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R-CALF Says Obama Broke Promise

In a strongly worded four-page letter to the U.S. Department of Justice (Justice), 17 R-CALF USA officers, directors and committee chairs from 12 states on Thursday expressed deep disappointment that Justice failed to properly investigate the antitrust implications associated with Brazilian-based JBS S.A.’s (JBS’) acquisition of Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation (Pilgrim’s Pride).

The letter states, “In our opinion, the Justice Department’s action in refusing to fully investigate the antitrust implications of the unprecedented merger between JBS and Pilgrim’s Pride – the world’s largest beef packer and North America’s largest broiler processor, respectively – when these firms both control and market substitutable, competing proteins, is an irrepressible defiance of President Obama’s promise to ensure competitive markets for the nation’s farmers and ranchers, including its cattle farmers and ranchers.”

To read the entire article, link here.

Carefully Consider A Backgrounding Decision

A drop in calf prices has some folks thinking about feeding their calves and selling the extra weight rather than marketing them this fall. But before you leap, a number of variables should be considered, says John Dhuyvetter, North Dakota State University (NDSU) Extension livestock specialist near Minot. Two to consider are feed costs and the anticipated marketing time.

While feed costs have moderated greatly recently, the effect of the early frost on corn prices is still unknown, Dhuyvetter says. Still, an early frost might create wet, immature corn that is lower priced and more suitable for cattle feed.

And, determining when to sell cattle depends on the type of cattle, available feed resources, prices, feeding performance and projected future market price that leads to the projected cost of gain (COG).

Using a simple breakeven calculator, such as the NDSU-developed "Calf Web" (available at, can help evaluate feeding risks and potential.

  • For example, a 550-lb. steer weaned in late October would be marketed in late January at 750 lbs. with an average gain of 2 lbs./day. Assuming this will be achieved on a $70/ton ration at a 9:1 conversion, charging 30¢/head/day yardage, and assuming $10/veterinary costs, 1.5% death loss and 7% interest on the calf and feed, a sale price of $92.5/cwt. would be needed to break even. The resulting feed and yardage cost would be 46.5¢/lb. of gain and total COG would be 63¢.

  • For earlier born and growthy type calves, a shorter 45- to 60-day preconditioning period may get the calves ready to sell during higher seasonal markets for finished cattle. For example, a 600-lb. steer weaned in mid-October would reach 800 lbs. in mid-December at an average gain of 3 lbs./day for 65 days. This would result in a projected breakeven of 88.5¢ and a total COG of 57¢/lb.

  • Sometimes, later-born, smaller calves are weaned late in the fall and overwintered slowly to target summer grazing. These calves utilize forage in the winter and grass in the summer, then are finished for fall markets. Thus, 525 lb calves weaned in mid-November and wintered at 1.5 lbs./day of gain on a $60/ton ration results in 725-lb. feeders at the end of March with an associated 91.5¢ breakeven cost and a 68¢/lb. overall COG.
"If calf prices rally over the next few months, backgrounding will prove to be a very good choice," says Karl Hoppe, NDSU Extension livestock specialist in Dickinson, “but with the sluggish economy, calf prices may only maintain or could decrease."

For more info on weaning calves, backgrounding and related issues, visit
-- NDSU news release

Circle A Feeders Is Repeat CAB Honors Winner

Circle A Feeders, Huntsville, MO, continues to rewrite Certified Angus Beef® (CAB®) records. From 2007 to 2008, during its inaugural year in the feeding business, Circle A posted an acceptance rate of 61.4% CAB and USDA Prime on 917 enrolled cattle, CAB says. During the current award year – June 2008 through May 2009 – the feedyard increased to 78.6% CAB and Prime on 1,285 head enrolled.

Those stats earned the feedlot, an enterprise of the large registered and commercial Circle A Ranch, repeat CAB honors as winners of the 2009 Quality Focus Award for yards with capacity of 15,000 head or less.

General Manager Mark Akin says Circle A staff honed their skill and requirements for cattle coming into the yard. They have “tightened down” on the qualifications, which include age-and-source verified (SAV), 600-800 lbs., less than 11 months old and – perhaps most importantly – 50% or more sired by Circle A bulls.

The customers must also wean the calves at least 45 days and give two rounds of vaccinations, but in return Circle A will buy full interest at a premium to the average market price.

“Genetics are a part of it, but education and management are the other parts,” Akin says. Marketing Manager Nick Hammett spends on-farm time with producers before their calves are accepted into the program.

“He is really our customer service manager or our fieldsman,” Akin says. “He walks through the cattle and talks with the owner to make sure it’s a good fit.”

Once calves are approved and purchased, Akin, feedlot manager Scott Crews and the rest of the team do everything in their power to keep the animals on the quality track. The 5,000-head yard is completely enclosed, with management set up to minimize stress from arrival through harvest.

The market has not rewarded Choice-grading carcasses over Select as much as usual, but Akin says their sights remain high in anticipation of seasonal adjustments.

“It’s just like everything. With those seasons, there’ll be another with a wide Choice/Select spread, so you don’t make changes,” he says. “The feedyard is set up as the ‘top of the top’ in cattle-feeding operations, and those are the kind of cattle we’re going to recruit. We’re not going to change that.”
-- CAB release

Horse Whinnies Are Packed With Information

Via their whinnies, horses convey specific info about their identities, including sex, height and weight, say French researchers. Acoustic analyses of whinnies and horses’ reactions to various recorded whinnies also suggest the vocal calls play an important social role and are unique to each horse.

This is the first study of its kind in horses, which are historically considered to be dependent on sight as opposed to hearing for their social communication, the researchers reported.

Martine Hausberger, director of the Laboratory of Animal and Human Ethology, says her lab focuses on the link between social bonds and auditory communication in various species, including birds, dolphins, and monkeys.

“We realized there were practically no scientific publications on vocal communication among horses, despite the interesting social structure of these animals. What we found was that the whinny is a complex call full of relevant social information. It might even be a signature call for each individual," she says.

Characterized as a three-part call, with an introduction, climax, and end, the whinny varies in frequency according to sex, the study of 30 adult domestic horses (10 stallions, 10 geldings, 10 mares) reports. Stallions have low-pitched frequencies whereas mare and gelding calls are higher. Interestingly, the two intact stallions of their study, which were subordinate to other stallions in their social group, also had high-frequency calls similar to that of mares, Hausberger’s team reports.

Whinny recordings of some study horses were played back on an iPod to isolated study horses to observe their reactions. The listeners were clearly able to recognize the social category of the caller, whether it was a horse they knew well, knew from a distance, or didn’t know at all, the researchers say. The physical reactions of the horses were very sound-specific, varying significantly in terms of attention and attraction.

"Our results show horses recognize the voices of their social partners even when they can’t see them, which explains their reactions when separated," Hausberger says. "If they’re still within hearing range (0.6 mile) of each other, their reactions are going to be strong."

The study, "Horse (Equus caballus) whinnies: a source of social information," was published in the September Animal Cognition. See the abstract at

Tips For Reducing Yucca In Rangeland

Yucca plants, called soapweed by some, have nearly overrun many rangelands, particularly lately after several years in which drought plus grazing weakened many plants, says Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska Extension forage specialist. And, dense stands of yucca, a plant that can develop rapidly once established on drier rangeland sites, can devastate grass production, he says.

Yucca plants produce a deep taproot that competes aggressively for the limited water in these soils. And, since cattle rarely eat it during summer, grass production decreases while yucca thrives.

Herbicides like Remedy, Tordon, Velpar, or Cimarron Plus can control yucca, Anderson points out, but only when each individual plant is sprayed directly. Meanwhile, general spraying of rangeland is cost prohibitive, although small patches can and should be controlled before they expand.

“When yucca covers too much land to spray, the only cost-effective way to reduce its impact is to winter graze. During winter, yucca often is the only green plant around. Cows actually will get down on their knees, lay their head sideways on the ground, and chew through the base of the plant to get to the moist, tender parts,” Anderson says. “After several consecutive winters of grazing, yucca stands can be reduced so grass again thrives during summer.”

Now that summer range is dormant for the winter, grazing will do little harm to your grasses. Ample summer rain also produced more grass than usual. This might be a good time to reclaim some of your rangeland back from yucca, Anderson says. Winter grazing is your best tool.
-- Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska forage specialist

Blog Action Day 2009: Climate Change

blog-action-day-2009.jpg Today is Blog Action Day 2009 where thousands of bloggers in countries around the globe write about the same topic on the same day to make a difference in the world. This year's topic is climate change, and I'm working hard to make sure agriculture has a voice in today's big event. It's sad really...of the suggested topics on climate change given to bloggers that registered for this event, the first idea was agriculture and the global impact food production has on the world. While we all know that farmers and ranchers are unfairly taking the blame for the world's environmental problems, I'm going to work to share with millions of readers on Blog Action Day the real facts and figures about the foods we eat. Let's get down to business and share the real story about American animal agriculture. Feel free to pass this link on through every outlet available: Facebook, Twitter, blogs, email, etc. We need to spread the positive message about beef, today!

kisses.jpg For America's farmers and ranchers, everyday is Earth day. As a fifth-generation rancher, I practice environmental stewardship and best animal handling practices to care for my land and livestock. As a consumer, I feel confident serving beef to my family because it's a safe, affordable and nutritious source of protein that simply gets a bad rap in today's sensationalized media. As a rancher, I'm dedicated to ending world hunger. Did you know one in eight Americans goes to bed hungry at night? Where's the food, without the farmer? God Bless the American farmer and rancher, feeding the world, caring for animals and protecting the planet, every, single day. -Amanda

Top 10 BEEF Daily Quick Facts on Cattle and the Planet...

1. American agriculture is sustainable for the future. In the United States, 98 percent of farms are family farms. Today's American farmer feeds about 144 people worldwide. 2009 versus 1960: 1.8 million less farms are feeding a U.S. population that has increased 61 percent. (Explore Beef)

2. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the entire U.S. agriculture sector accounts for only 6 percent of annual U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Of this, livestock production is estimated to account for 2.8 percent of total U.S. emissions. (EPA Climate Change Report)

3. If livestock production disappeared tomorrow, wouldn’t we just be transporting more tofu around? And wouldn’t we just be plowing and fertilizing the land to supply PETA’s vegetarian utopia? (Center for Consumer Freedom)

4. Grazing animals on land not suitable for producing crops more than doubles the land area that can be used to produce food. If 1955 technology were used to produce the amount of beef raised today, 165 million more acres of land would be needed – that’s about the size of Texas! (Explore Beef)

5. Each year, outstanding ranching families are recognized through a prestigious award, the Environmental Stewardship Award Program. The award is presented each year by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and The National Cattlemen's Foundation, and is sponsored by Dow AgroSciences and USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service at the annual Cattle Industry Annual Convention. (Read about the regional winners at BEEF)

6. Cattle do more than just provide us with nutritious beef. They also make significant contributions to our lives... and the planet. Cattle convert inedible cellulose (grass) to nutritious beef. When cattle graze, they "aerate" the soil with their hooves, which allows more oxygen and water to enter. They also press grass seed into the soil, so it can start growing. They provide a natural fertilizer in the form of manure. Cattle also reduce the length of grass and brush when they graze, which is helpful in reducing the spread of wildfires since there is less flammable material. In addition, cattle primarily graze on grass, but they also eat waste products from food processing such as potato skins, distillers grains, fruit pits, almond hulls and sugar beet pulp. (Wow That Cow!)

7. Beef by-products enable us to use 99% of every beef animal, and these products are a part of our daily lives. Beef by-products include leather, candles, toothpaste, deodorants, crayons, textiles, cosmetics, rubber tires, insulin, high glass for magazines, asphalt, fertilizers, cement blocks, hydraulic brake fluid, car polishes and waxes, detergents, shaving cream, soaps, shampoo, paint, chewing gum, marshmallows, and the list goes on, and on, and on. Can you go a day without using a cattle by-product? (When is a Cow More Than a Cow?)

8. There are 29 cuts of beef that meet the government labeling guidelines for lean. Each one contains less than 10 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat, and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol per 3.5 oz. serving. Calorie-for-calorie, beef is the most nutrient-dense food including nine essential nutrients, including a good source of zinc, iron and protein. And, did you know, beef has the same heart-healthy fats as olive oil? (Beef, It's What's For Dinner)

9. According to a 1993 article in the Journal of Animal Science by J. Beckett and J. Oltjen, total livestock production accounts for just over 11 percent of all U.S. water use in the United States. This includes the water to grow crops fed to livestock, which accounts for 9.7 percent of all water use, and livestock consumption, at 1.2 percent of all water use. (Journal of Animal Science)

10. Rangelands and pastures provide forage and habitat for numerous wildlife species, including 20 million deer, 500,000 pronghorn antelope, 400,000 elk and 55,000 feral horses and burros. Last year, more than 2,000 ranchers and farmers entered into landowner agreements with the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program. About a billion acres, or 55 percent of the total land surface in the United States, is rangeland, pasture and forages. (Beef, From Pasture to Plate)

Calculate your personal greenhouse gas emissions using EPA’s calculator. Pass this blog post on! Twitter, Facebook, email and blog this link to share with your contacts today!

Group Suggests Undercover Activists Should Face Punishment

The Animal Ag Alliance (AAA) is suggesting undercover activists who witness and record animal mistreatment be held accountable and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for not immediately reporting the incident. Alliance members made the recommendation in light of the growing number of activist groups hiring individuals to seek illicit employment at ranches, feedyards and processing plants solely for the purpose of capturing video that condemns animal agriculture. The video is frequently produced and released to the media months after the alleged mistreatment occurred as activists plan a strategic media campaign.

AAA is a coalition of producers, organizations, suppliers, processors and retailers communicating the important role of animal agriculture. The group emphasizes animal well-being is central to producing safe, high-quality, affordable food and other products essential to consumers around the world.

The alliance strongly encourages all food animal owners to implement care guidelines, provide worker training and establish policies holding all employees accountable for their actions. Employers should screen potential employees closely to protect against illicit employment by activists, according to AAA.

Fencing Systems For Intensive Grazing Management

For intensive grazing to be managed effectively, controlled grazing needs to be in place, through subdividing the pasture through the use of fencing. Rotating animals among these paddocks will optimise forage and beef production.

When developing the layout for a fencing system, consider the following points:

  • Fixed resources on the farm, such as acreage, soil type, slop and rockiness;
  • Semi-fixed resources, such as water supply, existing fences, existing grass base;
  • Changeable resources, including forage type, temporary fences, cattle numbers;
  • Other factors, including seasonal usage patters, economics and land use for other enterprises.

High tensile fencing from New Zealand provides an alternative to traditional woven and barbed wire fencing and temporary electric fencing is perfectly adequate.

To read the entire article, link here.

‘Land Grants’ Could Lead Hunger Fight

Gebisa Ejeta says the world will have to increase its production of food more in the next four decades than it has since the dawn of civilization.

Accomplishing that task will require concerted efforts by governments, agribusiness and farmers, says Ejeta, the winner of this year’s World Food Prize. The glue holding those parts together may be a revitalization of the land-grant university system.

With the world’s population expected to grow from current estimates of 6 billion people to more than 9 billion by 2050, the world’s agricultural leaders must figure out a way to double food production during the same timeframe.

“We can do this by revitalizing our agricultural sciences and recommitting to the time-tested, mission-oriented legacies of our land-grant university models and ideas,” said Gebisa, a native of Ethiopia who grew up in a one-room thatched hut with a mud floor but went on to earn a doctorate in plant breeding and genetics at Purdue University.

Gebisa, who is currently a distinguished professor of agronomy at Purdue, will receive the $250,000 World Food Prize during ceremonies at the Iowa State Capitol Thursday (Oct. 15). The World Food Prize was founded by Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, the universally recognized father of the Green Revolution. Borlaug, a native of Cresco, Iowa, died Sept. 12. Ejeta, whose own work on the development of higher-yielding and weed-resistant sorghum varieties is believed to have helped feed hundreds of thousands of people in Africa, paid tribute to Borlaug during the annual Norman Borlaug Lecture at Iowa State University Monday night.

“The land-grant model legislated in 19th century helped build this great nation and made 20th century American agriculture the envy of the world,” said Ejeta “It has succeeded internationally, bringing about the Asian Green Revolution championed by Norm Borlaug and furthered by many others.”

Even in the face of emerging 21st century issues like climate change and the uncertainty of global energy supplies, Ejeta said, “the land grant model can be counted upon once again to address the challenges of doubling food and feed production.”

Over the last century, the U.S. agriculture sector has become one of the most productive in the world, and citizens of this country as well as the rest of North America and Western Europe have become accustomed to a safe and relatively inexpensive supply of food.

To read the entire article, link here.

HSUS Attempts Christian Public Relations Stunt

eb-hsus-dec-ok2.jpg Since I started my agriculture advocacy work three years ago, I have made it a point to monitor the activities of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), an extremist animal rights powerhouse determined to eliminate animal agriculture and promote a vegan lifestyle for all Americans. Through my observations, I have noticed that most of the leaders and members within this organization have no real connection with God; in fact, many of them point out that they are atheists. To me, this makes sense. Because they equal the life of a human being to the life of an animal, it's impossible to envision these folks as God-fearing citizens. In debates with HSUS and PETA advocates over the years, I have always been able to reference Biblical verses as proof that God created the animals for us to care for and for us to use as food. In their latest public relations stunt to manipulate money from consumers, it seems that HSUS is finally catching onto the game and are trying to create a Christian image for themselves.

In a recent press release, the Humane Society of the United States started the "All Creatures" nationwide music tour featuring The Myriad that kicked off Tuesday, Sept. 29 in Washington, D.C. The tour will proceed with more than 35 stops at clubs and Christian universities around the country. Christine Gutleben, director of The HSUS faith outreach program, will accompany the tour and speak to audiences about the work of The HSUS. According to Gutleben, the faith outreach program of The Humane Society of the United States seeks to engage people and institutions of faith with animal protection issue on the premise that religious values call upon us to act in a kind and merciful way towards all creatures.

In a recent article written by the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, HSUS has begun manipulating religion to advance a cause that is radically out of step with the majority of Americans and, certainly, America’s sportsmen. This tour is a further example of the clever tactics being employed by those that seek to do away with American outdoor traditions.

I couldn't agree more. The HSUS is a ruthless organization that is molding their own image to appeal to an audience that has been overwhelmingly against their policies in the past. As these extremists advance their agendas and peddle more money away from honest citizens, I have come to realize that they really will stop at nothing to put farmers and ranchers out of business. As a God-fearing Christian and a cattle rancher, myself, I'm proud to say that I care for God's creatures on a daily basis, and I understand the circle of life, that animals were created to nourish people. What do you think? How will the religious community regard this latest publicity stunt by the HSUS? What can we do to reinforce our own beliefs and get the American consumer to understand the hidden agendas of this dangerous organization?

BEEF Daily Quick Fact: Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. -Genesis 9:3