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U.S. Agriculture Far From Monoculture

The problem with U.S. agriculture is that it is monoculture and controlled by big agribusiness -- at least that was the claim of In the Defense of Food author Michael Pollan when Feedstuffs recently talked with him on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.

Pollan and 500-plus observers who gathered for a panel discussion of U.S. agriculture and the food production system, however, heard a much different story when dairy producer John Vrieze of Baldwin, Wis., took the microphone for a brief description of his operation.

Calling himself the "big, bad, monocultural cow farmer," Vrieze quickly proved otherwise as he set out correcting misinformation about agriculture and dairy farming. On his farm, Vrieze continuously looks for ways to improve the dairy products he produces, as well as how to be more energy self-sufficient and sustainable.

Vrieze's family has been farming more than 100 years. Vrieze said his grandfather started with 13 dairy cows, and his dad started with 28 cows. Now, the farm has 2,500 cows.

Unlike some of the information people "might have on how we farm," Vrieze told the group that today's dairy farmers use a lot less antibiotics on cows than they use to. At the same time, he stressed that it is critical for producers to have antibiotics available for use when needed.

To read the entire article, link to Feedstuffs.

Top 10 Industry Leaders

The Cattle Business Weekly newspaper recently announced its Top 10 Industry Leaders under the age of 40 for its annual magazine. All of those awarded live in, or have ties to the Great Plains region. It’s an impressive lineup of people who have taken on roles in the agricultural industry to help provide a future for the next generation of farmers and ranchers.

The Top 10 are:

Steve and Lindsay Williams of Columbus, Montana – Current operators of Midland Bull Test an operation known for helping set the bar for seedstock characteristics and traits

Kindra Gordon, Sturgis, S.D – A freelance journalist who has committed her career to educating and informing today’s agricultural producers.

Kristyn Harms, Firth, NE – An AgEd Instructor that is broadening the horizons of her students through hands on learning.

Jess Peterson, Washington, DC – A native of Montana, Jess is now in Washington D.C. as a legislative watchdog for the agricultural industry.

Will MacDonald, Bismarck, ND – Is a fourth generation North Dakota rancher who has dedicated himself to improving cattle genetics through the use of technology.

Seth Weishaar, Belle Fourche, SD – Has auctioneered thousands of livestock sales in the region helping to promote family operations and their livelihood.

Tim Larson, Sidney, MT – Has a great eye for cattle and is the member manager for Prewitt & Co., a Sidney, Mont.-based feedlot and order buying company.

Troy and Stacy Hadrick, Vale, SD – Created Advocates for Agriculture five years ago to help tell the agriculture’s true story.

Ryan Fieldgrove, Buffalo, WY – Is a both a banker and a rancher. He is a leader in land stewardship efforts and his own ranching background provides his clients knowledge and understanding.

Kevin Larson, Aberdeen, SD – Is the owner of two livestock auction facilities in northeast South Dakota. In addition to being quality sale facilities, Larson and staff believe in supporting local agricultural youth.

Complete profiles of these individuals are available here.

Introducing the 2010 National Beef Ambassadors!

nbap-group.jpg It was certainly a late evening traveling back home from Ft. Smith, Ark. last night, but my adrenaline is still pumping with the excitement as the 2010 National Beef Ambassadors were selected yesterday! I had a fun weekend serving as their keynote speaker and judge for the event, and the caliber of young people who showed up to compete was incredible. I'm proud to say that after an intense weekend of media training, these ambassadors are equipped to represent America's farmers and ranchers in their travels and on the online conversations. As many of you know, in 2006, I was on the National Beef Ambassador Team, a program that enlists youth to become spokespersons for our industry. It was one of the most formative years of my life, and I'm excited for this year's team and the many opportunities that will come their way during the course of the year. After the awards program, I had a chance to interview the team of five whom will be traveling across the country on behalf of all of us beef producers, and I'm excited to introduce the team to all of you today!

nbap-winners.jpg I'm proud to introduce the 2010 National Beef Ambassadors: Malorie Bankhead (California), Rebecca Vraspir (Wyoming), Ellen Hoffschneider (Nebraska), Jackson Alexander (Oklahoma), and Mandy-Jo Laurent (Texas). Listen to my interview with the new team below. Congratulations again to all of the participants! I'm certain you will continue to do a great job working on behalf of America's beef producers.

The National Beef Ambassador Program strives to provide an opportunity for youth to educate consumers and students about beef nutrition, food safety and stewardship practices of the beef industry. To learn more about the program, link here.

Decline in Grocery Food Prices Stretches to Farmers' Profits

Prices in the grocery store are down by 10 percent from last year, the Iowa Farm Bureau reports.

So are farmers' profits.

The Farm Bureau's survey of food prices shows the fourth consecutive quarterly decline from 2008, when corn and soybean prices hit record levels and food processing companies and supermarket chains were warning of spikes in food prices.

Instead, commodity prices have come down. Prices for corn, soybeans and livestock are slightly more than half of what they were 12 months ago.

Not surprisingly, it's the farmers who now feel the squeeze.

"While the decline in global demand has helped bring prices down for shoppers, a combination of decreased demand and other factors has made things more difficult for farmers, particularly those who raise livestock," said Dave Miller, director of research and commodity services for the Iowa Farm Bureau.

"Despite the tremendous efficiency of the American farmer, the profit margins in farming are narrow, and there is a relentless cost-price squeeze. Narrow margins and high efficiency are reflected in the farmer's small share of the food dollar, 19 cents.

To read the entire article, link here.

As Ohio Considers Livestock Treatment, Michigan Crafts Law

Prices in the grocery store are down by 10 percent from last year, the Iowa Farm Bureau reports.

So are farmers' profits.

The Farm Bureau's survey of food prices shows the fourth consecutive quarterly decline from 2008, when corn and soybean prices hit record levels and food processing companies and supermarket chains were warning of spikes in food prices.

Instead, commodity prices have come down. Prices for corn, soybeans and livestock are slightly more than half of what they were 12 months ago.

Not surprisingly, it's the farmers who now feel the squeeze.

"While the decline in global demand has helped bring prices down for shoppers, a combination of decreased demand and other factors has made things more difficult for farmers, particularly those who raise livestock," said Dave Miller, director of research and commodity services for the Iowa Farm Bureau.

"Despite the tremendous efficiency of the American farmer, the profit margins in farming are narrow, and there is a relentless cost-price squeeze. Narrow margins and high efficiency are reflected in the farmer's small share of the food dollar, 19 cents.

"American farmers are doing their part in keeping food affordable for consumers. But those tight margins also mean that farmers and their families are more susceptible to downturns in demand, like we've seen as a result of the weak economy."

Hog and cattle raisers have been losing money for as long as two years. Iowa State University warned that corn and soybean farmers may face losses at current crop prices.

To read the entire article, link here.

Identifying Cows That Gain More While Eating Less

With more than 2 million cows on 68,000 farms, Missouri is the third-largest beef producer in the nation. Due to rising feed prices, farmers are struggling to provide feed for the cows that contribute more than $1 billion to Missouri's economy. University of Missouri researcher Monty Kerley, professor of animal nutrition in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, is studying how cows might be able to gain more weight while consuming less, potentially saving farmers up to 40 percent of feed costs.

Two years ago, MU researchers started studying which biological processes could make cows feed-efficient. They examined the basic compound that cells use for energy, commonly known as ATP, using previous research that demonstrated how DNA influences weight gain in cows. Some animals can synthesize ATP faster than others, helping them to use energy more efficiently and, thus, gain more weight with less food. Kerley hopes that farmers will use this research to breed more feed-efficient cattle.

"We would love to go to the rancher and say, 'you can reduce your feed cost 40 percent with the same weight gain,'" Kerley said.

Kerley and his team are using a feed and weighing system that records individual intake and body weight of cattle daily. This research is being done at the Beef Research and Teaching Farm facility in MU's South Farm Agricultural Experiment Station. Whenever an animal steps to the bunk, or a trough, a computer notes the cows' arrival and departure times and how much they eat. When they drink, they stand on scales that keep track of their weights. If a beef producer just selected the top one-third of their most efficient cows, forage intake would be reduced by 20 percent, Kerley said.

To read the entire article, link here.


Kenworth T370, T800 Models Provide Reliability for Feed Mixers

Specialty Vehicles from Bill’s Volume Sales Feed Cattle throughout Midwest

CENTRAL CITY, Neb., October 8, 2009 – As Bill Pullen tells the story, his original decision to buy Kenworth trucks was automatic. Literally.

“Back in 2000, there was a long wait for medium duty trucks with automatics, but Kenworth had them. We needed trucks to mount our custom mixer-feeders on, so we thought we’d give them a try,” recalled Pullen, who is owner of Bill’s Volume Sales based in Central City, Neb.

According to Pullen, that decision was very fortuitous and it’s been reaping rewards ever since for his company, which also has sales and service locations in Lexington, Neb., and Pierce, Colo. “It allowed us to try the Kenworth product and see if it would make a difference with customers. And, has it ever.”

Today, the company orders about 40 Kenworth T370s, and a handful of Kenworth T800s each year. It also retrofits used trucks with mixer-feeders. “About 95 percent of our new cattle feeders are built on the Kenworth chassis,” Pullen said. “It’s our truck of choice and what we recommend to customers.

“The quality of Kenworth trucks is much more evident over time as the trucks are lasting as long as our ROTO-MIX(R) cattle feeders. Before, with our other truck makes, the chassis just wouldn’t hold up,” Pullen said. “Probably the most noticeable was in the doors. As drivers continually got in and out to load the feed mixers, doors began to sag. After two years you could see doors not hanging correctly and hard to close. But with a Kenworth truck, that’s never been a problem. They always close tight and are very comfortable to drive.”

In 1984, Pullen and business partner Ben Neier developed the high-end ROTO-MIX mixer-feeder, which runs off the truck’s PTO. They later simplified the design to efficiently mix several different feeds into a 620 cubic-foot feed mixer body on the Kenworth T370 and 920 cubic-foot body on the Kenworth T800. The company also makes trailers with the feeding system.

“My business partner (Ben Neier) always said: ‘It’s not hard to build machinery. It’s hard to make it simple,’ ” recalled Pullen. “It didn’t take long for word of mouth to help propel our sales. Now, we’re one of the largest feed mixer companies in the world – selling new units as well as reconditioning and selling used mixers.”

While it seems that cattle feeding is low tech, Pullen says it’s anything but. “It’s not easy. You need exact science on feed and have to deliver the feed each day or the cattle get out of schedule, which hurts the fattening process that takes 120 to 180 days,” he said.

“We typically spec a 6-speed automatic and very low gearing on our Kenworth T370s. This allows the truck to run comfortably between 3.5 to 5 mph, at the right RPMs, laying down the feed. With our equipment, we don’t want to go too quick and have to make another pass. Plus, the Kenworth trucks need to be easy to drive with good visibility – and they are. Remember, when you’re operating on a farm, you don’t need a CDL – there are teenagers out there driving the equipment in family-run operations.”

According to Pullen, the trucks are equipped with electronic scales, which allows the operator to add the exact amount of feed to the mixer. “With our system, cattle get fed better than most people do,” laughed Pullen. “Since the mixers always have to be running in order for the cattle to remain on schedule, Kenworth dealer support is invaluable to us.

“The folks from Sahling Kenworth have come out and understand how vital it is to our customers that our mixers perform day in and day out,” he said. “They’re committed to us and our customers, and have mobile service units in York and Kearney, Nebraska. They’re on call seven days a week and are committed to be there to solve any problems that may arise.”

Pullen said his relationship with Kenworth and the dealership couldn’t be better. “We’ve been very happy with how things have developed and the commitment in quality trucks and service that Kenworth provides,” Pullen said. “I’ve been in the business since 1963 when my father and I developed our first feeders. I know how important a quality feeder is – we had more than 1,000 head of cattle back in the early years. So, my dedication is to giving my customers a quality product on a quality chassis. And Kenworth delivers.”

Kenworth’s quality products, combined with excellent dealer support from dealers such as Sahling Kenworth, contributed to Kenworth receiving 2009 J.D. Power and Associates awards for “Highest in Customer Satisfaction for Heavy Duty Dealer Service.”*

Kenworth Truck Company is the manufacturer of The World’s Best(R) heavy and medium duty trucks. Kenworth is an industry leader in providing fuel-saving technology solutions that help increase fuel efficiency and reduce emissions. The company’s dedication to the green fleet includes aerodynamic trucks, medium duty diesel-electric hybrids, liquefied natural gas trucks, and the Kenworth Clean Power(R) no-idle system. This year, Kenworth became the first truck manufacturer to receive the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Excellence award in recognition of its environmentally friendly products. In addition, Kenworth is the recipient of the 2009 J.D. Power and Associates awards for Highest in Customer Satisfaction for Over the Road Segment and Pickup and Delivery Segment Class 8 Trucks. Kenworth’s Internet home page is at Kenworth. A PACCAR Company.



BELLE FOURCHE, SD – New Generation Feeds, manufacturer of SmartLic feed supplements, recently launched a new comprehensive Web site. The easy-to-use site is designed to maximize the interactive experience for producers and dealers. Intuitive navigation allows users to quickly find product information by livestock type, product name or application.

The SmartLic Resources page features product literature and links to market reports and industry news. The site also serves as a resource for the latest feed supplement research. Producers can utilize the latest version of the Feed Cost Calculator to determine feed cost comparisons and cost projections for their herds. The new site can be accessed at

New Generation Feeds nutritionally engineers SmartLic supplements that are university research proven to provide herd nutrition throughout the production cycle. The low moisture blocks provide nutrients to optimize forage utilization and reproductive performance. SmartLic supplements are designed to be fed with all types of pastures or forages. The continuous flow process used to create the supplements is protected by two U.S. patents.


Hay Bales Communicate Data Through New Holland CropID™ Technology

NEW HOLLAND, Pa., (Oct. 5, 2009) – New Holland Agriculture today reaffirmed its leadership in hay and forage technology with the launch of CropID™, an individual bale identification system for large square balers.

Using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, the CropID™ system gathers detailed information about each separate bale and stores it in a microchip that attaches to the twine.

This innovation enables commercial growers to uniquely tag and sort bales based on a wide range of criteria, so that shipments or storage can be arranged according to the hay types that best meet the clients’ needs. Identifying quality, moisture content, or other characteristics of specific bales is now a simple process, allowing growers to easily decide which bales are the best match for specific customers, or need to be set aside for further curing.

“The wealth of data provided by the CropID™ system offers a vast array of benefits that have a great value to both the farmer selling the bale and the customer purchasing it,” said Michael Cornman, New Holland Dairy & Livestock Marketing Segment Leader. “The system provides accurate documentation of bales for resale, the exact weight of bales for loading and shipping purposes, the ability to monitor and manage inventory via computer, and it provides customized records for customers.”

In addition to helping growers keep shipments and stacks consistent, the CropID™ system also has several other uses, such as tracking the amount of hay on hand from each field and cutting.

The CropID™ system works by encasing a microchip and its antenna in a tag that’s wrapped around the twine as the bale is tied. A precision information processor stores the bale’s information, which includes the bale number, the field number or name, the date and time it was baled, the high and average moisture content, the amount of preservative applied, if any, and the bale weight.

CropID™ bale tags can then be read by a hand-held scanner that shows information on a screen when held within five feet of a tag. The scanner can also be docked on a loader with the screen visible to the operator. The loader-mounted scanner has additional antennae and reads tags on up to three bales at a time at a distance of up to 10 feet without actually seeing the tag. The scanner creates lists of bales made in each field, and a removable USB memory device can be used to download the lists to a computer.

For hay producers, the verifiable records provided by the CropID™ system provide paybacks including increased customer satisfaction and the potential for higher sale prices. New Holland continues to work on further enhancements for the system.

About New Holland

New Holland is a world leader in agricultural, utility and construction equipment. New Holland sells and services an innovative and diverse line of tractors as well as hay and forage equipment, harvesting, crop production and material handling equipment. Sales, parts and service are provided to customers by New Holland dealers throughout the United States and Canada. There are more than 1,100 New Holland dealerships located throughout North America.

For more information on New Holland products, contact your local New Holland dealer or visit the New Holland Web site at


For more information, contact:


[email protected]

High-res images are available for download in the Image Library section under "Haying Equipment" of the New Holland Online Media Kit at


American Association of Bovine Practitioners Names New Officers

OMAHA, Neb. (Oct. 7, 2009) – The American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP) recently announced its officers for the upcoming year at its 42nd annual conference in Omaha, Neb., Sept. 9-12. The new 2009-2010 officers are:

• President, Roger Saltman, DVM, MBA, from Cazenovia, New York, will represent AABP membership on a day-to-day basis, overseeing all facets of the organization.

• President-elect, Christine Navarre, DVM, MS, DACVIM, from Baton Rouge, La., will have the responsibility to serve as the annual meeting program committee chairperson.

• Vice President, Brian Gerloff, DVM, PhD, from Marengo, Ill., will coordinate the next annual meeting’s preconference seminars.

Past AABP President Richard Wallace, DVM, MS, believes the unique volunteer nature of the organization is the key to its livelihood. “This organization serves as the pulse of not only the large animal sector, but the entire animal agriculture industry,” said Wallace. “We are excited to welcome the new officers.”

The organization’s objectives focus on providing continual education opportunities to bovine veterinarians and veterinary students while elevating practice standards and public awareness of the importance of large animal practice.

“My major goal is to continue AABP’s outreach efforts and increase our student membership,” said incoming president Saltman. “We must provide students and new veterinarians with education in areas that will prepare them for what will invariably be a different kind of practice in the next 25 years. This includes training in business management practices, entrepreneurship and managing human resources, in order to adapt to the changing role those veterinarians will have in the future.”

Saltman is currently the group director of U.S. cattle veterinary operations for Pfizer Animal Health. Prior to his current position, he worked in a private dairy practice in New York and then served in technical services roles at American Cyanamid Company, Roche Animal Health and Pharmacia Animal Health. He received his doctor of veterinary medicine degree at Cornell University and a master’s degree in business administration at Syracuse University. He was presented the AABP Distinguished Service Award in 2001 and has served as treasurer and board member for the organization.

Navarre currently serves as an extension veterinarian with the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center. She received her doctor of veterinary medicine degree from Louisiana State University, and following graduation, worked in a private dairy practice in Texas before going to Texas A&M University for a large animal internal medicine residence and earning a master’s degree. She also worked within the Food Animal Section at the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital. Navarre joined Louisiana State University’s AABP chapter while still in veterinary school and has been active in the group ever since.

For the last 23 years, Gerloff has been self-employed in a large dairy animal practice in northern Illinois. For the past four years, he has also been a partner with two of his dairy clients in a small cheese company, Prairie Pure Cheese, LLC. He graduated from Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine with a doctor of veterinary medicine degree, as well as a doctorate in dairy nutrition from its College of Agriculture. Gerloff has served on a number of AABP committees including the nutrition, Amstutz Scholarship and distance continuing education committees. He also received the AABP Merial Award for Excellence in Preventive Medicine in Dairy.

“With every year comes a dedicated new group of officers, ready and willing to volunteer their time and expertise to build upon the previous officers’ efforts,” said Gatz Riddell, DVM, executive vice president of AABP. “This organization has grown considerably and made a significant impact on the profession and the industries it serves through its history of leaders.”

The American Association of Bovine Practitioners is an international association of veterinarians organized to enhance the professional lives of its members through relevant continuing education that will improve the well-being of cattle and the economic success of their owners, increase awareness and promote leadership for issues critical to cattle industries, and improve opportunities for careers in bovine medicine.

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