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Bull Buyers: What Traits Are Important?

What traits do commercial cow-calf producers rank highest when making bull buying decisions? According to a BEEF magazine survey of our readers last January, disposition is the highest-ranked trait, garnering an average 4.5 score on a 5-point scale, with 5 being very important.

That’s one of the nuggets of data derived from the study that BEEF Senior Editor Burt Rutherford discussed with Wagyu breeders at their annual convention in Lexington, KY, recently. Rutherford was one of the featured speakers at the annual Wagyu gathering.

Interestingly, bull sellers gave disposition an equal rating. Next on the list was feet and leg soundness, garnering a 4.4 rating from both bull buyers and bull sellers. Third was overall conformation, which was rated 4.3 by bull sellers and 4.4 buy bull buyers.

“Following those top three, bull buyers began to rank the performance traits they want,” Rutherford says. “Weaning weight ranked 4.3 with bull buyers and 4.1 with bull sellers; birth weight ranked 4.2 with bull buyers and 4.4 with bull sellers; and yearling weight ranked 4.2 will bull buyers and 3.9 with bull sellers.”

Carcass and feedyard traits were ranked higher by bull buyers than by their seedstock suppliers, Rutherford told the Wagyu breeders. Bull buyers ranked carcass quality 3.9 while sellers gave it a 3.4; bull buyers gave feedlot performance a 3.9 compared with a 3.4 from bull sellers; and carcass yield was ranked 3.8 by commercial cow-calf producers while seedstock producers gave it a 3.3.

For more info, go to To see the survey data in its entirety, go to
-- Burt Rutherford

First Publicly Traded Farmland Fund To Be Launched

Investors’ appetite for a publicly traded farmland fund could soon be tested with the planned initial public offering of Gladstone Land Corp. The McLean, VA- based company filed registration papers in August to sell up to $222.6 million in common stock.

If the offering is successful, Gladstone Land will seek to qualify in 2011 as a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) – a mutual fund-like structure that distributes at least 90% of its income to investors and is generally exempt from corporate income taxes.

This would be the first publicly-traded U.S. farmland REIT. Other groups, such as Optima Fund Management, New York, and Chess Ag Full Harvest Partners, Clarksdale, MS, have formed private farmland REITs they hope to eventually take public.

Gladstone Land’s initial portfolio consists of two farms totaling 737 tillable acres in Watsonville and Oxnard, CA, purchased in the late 1990s.

David Gladstone, 68, organizer of the planned IPO, acquired the land as part of a seven-year private equity investment in Coastal Berry Company LLC, a controversial Westlake Village strawberry farming and packing operation purchased from Monsanto in 1997. Gladstone sold Coastal Berry to Dole Food Co. in 2004 and kept the Watsonville and Oxnard farms and continues to lease them to Dole.

Gladstone is also founder & CEO of Gladstone Management Corp., which oversees three publicly traded funds that invest in commercial real estate and make business loans.

Gladstone Land plans to buy cropland near urban areas and lease it to farmers until the property can be sold for commercial or residential development. Gladstone plans to strike mostly short-term (one to two-year), fixed-rate, triple-net leases to grow annual crops, aiming to increase its opportunities to raise rental rates as leases are renewed.

The fund also plans to market farm mortgages to under-capitalized growers or those unable to secure conventional financing. Gladstone intends to offer higher-interest, interest-only mortgages, lending up to 80% of the purchase price on land loans with an eye toward taking ownership of the collateralized land in the event of a default.

The fund will also seek to boost returns by borrowing up to $2 for each dollar of equity in its properties.

Gladstone Land expects to raise $157 million in net proceeds and invest most of these funds in land and mortgages within 12 months of its IPO. The company projects 4% to 6% initial rent-to-value income yields, and notes it intends to initially scout for properties along California’s central coast near its current land in Ventura and Santa Cruz Counties. In the future, it expects to expand to northern Florida, Georgia, the Southeast, Midwest and Mid-Atlantic.

The venture plans to utilize triple-net leases, in which tenants maintain the property while paying rent, property taxes and insurance. These leases are common in the commercial property market, but unusual for the broader farming sector.
Contact Mike at: or [email protected]
-- Mike Fritz

Hurry-Up Offense At Work In GIPSA Rule

Last July, R-CALF President Max Thornsberry wrote a blog piece headlined, “We May Have Won One.” The high-fiving entry celebrated the fast-track pace of the proposed GIPSA rule on market competition published the month before. After all the years and likely millions of dollars wasted by R-CALF in fruitless court battles, that headline was a particularly candid one.

It was also telling in that it displays the heady confidence of the rule’s supporters at that time, a confidence that was likely justified given the fact that:

  •  The administration in power is all too eager to eschew free-market principles in favor of social justice.

  •  The head of GIPSA is J. Dudley Butler, an R-CALF member, a founding member of the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM), and a plaintiff’s attorney who pursued antitrust cases in his Mississippi practice before assuming his federal appointment. For another take on Butler, read "Fox Guarding The Hen House" at Or, for still another take, read former Rep. Bob Barr’s (R-GA) comments at

  •  The rule had garnered just a 60-day comment period – amazing for a measure that threatened to turn the livestock marketing sector on its ear.

But something happened on the way to the victory party. The first hiccup was widespread outrage over the scant 60-day comment period. After saying he wouldn’t alter it, Butler was forced by his superiors to extend it to Nov. 22.

Then came the castigation of USDA officials during congressional hearings regarding overstepping of congressional intentions, including adding measures that Congress had clearly rejected. Then, it was revealed that Butler had told an OCM meeting last year (after assuming leadership of GIPSA) that implementation of the rule would be “a plaintiff lawyer’s dream.”

Capping it all was a commentary written by Patrick Goggins, an R-CALF patriarch, denunciating the GIPSA rule. Even Temple Grandin, the renowned animal behaviorist and animal handling expert, has characterized the rule as harming or the progress the industry has made in humane animal treatment.

But, there’s no doubt the administration is running a hurry-up offense on this measure. Just as in the debate over health care, cap-and-trade, and financial regulation, it is a grab driven by emotion and hastened along lest folks really learn what the actual results will be. Even a bipartisan call by 115 congressmen earlier this month for an impact study was dutifully denied by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Much has been made of the workshop on livestock competition issues conducted by USDA and the Department of Justice in Fort Collins, CO, in late August. But I thought much more telling was the evening before when the two competing sides held rallies. I attended both.

Opponents of the rule presented scholarly, reasoned dialog and science. Meanwhile, the proponents put on an emotional display of anecdotes, unionists railing against Wal-Mart, and castigations of modern agriculture from urban farmers and what is essentially an anti-meat group called Food & Water Watch.

Surveys of BEEF readers indicate that a huge majority are against the GIPSA rule. They want the freedom to compete without the government stepping in to designate winners and losers. As one Kansas speaker at the Fort Collins meeting put it: “Don’t take away my right to market as I choose because you’re too lazy to do your own.”

The truth is that casting aside decades of efficiency and reverting to a commodity market won’t build a vibrant industry. It’s a recipe for a more expensive product, and thus falling demand and a shrinking industry. Like the Titanic, we’ll all be in the same boat, but heading only one way – down.

Vaccine And Equipment Care And Handling

Millions of dollars have been invested to deliver to the livestock producer safe and efficacious vaccines. So it behooves us to handle these products in a manner that will maximize the immune response in the healthy animal, says John Kirkpatrick, DVM, and Oklahoma State University College of Veterinary Medicine professor emeritus.

Kirkpatrick reviews a few simple steps that help ensure vaccine efficacy:

  • Purchase only federally licensed vaccines from a reliable source who is conscientious about the ordering, timely receiving and shipping, and storing vaccines they are going to sell you.
  • Purchase the proper vaccines for the cattle you are vaccinating – consult your veterinarian and/or read the directions carefully.
  • Keep vaccines refrigerated at all times (36°-44°F). Keep them in an ice chest and out of the sun at chuteside.
  • Mix only the vaccine that will be used in a timely period (less than 1 hour); Discard any unused product by burning containers.
  • Reconstitute modified-live virus (MLV) vaccines with clean transfer needles. Using a bleeding needle is highly recommended because they’re cheap and disposable (see your veterinarian).
  • Don’t mix two different products in the same syringe unless it’s part of the package, i.e. IBR/leptospirosis vaccine.
  • Use only new needles to fill and refill syringes.
  • Consider using multidose disposable syringes that automatically draw from the vaccine vial, especially for modified live virus (MLV) vaccines. When using this method, keep the vial in use in a vial shroud or cover to insulate and protect from sunlight.
  • Use the proper needle gauge and length – 16 ga. X 5/8 or 3/4 in. for all subcutaneous (SubQ) injections. Use 16 ga. X 1-in. needles for intramuscular (IM) injections in young cattle. A 16-ga. X 1½-in. needle is used for IM injections in adult cows and bulls. Always use sharp needles – burrs take in hide, hair and debris resulting in injection-site infections and abscesses.
  • Use the proper injection site as described by the product insert. Always use the SubQ route of administration when a choice is given between SubQ and IM. All injections are to be administered in the neck area.
  • Syringe cleaning – Don’t use alcohol, disinfectants or detergents in syringes used for (MLV) vaccines. Instead, use hot water (distilled), more hot water as a rinse, dry on clean paper towels, silicone oil, and store in a clean dry area (baggie). Wash the outside first with the needle and needle cover on. Wash your hands thoroughly, break the syringe down, and perform the cleaning procedure.

The beef producer, vaccine company, and veterinarian have a mutual responsibility to produce a quality, drug-free and economic product for the beef consumer.

Using quality vaccines, proper handling and administration, and using clean functional equipment, healthy cattle will develop immunity when vaccinated thereby decreasing as much need for antibiotic therapy and increased injection sites.

Why Are Republicans Climate Skeptics?

The New York Times marvels editorially that none of the Republicans running for the U.S. Senate accept the “scientific consensus that humans are largely responsible for global warming.” Maybe that’s because the Republicans come from more rural (red) states that haven’t had any warming – manmade or otherwise.

My colleague Ed Long, formerly a NASA physicist, has found a severe problem with the “official” U.S. temperature records from the Goddard Space Institute and the National Data Collection Center. Both data sets deal with the inevitable gaps in station-by-station data by averaging the gap station with another nearby station. Supposedly, this works because “stations in the same latitude bands tend to share a more similar climate.”

Too often, however, this has led to averaging rural and urban temperatures together. Inevitably, that means the blended temperatures will be higher. Due to the Urban Heat Island effect, a big city can raise its own temperatures by 5° C. Even a small city can be 2°C. warmer than the surrounding countryside. The rural population of America has stayed roughly the same since 1950, but the urban population doubled from 1950-1960 – and has continued to grow twice as fast.

Long says GISS “adjustments” over 10 years have progressively lowered temperatures for far-back data and raised the temperatures in the recent past. This “adjustment” increased a 0.35°C./century uptrend in 2000 to 0.44°C./century in 2009 – a 26% increase. NCDC, meanwhile, has shifted the “official” rate of temperature change for 1940-2007 from 0.1°/century in the raw data to an “adjusted” 0.6°C./century – a 600% “adjustment.”

To assess the real size and meaning of the rural-urban divergence, Long selected one rural station and one urban station per state; the rural and urban station trends were then averaged separately. The results are startling.

The rural data set shows no warming since 1890! The temperatures have trended up and down, but there’s no overall increase. The urban stations show a strong warming, especially after 1965. Are these two “skeleton sets” of raw data more representative of reality than the urban-polluted “adjusted” data sets in the official records? Long says “Yes.”

  • The raw data is that measured at the time, so, simply stated, those were the temperatures.

  • The two sets had strikingly similar variations, with the rural set having more variability. The cities were warmer, but less susceptible to short-term changes in air temperatures due to their retained heat.

  • The medium-term trends are similar up to about 1965, but the cities warmed much faster after that year. That’s probably not global warming, but rather the in-filling of the cities: higher populations, more and taller office buildings, more streets and parking lots, more lost trees. The airports have poured more concrete, and become “development hot spots.”

Both data sets show that public opinion has been heavily impacted by the continuing 30-year phases of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). Temperatures rose strongly 1915-1940 during a Pacific warming, but World War II was scarier than any theory about manmade warming. When the PDO trended downward from 1940-1975, newsmagazines and “experts” predicted a new Ice Age. When the temperatures and the Pacific rose strongly again from 1976-98, the manmade warming scare was born and flourished. Now that earth has failed to warm for a decade, public fear of global warming has waned dramatically.

We have clearly been polluting the official temperature record with Urban Heat. Has none of the global warming scientists, cap-and-trade millionaires, and media folks noticed? Or have the billions and billions of dollars spent to “save the world from pending disaster” clouded their vision?

Source: Edward R. Long, “Contiguous U.S. Temperature Trends Using NCDC Raw And Adjusted Data for One-Per-State Rural and Urban Station Sets. SPPI, February 27, 2010.

Dennis T. Avery, is a Hudson Institute senior fellow and co-author of Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1500 Hundred Years. Contact him at [email protected]

-- Dennis T. Avery

Autumn Is A Blessing In A Rancher's Life

img_1932.JPG Autumn is truly a wonderful time of year. Call me an idealist, but there is something truly magnificent about watching the trees radiate bold orange and red hues and the corn and beans fade to a golden yellow. The air becomes crisp with the promise of a good harvest, healthy calves at weaning and successful pregnancy rates when checking the cows. Although the days are getting shorter and winter's cold bite is looming just around the corner, I think autumn is the perfect time of year to celebrate the abundance of the farming and ranching life. I'm a firm believer of counting life's little blessings, and autumn is one of those blessings.

Just for fun, I have listed my top five reasons why I love this time of year so much. A similar blog spot you might want to check out is, "Top 5 Lessons Ranches Teach Kids." Here are my top five; what are yours?

corral.jpg 1. Weaning calves is the report card cattlemen get from their cows. Who is making the cut, and who needs to go? There is a certain amount of pride seeing the calves get weaned and belly up to the feed bunk for grain. Performance and progress are evident at this time of year.

work-help.jpg 2. Pregnancy checking follows next. Each year, we team up with our neighbors to work our calves, and these days are full of conversation and fellowship with our cattle friends. Open cows are always a disappointment, but it's a great time of year to look over the cowherd and take inventory.

sunset.jpg 3. Moving the cattle out to corn stalks is a cost-effective way to feed the cattle. Crossing our fingers that the snow will hold off, it's a beautiful sight to look out the window and see the cows grazing peacefully in the corn fields. Plus, it's a lot easier than feeding hay, right?

71933_1448637984849_1500180011_31087960_2457894_n.jpg 4. Autumn is the time for my birthday (Nov. 13) and now my wedding anniversary (Oct. 8). It's a time of celebration and a time to get out and about. Beef expos, cattle shows and sales take up many of our weekends. It's a wonderful time of year to reconnect with fellow producers.

5. Big decisions are made in the fall regarding replacement heifers, sale bulls, feeder calves and cull cows. When's the best time to market these calves? How many should we retain? What bulls should we offer in this year's group of private treaty stock? Although the answers aren't always clear, this is the time of year to pour over EPDs and make the big decisions for the future.

Have I mentioned I love this time of year? Why do you love autumn? What's going on in your neck of the woods these days?

BEEF Daily Quick Facts: "Besides family owned ranches and selected country-born individuals, the cowboy of today is trying to grab onto the roots of the past. With the sprawl of the cement world, it becomes harder and harder to find a spot in the world to call your own, and the cowboy needs his space to ride. He needs his space to call his own." (Source: What Is A Cowboy?)

Change Is The Only Constant

img_0868.JPG An old proverb goes like this, “Change is the only constant.” I couldn’t agree more. Whether it’s your kids growing up and leaving the house to go to school or get married, your farm or ranch transitioning into new management hands, your marketing plan for your cattle each year, or your goals for the future, the world around us is always changing. As change is the only constant, we must accept and embrace it as we seek success in our endeavors.

This was Judson Laipply’s message at the 83rd National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, IN, last week. A keynote speaker at one of the sessions, Laipply is widely recognized as a YouTube sensation for his video, “The Evolution of Dance.” With more than 155 million viewers, his dancing video likens the changing of dance styles to the changes we face in life. View his video below and see what I mean. I guarantee you will get a chuckle out of his dance moves!

What changes are going on in your family and your ranch? How are you adapting to these changes and planning for the future? Share your words of wisdom in the comments section below.

Finally, I would like to announce the return of BEEF Daily Quick Facts. A while ago, I had a reader suggest that I include small facts and figures for producers to incorporate into their daily conversations. I kept this up each day for many months until I started to focus on other issues in the blog. I have had many reader emails requesting the return of this feature, and I'm proud to bring it back for your convenience. Look for the quick facts weekly in your inbox.

Meat Industry Injury, Illness Rates Lowest Recorded

The meat industry continues to build on a two-decade record of improvement in worker safety, according to new numbers released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

In 2009, total recordable injury and illness rates decreased by 8%, while cases involving days away from work, job transfer or restriction also decreased by 8%.

“Worker safety is a top priority and a non-competitive issue in the meat and poultry industry,” says AMI President and CEO J. Patrick Boyle. “These numbers reflect the continued efforts by our industry to make meaningful and measurable improvements and we hope to build on this record of success as we strive to ensure our workplaces are as safe as possible.”

To read the entire article, link here.

Supplementation May Be Necessary

The harvest is progressing rapidly and some cows are moving to cornstalk pastures in the area.

Over the past few years, the cost of running a cow has really increased. It used to be a “rule of thumb” that we could run a cow for about $1/day, or $350-$400/year. As pasture rent and hay prices rose, many producers are seeing costs of over $600/cow/year. Thankfully calf prices are high enough this year to compensate for these additional costs, but the more costs decrease, the more profit is retained in your operation.

This summer we had more rain than I can remember. It made it almost impossible to put up good-quality hay. The only good thing about it was that in a few short weeks you got another chance to try, but this attempt was usually rained on, too. Most of the hay we have seen tested is lower in protein and feed value. Feeding this hay alone will require extra feed and supplement to balance these rations and get enough energy in these cows.

As we see the increase in the ethanol industry, we have many more byproducts available for supplementation. In the past several years researchers have experimented with co-products and different forage types.

To read the entire article, link here.

Vilsack Pushes Rural Broadband

A missionary came to a vineyard in the little town of Dublin, NC, on Oct. 19; it was Tom Vilsack, USDA secretary, and the topic of the sermon he delivered to a few hundred farmers and townspeople was the vital importance of increased access to the Internet.

“I was at a grain elevator recently, and we listened to the operator of the elevator. She said that sometimes she might not quote the exact price of a commodity to a producer of a commodity," said Vilsack. She bemoaned that she would need “real time” information to really serve her customers right, he added.

“That is what expanded broadband access will do,” Vilsack said. “It will help the grain elevator do a better job of serving its farmers and ranchers. And the farmers and ranchers themselves need that technology for their marketing efforts.”

To read the entire article, link here.