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Articles from 2004 In January

Animal Identification Plan Must Have Government Support

After three days of meetings and debate, NCBA members officially asked for government action to advance the plan. The USAIP was developed through two years of work by more than 70 agricultural organizations and agencies.

Ohio cattle producer Gary Wilson chaired back-to-back NCBA issue forums on animal identification (ID) and told cattlemen that the next steps in a national ID system cannot take place without government action and financial assistance.

"The record keeping and data management systems must be worked out and government and industry must work together to secure the funding to implement the plan," says Wilson who is adamant that a standardized national ID system must be developed. "If you don't want 50 different ID plans in this country, you should call your government officials and encourage them to support the USAIP."

A copy of the proposed plan and other information is posted on the U.S. Animal Identification website at


Live Satellite Town Hall Meeting Set For Wednesday Night

The 7:30-9 p.m. EST broadcast will originate from Phoenix and will be conducted in conjunction with the Cattle Industry Annual Convention and Trade Show that runs from Jan. 28-31.

The 90-minute meeting will air live on RFD-TV. Beef and cattle producers nationwide can call in questions and comments via a telephone number provided on screen. Florida producer and CBB chairman Andy Tucker, and CBB chief operating officer Monte Reese, will answer questions regarding checkoff-funded programs; while Manhattan, KS, producer and NCBA president-elect Jan Lyons, and NCBA chief operating officer Terry Stokes, will field questions on NCBA policy and membership issues.

McDonald's is sponsoring the NCBA portion of the broadcast, while checkoff dollars will pay for the CBB portion.

The live broadcast is viewable on RFD-TV via Dish Network Channel 9409; Direct TV Channel 379 -- Multi-Satellite System Required; MediaCom Cable Systems -- Check Local Listings; and NCTC Cable Providers -- Check Local Listings.

The taped program will be rebroadcast on RFD-TV on Jan. 29 at 7:30 a.m. EST, Jan. 31 at 4 p.m. EST, and Feb. 2 at 8 p.m. EST.

The Two Phases Of Preventing Calf Scours

Adverse environmental factors can also contribute to an outbreak. Cold, wet, muddy conditions are the most common culprits.

Preventing calf scours, which is the best course, is a two-phase operation, says Noble Foundation livestock specialist Clay Wright. The first phase involves the dam and the environment.

  • Develop and implement an overall herd-health program with your veterinarian and review it at least annually. The cow's own immune status directly affects the quality of her colostrum. If scours is a recurring herd problem, your veterinarian may recommend vaccinating dams against the most common scour-causing organisms prior to the calving season.

  • Good nutrition and adequate body condition help maintain the dam's immunity level and maximize colostrum quality. Shorting a pregnant cow nutritionally pre-calving increases her calf's chances of illness and death. Cows should be in a body condition score of 5 ½ to 6 and on a positive plane of nutrition at calving.

  • Minimize calving difficulty through adequate heifer development, and female and bull selection. Dystocia reduces vigor of both cow and calf and slows the time to a calf's first nursing.

  • Plan to calve in the driest, most protected area possible to reduce stress on the dam and newborn. Calves can withstand cold if they're dry and out of the wind. Larger calving areas are preferable as the disease is so highly contagious.

  • Consider moving pairs to a different pasture periodically as they calve during the calving season.

  • Calve heifers as a separate group. Their calves' immunity levels are generally lower than those of mature cows.

  • The second phase of prevention is at calving, when and if an outbreak occurs.

  • Pre-plan a course of action with your veterinarian and implement it immediately when the first case occurs.

  • Isolate affected calves immediately and do not expose healthy calves.

  • Your veterinarian may recommend stool sampling of sick calves to culture and identify the causative organism.

  • Dehydration is usually the most immediate concern with scours. Have your veterinarian outline a fluid therapy to be used, and keep all products and tools on hand well in advance of the calving season.
"You should be prepared for an outbreak every year, developing a program with your veterinarian that focuses on detection, isolation, diagnosis and treatment," Wright says.

BEEF ID Academy Is Coming This Spring

Already a front-burner topic, the electronic ID issue has received even more urgency in the aftermath of the discovery of BSE in a Washington dairy cow and USDA's decision to speed up the implementation of such a national program.

All the December issue information is available at in the "archives" section. The accompanying BEEF ID Survey, a detailed listing of companies, products and services, is available at

But if you're interested in hands-on, one-on-one training on the why, what and wherefore of EID and traceback, you'll like a new program BEEF magazine is initiating this spring called BEEF ID Academy.

A cooperative venture with Kansas State University(KSU), BEEF ID Academy is a two-day, intensive seminar planned at four times this spring and summer at the KSU ID Beef Facility located in Manhattan, KS. The workshops will teach attendees specifically about the issues surrounding automatic ID and the conversion of the captured data into usable information.

Upon completion of the courses set for June 2-3, June 14-15, July 19-20 and Aug. 2-3, participants will have learned the following:

  • The current issues surrounding individual animal ID.

  • The proposed standards for individual ID of animals.

  • The basic components of an RFID system.

  • How to select the optimum hardware.

  • The principles of Statistical Process Control and apply the learned concepts to commercial software programs.
Keep an eye out for more information in the coming weeks on BEEF ID Academy.

Meet the 2004 Environmental Stewardship Award Winners

Good stewards of the land enhance and preserve their environments by promoting wildlife habitats, protecting their water sources, and conserving land and energy. The 13th annual National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) Environmental Stewardship Award Program honors seven cattle operations striving to care for their environment.

A committee, made up of experts from universities, state and federal agencies and environmental organizations, selects winners from each of NCBA's seven regions. Dow AgroSciences sponsors the award.

An overall winner will be announced at the 2004 Cattle Industry Annual Convention and Trade Show in Phoenix, AZ, Jan. 27-31.

Region 1

Llangollen Farms
Middleburg, VA

Established in the late 1700s, parts of Llangollen Farms, Middleburg, VA, have been in production for more than 200 years. The farm is located at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, about 40 miles southwest of Washington, D.C. It was purchased 14 years ago at an estate auction by Roy Ash, who saved the farmground from housing developers bidding against him.

The farm's primary business is a cow-calf operation — both commercial and purebred Angus. Backgrounding/stocker and replacement heifer enterprises complement the main cow herd.

Farm manager John Wilkins created a conservation program to protect the land and water systems. He developed programs for manure management and stream and wetland protection, and created habitats for wildlife. He also preserves the soil through no-till planting practices and forage management.

Wilkins often speaks at local farming workshops and planter's groups. But, he says, neighborhood interaction, or “talking with other producers over the fence,” has the greatest impact on farming in his area.

Region 2

Carlton 2×4 Ranch
Arcadia, FL

Water management is the main focus for Barbara Carlton, owner, and Patrick Carlton, managing partner of Carlton 2×4 Ranch, Arcadia, FL. In sub-tropical climate, proper irrigation amounts and times are critical to the ecosystem.

The ranch is surrounded by Hardwood Creek swamps, cypress and pine stands, pasture and citrus groves where wildlife and natural habitats are maintained. All land is managed using Best Management Practices (BPM) and Integrated Resource Management (IRM).

The Carlton 2×4 Ranch runs a 1,000-head, commercial cow-calf herd and a small steer backgrounding lot. The ranch's 28,000 acres also contains 500 acres of timber and 875 acres of citrus for fresh fruit sales and juice-making.

The Carlton family has developed relationships with several agencies including National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), Florida Cattlemen's Association, Society for Range Management, Stewardship America and Nature Conservatory.

Region 3

M&M Cattle Co.
Carthage, MO

Relying on a strong rotational grazing program for their 900-head, cow-calf operation, Matt and Denice Matthews of M&M Cattle Co., have worked to improve the productivity and profitability of their farm.

The farm includes 1,700 owned and 2,500 rented acres. The rotational grazing program has supplied the cattle with increased forages while providing refuge to wildlife. Implementing the program required digging two wells, and adding more water lines and fencing.

Additional fencing keeps cattle away from ponds, timber, springs and creeks.

The Matthews, along with their five children; Niki, Crystal, Victoria, Stephanie and Chad, also background their cattle before sending them to feedyards in Kansas, where they continue to retain ownership.

Additional income comes from timber, hunting leases, feed production, and grass pasture and hay for cattle production.

Region 4

Canyon View Farms
Geary, OK

Central Oklahoma has a history of soil erosion problems. For 50 years, Frank and Shirley Austin of Canyon View Farms, Geary, OK, have worked to convert their land from farmland to grassland to maintain the soil.

The Austins own and rent 1,680 acres used to produce grass, hay and wheat. A rotational grazing system maintains their herd of 170 mother cows. No-till planting methods and controlling water runoff from their pasture with pipes and ponds helps prevent erosion.

The Austins set aside 200 acres for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). These are planted with native grasses and forbes and are home to several wildlife species.

The Austins say they believe in educating themselves and others on new methods of cattle management and taking care of the land.

Region 5

Frasier Farms Ranch
Woodrow/Limon, CO

Frasier Farms is located on two properties in Woodrow and Limon, CO, totaling 44,000 acres, and is managed through a partnership by Marshall Frasier, and his sons Joe, Mark and Chris. The 800-head cow herd is split into spring and fall calving groups.

The ranch is run as an intense grazing operation utilizing 190 paddocks. The native grasses — blue gramma and buffalo grass — are maintained through recycled nutrients and organic matter from the cattle into the soil.

Beneficial insects such as dung beetles and ants thrive in the intense grazing system.

Additional environmental improvements include planting 4,000 trees for shelter and wildlife habitats; and building 50 dams, 65 water points and 55 miles of water pipeline to help control erosion.

Region 6

Work Family Ranch
San Miguel, CA

Unique activities on Work Family Ranch, San Miguel, CA, include guided hunts, a Farmstay program, public trail rides and girls' horse camp. Elaine and George Work, also run 200 head of mother cows and 200 stockers on their family-owned ranch.

The ranch consists of 12,000 owned acres, with 9,000 acres for grazing on native and non-native perennial grasses, 1,000 acres for dryland farming, 1,000 acres enrolled in CRP and 1,000 acres rotated between pasture and crops. The cattle are managed on a year-round grazing system with no supplementation.

The Works are involved with several conservation agencies, which help fund ranch improvement projects such as installing ground level troughs that provide livestock and wildlife with water.

Other conservation projects include windmills to help distribute water, ongoing wildlife preservation and no-till planting. The Works manage their brush by pushing a herd of cattle over a field of out-of-control brush. The inventive method is called the “Brush Crush.”

Region 7

Barenthsen Red Angus Ranch
Powers Lake, ND

Maximizing the capabilities of their land is a continuing goal for Mark and Kathy Barenthsen of Barenthsen Red Angus Ranch, Powers Lake, ND.

The ranch totals 5,480 acres of owned and leased grass and cropland. The Barenthsens run 200 head of Red Angus cattle on 2,300 acres in a rotational grazing system. They also farm approximately 2,500 acres of small grains, including durum, barley, oats, flax and peas.

In 2000, the Barenthsens began working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop grass and wetland easements. They replaced old fences with 18,290 ft. of fence, combining two separate pastures into four, 160-to-200-acre cells. More than 30,000 ft. of shelterbelts were also created to provide erosion protection.

Why Europeans Think Like They Do

Take a train in just about any European country and you'll see a curious thing. As you travel through small and medium-sized towns in the hills of Belgium, on the Spanish plains or in the forests of Germany, you'll notice houses right next to farms. Often, the farmhouse actually is in town while the “farm” stretches out the back.

And that's exactly what makes European farming different than American farming.

Legislation that sounds ridiculous to Americans — like requiring veal farmers to provide straw for their calves to play with, or requiring pork producers to have a ball or rope in the pigpens to keep animals mentally stimulated — may seem like an outrageous expense thought up by the ultra-Green left. In a way, that's true, but because farming is in people's backyards, consumers are the ones dictating farming policies here.

In the U.S., where a farmer may have 10,000 acres and be 20 miles from town, consumers don't see the day-to-day happenings of the farm. Not that American farmers hide what they're doing, but consumers don't wake up every morning to the bellowing of dairy cows like they do in Europe.

Beyond that, food safety is an ever-growing factor for European consumers. They want to know exactly where their food comes from. Buy a piece of beef in the grocery store in just about any European country and you'll find a code.

That code tells which steer the beef comes from, who its parents were, who raised it and their location. That producer is required to keep records of every feeding, every vaccination, and practically every time that steer sneezed.

Why? Because that steer was raised in my neighbor's backyard.

Take a look in American grocery stores and you'll be lucky to see a butcher any more. Here in Brussels, the bustling capital city of the European Union (EU) — something like Europe's answer to Washington, D.C. — you'll find a butcher in every neighborhood, and probably a number of them, from Hallal to Kosher to your friendly Belgian butcher.

Fridays through Sundays, near one of the metro stops, a huge market is open that sounds something like the Tower of Babel. Inside a warehouse is a huge butcher shop with stands lined up in rows: beef, pork, chicken, pigeon, turkey, rabbit, the works.

The key here is fresh.

It's hard to find a shop in central Europe where meals are pre-made or pre-packaged, other than pizzas and potato chips. People cook here. Every meal is fresh, made from freshly-butchered meat (ask the butcher and he'll look up exactly where that piece came from), fresh vegetables from the corner market or the weekly bazaars, and fresh bread every day from the local bakery, whether you live in a city or a tiny village. If you're in a village, you're more likely to get fresh milk from your neighbor three doors down, or eggs from the widow at the corner.

There's an often-told story in the U.S. about a little girl who, when asked where milk comes from, replies, “the grocery store.” Her answer insinuates she doesn't know it came from a cow.

You won't find kids like that in Europe because they grew up seeing animals close to town. You won't see producers raising beef or pork using growth hormones because the mothers in town just won't have it. Call it idyllic or inefficient, but agriculture here is still part of daily life.

That is exactly why the “second pillar” of the new Common Agriculture Policy is such a favorite among bureaucrats. The second pillar funnels money from commodity subsidy programs to subsidizing the countryside through rural development. Keep the people on the farms and consumers will keep their connection to food. EU farmers may not like the idea of “subsidizing nature,” as it's been called, but European consumers eat it up.

I've heard it said that another reason Europeans are so finicky about their food is because food culture is still so entwined to national identity. A colleague explained this phenomenon like this: “It's just like with wine in France. You go to the winery and it's expensive, but they tell you about the local cheese that goes with it, about the history of the area. You can go to California, buy the same wine with the same taste, but there is no culture.”

Meghan Sapp is a freelance agricultural journalist from California who writes from her base in Brussels, Belgium.

Excel's non-irradiated, irradiated beef

In a setback for the beef industry in general, and the movement to promote the widespread use of irradiation on ground beef in particular, Excel announced in November, its recall of 26,600 lbs. of mislabeled ground beef. The product, produced by Excel on various dates from Sept. 2 to Nov. 20 and sold in 1-lb. packages into retail outlets in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, was labeled and marketed as “irradiated for food safety” but hadn't undergone irradiation.

There's no indication anyone was, or is, at risk because of the mislabeled product. But the term “irradiation” is regarded by purchasers of ground beef as a guarantee that the product they pick up at the grocery story is free of food-borne pathogens. Though the irradiation industry and process proponents continue to stress the importance of safe handling practices, including thorough cooking, some consumers, confident of the process's proven record of killing food-borne bacteria, have been known to undercook the product.

Mark Klein, Cargill director of public relations, attributed the recall to a “simple clerical error.” It was Excel that notified USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) about the oversight, and FSIS rated the recall as a Class II, which carries a low level of consumer health risk.

But the news delivers a blow to the industry that can be felt in several ways.

  • The beef industry has done much in the past few years to bolster its food safety image among consumers. In fact, the same week as the Excel recall, USDA Secretary Ann Veneman reported that, in random FSIS samplings, cases of salmonella in raw meat and poultry had dropped 66% over the past six years and 16% since last year. Just a few weeks before, USDA had announced similarly impressive declines in E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef, and listeria in ready-to-eat meat and poultry products.

  • The processing industry has made much about its hazard analysis critical control point (HACCP) system as a tool in ensuring beef is as wholesome as possible. The Excel oversight could fix in consumers' minds the question about just how much the food industry can be trusted to police itself.

  • The incident also could set back the irradiation movement for ground beef, which had been gaining steam, even with little to no help from the trade associations for beef producers, processors and retailers. Consumers who paid more for product they thought had an added assurance of safety against food-borne pathogens — only to find out it didn't — might be dissuaded from buying the product in the future.

The beef industry is currently working at a frantic pace on a lot of pre-harvest interventions to try to eliminate the incidence of food-borne pathogens in ground beef. In fact, a press conference held in Canada the week before the Excel recall trumpeted the effectiveness of a new E. coli O157:H7 vaccine for cattle that could be on the market in early 2004.

But the truth is that all the pre-harvest interventions developed thus far and those still on the drawing board don't add up to what the single step of irradiation can do in controlling food-borne pathogens. Plus, there's the added cost and labor, likely to be borne by producers, for these new regimes. Then, of course, there are the potential related risks to the industry of injection site lesions, more antibiotic use, etc.

Everyone loses with Excel's “simple clerical error,” but the biggest hit will be borne by the industry's greatest and most underused beef safety tool — irradiation.

It's my pleasure this month to introduce Stephanie Veldman as a BEEF magazine associate editor. Stephanie is a southern Minnesota native and an Iowa State University graduate with degrees in ag education and journalism. She joins BEEF after a two-year-stint as assistant editor with the Angus Journal and Angus Beef Bulletin in St. Joe, MO. Welcome, Stephanie.

Performance not affected

Feeding or grazing genetically modified (GM) corn doesn't affect animal performance. The University of Nebraska (NU) study, which involved Bt corn for rootworms and Roundup Ready corn, reinforced earlier findings of the feed value of GM crops by scientists at other land-grant universities, says NU animal scientist Galen Erickson.

NU animal scientists have evaluated performance of livestock fed or grazed on GM corn for the last three years to provide information on these new types of corn, Erickson says. It's pertinent because 60% of the U.S. corn supply is fed to livestock.

“It's important that if we change corn traits that we do not decrease the feeding value,” Erickson says. “Bt and Roundup Ready corn are very advantageous from an agronomic point, but we needed to research this to ensure that the feed value was not negatively impacted.”

In two finishing trials, 200 steers were fed rations containing either Roundup Ready corn or a conventional but genetically similar hybrid, and 200 crossbred yearling steers received Bt corn for rootworms or genetically similar conventional corn. Animal performance and carcass data for these trials showed no significant differences.

Erickson says producers sometimes report that cattle spend more time grazing conventional cornstalks than Bt cornstalks. However, Erickson says this apparent preference probably is because there's more corn left after harvest in conventional cornfields with insect damage.

Implants and beef quality

Lifetime implant protocols can affect both the eating quality and tenderness of beef. Thus, it's important to choose implant programs based on specific marketing targets for cattle.

Colorado State University researchers studied the effects of repetitive use of anabolic implants on beef carcass quality, tenderness and consumer ratings for palatability in crossbred steer calves. Steers from five ranches were randomly allocated to one of 10 different lifetime implant strategies or to a nonimplanted control group. Cattle were implanted at some or all of five phases of production (branding, weaning, backgrounding, feedlot entry or reimplant time).

  • Carcasses from the control group had higher marbling scores than carcasses in all other treatment groups.

  • Implanting steers at branding, weaning or backgrounding vs. not implanting steers at these production stages did not affect marbling scores.

  • Steers implanted twice during their lifetime produced carcasses with higher marbling scores than did steers receiving a total of four or five implants.

  • Steaks obtained from carcasses in the control group had lower Warner-Bratzler shear force values and were rated by consumers as more desirable for tenderness than steaks from carcasses in all other treatment groups.

  • Implanting steers at branding or weaning did not affect shear force values or percentage of consumers rating overall eating quality of steaks as satisfactory.

  • Implanting steers at backgrounding vs. not implanting steers at this production stage increased shear force values, but did not influence consumer ratings of overall eating quality of steaks as satisfactory.

  • Steaks from nonimplanted steers were rated as more desirable for overall eating quality than steaks from steers implanted two, three, four, or five times.

  • Use of implants increased average daily gain by 11.8-20.5% from weaning to harvest compared with nonimplanted controls.

  • Implant strategies increased hot carcass weights of steers by 8.9-13.8% compared with the control group.

  • Use of implants also increased longissimus muscle area and decreased estimated percentages of kidney/pelvic/heart fat, but did not affect dressing percentage or adjusted fat thickness.

The scientists say producers retaining ownership of steer calves destined for marketing on a “quality-oriented,” value-based grid, may choose not to implant cattle until backgrounding or feedlot entry to minimize the risk of detrimental effects on beef quality associated with “aggressive” lifetime implant strategies.

J. Anim. Sci., May, 2003. 81:984-996

Meanwhile… Texas research shows using a moderate implant program in Bos indicus-influenced cattle has no detrimental effects on beef tenderness and consumer acceptability.

Texas Tech University scientists in Lubbock addressed concerns that the use of implants, particularly those containing trenbolone acetate, may have detrimental effects on carcass quality and beef tenderness. The objectives of the study were to determine the effects of various commonly used implant regimens on Warner-Bratzler shear force values, sensory properties and consumer satisfaction of beef top loin steaks from cattle of Bos indicus influence.

Steaks sampled after 3, 7 and 14 days of aging indicated that unimplanted cattle had lower shear force values than those from implanted animals. No differences in shear force values were found between the two treatments or the control groups for steaks sampled following a 21-day aging period.

Steaks from implanted animals sampled after 3, 7 and 14 days of aging were rated lower for initial and sustained trained sensory panel tenderness scores. Consumers failed to detect any differences in steak samples related to implant treatment after 7 and 14 days of aging.

Consumer education level and family income did not affect overall acceptability or tenderness acceptability; however, consumers with postgraduate degrees recorded lower overall quality, beef flavor, juiciness and tenderness scores than consumers in all other education classifications. Additionally, family income had no effect on overall quality, beef flavor, juiciness or tenderness scores.

J. Anim. Sci., Dec. 2003. 81:3052-3056

To submit items for “Research Roundup,” e-mail [email protected] or send fax to 952/851-4601.