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Kansas Hosts Series of Informational Beef Producer Meetings

A series of the informational meetings for cow-calf and feedlot operators will take place across Kansas this month, featuring timely information on nutrition, genetics, beef marketing and age and source verification.

“This will be a unique opportunity for producers to hear about some of the key developments and critical research that will be impacting the beef business in the years to come,” says Matt Caldwell, regional manager for American Angus Association®. “We’ve lined up a top-flight group of speakers, who will be sharing information that no doubt will have a positive impact on Kansas cattlemen.”

“The beef business is changing at a rapid pace, and these sessions will make producers aware of opportunities in genetics, management and marketing that will help them optimize production in their operations,” states Sandra Utter, district sales manager for ABS Global.

The topics of discussion and speakers include:

Doug Frank, beef product manager for ABS Global, will share results of the Circle A Sire Alliance and the impacts on feed efficiency in cow-calf operations and feedlots.

Dr. Rick Funston, reproductive physiologist for the University of Nebraska, will discuss fetal programming research that demonstrates carcass quality and heifer fertility can be influenced while calves are in utero.

Bill Bowman, chief operating officer for American Angus Association, will discuss expected progeny differences (EPDs), bio-economic indexes and the promise of genomic-enhanced EPDs.

Brian Bertelsen of U.S. Premium Beef will update producers on Japan’s interest in age and source verification and provide insight into the future potential for export markets for U.S. beef.

The meetings are scheduled to take place on the following dates and at these locations:

• Monday, Oct. 26 at 6:30 p.m., Oakley, Kan., Educational Service Center

• Tuesday, Oct. 27 at noon, Great Bend, Kan., Highland Convention Center

• Tuesday, Oct. 27 at 6:30 p.m., Emporia, Kan., Lyon County Fairgrounds, Anderson building

A free beef dinner will be served to all attendees. Producers are encouraged to RSVP by Wednesday, Oct. 21, regarding which meeting they plan to attend. RSVP by contacting Sandra Utter of ABS Global at 620-672-1881 or [email protected]; or Matt Caldwell, American Angus Association, 913-755-1105 or [email protected]

The meetings are hosted by American Angus Association, ABS Global, Cattlemen’s Choice Loomix, Farm Credit Associations of Kansas, Pfizer Animal Health and local vet clinics.


New Vaccine Combines Viral Protection and Lepto hardjo-bovis Prevention in One Vaccine

NEW YORK (Oct. 5, 2009) – Pfizer Animal Health introduced a new vaccine that takes reproductive protection to the next level. The newly-released Bovi-Shield GOLD® HB combines five-way viral protection with the prevention of Leptospira borgpetersenii serovar Hardjo type Hardjo-bovis, commonly known as Lepto hardjo-bovis.

Lepto hardjo-bovis is the most prevalent strain of leptospira in U.S. cowherds. A recent study found 42 percent of beef herds infected.1 A previously reported study also suggested 59 percent of U.S. dairy herds may be infected with leptospira.2 Lepto hardjo-bovis may cause poor reproductive performance, early embryonic death, delayed breeding, abortions, weak or stillborn calves and unexplained infertility.

“Lepto hardjo-bovis is an insidious reproductive problem,” said Glenn Rogers, DVM, MS, DABVP, Pfizer Animal Health veterinarian. “It doesn’t typically cause a dramatic drop in pregnancy rates or an abortion storm that is sometimes associated with leptospirosis. It moves quietly into a herd and over time takes a toll on its reproductive efficiency.”

Bovi-Shield GOLD HB provides superior protection against five major viral pathogens: IBR, PI3, BRSV and BVD Types 1 and 2. Combine that with the prevention of infection label claim for Lepto hardjo-bovis, and Bovi-Shield GOLD HB offers producers convenience and flexibility with one vaccine that can be administered intramuscularly or subcutaneously.

Bovi-Shield GOLD HB offers unmatched duration of immunity versus competitive reproductive vaccines, with at least 365 days of immunity for IBR abortions, BVD Types 1 and 2 persistent infection, Lepto hardjo-bovis infection, and Lepto hardjo-bovis urinary shedding and kidney colonization.

For more information on Bovi-Shield GOLD HB go to or contact your local veterinarian, animal health supplier or Pfizer Animal Health representative.

Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE), the world’s largest research-based pharmaceutical company, is a world leader in discovering and developing innovative animal vaccines and prescription medicines. Pfizer Animal Health is dedicated to improving the safety, quality and productivity of the world’s food supply by enhancing the health of livestock and poultry and in helping companion animals live longer and healthier lives. For additional information on Pfizer Animal Health’s portfolio of animal products, visit

Activists Should Also Be Held Accountable

The overwhelming majority of American farmers and ranchers adhere to nationally accepted animal care guidelines and demonstrate their commitment to their animals and their land on a daily basis.

In recent years, however, the Animal Ag Alliance has become concerned about the growing number of activist groups intentionally hiring individuals to seek illicit employment on farms and in processing plants solely for the purpose of capturing video tape to help drive their vegan animal rights agenda. Some of the recent videos have captured the mishandling of animals that is absolutely not condoned by national farm animal care guidelines or the policies of the individual farm or company.

As these videos achieve the publicity sought by the groups, the Alliance is concerned that the activist employees providing the tapes are not held accountable for their failure to follow company animal care policies and their failure to immediately report mistreatment to the farm owners or managers.

Instead, the videos are produced and released directly to the media - often months later - allowing the alleged mistreatment to continue while the activists plan their strategic media campaign. These actions lead to concerns about the possibility that some of the alleged cruelty shown could be staged strictly for the purpose of making the video.

Another concern of grave importance to farm animal owners and to national security is the possibility these same tactics could be employed by individuals or groups seeking a very different agenda - the deliberate contamination of our national food supply. The Department of Homeland Security has recognized agriculture and food production as critical components of our national infrastructure and national security.

Therefore, it is of utmost importance that business owners continue to strengthen the security of their facilities and improve employee hiring procedures and operations to ensure that the food supply is not made vulnerable.

For more information on what you can do to protect against illicit employment by activists, the Alliance has developed a report called Farm and Facility Security Recommendations. Contact the Alliance at [email protected] to order.
-- Animal Ag Alliance release

Beef Imports Likely To Be Down

As the third quarter comes to a close, the market’s attention turns to the beef supply picture going into the holiday season. One factor that will have some impact in the short term is the availability of imported beef and how that will affect overall beef consumption in the fourth quarter.

Beef imports this year are up, mostly due to a sharp increase in imports of Australian beef. While there are a number of countries that can ship beef to the U.S. four countries account for more than 90% of overall imports. USDA actual trade data is reported with a significant lag (latest numbers are for July) but we can get a sense of how beef imports are trending based on data reported by U.S. Customs.

Through Sept. 28, combined entries of Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and Uruguayan beef were up 13.5% from year-ago levels. But will the year-over-year growth we have seen so far this year be maintained in the fourth quarter? We think that is unlikely and imported beef supplies through the year end will likely contract compared with last year.

This is primarily due to an expected reduction in Australian beef shipments to the U.S. The Australian currency has appreciated sharply vs. the U.S. dollar since spring and this has eroded much of the incentive to ship product to the U.S. market.

Grinding beef prices in the U.S. remain well below year-ago levels. As long as the Australian dollar was weak, this helped blunt the negative impact of falling grinding beef values. Back in March, the price of Australian lean grinding beef was down some 10% year over year in U.S. dollar terms but when converted in Australian dollars, prices actually were up 17%.

No wonder, then, that shipments to the U.S. rose sharply in February, March and April. Currently, however, prices for lean beef are down some 22% both in U.S. dollar and Australian dollar terms. Packer margins in Australia have been squeezed and reduced overall slaughter.

Also important to keep in mind is that the financial crisis and resulting currency shifts caused Australian beef shipments to the U.S. to rise significantly in the fourth quarter of 2008. Based on preliminary data, Australian beef exports to the U.S. in September (product that will be here in about a month) were down some 5.3% from a year ago and 21.6% lower than the five-year average. October and November exports will likely be down 20% and 24%, respectively, implying fourth-quarter U.S. beef imports from Australia will be down about 16% from a year ago, a reduction of about 35 million lbs. (carcass wt.). The U.S. beef market may have many problems going into the holidays, but heavy imports will not likely be one of them.
-- CME Group Daily Livestock Report

Consumers Say Price Does Matter

As consumers place more emphasis on price and value while they fill their grocery carts, America’s conventional beef producers are helping ease the financial burden of rising food costs.

According to the Food Marketing Institute’s (FMI) "2009 U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends," nearly 70% of shoppers say the recession is affecting their food shopping — up from 48% in 2008. Consumers in every income bracket are checking prices before checking out at the grocery store.

“U.S. consumers are facing rising food costs in a very challenging economy. What most consumers don’t know is that conventional production systems and using modern technologies keep beef affordable,” says Jan Lyons, owner of Lyons Ranch near Manhattan, KS. “Conventional beef production significantly increases the volume of beef produced while conserving natural resources and reducing production costs across all segments of the industry. The result is more affordable beef for everyone.”

A 2009 analysis by Iowa State University agricultural economists John Lawrence and Maro Ibarburu shows if conventional beef production practices were replaced by organic- or natural-only practices, beef production would decrease by 18% and retail prices would increase by 11%.

To provide beef producers and other beef-industry stakeholders with key messages about the “eco-friendly and eco-nomical” benefits of conventional beef production, the Growth Enhancement Technology Information Team (GET IT) recently introduced a marketing campaign focused on the economical and environmental benefits of conventional beef production. The campaign encourages the industry to share the facts with family, friends and neighbors who might not be familiar with the benefits of modern beef-production systems.

The GET IT campaign includes both print and electronic advertising in producer publications, electronic newsletters and Web sites. Special-edition newsletters and videos also will be developed.
To learn more about the “eco-friendly and eco-nomical” benefits of conventional beef production, visit
-- GET IT release

Advice From One Generation To Another

kisses.jpg I'm getting on an airplane this Friday and heading to Fort Smith, Ark. for the weekend to attend the 2010 National Beef Ambassador Contest. I will be giving a keynote speech, as well as conducting a workshop on social media, and I'm so excited to catch up with old friends and colleagues and to meet the new ambassadors! As I prepare for my weekend adventure in anticipation of working with the next generation of agriculturalists, I thought I would share an excerpt from an email I received last week from a wise man in the older generation of producers. His carefully written advice and frank honesty of the reality of farming today really hit home for me, and I think today's blog post should be all about advice given from one generation to another. We have so much to learn from one another, and I think this is the perfect forum to get that accomplished. So, if you could offer one piece of advice to the older or younger generation of food producers, what would it be? Please, leave your suggestions in the comments section. Read on for the email excerpt...

Dear Amanda,

I am happy to see a young person as yourself taking interest in the cattle business. I hope you will not have to see the disappointment I have experienced over the last fifty years in the cattle business.

When I was eight years old I told my granddad, "I wanted to be a farmer just like him." He said "Son go to school and get an education. Well, I returned home from the army in 1970 and started farming my grandfather's farm while I went to the local University. My grandfather's health was going down, and he died in 1976. In 1972, I sold calves for $.98 to a $1.00 per pound. In 1972 my uncle bought a new Ford 3/4 ton pickup truck top of the line for $2,800.00. My dad bought a new IH tractor in 1976 for $7,600.00. Feed cost, as well as I remember, were around $3.60 per hundred weight. I managed to make a good profit for my grandmother back in the seventies.

Last Monday I checked the market and calves were selling at $.96 to $1.06 per pound, that is if they could not see anything undesirable with the animal. Thirty seven years latter and the price the farmer gets for his product is still about the same. Cost continue to rise, the new pickup is now about $40,000.00, the new tractor about $40,000.00, and feed now cost about $10.00 per 100lbs. When I first got into the cattle business if you sold a 500lb calf and it brought $1.00 per pound and you had 50 calves that would bring in about $20,000.00. The cost to get a calf per cow was about $180.00 a year. You would spend $10,000.00 to make $20,000.00 which would give $10,000.00 to spend. Now it cost per cow is nearing $300.00 or more per cow and a good calf will hardly bring $400.00. I know everybody between the farmer and the consumer has to make a profit. Soon there will not be any farmers to supply the market.

Who would think about getting into business where you are on call 24/7 and invest hundreds of thousands dollars to get no return on the investment. How can a young person in asking the following questions think of entering the cattle business, where will the money come from, what land will be left, where can I find good cows, and who will have the knowledge for me to ask: how did you do that? Working hard to put meat on the table means you love the lifestyle and the enjoyment of your labor; I just hope that your family can help you obtain that goal.

BEEF Daily Quick Fact: 81% of farmers under the age of 45 have off-the-farm jobs to supplement their farming income. (2007 Ag Census)

Survey Shows Farm And Ranch Income Down

Fewer than 5% of farms saw an improvement in income this year, a drastic downturn compared with the same time last year when one in four farms saw better year over year income, according to Rabobank’s Farm & Ranch Survey. The survey showed:

Agricultural Economy – Concern about the U.S. economy remains with 95% of those surveyed falling within the range of somewhat concerned (34%), very concerned (30%) to extremely concerned (31%). Moving forward, more farmers expect the economy to continue to worsen (54%).

Of those surveyed, 75% believe their answers regarding their outlook would be different if the general economy was better.

Business Conditions – Regardless of acreage, U.S. producers are more distressed regarding their income. Approximately 40% believe their income will be worse next year, when compared with previous surveys. However, 27% of respondents have some optimism that their income will improve.

Additionally, higher input costs continue to be the most frequently mentioned economic challenge facing U.S. farmers. Three in five farmers rank it the primary factor that has contributed most to the economic challenge they are confronted with. Additionally there is an increasing concern regarding reduced demand (55%) and weather conditions (57%).

Risk Management – Nearly all surveyed (94%) are concerned about price fluctuations. What seems somewhat positive is that the degree of concern has lessened – those extremely concerned dropped from 62% to 48%. To manage that concern, 45% have implemented or plan on investing in risk management or marketing strategies.

Expansion Plans – Hiring plans are relatively unchanged, with three-quarters of farms still expecting hiring levels to be the same as last year. However, farmers who are concerned with the economy will reduce their employee base.

Additionally, 66% of those surveyed have no plans to purchase farm equipment. However, farms in operation 40 years or more are planning to buy equipment compared to newer farms.

In terms of land purchases, nine in 10 plan to keep farms the same size. The only change in land seems to be a slight increase in those who plan to sell land – 5% vs. 2% in the survey earlier this year.

Regional information and further data is available at
-- Rabobank release

The New Normal

The new normal is the “in vogue” thing to talk about. In a nutshell, it refers to a macroeconomic environment that has fundamentally changed for the next five to 10 years, where equilibrium levels will be well below what we have experienced in the past.

It is based upon a host of assumptions, but here are some of the key factors:

  • Unemployment rates will hover at 3-4% above historical norms;

  • Consumer spending will not increase as consumers will focus on paying down debt and adopting a new mindset that is characterized by frugality rather than free spending optimism;

  • The lack of job growth will keep wages down, while unprecedented government spending will lead to a devaluation of the dollar and non-wage inflationary pressures;

  • Some pundits are even arguing that we have been unable to create real wealth for quite some time and that the Internet and housing bubbles were simply illusionary.
The cattle industry is no different; expansion plans are largely held as untenable. Contraction and consolidation are expected as prices are forecast to remain at lower levels and input prices to be steady to firm.

I'm not necessarily chastising those beliefs. I tend to be more optimistic about the short term than the intermediate, given the unprecedented and unsustainable levels of spending that have been initiated. Plus, I dismiss those who are claiming that the next war will be over food, simply because I believe the next major war in the Middle East will supersede any such conflict.

The question is, how do we factor in the current macroeconomic conditions as they relate to individual management decisions? This is where I would caution against embracing a “sky is falling” mentality. I'm not arguing that one shouldn't be prudent or throw caution to the wind, but history tells us that market share is most radically affected in down times and that difficulty sows the seeds of opportunity. Tough times have a tendency to draw us toward inaction and caution, and it is during tough times that this type of complacency is ultimately punished.

Macroeconomic factors dominate broad trends, but individual entities can be quite successful in utilizing them to derive profits. A contracting feeding segment and cow-calf industry is not a positive thing for producers or allied industries as a whole, but it does not preclude growth or positive returns for individual players within those segments.

Despite the current bumps in the road, I'm casting my vote in favor of America and the American cattle industry.

What's Your Ranch Story?

pair-at-sunshine.jpg Every farm or ranch has a story; some date back hundreds of years. I was looking through my arsenal of recent interviews and recordings of different events, and I found one of South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture Bill Even, talking to a crowd at the South Dakota State Fair at the Century Farm Awards. As he congratulated those that would be honored that day, he also shared the story of his homestead. I think in challenging times, it's sometimes best not to dwell on the bad things. Maybe the market isn't where you would like it to be, and maybe your operating costs are constantly rising, but at the end of the day, we all come from somewhere, and we all have a story that we should cherish.

What's Your Story?

Today, I want to hear all about your operation. When was it established? Who lived there? Where did your ancestors come from? Who lives on the homestead now? What kind of cattle do you raise? How have things changed over the years? For inspiration, check out the podcast from Secretary Even to hear his ranch story and learn more about the South Dakota Century Farm Awards. Leave your stories in the comment section below. I'm really looking forward to hearing your past histories.

My Story...

My family's cattle operation was established when my grandparents, Alvin and Devona, bought the land and surrounding buildings. The farm used to be a dairy, but it was quickly converted to a cattle and hog operation. My dad, and his two siblings, were raised on this farm, doing chores and helping to raise the livestock. Back then, my family raised Herefords and Angus, but in 1983, my dad purchased his first Limousin bull, and he has been raising Limousin ever since. Today, my parents and my two younger sisters live on the farm, and I commute from town to help as needed. My extended family is also heavily involved in beef cattle production, and my mom's parents and sisters all raise Charolais cattle within a few miles of each other near Lake Preston, S.D. While I'm trying to play a bigger role in my family's operation, today's challenges might make our multi-generation business difficult to maintain without significant changes. Nevertheless, our family remains optimistic about the future of the beef cattle industry, and that's why I love being able to communicate these ideas through this blog and other social media outlets. It's a job that affords me the opportunity to be close to home, and for that, I feel extremely blessed.

BEEF Daily Quick Fact: U.S. farmers spent $241 billion to produce their crops and livestock in 2007, an increase of $68 billion – or 39% – from 2002. The steepest cost increases were for gasoline and fuel, up 93%, and fertilizer, up 86%. (2007 Ag Census)

PETA Advocate Speaks To Students

Bruce Friedrich, is a 22-year vegan, but wouldn't be able to do it if a certain gold beverage, popular with college students, was on that list of forbidden foods as well.

"Beer is vegan-- thank goodness," he said.

Friedrich, vice president of policy and government affairs for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), spoke to an almost full auditorium at the Meet Your Meat forum Tuesday night.

At the event, held in the Kern Building, Friedrich said the only diet with integrity is a vegan diet. He discussed the consequences eating meat has on the environment, people and animals.

"If you eat two chicken wings -- boom -- you just killed a chicken. Why is it acceptable to pay other people to slit chickens' throats," he asked.

To read the entire article, link here.