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Senate Climate Bill: Ag Unimpressed

"The bill also does nothing to provide alternative sources of energy to fill the energy deficit left by the reduction in fossil fuels, nor does it prevent the EPA from using controversial indirect land use principles that penalize ethanol."

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, and California Sen. Barbara Boxer, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, last week released a long-awaited, 800-page climate change bill that largely focuses on carbon sequestration through a cap and trade system.

While environmentalists largely embraced the new bill, agriculture advocacy groups — who had pushed successfully for a more farm-friendly House bill that passed earlier this summer — quickly derided it.

While continuing to claim cap and trade would cause energy prices to sharply rise, agriculture advocates pointed out the Senate legislation would require more robust greenhouse gas emissions cuts: 20 percent by 2020 versus the House bill’s 17 percent.

Also of great concern to agriculture is that unlike the House bill, which put clear jurisdiction over a cap and trade system under the USDA, the Kerry/Boxer offering would move that jurisdiction to the president.

The new bill calls for total allowable offsets to be set at 2 billion tons annually. Further, apparently in a nod towards preventing fraud, the bill calls for a new Justice Department office tasked with ensuring — through sanctions, if necessary — that carbon credits are actually trapping problem gasses.

In addition, the Senate bill does not include provisions included in the House bill aimed at protecting the biodiesel industry from carbon standards passed in 2007.

“America’s farmers and ranchers did not fare that well in the House-passed climate change bill and they fare even worse in the Senate bill,” said Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF). “There are few benefits and even greater costs to agriculture and the American public.”

The House bill, continued Stallman, at least included credits “to farmers for carbon-storing or carbon management practices. The Senate bill does not guarantee any benefits to agriculture for carbon sequestration.”

To read the entire article, link here.

Livestock Care Panel, What Would It Do?

State Issue 2 is an important debate that will affect farm animals, farmers and Ohio consumers.

It's pitting political leaders, farm and business groups against animal rights' groups and others who want to keep overly specific issues out of the state Constitution.

A "yes" vote on Issue 2 is in favor of creating a 13-member board of Ohio farming and food experts to make rules about caring for livestock.

It is on the ballot as a way to pre-empt initiatives from the Humane Society of the United States to phase out keeping pigs, veal calves and chickens in crates and cages.

The group claims millions of animals live in inhumane conditions on big "factory" farms, mostly in Northwest Ohio.

Seven states have adopted such measures by popular vote or legislative action.

Opponents of such measures in Ohio rejected animal protection groups' overtures to discuss similar regulations here.

Brenda Hastings is the face on commercials being run by Issue 2 supporters, promising a "safe, affordable and local supply of food."

She and her husband raise 600 dairy cattle in Burton in Geauga County.

She is not in favor of more regulations.

But if new regulations are coming because of consumers' greater interest in what they eat, she wants them made by Ohioans and based on "the best management practice and science."

To read the entire article, link here.

How Do Consumers View Weaning Time?

calf-shot.jpgOver the weekend, we weaned calves. It's always a big exciting weekend for us. The neighbors come to help us out, and it's a day spent with friends and family as we wean, weigh and vaccinate the calves coming into the yards. Even though it's a fun weekend, it can also be stressful, too--worrying about getting those calves on feed, keeping them from getting sick and making sure they all get off to a good start. There is a lot to think about from a manager's point of view, and last week, I offered some links to check out as good weaning management resources. However, today, I have a different angle to consider about this time in a calf's life.

Yesterday, I was on the phone with two students from the University of Denver. One is a good friend and fellow Limousin breeder named Cassidy. Her partner's name is Lance, and he hails from Las Vegas. Clearly, they both come from different places in life, but they were teaming up to tackle a project proposal for class that deals with educating consumers to better understand food production. As I answered their questions for this project, I was so proud of them for wanting to address this issue. But, I realized that maybe the problem isn't our consumers, it's us.

While most consumers have no direct ties to farmers or ranchers anymore, do we even try to reach out to those different than us to tell our story? While we often pass off their ideas about agriculture as ignorant, do we take the time to understand why they feel the way they do about us? As we go through the stages in the beef production chain, are we prepared to explain practices such as weaning, dehorning, vaccinating and castrating? Is there a way to regain the trust in our consumers, while upholding the strong practices of animal husbandry and environmental stewardship that we already maintain?

These are questions we need to ask ourselves from time to time, so that we don't get caught in a rut. As ranchers, we might often get caught up in the things happening at home, but we can never forget the turmoil going on outside the pasture gates. Today, I challenge you to step outside of your comfort zone and talk to someone new about agriculture life. Try it in the grocery store, comment on a newspaper article or get on a social media channel to talk to somebody. Then, let me know how your efforts are received. If we each stand up and do our part, we can work to educate our consumers and regain their trust.

BEEF Daily Quick Fact: 46 percent of beef farmers say they have incomes outside the farm, even though two-thirds say they work more than 1,000 hours a year on it. Less than one-third of

cattle operators claim farming as their occupation, while 23 percent say they are retired.

DJ CME Livestock Review: Cattle Complex Slips

CME live cattle closed mostly weak on residual fallout from last week's disappointing cash cattle price results, bear spreading and sell stops.

Live cattle fluctuated throughout the morning. Dejected bullish traders exited the market after cash cattle prices fell shy of the prior week's results.

Cash-basis fed cattle last week brought mostly $83 per hundredweight versus generally $84.50 the previous week.

By the same token, several contracts' drop to new seasonal lows last Friday piqued the interest of those "looking for value."

Uninspiring boxed beef prices and sullen beef packer profit margins exerted added market pressure. However, October and December oversold chart conditions, higher CBOT corn and U.S. equities' advances stirred buying on live cattle breaks.

At one point October live cattle drifted to its lowest level in 10 months. Several deep cattle contracts again fell to new seasonal lows where willing buyers were waiting.

Live cattle traders Tuesday will have their feelers out for potential deliveries as spot-October readies for expiration Oct. 30.

October settled down 27 points at 82.67 cents a pound, and December closed down 10 points at 83.9 cents.

Feeder cattle ended weak, and October and November initially sank to 10-month lows, on sell stops, CBOT corn's runup and spreading out of November and January into October.

Back-month feeder cattle premiums to CME's feeder cattle index deterred far cattle month buyers.

Also, spot-October selling developed before the contract's Oct. 29 expiration date.

And distant feeder cattle contracts' premiums to CME's feeder cattle index deterred would-be buyers.

October feeder cattle settled down 20 points at 93.35 cents, and November closed down 27 points at 93.3 cents.

To read the entire article, link here.

USDA Issues Grass Fed Marketing Claims Standards

The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) issued a voluntary standard for a grass (forage) fed livestock marketing claim that states grass and/or forage shall be the feed source consumed for the lifetime of the ruminant animal, with the exception of milk consumed prior to weaning. The diet shall be derived solely from forage and animals cannot be fed grain or grain by-products and must have continuous access to pasture during the growing season.

The standard will be published as a Notice in the Federal Register and is titled the U.S. Standard for Livestock and Meat Marketing Claim, Grass (Forage) Fed Claim for Ruminant Livestock and the Meat Products Derived from Such Livestock.

JBS USA Delays IPO

Brazilian meat processor JBS S.A. will wait until January to make an initial public offering of its U.S. unit -- Greeley-based JBS USA -- to give it time to close its acquisition of Pilgrim's Pride Corp. and complete its merger with Bertin S.A., a former Brazilian competitor.

JBS S.A. announced Sept. 16 it was acquiring 64 percent of poultry giant Pilgrim's Pride for $2.8 billion, a transaction expected to be complete in December. The company had filed a request for a $2 billion IPO with the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission in July and was expecting approval in September.

But Jerry O'Callaghan, JBS S.A.'s director of investor relations, was quoted on Meatingplace.com as saying the company decided to hold off on the IPO until the merger and acquisition matters were completed.

To read the entire article, link here.

Time to Hold All Parties Responsible in Animal Cruelty Cases

The Animal Agriculture Alliance is concerned that a growing number of activist groups are intentionally hiring individuals to seek illicit employment on farms and in processing plants solely for the purpose of capturing video that shows the mishandling of animals. The Alliance thinks it is time to hold all parties responsible, including the person or persons responsible for videotaping the event.

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.

To read the entire article, link here.

Baltimore Schools Begin Meatless Mondays

Established in 2003, the Meatless Monday campaign is now boasting of its first success. The Baltimore City Public Schools system is the first in the United States to pledge to serve no meat on Mondays. The move means 80-thousand students have no meat option on Mondays. According to the school’s web site, today’s menu includes an entrée selection of mini ravioli or grilled cheese and a side selection including mixed vegetables, mashed potatoes and fresh fruit.

Janet riley, senior vice president of public affairs for the American Meat Institute says - for young adults who are working to maintain a healthy body weight, meat is an important part of the diet because it's nutrition-dense and helps with a feeling of satisfaction. Riley adds, - we believe that students should be free to choose whether or not they wish to consume meat, instead of simply removing it from the menu and depriving them of that choice.

Flog Grazing CRP Land

Old, dead grass on your CRP land will lower the grazing and hay quality next year unless it’s removed. While haying and prescribed burning can remove it, another effective way to remove it and get some benefits from it is by grazing.

But not just any type of grazing will do the job. A method called “flog grazing” does it best. Flog grazing places a very high concentration of animals in a small area for a short time period. I suggest using at least 100,000 pounds of cattle or 100 cows per acre. While many animals are crowded into this small area, they will trample much of the dead litter into the soil. In fact, the more they stomp up the area, the better. This increases soil organic matter and it hastens the return of nutrients that were trapped in the dead forage back to the soil. In addition, many nutrients from the forage and supplements your cattle eat while flog grazing will be spread back on the ground as manure and urine to enrich the soil for better grass growth next year.

As an added benefit, removal of litter and trampling by animals opens up areas for new seedlings and tillers to grow next spring.

To read the entire article, link here.

Hollinger Cattle Company Wins National Stocker Award

G-Three Cattle Co., Thomas Cattle Buying Services are Runners-up
Hollinger Cattle Co.—Leo and Jeannie Hollinger—at Camden, AL is the winner of the 2009 National Stocker Award (NSA).

The NSA was established in 2006 by BEEF Magazine and Elanco Animal Health to underscore the integral role of the stocker sector and to recognize the top operations within that sector. Each year, stocker and backgrounding operations from across the nation are nominated for the prestigious award.

G-Three Cattle Co. of Uniontown, KS and Thomas Cattle Buying Services of Williston, FL were named runners-up in what the selection committee termed a field of nominees rich in commitment and creativity employed to grow quality, healthy cattle for the next phase of production.

Along with the recognition, Hollinger Cattle Co. receives $5,000 cash provided by Elanco Animal Health, as well as an expense-paid trip to this year’s National Cattlemen’s Beef Association convention in San Antonio. G-Three Cattle Co. and Thomas Cattle Buying Services each receive $1,000 cash.

You can read some of the specifics about each of these operations here. For complete coverage, see the October issue of BEEF magazine in your mailbox or at www.beefmagazine.com. For more information about the contest, see www.nationalstockeraward.com.

National Stocker Award Winner:

“What I like to do most is grow grass and graze cattle,” says Leo Hollinger, Jr., of Camden, AL. “My passion has always been to put light calves on grass and grow them to heavier weights.”

His grandpa, Fleet Hollinger, was the first in the family to see potential in growing cattle here in the timber country of Alabama. It was during the Great Depression. With a wife, three kids and some ground, Hollinger's grandfather figured his best opportunity was buying lightweight calves and adding weight to them. This core philosophy put Leo's dad and two uncles through college.

Hollinger and his wife, Jeannie, who comprise Hollinger Cattle Company, utilized the same opportunity to raise and put their own children through college.

Though the primary business of adding weight to cattle continues, Leo explains preserving equity and turning a profit are more challenging today than ever.

“We are dealing with a more volatile market and economic climate than I've seen in my lifetime,” Leo says of his four decades in the business. “I think it requires assessment of how much risk we're willing to take with any single roll of the dice.”

The primary program at Hollinger Cattle Company revolves around buying calves averaging 350 lbs., putting 400 lbs. on heifers and 500 lbs. on steers, and then marketing them in presorted load-lots.

Until three years ago, the Hollingers procured calves through a local order buyer. These calves came from within 200 miles. Over time, it became difficult to get the number of lightweight cattle they needed when they needed them. Leo chalks that up to the improved genetics and management employed by the state's cattle producers.

At the same time, these calves were getting tougher to handle from a health standpoint.

“I think what it amounted to was too many hauls on the calves in too short a period,” Leo says. Typically, those calves would be hauled to the sale barn by the seller. The order buyer would purchase them and haul them to his gathering facility until a load was made, and then they'd be hauled to Hollingers. So, the calves were hauled three times within a week.

Countering both challenges, the Hollingers began procuring calves via a cattle-buying service in Florida, which buys the calves and preconditions them for 45 days. Many are purchased ranch-direct, so they have one haul to the order-buying facility, then another haul 45 days later to the Hollingers.
“I don't see what's wrong with letting someone else do what you can do, when they are able to as well or better for the same money or less,” Leo says. “For us, it's a cost-effective way to procure cattle when we consider cattle health, time management and the bottom line.”

A few years prior to the transition in procurement, the Hollingers also diversified their risk by weaning and preconditioning calves for others.

Through it all, the organization has focused intently on improving the soils and forages that it stewards.

“Leo always says, ‘I don't consider myself owning this land and I don't intend to sell it; I'm just using it,'” explains Jeannie.

As such, the Hollingers were adopting environmental stewardship practices like planting buffer zones and fencing off riparian areas before these became regulatory necessities.

“We have neighbors whose kids still play in that creek,” Jeannie says, referring to the crystalline Pursely Creek that runs across their place. “We need to keep it safe for them.”

Fleet Hollinger would be proud. “I think we're utilizing this land to its best advantage with stockers,” Hollinger says.

National Stocker Award Runner-up:
G-Three Cattle Co. Focuses on Flexibility

In a backgrounding operation where cattle are fed year-round, you'd expect to find pens and plenty of bare ground. At G-Three Cattle Company, though, the cattle always have forage beneath their feet, even if that means drilling wheat in 10-acre receiving traps.

Gale George and his younger brother, Darrel, explain it has to do with controlling runoff and limiting dust. Equally important, they say it helps reduce health problems.

Cattle arrive and leave G-Three, near Uniontown, KS, year-round. Buying and selling on the same market is one of the risk-management tools the Georges employ. These are typically bulls or steers weighing 500-550 lbs., eventually sold at 800-850 lbs.

Though cattle receive a total mixed ration (TMR), they run in 40- to 80-acre fescue pastures after receiving. From there, depending on the time of year, cattle might move to cornstalks drilled with winter wheat or larger fescue pastures.

The TMR is mostly home grown: corn, corn silage, sorghum and the like. They also make heavy use of byproducts such as wet distillers' grain and corn gluten. They've been able to expand over time with contiguous acres to the point that their operation provides for two families.

“Our cost of gain varies, but we try to keep it below 50¢,” Gale says. “The goal is to put on 2.0-2.5 lbs./day by combining available forage with corn, ethanol by-products and silage, in addition to free-choice hay.”
These days, most cattle flowing through G-Three come from a southern cattle-buying service that brands, deworms, vaccinates and PI-tests the cattle prior to shipment. Until a few years ago, cattle were procured closer to the operation by a local order buyer.

The brothers explain switching procurement strategies had to do with availability more than anything. It was getting tougher to put together loads of quality cattle at the weights and prices they needed, in the short amount of time they had to assemble them.

Gale and Darrel focus on the fact they're raising food rather than cattle. At the same time, Gale says, “We have to put as many pounds on them as cheaply as we can.”

National Stocker Award Runner-up:
Thomas Cattle Buying Services Focuses on Customer Needs

“I'm a firm believer that if we have problems in the preconditioning phase, 95% of the time it's because of management, because of a decision we made,” says Brad Etheridge, managing partner of Thomas Cattle Buying Services (TCBS) at Williston, FL.

TCBS is one of the oldest and largest cattle-buying services in the state. Besides buying and preconditioning calves for a long list of customers across the U.S., the firm also buys and manages its own cattle that are backgrounded here and then marketed sometime between preconditioning and the last day of finishing at a Kansas feedlot.

Etheridge and three other order buyers who work exclusively for TCBS purchase two-thirds of their calves direct and the other third from 11 Florida sale barns. These folks not only know their customers personally, they've been to their operations and return at least every couple of years.

Once calves arrive and are processed, they're placed on a starter ration for 14 days. Ultimately, they'll receive 3% of their body weight.

“Our cleanup time for the bunks is around midnight, so calves will be ready for feed and aggressive getting to the bunks the next morning,” Etheridge says. He explains this practice also makes it easier to identify sick cattle.

“There are so many variables that change every week, but one thing we won't do, don't do, is change the receiving protocol or starting feed, because nutrition and health protocol must remain consistent,” Etheridge says.

That's also why they use metaphylaxis for calves received from sale barns. “It gives us consistency on the front end,” Etheridge says.

Though the TCBS core business remains the same, Etheridge believes in diversification. TCBS has leveraged its preconditioning business with complementary enterprises. They've added farm ground — primarily corn, peanuts and watermelon — as well as pharmaceutical distribution and custom seed harvesting.

TCBS is also building its own feed mill to manage feed costs. The firm already buys corn as far as six months out to ensure customers receive the price quoted to them.

“I don't watch daily price trends or make market charts,” Etheridge says. “We do a lot of reading, studying and listening to our customers scattered across the U.S.”