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Articles from 2016 In January


We won’t solve our market woes in San Diego, but we aren’t shying away from them, either

We won’t solve our market woes in San Diego, but we aren’t shying away from them, either

I’m riding a cramped window seat on my way to the Cattle Industry Convention in San Diego as I write this. Usually you see some cowboy hats in the airport when you travel, but they are pretty rare. One of the things I love about going to the convention is that cowboy hats and boots are the norm for a few days, even in the heart of a big city. 

As always, thousands of cow-calf producers and a fairly large contingent of feeders and stocker operators will converge on a major U.S. city with the goal of bettering our industry, taking our message forward and ensuring that the business environment for our industry is protected and advanced. With that said, I can pretty well assure you that I will learn quite a few things, that the educational programs will be excellent, that the industry’s largest trade show will be informative, that the thousands of producers working on various committees will have done and continue to do great work on our behalf, and that the biggest value will be the conversations in the hallway and the opportunity to see old friends and learn from them. 

Many producers utilize the Cattle Industry Convention not only to serve the industry they love, but also as a mini vacation. Of course, all of these things go on the benefit list, but I can also tell you that we will dine out, spend a copious amount of money and go away wondering how people afford to enjoy our product. 

And that sets up one of the biggest issues we’ll tackle in San Diego this week. Last year, the market was a prime example of irrational exuberance; this year it has created significant frustration as fear, volatility and uncertainty are the three key words. 

As is always the case in a down market, producers are concerned and are looking for solutions, or at least the crux of the problem. In that regard, it seems that high-frequency trading is the area we’ve landed on. Volatility is extreme, using futures to truly manage risk has become increasingly difficult for small to mid-size producers and the futures market seems at times to be dictating to the cash market rather than being reflective of market fundamentals. 

The cow-calf industry remains the segment to be in, and the cattle feeding segment has experienced historical losses, and yet all segments have unanswered questions and legitimate concerns. NCBA has been pushing CME and it appears we will receive the data to finally take a look at high-frequency trading. 

It is a game that most of us do not understand, or at least I don’t. Essentially it seems there are two elements. The first is those people who use sophisticated mathematical formulas and computer software to gain an advantage over the market. They get and analyze information milliseconds prior to the market in general and seek to take advantage of that by making thousands of trades in extremely short intervals. The economists will likely tell us that these thousands of trades do little to alter the actual price levels the market achieves in the long term, but will alter the market to some degree on a minute-by-minute basis. 

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The upside is that it increases volume, which gives the market depth and gives people the ability to enter or exit the market as desired. The downside is that it increases volatility and risk. For a speculator, volatility is opportunity; for a person managing risk, it can be problematic. As has always been the case, the industry justifiably loves and hates speculators at the same time. We just tend to like them more when the market is trending up, and dislike them more when it is going down. 

The second portion of high-frequency trading is more sinister. It is called “spoofing;” that is when traders put in buy or sell orders and remove them quickly in an effort to fool the market into moving up and down and allowing these traders to benefit from those moves. The data will give us a chance to see if this is occurring in the cattle markets. This can be corrected, but the general feeling is that this has not been a significant concern nor is it likely to be. 

There is broad consensus that the cattle market is broken, but little agreement on what caused it to break and even less on what will fix it. In the end, it is still a pretty sound marketplace with market prices reflecting overall market fundamentals in the long term and, like all markets, one that is dictated in the short term by market psychology.

If one believes high-frequency trading is a problem, and that depends on whether you value market volume and liquidity or market stability and reduced volatility more, then we can push to institute a solution that some markets have adopted; they essentially put a lag in the market to level the playing field and remove the incentive. Amazingly, these lags are short -- only a second or so. However, I still find it hard to believe that traders are measuring advantages in milliseconds.  

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NCBA is in a tough spot as cattle producers gather in San Diego to tackle the market woes recently plaguing the business. The association will get the studies and economic analysis accomplished to see if there is something distorting the markets and it will likely be the force behind driving small and incremental changes to improve the functioning of the marketplace. 

Yet, if history is a guide, the economists will tell us that it isn’t the marketplace that we should be angry with just because we don’t like the results. But that won’t stop NCBA’s opponents, who already have started to claim that NCBA, which represents tens of thousands of cow-calf producers, somehow convinces its members to vote against their own best interests.

We won’t solve all of the industry’s problems in San Diego this week, but we will take positive steps in the right direction, and that is why the cattle industry continues to have so many producers work tirelessly at the local, state and national levels. 

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Meat Market Update | Seasonal boxed beef decline continues

Ed Czerwien, USDA Market News reporter in Amarillo, TX, provides us with the latest outlook on boxed beef prices and the weekly cattle trade.

The daily spot Choice box beef cutout ended the week last Friday at$ 224.83, which was $7.64 lower compared to previous week. However, this decline that began on mid-month was a normal seasonal change that usually runs until late in February. The spring rally normally kicks in around March at the beginning of the grilling season.

The Comprehensive or Weekly Average Choice Cutout which includes all types of sales including the daily spot cutout was $224.78, $1.48 higher and within 5 cents of the Daily Spot Cutout close on Friday. 

Find more cattle price news here or bookmark our commodity price page for the minute-by-minute updates.

Cattle producers under the microscope; good antibiotic stewardship is a must

Cattle producers under the microscope; good antibiotic stewardship is a must

A cattle operation’s goal of good antibiotic stewardship is to minimize negative consequences of their usage, but there’s no cookie cutter model to fit every cow-calf, stocker or feeding operation, said Brian Lubbers, Kansas State University microbiologist.

Lubbers was one of many instructors at the annual Cattlemen’s College presented Wednesday, Jan. 27, during the Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show in San Diego, Calif. Animal health was a key part of the learning sessions and pressure against some of the beef industry’s usage of antibiotics brought the subject to the forefront.

 The use of antibiotics in cattle involves pre-treatment to keep animals from getting sick, Lubbers said, and continues with identifying the root cause of antibiotic need for treatment and post-treatment.        

“Use antibiotics that are proven for treating and controlling the disease in the manner for which they are approved,” he added. “Then, evaluate the effectiveness of the antibiotics used.”

A licensed veterinarian should be involved in determining if an antibiotic program is needed for a particular operation. “The Food and Drug Administration and (animal health product) manufacturers have given us some good products that work, but not in every cattle system,” Lubbers said.

He said the goal of minimizing negative consequences of antibiotics usage involves namely preventing the possibility of resistance and residue and sometimes overbearing regulations of their usage.

“The more an antibiotic is used, the more the chance for resistance. When bacteria becomes resistant, it is more difficult to treat,” Lubbers said, adding that antibiotic residue can be minimized and eliminated by strong quality control. “As an industry, we should promote the Beef Quality Assurance program.”

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A good quality control program should include proper animal ID, good treatment records, established written protocols, trained employees, the following of label instructions and avoiding extra-label drug use. “Extra-label drug use can cause residue,” Lubbers said. “It has to be under the direction of a veterinarian. And remember that the use of extra-label feed grade drugs is illegal.”

He said to expect more pressure on the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture. There will be more scrutiny when the new Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) becomes a requirement after this year. “It will put a magnifying glass on the use of antibiotics,” Lubbers said.

“The VFD is a written, nonverbal statement issued by a licensed vet in the course of the vet’s professional practice that authorizes the use of a VFD drug or combination VFD in or on animal feed,” he said.

He encouraged producers and feeders to communicate closely with their feed distributor and vet to determine the logistics of how the VFD will impact their operation.

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10 ways agriculture is using technology, GMOs to safely feed a growing planet

 Robert Fraley
<p>&quot;It&rsquo;s not about us; it&rsquo;s about our kids and grandkids when it comes to food security around the world,&quot; says Robert Fraley, Monsanto executive vice president and chief technology officer, during the opening session of the 23rd Annual Cattlemen&#39;s College.</p>

Is it possible to feeding a world population that’s projected to exceed 10 billion people by 2050? The challenges food producers face to meet this increasing demand are numerous, says Dr. Robert Fraley, Monsanto executive vice president and chief technology officer.

With less land, less water and growing concerns about global warming, Fraley says it will take collaboration to sustainably intensifying agriculture on arable land, take pressure off of marginal land and reduce food waste to accomplish the task of feeding a growing planet.

Robert Fraley, Monsanto

Speaking at the 23rd Annual Cattlemen’s College, sponsored by Zoetis and held in conjunction with the 2016 Cattle Industry Convention and Trade Show in San Diego, Calif., Fraley shares these 10 important points about feeding the world and GMOs:

  1. By 2050, the world population will exceed 10 billion people, and these folks are going to need to eat. “It’s not about us; it’s about our kids and grandkids when it comes to food security around the world,” says Fraley.
     
  2. “In order to meet increased demand for U.S. beef, we will need the production capacity (of corn) of another Illinois,” he says. “In 2015, we produced 2.0 billion bushels of corn, but by 2050, we’ll need 2.8 billion bushels of corn to raise enough beef to meet the growing demand.”
     
  3. What are some of the greatest advancements in food technology? Fraley says the biggest achievement is how dramatically breeding has improved. Agriculture can now improve plants and animals gene-by-gene.
     
  4. “Today there are 30 countries around the world raising GMO crops, which has helped raise yields by reducing weed and insect pressure,” he says. “We’ve probably grown 4.4 billion acres of GMO crops since 1996. What’s more, GMO crops are grown on one-quarter of the world’s farm land.”
     
  5. “GMOs are the most thoroughly studied food products ever,” Fraley says. Despite the public outcry of the dangers of GMOs, “they offer huge benefits with improved yields, reducing the needs for pesticides and insecticides. And it’s important to note that there hasn’t been a single incident of a food safety issue from GMOs.”
     
  6. For folks who think GMOS aren’t natural, think about this: “The human genome has been carefully studied by scientists, and all people contain between 100-200 genes from other species,” says Fraley. “It turns out that GMOs are pretty natural.”
     
  7. Did you know that there are 50 billion microbes in 1 tablespoon of soil? “A soil fungus or bacterium grows on the roots and makes nutrients such as phosphate or nitrogen available for plant use,” explains Fraley. “Yield increases are possible due to superior nutrient uptakes in the plant’s early-life stage.”
     
  8. “Everything we eat today was adapted and modified from foods around the world to grow in the U.S.,” adds Fraley.
     
  9. “We need to work to bridge the gap between science and society,” he says. “About 37% of the public thinks GMOs are safe, but almost 97% of AAAS scientists believe GMOs are safe. Meanwhile, 28% of consumers believe its safe to eat foods grown with pesticides, while 68% of AAAS scientists believe they are safe.”
     
  10. “In everything Monsanto has been focused on, we just haven’t taken the time to reach out to our consumers,” Fraley concludes. “We need to listen. We need to engage. We need to communicate in the way the public wants to get the information.”

For more information on this topic or to join the discussion on GMOs, follow @RobbFraley on Twitter. Learn more about how Monsanto is reducing the footprint of global ag production through better harvests; protecting the footprint of global ag from increasing threats; and delivering continuous improvements to global ag production here.

 

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The global beef market is changing. Are you ready?

BEEF39s Wes Ishmael left interviews Rabobank analysts Don Close center and Matt Costello about the global beef trade Close is a US analyst and Costello hails from Australia
<p>BEEF&#39;s Wes Ishmael (left) interviews Rabobank analysts Don Close (center) and Matt Costello about the global beef trade. Close is a U.S. analyst and Costello hails from Australia.</p>

“I think our pathway to growth is to be a larger player in the export market. If we do not grow this thing with exports, we’re looking at a smaller pie.”

That’s how Don Close, protein analyst with Rabobank, summarizes the global world that U.S. beef producers find themselves in. It’s a changing world, he says, both here in the U.S. and in other beef-producing countries, and those changes will increasingly affect U.S. producers.

That’s because beef production patterns are changing around the world and new dynamics in trade and global consumer preferences are coming into play. Take, for instance, the long-standing trade relationships the U.S. has had with its traditional trading partner in beef, Australia.

According to Rabobank analyst Matt Costello, based in Australia, the drought-driven liquidation that Aussie producers have endured is coming to an end. This year, Australia will have 300,000 less tons of beef on the export market. “Next year, in 2017, it’s probably going to be half a million tons less that what we’ve been exporting in the peak slaughter years.”

That will change the dynamics in the world beef market, particularly as it affect U.S. producers. Australia has bilateral trade agreements with several countries. “If the liquidation in Australia stops, they have all these other commitments and a short supply,” Close says. “Will they have as much product to ship to the states as they’ve had historically?”

The answer, of course, is no. And that sets up a potential shortage of lean grinding beef that fast-food restaurants need to feed the hamburger fix of American consumers. While those imports concern cattle producers, because that has a direct impact on cull cow and bull prices, Close say the current situation with U.S. cattle numbers means we don’t have anywhere close to the volume of lean grinding beef to support the volume of hamburger that fast-food restaurants need.

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So where will that product come from? “Every expectation is Brazil and Argentina will open to fresh and frozen product to the U.S.,” Close says.

However, that has more implications than just the hamburger market. Both Brazil and Argentina are ramping up feed-grain production and will, over time, need to find a market for that increased production. Just like the U.S. in the 60s and 70s, they may well decide one good use is to feed it to cattle. That won’t happen very fast, he says, but given that Brazil has around 200 million cattle and is a major player in the world beef market, a change in the type of beef product they produce will have ramifications for the U.S.

But that’s just one side of the import-export equation. The other side is the kind and amount of beef that the U.S. exports. And that’s where Close sees the greatest potential for U.S. producers. But if the U.S. is to increase its global beef presence, it may be that U.S. producers will have to look differently at how they produce beef.

In a report titled “Agfocus: Global Beef Production Becoming More Competitive and More Complex—How Should the U.S. Industry Respond,” Close and Costello pose three points for discussion. “We feel a focus on enhancing U.S. export opportunities, producing beef that meets emerging consumer preferences and implementing programs such as a voluntary, industry-driven cattle and beef traceability program are important steps to strengthen the U.S. position in the market,” Close says.

Consider consumer preferences. “Just like consumers here, consumers globally are continuing to ask the question, ‘Where does my food come from?’ I think we’re deep enough into that issue now that we can pretty quickly come to a consensus that request is not going to go away.”

Does that mean a change in how we produce beef for the export market? Perhaps. Close points out that Australia was able to negotiate a bilateral trade agreement with China because they have a viable traceability system and were willing to meet China’s demand for NHTC cattle. “If that’s a cost of entry, then let’s at least give it some discussion,” Close says.

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How will the 2016 elections impact the cattle industry?

How will the 2016 elections impact the cattle industry?

If you’re already fed up with the constant barrage of television commercials, mailers, and mudslinging surrounding the 2016 elections, you’re probably not alone. However, the results of the 2016 elections could greatly impact your business and the cattle industry as a whole.

During the 23rd Annual Cattlemen’s College, sponsored by Zoetis and held in conjunction with the 2016 Cattle Industry Convention and Trade Show in San Diego, Calif., Colin Woodall, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) senior vice president of government affairs, shares his thoughts on the upcoming elections and how each candidate might change the way beef producers conduct their business.

“First of all, mark your calendar for Nov. 8, 2016,” says Woodall. “We will not only be voting in one new president, but also 34 senators and 435 representatives. Are you registered to vote? Put this date on your calendar because it will be extremely important you voice your opinion in this election. Voters just aren’t showing up. Ultimately, we need more people taking elections seriously and showing up to vote.”

Woodall was careful not to endorse any presidential candidate, but he said there are several key issues the beef industry needs to keep an eye on and determine which candidate sides with cattlemen. These issues include:

1. Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

“In 2015, we worked to keep beef in the Dietary Guidelines and to repeal COOL,” said Woodall. “Now we are fighting for the TPP, so we can get a premium for beef items like beef livers, tripe, heart, and tongue.

Colin Woodall, NCBA

While tongue isn’t exactly what’s for dinner in the U.S. Japanese consumers will pay for these beef items. In 2015, we did $1.6 billion worth of trade with Japan; however, we did that with a 38.5% tariff on those sales. Meanwhile, Australia has a 10% advantage on our high tariff, but we know if we can get the tariffs to the same level, we can compete with Australia any day of the week.”

READ: How the Trans-Pacific Partnership will benefit U.S. beef

2. Waters of the United States (WOTUS)

Woodall says many producers don’t realize that WOTUS is already in place, but the only thing keeping the EPA from knocking on ranchers’ doors is the current legal stay on the regulation.

“Obama has vetoed the WOTUS resolution, which halts the regulation, and we are making Obama own that decision,” says Woodall. “The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently ruled that the EPA has violated the law in lobbying for the WOTUS rule.

READ: President Obama shuts down WOTUS resolution

According to a 26-page report submitted by GAO, they "conclude that EPA violated the described provisions through its use of social media in association with its rulemaking efforts to define WOTUS under the Clean Water Act (CWA) during FYs 2014 and 2015.”

Meanwhile several lawsuits across the country are in play to make a rule about the legality of WOTUS. NCBA has filed in Galveston, Texas, says Woodall, where they hope a judge will be favorable in his ruling.

READ: Circuit court hands landowners major victory on WOTUS

“If our next elected president doesn’t like WOTUS, then WOTUS can just go away,” said Woodall. The objective now is to discover which candidates will side with ranchers on the WOTUS rule.

3. Endangered Species Act

Last year, ranchers dealt with the issue of whether or not the sage grouse would be listed as an endangered species. With a great deal of controversy surrounding the issue, it was decided that the iconic bird would not be listed as an endangered species; however, the Obama Administration still chose to force through their land use plans. This decision impacted 11 western states where the greater sage grouse resides.

Acts like this from government agencies can impact producers’ grazing rights, says Woodall, and could continue to be a point of contention in the future.

READ: Sage grouse, Western ranchers dodge the ESA, sort of

4. Animal health and production practices

“There’s always an attack from animal welfare and environmental groups on how we produce beef,” says Woodall. “Depending on who is in Congress will determine how big of a fight we will have on our hands.”

Woodall says the Democrats have a good chance of gaining control in the Senate, which could lead to more gridlock in Congress. There are several states up for grabs in the upcoming election including Nevada, Florida, New Hampshire and Wisconsin.

BEEF asked readers who they think should lead the nation.

A recent BEEF poll asked readers, “Who is your pick amongst the Republican hopefuls for president?” With 303 votes so far, 34% choose Donald Trump; 30% say Ted Cruz; 14% prefer Marco Rubio; 7% like Ben Carson; and the remaining 15% say “none of these.”

Vote for your favorite Republican candidate here.

Meanwhile, a new poll at BEEF asks readers which candiate they would choose as the Democratic nominee. While the Republican hopefuls are in a four-way race, there are only two leading choices on the Democratic ticket—Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. If you had to vote for one of the two, who would be your pick?

Vote for your favorite Democratic candidate here. 

As with any election, it will be up to producers to go home and do their homework on which candidates best serve their interests in 2016 and beyond, and of course, showing up to voice your opinion with your vote is the ultimate way to impact who will be in the driver’s seat in Washington, D.C. for the next term.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.

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Does confinement feeding cows pencil out as an alternative production method?

Does confinement feeding cows pencil out as an alternative production method?

Recent high corn prices have resulted in a decline in pastures used to grow forages for beef cattle, says Rick Rasby, University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) professor of animal science.

Speaking during the 23rd Annual Cattlemen’s College, sponsored by Zoetis and held in conjunction with the 2016 Cattle Industry Convention and Trade Show in San Diego, Calif., Rasby says that combined with the growing interest in expansion has forced a discussion about alternative production systems. One of the systems being explored is confinement, or drylot, feeding. 

However, because it’s not a traditional practice in cow-calf operations, there are still many questions about the economics and production requirements of drylotting.

Rick Rasby, UNL

“We are at a place where cow-calf producers either want to expand or get started, but there is a low supply of pasture available,” says Rasby. “In recent years, 1.3 million acres of pasture have been converted in Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota for crops, so it’s no wonder producers are having trouble finding pastures to graze their herds on. Every blade of grass is accounted for, so the question is, can we utilize corn stalks and other forage residues to economically feed our cows?”

When considering alternative feeding methods, it’s important to compare feeds on a price per nutrient basis, not just a price per ton basis, recommends Rasby. Producers can calculate the value of a nutrient in a feed if moisture contents are different. 

For example, if silage is priced at $38/ton with 70% total digestible nutrition (TDN) and 35% dry matter (DM) vs. corn priced at $136/ton ($3.80/bu.) at 90% TDN and 85% DM, Rasby calculates the cost per pound of energy (TDN) as this:

Silage: 

  • 700 lbs. of dry matter X 0.70 =
  • $38/ton divided by ((2,000 lb. X .35) X .70) = 490 lb. of TDN
  • $38/ton divided by 490 lb. of TDN = $.078/lb. of TDN

Corn:

  • 1,700 lb. of dry matter X 0.90 =
  • $136/ton divided by ((2,000 lb. X .85) X .90= 1,530 lb. of TDN
  • $136/ton divided by 1,530 lb. of TDN = $.089/lb of TDN

It’s important to note, these figures don’t calculate the price per unit of nutrient of 100% DM. The calculations also don’t consider labor to deliver the feed or shrink and food processing (example: grinding). 

Producers can calculate feed costs at UNL’s online Ag Manager’s Toolbox.

To better understand the economics of an alternative cow-calf enterprise, it’s critical to evaluate the costs of various forages including pasture grass, cornstalk grazing, distillers grains, hay, baled forage residues, labor and yardage, minerals and total cow cost. In this example, Raspy evaluated the base prices for economic analysis in 2015:

  • Grass: $52/mo./pair = $1.73/day
  • Cornstalk grazing: $.50/day (based on 86% of corn at $3.40/bu.)
  • Distillers grains: $110/+ @ 90% DM = $.055/lb.
  • Hay: $60/+ @ 90% DM = $.030/lb. 
  • Baled residue: $62/+ @ 90% DM = $.031/lb. (baled residue includes straw or corn stalks and $12/+ grinding fee)
  • Labor/yardage: $.10/day (in a conventional system; $.20 for cows supplemented on pasture, and $.45/day for cows in a feedlot)

Total confinement is pretty expensive, but rations need to be limit-fed to be economical,” Rasby said. “However, some combinations of drylotting and grazing may be more economical.”

In a nutshell, Rasby says this system would work well for late summer/fall calving programs. He suggests sorting off younger, thinner cows in a separate pen and limit-feeding the cows when in the drylot. Without a doubt, corn residue grazing should be a component of the system, he says. Producers may not need to wean calves in this system and can sell straight to the feedlot. He also advises that producers budget hay into the system for a total risk management strategy. And of course, work with a veterinarian for a total herd health plan in a confinement-feeding situation. 

Finally, if producers are considering these options, they really need to put a pen to paper to figure out the true costs of these systems, says Rasby. 

“Currently, drylotting cows 365 days is expensive compared to beef cow systems using pasture; however, that depends on pasture prices where the trend is increasing rates,” he says. “A combination of drylotting and residue grazing is very competitive to other cow-calf production systems centered around grazing pastures.”

 

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6 pieces of practical advice for resolving grazing issues on public land

6 pieces of practical advice for resolving grazing issues on public land

Without a doubt, the political arena is vastly impacting the way ranchers do business, and with more red tape and regulations threatening the cattle business, it’s important for producers to lobby on behalf of their livelihoods.

During the 23rd Annual Cattlemen’s College, sponsored by Zoetis, and held in conjunction with the 2016 Cattle Industry Convention and Trade Show in San Diego, Calif., NCBA’s Washington, D.C., staff explains how the current regulatory environment is changing the way ranchers can graze on public lands in Western states. 

“The current president has used the authority (to dictate changes in federal lands) at least 17 times so far, and we expect another 5-10 designations before his term of office is complete. These designations impact millions of acres and require no vote, no public comment,” explained Ethan Lane, NCBA executive director of public lands.

Photo Credit: Bob Wick for Bureau of Land Management https://www.flickr.com/photos/mypubliclands/24566244726/

And this means that regardless if it’s an issue with the BLM or EPA, litigation and lawsuits are plentiful without any repercussions. What’s worse, environmental pressures involving wild horses, sage grouse, bison and other wildlife can largely determine which public lands remain available for cattle to graze. 

The constant pushback, increased regulatory measures and difficult requirements of obtaining grazing permits can be tough to handle. Here are six pieces of advice on how to be successful when dealing with federal agencies in federal grazing contracts:

1. “Create relationships, and make those relationships personal in a lasting, meaningful well,” says Elizabeth Howard, an Oregon-based attorney at Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt. “Hire really good help and use those individuals to help you succeed. The ranchers who are really successful have good consultants in range and water and have credibility with the EPA. These folks can keep their cool, have relationships with federal agencies, and will work on your behalf. For the longevity of your operation, write these consultants into your budget in order to survive and thrive.”

2. Howard adds, “Join cattlemen’s organizations who can become your allies. Get involved, so you’re educated on the issues and network so you have these resources when issues arise.” 

3. “Have a plan for your allotment and know how that plan flows from your private land to federal land,” stresses Howard. “Know your long-term plan for both your public and private land. Then work with outside resources such as Extension who can help review your land and then can become your allies with the public agencies.”

4. “If all else fails, litigate,” she says. “Before you get to litigation, use these other steps first, but if it comes to litigation, those relationships and your quality records, you can make a good case for yourself.”

5. “Remember, the best offense is a good defense,” she says. “Don’t let one bad conversation ruin a relationship.”

6. “Make sure your members of Congress know what you’re dealing with,” adds Lane. “The environmental community does a great job of communicating. Learn who your Congress person’s environmental wellness staffer is in Washington, D.C., and call them every time you have an issue. You will feel like you are bothering them, but you should. Don’t let them pass you off; keep calling, so they know what you are dealing with.”

Are you dealing with grazing issues in your operation? How have you been able to navigate the sometimes tumultuous waters that come with grazing on public lands? Share your experiences in the comment section below. 

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Treat your replacement heifers like potential employees

Choosing which heifers to keep and which ones to cull will impact your ranch profitability for the next 10-12 years. In our operation, we rely heavily on phenotype, growth, EPDs, disposition and age of maturity to determine which heifers to retain for breeding. Selecting replacement heifers can help meet breeding goals and is important for growing or maintaining the herd after culling old, late or open cows.

Robert Wells, livestock consultant for The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, suggests that beef producers consider selecting and training a heifer like you would an employee.

Here are 4 tips from Wells on “interviewing” perspective replacement heifers (employees) and deciding which females will stay on the ranch and work for you.

1. Interview the heifer just like you would a new ranch hand

“Make a list of all the traits that you want your heifer to have in order of economic importance and make sure she is able to meet most, if not all, the traits,” says Wells. “If she doesn't have all the desired traits, decide if you can ‘train’ her to fit your needs. Does that training involve giving her proper vaccinations or more feed to achieve a desirable body condition score prior to calving? If she does not have the desired traits, you should not hire her for the job on your ranch. If she is the wrong type or the first calving date is too late, then it does not matter how cheap you can buy the heifer, she simply does not fit your program.”

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2. Review the heifer’s DNA “resume”

Wells writes, “One option available to modern-day ranchers that was not available to granddad is to DNA test the heifer before making a commitment to her. This is one of the best ways to make sure you are hiring the right female for the job who will be successful with the job description she has to work within.”

3. Don’t forget to “train” your new employee

“Every employee requires a training period to learn the job; a heifer is no different,” explains Wells. “This involves making sure she has had correct and timely vaccination and deworming after she arrives on the ranch and before calving season. Additionally, you will need to make sure you continue to feed her to reach or maintain a body condition score (BCS) of 6 by calving.”

4. Use a checklist to make sure she meets all the job qualifications

Wells concludes, “In order to have a good employee, you must consider the following characteristics for your new employee to work for you: phenotype, genetics/breeding (DNA test), health and vaccinations, sire of gestating calf and expected first calving date, how was she developed, and finally, price.”

Which traits are most important to you in selecting replacement heifers? Are you in maintenance or expansion mode this year? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.

 

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