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Articles from 2013 In October

Jack A. (Uncle Jack) Miller passes

Jack A. (Uncle Jack) Miller was born July 11th, 1929 in Ft Worth, Tx. He passed away October 12th, 2013, in Brownwood Regional Medical Center.  Miller was sales manager for Potts Longhorn from 1964 to 1990.  He was with Partrade from 1990 to 1996.  From 1996 until his death Jack was the credit manager for Mustang Manufacturing. Two of his favorite sayings were " I've had lots of discussions but never and argument".  And "Don't bother me, just do it". 

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Seymour Simmons Jr. passes

Seymour Simmons, Jr., 93, passed away October 6. The past President, CEO and Chairman of Miller International, Inc. also served as President of Temple Emanuel and the Rotary Club of Denver. Simmons, an alumnus of Louisiana State University, began his journey at Miller Stockman under the direction of Phillip Miller on May 1, 1951 as comptroller. Simmons became President of Miller International, Inc. in 1973, overseeing the Miller Stockman stores and Miller Western Wear.  Simmons became Chairman of the Board and CEO in 1989 and was at the helm during the purchase of Rocky Mountain Clothing Company, and its Rockies® brand.  He continued to be an active participant in the company until the early 2000's, eventually retiring.  

Lloyd's of London, Univ. of KY continue partnership

The long-standing partnership between Lloyd's of London and the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment continued when representatives from Lloyd's recently presented a check for $45,000 to UK.    

The contribution supports the Lloyd's Equine Disease Quarterly, a research-based publication dedicated to equine health produced by the UK Department of Veterinary Science.    

The award-winning publication includes articles written by prominent researchers from around the world and provides timely and authoritative reports on some of the most important issues facing the equine industry. The Quarterly reaches more than 18,000 readers in 102 countries. Available in paper and online, its articles are regularly reprinted in numerous scientific and lay equine publications worldwide.    

"Last year, Lloyd's cumulative support surpassed the $1 million mark. That speaks significantly of the market's long-standing commitment for supporting equine research and health," said Julian Lloyd, bloodstock underwriter with Amlin and chair of Lloyd's Livestock Committee. "This year's contribution of $45,000 continues that effort, and we are proud to support the global distribution of Equine Disease Quarterly."

Canadian Beef Makes Gains In EU Agreement, But U.S. Must Aim Higher

Canadian Beef Makes Gains In EU Agreement, But U.S. Must Aim Higher

Canadian livestock organizations were understandably pleased when Canada and the European Union (EU) announced their free trade agreement Oct. 18. Negotiations had stalled on several occasions, with one of the most contentious issues being access to the EU for Canadian beef and pork products.

The full text of the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is not yet available for review, but according to the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), the EU will allow duty-free access for 50,000 metric tons (mt) of Canadian beef (carcass weight equivalent), which includes 35,000 mt of fresh/chilled beef and 15,000 mt of frozen beef. Canada will also continue to have access to the existing, shared duty-free quota for high-quality, grain-fed beef.

No change likely in EU restrictions on hormone use

The agreement isn’t expected to include changes in the EU’s restrictions on the use of hormones or beta-agonists in livestock production, and the extent to which it will address any other technical barriers isn’t entirely clear.

“Details remain to be worked out on the technical issues,” CCA said in a news release. “But for the first time, there is a written commitment between Canada and the EU, including a timetable, to resolve the technical barriers.”

This is a critical point as it relates to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations currently taking place between the U.S. and the EU. Many observers have suggested that CETA is a blueprint for the TTIP. But Thad Lively, U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) senior vice president for trade access, cautions that while the gains Canadian beef made in CETA look good on paper, the actual impact may fall short of expectations.

“Duties are certainly one of the obstacles that have held back North American meat exports to Europe,” Lively says. “So from that standpoint, gaining greater access through duty-free quotas is a positive development. But when I look at the trade activity that is currently taking place, I have to question whether larger quotas are going to be enough to truly open the EU market.”

For example, Canada’s access to the EU’s duty-free quota for high-quality, grain-fed beef (originally 20,000 mt, now 48,200 mt) has been in place for fouryears. Yet through July, the EU had imported only 444 mt of Canadian beef in 2013. In the most recent quota year (July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013), the U.S. was the largest user of the duty-free quota, shipping 16,750 mt. But even with Australia and Uruguay’s growing participation, only about two-thirds of the quota was utilized.


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“This is why USMEF is very concerned about settling for larger quotas in a trade agreement with the EU,” Lively explains. “In theory, greater duty-free access appears to be a significant breakthrough that offsets the additional costs of serving this unique market and allows more producers and processors to capitalize on high-value opportunities in Europe.

“But in practice, the impact has been rather limited. That is why it is so important to tackle technical issues such as hormone use, beta-agonists and pathogen reduction technologies in the TTIP negotiations if we are truly going to open the EU market to U.S. beef. Otherwise Europe is likely to remain a niche market, regardless of how much our quotas are expanded,” he says.

Canada won’t realize the benefits negotiated under CETA until it in turn allows imports of beef produced in the EU, which is still banned due to BSE. Lively notes that this is a concession the EU will also press the U.S. to make in the TTIP.

“At the behest of European beef and veal producers, this is absolutely going to top the list of the EU’s demands,” Lively says. “EU-produced beef poses no threat to the U.S. industry, either from a commercial or animal health standpoint. This is really just another step toward putting BSE behind us as a trade issue, which is something any beef-exporting country should embrace.”

Joe Schuele is director of communications for the U.S. Meat Export Federation.


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When Do You Market Your Calves? Plus Last Chance To Win Heat Holders® Socks

When Do You Market Your Calves? Plus Last Chance To Win Heat Holders® Socks

Each day this week, I’ve posed a question for readers to weigh in on for a chance to win a pair of Heat Holders® socks. During the course of this week, 10 commenters will take home a pair of these socks, which are marketed as being more than 7x warmer than regular cotton socks and 3x warmer than ordinary thermal socks. So far this week, we’ve discussed cull cows, buying bred cows, and forages for late fall and early winter. Today’s topic is marketing spring-born calves.

Our family business is selling bulls, so once we’ve selected the bulls to put in our sale and the replacement heifers we plan to keep, we typically market the remaining calves at our local sale barn in late November. By then, the calves are bunk broke, as well as castrated, dehorned and vaccinated. Depending on the market, we might hold the calves longer or let them go sooner, but we typically shoot for a late November marketing date on these calves.

Meanwhile, many of our friends and neighbors sell their calves right off the cow after weaning. Others retain their calves until January, if they have the feed supplies available.


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So today’s question is, “When do you typically market your spring calf crop?” Leave your thoughts in the comments section below. Three winners will be randomly selected and announced on Monday. Good luck!

Yesterday’s question asked, “Which forages do you utilize in late fall and early winter?” Our three winners are Chuck Tollefson, Alex Broussard and Frank Schlichting.

Chuck Tollefson says, “I graze regrowth after forage sorghum has been harvested, cows eat it to the ground. Cornstalks are getting harder to get cows to graze. Possibly biotech has altered the structure of the plant. I am not alone in this observation.”

Alex Broussard writes, “We use round bales that consist of Bermuda and/or bahia that has been stored in the barn. Also toward the end of September or early October, we overseed Nelson tetraploid ryegrass with a mixture of clover to help with protein and not have to supplement as much.”

Frank Schlichting adds, “We have the cows out on an alfalfa hay field. We had an amazing year this year. We live in northern Canada. I have never seen as much pasture and such good hay yields. We got two cuttings of alfalfa (something that never happens), and the regrowth from the last cutting is as good as the two crops that we took off! We will be weaning late since the cows are so fat and the calves are still gaining a lot of weight.”

Thank you again to all of you who participated in this week’s daily questions. It was very interesting to read about your different production methods from across the country. Be sure to weigh in on today’s question regarding marketing time for your calves.


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Meat Market Update | Boxed Beef Report Returns After Government Blackout

After a month hiatus due to the data blackout during the government shutdown, our weekly Meat Market Updates are back. Ed Czerwien, USDA Market News reporter in Amarillo, TX, provides us with the latest outlook on boxed beef prices and the weekly cattle trade.

The daily spot boxed beef cutout ended the week very strong, up from the previous week. Czerwien says the increased beef demand has been helped by the fall weather and federal workers returning to work.

Find more cattle price news here or bookmark our commodity price page for the minute-by-minute updates.

Which Forages Do You Utilize In The Fall? Plus Win Heat Holders® Socks

Which Forages Do You Utilize In The Fall? Plus Win Heat Holders® Socks

We’ve finished our fall cattle work, and weaning, preg-checking, and corn harvest are behind us. Meanwhile, the cowherd is enjoying grazing on corn stalks, while we busily prepare the ranch for winter weather. This includes hauling hay to the home site and doing some last-minute fencing projects, so the cattle can be tucked in nice and cozy during the upcoming South Dakota cold and snowy winter.

From corn stalks, to bean stubble, to cover crops, there are many cheap feed options to consider this time of year to help get the cattle in good shape before winter hits. Allowing our cattle to graze these plentiful residual crops in the fall allows us to save expensive harvested hay for when the snow flies.


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This week, we’ve been giving away pairs of Heat Holders® socks to readers who have answered a question of the day. We are selecting winners each day via a drawing among the participants who send in comments. Thus far this week, we’ve discussed cull cows and buying replacement heifers or bred cows. Today, I want to switch gears and have a conversation about late fall and early winter forages.

But first, let’s announce yesterday’s winners, who answered the question, “What do you look for at a cattle sale?” The two randomly selected commenters are Justin Whitely and South Wind. Congratulations and thanks for participating!

Answering the question, Justin Whitley writes, “First of all, I don't like buying open cows and heifers. At dispersal sales, you have no way of knowing why they aren't pregnant, and it's a gamble if they'll get pregnant for you. I like to buy guaranteed pregnant or at least a cow with a calf by her side. She also has to fit within my current set calving season. I don't want to have to move things around just for one cow.”

South Wind adds, “Usually we buy bred heifers when we go to a sale. I look at pedigree and EPDs. I try to buy the sisters or first cousins of the high-selling animals at 60% of the high price. I've done it both ways and find the production of the high-priced female has never been what I hoped while the one I bought to fill out the load is still there 10 years later.”

Today, readers have another chance to win a pair of Heat Holders® socks, whose makers boast are “the warmest thermal socks in the world.” Three readers will be selected to win the day’s contest. Simply answer the question, “Which forages do you utilize in late fall and early winter, and why? To be eligible to win, simply leave your thoughts in the comments section below. Good luck!


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Tight Beef Supplies Keep Beef Prices High

The livestock markets are back in business now that USDA’s market reporting apparatus is fully operational. The two-week federal government funding lapse had kept the markets essentially flying blind, absent important daily livestock reports from the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), as well as other crop and feed reports from the National Agricultural Statistics Service and World Agricultural Outlook Board.

What do we know at this point? Basically, that we’re right where we thought we were: with tight cattle supplies and adequate demand keeping prices on a fairly bullish trajectory.

With limited supplies of cattle and consumers willing to pay near-record retail prices for beef, the choice cutout has remained resilient over the past month, and the cash cattle market continues to improve. Prices, in fact, are now flirting with record high prices set earlier this year as the lingering effects of the multi-year drought are now coupled with the big questions raised by this month’s freak blizzard in South Dakota and the surrounding states.

To read Vance's entire column, click here.


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Billionaire Aims To Make Florida The U.S. Grass-Fed Beef Capital

Adena Meats  GrassFed Florida Beef
<p> Adena Springs Ranch includes nearly 25,000 acres in northeastern Marion County between Ocala and the Ocala National Forest. The plan is to create a one-of-a-kind grass-fed beef product that showcases Marion County and the entire state of Florida.</p>

There are signs that Florida pasture values may have finally stabilized, after a sharp 29% fall from the housing-development-fueled 2008 peak of $5,930/acre, to $4,200/acre today. Most speculators have either sold, or have been wrung out of the market via foreclosure and forced auctions.

One person who has piqued interest in Florida ag land is Frank Stronach, an 81-year-old, Austrian-Canadian businessman who founded auto-parts giant Magna International. Stronach sold his controlling stake in Magna in 2010 for nearly $1 billion, and has now set his sights on building a vertically integrated beef production venture on a scale akin to the late Colorado beef baron Kenny Monfort.

Where Monfort changed the beef industry by combining several operations — beef feedlots, slaughter, meatpacking, sales and distribution — Stronach is taking the cattle business back to its rangeland roots, and aims to tap into growing demand for grass-fed beef.

Adena Meats is born

Frank Stronach, FL Adena Springs Ranch
Frank Stronach

Since 2010, he has invested an estimated $200 million to acquire 86,356 acres of planted pine and pasture in central Florida’s Levy, Marion, Taylor and Putnam counties, and build a meat processing plant to produce organic, grass-fed beef. Stronach plans to spend another $60 million to develop the pinelands into pasture.

The venture, known as Adena Meats, is now running 1,850 Brangus cows (up from 325 in 2007), and nearly 700 2-year-olds and 1,000 yearlings, on 6,500 acres of pasture, says Rick Moyer, cattle manager and a Volusia County native who spent four years at St. Cloud, FL-based Deseret Ranches, and joined Adena Springs Ranch in 2003. Moyer hopes to be running 15,000 mama cows on 50,000-60,000 acres in six years. That growth will come as much as possible by retaining the ranch’s heifer calves.

If realized, Adena Meats will vault to among the top three cow-calf producers in Florida, after Deseret Ranches (44,000 cows) and the Seminole Tribal Cattle Program (17,000 cows).

Key to the venture’s success will be its ability to ensure a year-round supply of high-quality forage. Stronach aims to construct 34, 134-acre, pivot-irrigated pastures for the finishing-fattening cycle. The pastures will be planted with forage crops matched to the growing season and cattle production cycles.

Mark Roberts, Adena Meats ranch manager, figures this will require 4,556 acres of irrigated pasture. But the ranch’s irrigation water-pumping permit has been delayed nearly two years over concern that the ranch development threatens the Floridan Aquifer and nearby Silver Springs.

In December 2011, Adena Springs Ranch requested an allocation of more than 13 million gals. of water/day for its cattle grazing operation. It has since chopped its request to 5.3 million gals., following local opposition. In the interim, Stronach purchased two sod farms and is using the land’s existing water permit to grow 650 acres of irrigated pasture. Roberts says he hopes to resolve the water permit request by spring 2014.

Adena Meats figures its grass-fed cattle will take 22-24 months to reach a slaughter weight of 1,100-1,200 lbs., vs. 16 months for conventional grain-based feedlots.

In November, the venture will conduct test runs of its new 61,000-sq.-ft. processing plant near Fort McCoy in Marion County. The plant is designed to slaughter 150 head two days/week, and process carcasses into cuts the remaining three days.

Stronach initially plans to market his grass-fed beef at a new Miami restaurant slated to open in February. The eatery will be paired with a custom butcher shop that features Adena-raised, grass-fed beef; free-range chicken; and produce. Assuming the Miami restaurant and retail-store concept is successful, additional locations will follow.

“Someone new stepping into the game, especially on a large scale, helps send a message that Florida is indeed a good and viable place to continue to cattle ranch,” says Dusty Holley, director of field services at the Florida Cattlemen’s Association.

Florida ranks 12th nationally in beef cattle production, with about 908,000 cows. Last year, 860,000 calves were born in the state — and nearly all were shipped to the Texas Panhandle, Oklahoma and Kansas for backgrounding and finishing.

Holley says that drought in the Southern Plains has prompted other herd expansion efforts in Florida. He expects the 2012 Census of Agriculture to show a 20,000- to 60,000-head jump in Florida cattle numbers when the results are released in early 2014.

Pineland to pasture

Florida's mild climate, together with its 50+ in. of annual rainfall, offers nearly year-round grazing – more so than in any other state except Hawaii.

One of the biggest challenges in launching Adena Meats’ grass-fed beef venture is developing most of its nearly 70,000 acres of pineland holdings into productive pasture. It costs $1,000/acre to convert pineland to pasture, says Mark Roberts, ranch manager. That represents another $60 million in development expense on top of the venture’s $148 million land acquisition cost.

Rick Moyer, Adena Springs’ cattle manager, declined to share his cost-per-pound of gain target. “We are still building and moving stuff around and planting where ever we can,” he says. “So we don't really know where our cost of gain is at this point.” Moyer is targeting a conservative stocking rate of 4 acres/cow-calf unit.

Converting the ranch’s stands of loblolly and slash pine to pasture is a 2-3-year process. If the land has standing pine, the timber is harvested and left idle for six months. Then field debris is chopped and left for another 6-12 months before being chopped again. Next, the stumps are pushed up with bulldozers and left to dry for two months before being raked up and burned.

Once cleared, work crew disk the field twice and plow down 1.5 tons of lime/acre, and then disk in a second 1.5-ton lime application; level the field with a land plane and the field is ready for planting. New pastures should reach full production two years after planting.

Though Florida’s Flatwoods soils can hold a lot of moisture, they are also highly acidic, so Adena Meats must sample pasture soils every year. Brood cows will be pastured primarily on bahiagrass, a perennial warm-season grass. Weaned calves will be moved to higher-protein “finishing” pastures seeded with a mix of clovers and annuals such as rye, oats, wheat, and ryegrass for winter grazing, and Alice Clover, millet, sorghum and bermudagrass in the summer.

Michael Fritz is editor and publisher of Farmland Investor Letter. Reach him at [email protected] or visit


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Projecting The Cost Of Gain On Fall Calves

fall marketing tips for cattle producers

Last month, I detailed how I analyze local sale barn data, and Figure 1 summarizes my latest month’s sale barn data. Sale barn prices in mid-September have weakened but are stronger than a year ago, thanks to the upward movement of cash feeder-calf prices these last few months.

The sale barn prices averaged $174/cwt. for 550-lb. steer calves, and $150/cwt. for 800-lb. feeders. My calculated heifer discount decreased to $10/cwt. for 500-lb. heifers, but some previous expansion phases have seen the heifer discount go to zero.

wyomng/nebraska cattle prices

These sale barn prices provide price slides at each weight of feeder cattle, and can be used, along with feeder cattle futures, to calculate basis for each weight of feeder calf. These expanded basis data and the futures market were used to generate my latest suggested planning prices (Figure 7).

Beef cow producers are watching the corn and hay markets with considerable interest. The 2012 drought and record corn and hay prices drove up beef cow production costs. I calculate the breakeven calf price for 2013 calves to be $164/cwt. of steer calf sold — a record high.

Record corn prices impacted cattle feeders; they, in turn, held back feeder-calf prices. Year 2013 was a year of higher beef cow feed costs, higher feedlot costs of gain (COG), and constrained feeder-calf prices.

But there’s positive news as the 2013 growing season progresses. Corn prices have fallen from the 2012 peak. What isn’t yet clear is where 2014 corn prices will settle for the growing and finishing of 2013 calves.

Most analyses I’ve seen suggest corn prices for 2013 crop in the $4-$5 range. My current numbers for 2014 peg the corn futures price at slightly under $5. My current calculations for annual corn futures prices as of mid-September 2013 are in Figure 2.

average annual corn prices

Feedlot COG is what counts. I’m currently using a negative 20¢/bu. basis for eastern Wyoming/western Nebraska. With this basis, I have 2013 calves being grown and finished with $4.48/bu. corn for a projected COG of 95¢/lb.

This compares to a COG for growing and finishing 2012 calves of $1.14/lb., which is based on $7.12/bu. corn. This projected COG should put some badly needed profits back into the cattle-feeding sector. And a profitable cattle feeding sector is what beef cow producers really like to see.

My monthly slaughter-cattle price analysis starts with a graphical analysis of slaughter-cattle futures prices (Figure 3). These prices have trended up since 2011 and are projected to continue to do so in 2014. This analysis is based on live-cattle futures prices as of mid-September 2013.

annual average live cattle prices

The lowered level of beef production as the national beef cowherd expands should lead to strong slaughter-cattle prices for the next 2-3 years. In fact, I project slaughter-cattle prices to peak in 2014-2015, with the next dip going into 2018. The next dip, however, will only recede to around the 2013 average.

Beef exports are expected to be strong the next few years, though some domestic consumer resistance to increasing retail beef prices could be experienced. All in all, we should see strong slaughter-cattle prices during the next proposed beef cowherd expansion phase.

Shrinking feeder-cattle futures prices have led to increasing feeder-cattle prices. Figure 4 presents the calculated average annual feeder-cattle futures as of mid-September 2013. The trend value for these annual futures averages is $5.40/year, with 2012, 2013 and projected 2014 averages above trend value. This chart suggests strong feeder-cattle prices going into the next beef cowherd expansion.

annual feeder cattle prices

average hay prices for beef cattle

For much of cow country, hay prices are a big determinant of winter feed costs. Hay prices, which are presented for “alfalfa” and “all other hays,” are hard to track in any logical manner. I’ve elected to present the U.S. average for “other” hay prices in Figure 5.


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Clearly, hay prices have trended up dramatically since late 2010. I calculate the hay fed to the beef cowherd in October through April as a feed charge for the following October’s weaned calves. Thus, I calculate $99 hay fed to produce 2011 calves, $137 hay to produce 2012 calves and $148 hay to produce 2013 calves. Hopefully, the price for the hay consumed to produce 2014 calves will be lower.

price projections for fall cattle

Each month, for 11 months prior to weaning, I project fall weaning prices. Figure 6 summarizes my 11 monthly price projections for October 2013 weaned 550-lb. steer calves. Each bar represents that month’s projection.

There’s some month-to-month variation, but that variation typically narrows as we approach the October target month. For example, November 2012’s projection was the lowest at $180, while March 2013 was the highest for October’s price at $194. After that, the variation begins to moderate, with the latest two projections in the $187-to-$190 range. This month’s projection is $189/cwt. for steer calves in October 2013.

Figure 7 expands this month’s projections for alternative feeder-steer weights and for selected critical marketing dates through weaning in 2014. This table should allow readers to determine a set of buy/sell planning prices for almost any marketing alternative under consideration for 2013 calves. Use my buy/sell prices and your COG. Note that the bottom two lines on Figure 7 suggest slaughter-cattle planning prices.

Figure 8 applies these planning prices to my example herd of 250 cows projected to wean 569-lb. steer calves in October 2013. Four alternatives are summarized:

  • Selling at weaning
  • Backgrounding the weaned calf
  • Finishing the backgrounded calf in a custom lot
  • Growing and finishing the calf in a custom feedlot

Perhaps this is the year to wean and background my calves. I’ll re-evaluate my finishing options as I near the Jan. 15 marketing date for my backgrounded steers.

Harlan Hughes is a North Dakota State University professor emeritus. He lives in Kuna, ID. Reach him at 701-238-9607 or [email protected].


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