ardmore, OK, offers grazing managers the opportunity to learn about a wide range of topics during hands-on field exercises and classroom presentations by Noble Foundation ag specialists.

Some of the subjects include plant identification, estimating forage yield, the pros and cons of rotational grazing, cattle behavior, prescribed burning and differences in native and introduced grass pastures. The $200 registration includes noon and evening meals, curriculum notebook and supplies, a grazing stick and a cap. For more info, call 580/223-5810.

When's the best time to test bulls for trichomoniasis? Bill Kvasnicka, DVM, one of the foremost authorities on this insidious protozoan (Trichomonas fetus) venereal disease that can sneak up on ranchers and devastate cattle herds, advocates testing after the breeding season.

The University of Nevada-Reno Extension veterinarian says to allow at least two weeks of sexual rest before testing. It's important to identify positive bulls in advance of the next breeding season in order to eliminate the carrier bulls as soon as possible and plan for purchase of replacements.

Testing also assists in determining the magnitude of the challenge in the cowherd and helps to predict the effect that challenge will have on subsequent pregnancy and calving rates.

If at all possible, hold the bulls on pasture to reduce the accumulation of dirt and manure in the prepuce, Kvasnicka recommends. This will cut down on pollution of the culture media and diminish the development of contaminating organisms that interferes with growth and identification of T. fetus.

Diagnostic labs are now reporting that a significant number of the “In Pouch” positive samples are identified as fecal contaminates. The California Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory has the capability of differentiating the fecal contaminate from the pathogenic T. fetus organism. This is especially important if one of the bulls is young or valuable. This is an option your veterinarian should consider. For more information on this test, contact Kvasnicka at 775/784-1377 or bkvasnicka@cabnr.unr.edu.

Reserve Dec. 9-11 on your calendar. That's if you're a cow-calf operator interested in one of the industry's top beef production educational events — the Range Beef Cow Symposium. Set for the Scottsbluff, NE, County Fair Grounds Events Center, the biennial meeting is sponsored by Extension beef cow specialists from Colorado, South Dakota, Wyoming and Nebraska. The meeting, this year's is the 18th, attracts hundreds of producers for an intense discussion of virtually every aspect of beef cow production. Look for more information in BEEF in the coming months.

The University of Missouri (MU) Grazing School set for Sept. 9-11 will feature the return of retired grazing gurus Jim Gerrish and Maurice Davis. Gerrish, the former MU research agronomist, and Davis, a retired range conservationist from USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service, will lead the program at the Forage Systems Research Center northwest of Brookfield.

The school teaches basics of management-intensive grazing systems, with training in soils, forage, nutrition, animal science and economics. The topics range from developing a management plan for a farm to building fences.

Participants will gain experience in setting up paddocks and building fence. They'll also have opportunities for individual farm planning in one-on-one consultation with instructors. Participants are encouraged to bring a map of their farm.

Couples are encouraged to attend. Registration is $250 for individuals, $375 for couples, and includes materials and meals. For more info, contact Joetta Roberts at mfgc@mchsi.com or 573/499-0886.

McDonald's Corp. has established a global policy on antibiotic use. The Illinois-headquartered firm says it will call for its suppliers worldwide to phase out by the end of 2004 use of animal growth promotion antibiotics that are used in human medicine. McDonald's “Global Policy on Antibiotics Use in Food Animals” creates a set of standards for McDonald's suppliers to take similar steps to eliminate growth-promoting antibiotics and to reduce other antibiotic usage.

McDonald's says it's committed to social responsibility and takes seriously its obligation to understand the emerging science of antibiotic resistance and foster real, tangible changes in its chicken, beef and pork supply communities.

In July 2002, McDonald's joined forces with a coalition that includes physicians, animal welfare scientists, veterinarians, retail representatives and environmental experts to develop its antibiotics policy for direct and indirect meat suppliers.

“Direct” suppliers are those businesses that directly control the stages of animal production where antibiotic use decisions are made. The majority of McDonald's worldwide poultry supply falls into this category. Direct suppliers must certify annual compliance with the policy, including the sustainable use guiding principles and the elimination of growth promotion uses of antibiotics approved for use in human medicine, and must maintain records of antibiotics use that are available for company audits and review. Tyson Foods is a direct supplier of poultry to McDonald's.

McDonald's policy also will be encouraged for indirect suppliers, which includes most beef and pork suppliers. For indirect suppliers, McDonald's policy offers “incentives for compliance” with the policy and other actions that may reduce the potential for antibiotic resistance. Indirect suppliers seeking consideration as a preferred supplier in regards to the policy must also certify compliance and maintain records of their antibiotic use. For example, some of Cargill's products fall within the indirect category.

McDonald's Europe began phasing out growth promoting antibiotics in 2000. At the end of 2001, all European-based suppliers for poultry had eliminated growth promoting antibiotics for use in chicken feed. In 2001, McDonald's USA decided to discontinue all uses of the antibiotic class of fluoroquinolones with its poultry supply.

“We feel our partnership and collaboration with McDonald's represents a key milestone for the sustainable use of antibiotics in food animals, which are vital to ensure healthy animals and thus a safe food supply,” says Dennis Erpelding, corporate affairs manager for Elanco Animal Health. “As a provider of animal health products to McDonald's suppliers, we encourage the judicious use of antibiotics, advocate a science based approach for evaluating sustainability and remain committed to educating and working with all key food chain stakeholders.”

Gary Weber, executive director of regulatory affairs for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) says antibiotics approved by the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine for use in animals have been subjected to rigorous testing to assure efficacy. This means that based on current science they pose no threat to animal or human health.

Weber adds that antibiotic growth promoters are of little benefit in raising cattle and the NCBA's guidelines for judicious use of antimicrobials specifically state that antibiotics should not be used if the intent is to simply enhance growth.

“NCBA's concern about the new McDonald's policy is that it's inconsistent with existing science-based FDA rules that assure safe food for consumers and provide regulatory structure for the business environment,” explains Weber. “These rules are the result of an open, transparent science-based process — a process essential to maintaining a healthy business climate for both McDonald's and the beef industry.”

Prohibiting the use of FDA-approved products in the absence of a science and risk based analysis, he says, can have unintended negative consequences for animal health and well-being, and for human health.

For the full text of McDonald's policy, visit: www.mcdonalds.com/corporate/social/

The American Forage And Grassland Council (AFGC) goes electronic. The AFGC is now offering a new monthly electronic forage publication called Forage Progress. This publication features articles of interest to forage producers from the recent AFGC Conference proceedings. Contact dtucker@io.com or AFGC at 800/944-2342 to receive a complimentary trial issue.

A new tall fescue cultivar could double cattle weight gains. In fact, in a typical year, ArkPlus could conservatively put 200 lbs. more bodyweight on a steer than a toxic-endophyte fescue, says University of Missouri (MU) Extension forage specialist Craig Roberts.

The range of adaptation for ArkPlus, a novel-endophyte tall fescue developed by University of Arkansas (UA) researchers using germplasm obtained from MU, would be the same as for Kentucky 31 fescue, Roberts says.

“But the ‘sweet spot’ would be the latitude of Missouri, running east toward the Atlantic states,” he adds. And the extended region of adaptation would include southern Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, etc., as well as Arkansas and the northern portions of Mississippi, etc. Seed will be available for planting this fall at an expected cost of about $2/lb, he says.

Conventional tall fescue cultivars contain a fungus, or endophyte, that carries a compound boosting the plant's resistance to disease and other stresses. But the endophyte is toxic to cattle and will cut beef gains by half if producers don't offset it with supplemental feed and other inputs, Roberts says.

Endophyte-free tall fescue, released in the mid-1980s, improved cattle weight gains but lacks the hardiness of Kentucky-31, the standard endophyte-infected tall fescue, Roberts explains.

ArkPlus is the latest line of tall fescue to contain “novel endophytes,” he says. The problem isn't the endophyte itself but the toxin in the endophyte.

“What goes into the ArkPlus cultivar is a fungus that doesn't produce these toxins, and that allows cattle to put on more weight,” he says.

The first such cultivar was released in Georgia, which provided the germplasm. The endophyte came from New Zealand. No genetic alteration is involved in the process.

“These introduced endophytes are naturally occurring, but they're very rare. There have been expeditions to the remotest parts of the Earth to find these endophytes,” Roberts says.

The endophyte in ArkPlus was found in the Mediterranean area by UA scientist Chuck West. He then chose a new tall fescue line developed by MU agronomy professor David Sleper and infected it with the non-toxic endophyte.

AU and MU researchers field-tested the ArkPlus cultivar for three years under grazing conditions and found it afforded the same stress resistance as Kentucky-31. It had about 90% the stand density of Kentucky-31.

“That allows you to keep clover and other legumes in it. They're high in protein and they fix nitrogen, so they just improve the pasture all the way around,” Roberts says.

For more on ArkPlus, contact Chuck West at cwest@uark.edu or Craig Roberts at 573/882-2801 or robertscr@missouri.edu