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Articles from 2018 In October

Controlling costs is important, but fertility pays the bills

Keeping up with your heifers

By Katrina Huffstutler

A calf that’s never born will never be sold.

While the truth of that statement is obvious to the point of ridiculousness, it’s the foundation of every decision a beef producer makes regarding the basic management philosophy of the operation.

In short, what calf crop percentage or weaning percentage are you shooting for? Or, said another way, how much loss at calving and weaning are you willing to stand?

It’s a great time to own cows, but only if you have a competitive cost structure with the right genetics and management to compete in today’s marketplace, according to Rick Funston.

The reproductive physiologist with the University of Nebraska-North Platte addressed 200 cattlemen at the Feeding Quality Forum this summer in Sioux City, Iowa.

At times like these, minimizing input costs is critical. But it doesn’t pay to compromise fertility in the process.

“Fertility is the most important trait in beef production, especially in the cow-calf sector, but all the way to the plate,” Funston said. “If we don’t have a live calf, we don’t have anything for the consumer.”

That’s why he focuses much of his work on replacement female development.

“It’s a huge financial cost before she produces a weaned calf,” Funston said. “We have to look at low-input development so we don’t have exorbitant costs for a female that’s difficult to get rebred.”

Relatively cheaper feed such as corn residue may bring slower gains, but he noted that’s often no problem for five-weight weaned heifers that only need to gain 250 pounds.

When the optimum percentage get bred and move on to better nutrition on summer grass, they respond more favorably than their peers developed to a higher weight on better feed. The slower-start heifers rebreed at a higher rate and stay in the herd longer because their diets fluctuate less than heifers given every early feed advantage.

“You feed them up on whatever your byproduct is, get them all pregnant and say, ‘Oh, by the way, you are never going to see that again.’ A lot of our work,” Funston said, “is focused on ‘let’s treat that heifer like she is going to be treated as a cow.’”

Aiming for 95% or more bred is folly, he added. “If I can get that, am I really selecting for the more fertile ones?” Better to get cattle to rebreed a few points lower than that, but on low-cost feed such as corn stalks.

Data on early-born steers has shown their advantage from feedyard to packinghouse and beef quality grade, but recent data also shows heifers born in the first 21 days of a calving season are heavier at weaning, gain at the average rate after that and begin cycling before the breeding season.

They have a higher pregnancy rate, more in the first 21 days, breed back sooner and wean a heavier calf than average.

Unfortunately, many producers cull the early-born heifers for being too big, not realizing they are simply older.

“This is a mistake,” Funston said, urging adoption of some quick visual tool such as notching ears of those early heifers. “Get rid of those that are born late.”

Heifers most likely to settle the first time and then rebreed on time are more likely to stay in the herd long enough to make a profit.

Katrina Huffstutler is a freelance writer from Electra, Texas and writes on behalf of Certified Angus Beef.

Meat Market Update | Daily rib primal pulls cutout higher

The daily spot Choice box beef cutout ended the week last Friday at $213.47, which was $5.54 higher compared to previous Friday and was helped by another big jump in the daily choice rib primal. The rib primal was $14 higher again during the week. Typically we see a seasonal climb in the rib primal, but this jump started well ahead of the last few years and has climbed $36/cwt. during October alone.  Also, it is currently about $35 higher than last year at this time.  

In recent years, the employee Christmas parties at many companies used Prime Rib as the feature meat, which really changed the demand for the rib primal this time of the year. Additionally, rib product sales at retail stores have become more important for home food items between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The rib products are definitely filling the sales gap between those two holidays, but most of the wholesale sales are actually made ahead of time which is why the prices normally start to drop when we get into December.

Finding middle ground in the too-often polarized debate over sage grouse conservation

The US House of Representatives tacked on a provision to the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act that includes language to block the listings of the greater sage grouse and lesser prairie chicken under the Endangered Species Act ESA according to the Oklahoma Farm ReportquotIf sage grouse are designated for protection under the ESA many ranchers may no longer be permitted to allow livestock to graze on or near sage grouse habitat habitat which spans across 11 western states and encompasses

By Jenny Seifert

Implementing policy that makes it harder for ranchers to keep ranching could result in land conversions that are bad news for sage grouse and other sagebrush species.

That’s one conclusion from research that reveals a clear link between the economic health of ranches and the ability to maintain habitat for the greater sage grouse, an iconic wild bird that has been at the center of public land policy debate for years.

A study led by the University of California Santa Barbara’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) and published in the Journal of Applied Ecology shows that policies to restrict grazing access on public lands may have the unintended consequence of exacerbating sage grouse habitat loss.

Restricting grazing access is likely to harm ranch profitability, which in turn could spur ranchers to sell their private lands for other uses – namely, crop cultivation or housing developments – that would ultimately destroy critical grouse habitat.

“When it comes to a choice between ranching, farming or housing in the West, sustainable ranching is the most compatible with wildlife,” said lead author Claire Runge, who was a postdoctoral researcher at NCEAS at the time of the research and is now a research scientist at University of Tromsø - The Arctic University of Norway.

Runge stressed that ranchers must still practice sustainable grazing to support habitat for grouse and maintain forage availability for their cattle. Moreover, their findings demonstrate that public and private lands are inextricably linked.

Sage grouse rely on both public and private lands throughout their lifecycles. More than half of their total habitat is in public lands, which include the dry sagebrush uplands where they breed, nest and overwinter.

In fact, while sage grouse are not listed as an endangered species, they are considered the canary in the coal mine for sagebrush ecosystems, which are home to more than 350 other plant and animal species.

“If you have sage grouse, you have intact, healthy sagebrush habitat,” said co-author David Naugle, a professor at the University of Montana and science advisor for the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service Working Lands for Wildlife.

In summers, the grouse rely on productive, private ranchlands for 75% of the lower, wetter habitat they need for raising and feeding their chicks. Losing these private lands to crops or subdivisions would threaten chick survival, which can make or break many grouse populations.

As the saying goes – and as this study shows – what’s good for the bird is also good for the herd. Ranchers also rely on public and private lands for forage, and limiting grazing on public lands limits available forage. According to the study, these limitations could strain ranch profitability and eventually force ranchers to sell their lands to those more profitable pursuits that are not suitable for sage grouse.

“By keeping people ranching, we get wins for those communities – they’re healthier and more vibrant – and we get a win for conservation, because we get healthy rangelands and healthy populations of sage grouse,” said Runge.

Sage grouse are already experiencing a “slow drip” of habitat loss due to land conversions, which is just one of several threats the birds face. Restricting grazing would add to this slow drip.

The authors calculate that curbing grazing on public land by 50% could result in a loss of over 429,000 acres of grouse habitat by 2050, which would be in addition to the 2.1 million-acre loss expected even if grazing goes unrestricted.

Their results indicate the importance of anticipating how public land policies intended to conserve biodiversity will affect people, especially ranchers, and the choices they might make for their private lands as a result.

“Every action has a reaction, and when you change something on public lands, it influences private lands and vice versa,” said Naugle.

According to co-author Joe Fargione, science director for The Nature Conservancy’s North American region, their findings validate the increasing recognition that ranchers and conservationists must partner to support healthy sagebrush ecosystems for cattle and sage grouse, and open the door to creative solutions that take a more balanced approach.

“There is a middle ground. Public policy should manage to protect resources on public lands, while also supporting ranchers in their stewardship of habitat on both public and private lands for the West’s iconic wildlife,” said Fargione.

Jenny Seifert is communications officer with the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at the University of California Santa Barbara.


Wrangler, HatCo, Sidran, Clint Orms commit to Dallas showrooms

Dallas Market Center, the leading marketplace for retailers from around the world, has announced that Wrangler, HatCo, Sidran and Clint Orms will open a new showrooms inside its growing western marketplace.
Wrangler this week that it will substantially expand its Dallas presence and will showcase its products in a range of categories and styles.

“Wrangler is an iconic American brand representing a strong heritage of hard-work, creativity and individuality,” said Cindy Morris, president and CEO of Dallas Market Center. “Our values are complementary, and their interest in reaching a wide range of customers is a logical fit for our marketplace. On behalf of our retail customers and WESA, we welcome their expansion in Dallas and their shared vision for the strong future of the business.”

HatCo will dramatically expand its Dallas presence and will showcase its iconic products, including the full range of hats from Stetson, Resistol, Charlie Horse and Dobbs, as well as apparel from Resistol and Resistol Double R.

“Having an expanded showroom in Dallas is a tremendous opportunity, and this new space will allow us to present even more of our best-sellers and new products throughout the year,” said Ricky Bolin, president of HatCo. “With the arrival of WESA shows, our decision to expand will help us serve loyal customers and reach more new customers with the full array of our quality products.”

Sidran will premiere a showroom that is triple the size of their previous space and will feature the company’s Cripple Creek, Circle S, Cowboy Up and Cowgirl Up brands that are both fashionable and versatile. Cripple Creek offers men's and women's southwest lifestyle outerwear, leatherwear and logo apparel.

“We are looking forward to building upon our success in Dallas with a larger showroom that will raise buyer awareness for our brands and can reach more potential customers,” said Roland Mizrahi, owner of Sidran. “For the WESA show attendees and for all types of retailers coming into the Dallas shows year-round we will present our full collections of women’s and men’s products.”

Legendary craftsman Clint Orms will showcase his handmade belt buckles, money clips and accessories, including cuff bracelets inside a stand-alone showroom.
“I view this as a special opportunity to reach buyers from across the U.S. who are seeking products of unique quality and craftsmanship,” said Clint Orms. “Only in Dallas can you see steady traffic throughout the year from motivated retailers. I’m thrilled to have a showroom dedicated to my western lifestyle products exclusively in Dallas.” 

The companies join a growing number of leading companies investing in a Dallas marketplace featuring hundreds of western lifestyle companies.

"Dallas is a convenient destination for buyers from across the country and internationally,” said Allen Montgomery, vice president and general manager of Wrangler western. “It’s also a dynamic marketplace with clear advantages: the opportunity to create custom space for our brand, to serve our loyal customers, and to reach more new buyers. A new showroom in Dallas is a logical investment in order to meet with buyers at WESA shows and to conduct business year-round."

Dallas Market Center is the largest marketplace in the world for western lifestyle products including apparel and accessories, gifts and home décor. In addition to these core categories, new product resources including tack, farm and ranch products and equipment, workwear and safety wear, camping, and outdoor categories are being added to the marketplace and will create a comprehensive product destination.

The facility will undergo significant updates prior to the launch of WESA’s International Western/English Apparel & Equipment Markets in 2021. The combined experience of Dallas Market Center and WESA is more than 160 years of bringing buyers and sellers together.

Market officials said the bi-annual WESA shows will attract thousands of retail decision makers to Dallas including major stores, independent western retailers, apparel stores, gift shops, e-commerce and other buyers seeking new products. A change of venue for the WESA shows will cause more buyers to explore new resources across the product spectrum and will create more opportunities for business growth.

Tack 'n Togs seeks your input

Each year at this time, Tack ‘n Togs reaches out to you, our readers, to find out how our industry is trending for the year. All responses are compiled and no individual responses will be shared. The overall results from our study will be shared in the 2018-2019 Buyers Guide, which will be in your mailboxes early December. Please take a minute to help us with this project. We greatly appreciate your participation.

To access the survey:

ATTENTION Manufacturers: Just one more week to get your ad space booked for this year's Tack 'n Togs Buyers Guide. Contact Cindy Johnson for more information: [email protected]





Beef sustainability: It matters to your consumers and it matters to you

Cows feeding

Many of you no doubt read Amanda Radke’s blog yesterday highlighting facts on cattle and climate change. It’s an issue that BEEF has covered quite a bit in the past. And while you may wonder why we’re singing to the choir, expect ongoing discussion from us in the future.

Why? Because your consumers are talking about it. A lot. And if it’s important to consumers, it’s important to you.

And misinformation abounds. Yesterday, I got a news release from a college of veterinary medicine announcing it had received a grant to research the microflora in a cow’s gut in an effort to reduce methane emissions. The news release used the long-ago debunked number that cattle production in the U.S. accounts for 25% of all methane emissions.

Had the researchers at this veterinary college done even a simple literature review, they would have discovered what Amanda reported yesterday—scientifically-credible research shows cattle contribute 3.6% of the methane produced in the U.S.

RELATED: Yes, eating meat affects the environment but cows aren't killing the planet

According to Madlynn Ruble, who grew up on a cow-calf outfit in Minnesota and now is director of reputation management with NCBA, consumers are talking about many aspects of what you do. She knows this because NCBA, as a contractor with the Beef Checkoff, monitors up to 200 different topics every day in their digital command center.

The digital command center is a marvel of technology, staffed by two very sharp people who understand that magical and mystical world that is often foreign to many of us. They monitor not just traditional broadcast and print media, but follow social media as well to see who’s talking about beef, what they’re saying, where they’re saying it at and who they are saying it to.

Many of the things the command center monitors can be lumped under the umbrella of sustainability. While many of us may scoff at the whole idea of sustainability, your consumers aren’t scoffing at all. To them, it’s important. But sustainability isn’t the number one topic that consumers and others are talking about right now.

“Consistently, red meat and cancer stand out as the number one concern that consumers have. It’s number one on our issues monitors, number one on Google and on our website,” she said during a recent Beef Checkoff media symposium on sustainability.

READ: Beef's sustainability advantage

Number two, antibiotics tends to spike anytime we see a new report. Sustainability is number three, but the conversation is consistent. We see spikes but it’s a pretty consistent high level of chatter.”

The spikes she refers to swirl around methane and other emissions produced by animal agriculture. Then the question becomes, should the beef business respond directly or not? That decision is made every morning as staff gathers to analyze the information coming from the digital command center.

Sometimes, the answer is yes and Ruble and her team actively and aggressively respond directly. Sometimes the decision is to use those same social media channels to drive people to various information channels the Beef Checkoff has established. These include the beefitswhatsfordinner website and a Medium channel which houses articles on the many and varied aspects of beef sustainability.

And sometimes, the decision is to let the conversation just happen. A great example is the IARC cancer report that came out several years ago.

“What actually happened, through our monitoring systems where we can watch second by second, {consumers} were actually saying this is a bunch of baloney,” Ruble said. “{They were saying} ’Don’t take away my steak. Don’t take away my bacon.’ So we knew we could stay out of it and support those messages that were happening on their own rather than taking a really strong stance.”

While the work the beef checkoff is doing on your behalf may not be visible from the ranch gate, make no mistake—that work is ongoing and is crucial. When staffers get up every morning with the singular and focused purpose of knowing the chatter about what you do and then responding appropriately, you can get up every morning with the singular and focused purpose of producing the best beef in the world.

Seems like a pretty good arrangement to me.


Don’t overlook pricing opportunities in this fall Feeder Cattle futures

Nevil Speer October 2018 Feeder Cattle future contracts

October and early November usually mark the peak marketing season for the beef industry. It’s the month where most cow-calf producers are busy weaning calves, preg-checking cows and shipping the calf crop.

Those calves go numerous directions, including stocker and backgrounding operations or wheat pasture. Meanwhile, some operations also hang on to their calves through the fall and market them right after the first of the year.  

Whatever the case may be, calves that don’t head directly to the feedyard will need to be marketed at some point this spring. And that brings us to the state of the feeder cattle market.   As noted in a previous column, there are multiple factors that drive the feeder market – and feeder cattle marketing can prove to be complex. But, overwhelmingly, the largest source of variation is derived from deferred Live Cattle futures contracts. 

That said, during the past several months, feeder cattle futures have been pulled by strength in the deferred fed cattle market. This week’s illustration highlights respective contract values over the next year: October, November, January, March, April, May, August and September, respectively. 


Nevil Speer

What’s important to note is that current values are on the upper side of lifetime contract highs.   That’s significant against the backdrop of potentially big placements in early-2019 and a dubious outlook for feedyard closeouts in 2019

In other words, the futures market has moved higher of late; but there exists some noteworthy bearish pressures that could push feeder cattle prices lower in the months to come. That provides some viable pricing opportunities now for at least part of the mix to be marketed. 

What’s your general outlook for feeder cattle prices going into 2019? If you own cattle to be marketed next spring, how are you making plans to price those cattle? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below. 

Nevil Speer serves as an industry consultant and is based in Bowling Green, KY. Contact him at [email protected]

Wisconsin confirms bovine TB in dairy herd

pixinoo/iStock/Thinkstock Holstein dairy cows eating at feed bunk

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection (DATCP) confirmed Oct. 30 that a dairy herd in Dane County, Wis., has tested positive for bovine tuberculosis (TB) after meat inspectors identified a carcass during a routine slaughter inspection and sent a sample to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory for testing.

Through animal identification records, the carcass was traced back to a herd in Dane County that DATCP immediately quarantined. A quarantine prevents any animals from moving onto or off of the farm.

“We are working closely with the herd owner, U.S. Department of Agriculture, [Wisconsin's] Department of Health Services, area veterinarians, industry partners and other herd owners. We are taking aggressive measures to control and prevent the spread of this disease,” DATCP acting state veterinarian Dr. Darlene Konkle said. “Our staff and partners train for these types of responses and are taking the necessary steps to protect animal and human health.”

Pasteurized milk continues to be safe to consume. The pasteurization process, which destroys disease-causing organisms in milk by rapidly heating and then cooling the milk, eliminates the disease from milk and milk products, DATCP explained. Bovine TB is most commonly spread to humans through consuming unpasteurized milk or milk products from infected animals, as well as from close contact with infected animals or people. Also, infected people can be a source of infection to animals.

Food safety laws prevent meat from infected animals from entering the food chain, DATCP said. State and federal inspectors at slaughter plants evaluate live animals and animal products for signs or symptoms of disease and remove any from entering food production.

Bovine TB is a respiratory disease of cattle that does not spread easily. It is a chronic, slowly progressive disease, meaning that it can take months to years to worsen, grow or spread, DATCP explained. Infected animals, even if they appear healthy, may pass the infection to other animals. Animals often do not show signs until the infection has reached an advanced stage. The U.S. has nearly eliminated bovine TB due to the National Tuberculosis Eradication Program.

DATCP noted that Wisconsin has been certified as TB-free since 1980, and with a thorough investigation and containment of the outbreak, Wisconsin will maintain its TB-free status with USDA.

MORNING Midwest Digest, October 31, 2018

By the end of the day, police in Indiana arrested the 24-year-old woman who ran over four school children. Three of the four died.

Stressful times in ag can create strange bedfellows. Cargill announced a joint tech venture with ADM. 

The Andersons, based in Ohio, is continuing to expand. 

Halloween night is often windy and miserable for trick-or-treaters. Some in Ohio will get that nasty weather.

What's the preferred Halloween candy in your state?

9 things to do as a family to build your ranch legacy

Amanda Radke Legacy

Visiting my grandpa, Alvin, is a reminder that time is precious and memories should not be wasted. The patriarch of our family ranch has severe Alzheimer’s disease. It’s been several years since he has known my face, and in recent months, even his children are unrecognizable to him.

Yet, if you ask him about the war, farming, his childhood or the cattle, he’s sharp as a tack. Listening to his stories from years gone by is a reminder of the strong and intelligent businessman he once was.

His legacy is truly his family and the ranch that he worked so hard to build. I admire him for the man he is and the sacrifices he made for this family. Each day, he motivates me to be wise in the moves I make in our business as I continue to build on his legacy and create one that my children and grandchildren will one day be proud of.

A recent article from SKM Associates Family Business Consultants titled, “Growing more than just growing financial assets,” provides nine action items that family members in a multi-generation business can do to build wealth and an enterprise that will withstand the test of time.

Here is an excerpt: “Across generations and across cultures, the sentiment is the same: family enterprises and family wealth often does not make it into the third and fourth generations. It doesn’t need to be that way.

Every family faces challenges to successful, long-term sustainable legacies. For the countless strengths and opportunities giving family enterprises a competitive advantage, business families face unique challenges in setting up the enterprise and the family to be successful for generations to come.”

READ: The generational operation: How one family makes it work

While no two families are alike, and there is no perfect checklist for success, there are some things SKM encourages enterprising families to do. Here’s nine action items to consider:

1. As a family, write a family mission statement, complete with your family values and beliefs, and discuss what it means to see those values in action.
2. Create an environment of open, clear and direct communication.
3. Define what wealth means to your family legacy.
4. Record family stories through conversations with parents, grandparents and other relatives either through audio, video or written word. You may decide to record the younger generation interviewing their senior family members.
5. Develop clear policies and business norms for family members.
6. Clearly define the roles and responsibilities in the enterprise.
7. Have a plan, in writing, for the transition of the enterprise and assets to the next generation.
8. Establish a fair and equitable exit strategy for those not interested.
9. Help each family member internalize the vision for the family and the enterprise.

The writers remind us that building a legacy is a lifelong process, not a one-time event.

SKM says, “A true family legacy is more than just the legal documents distributing your assets. In order to nurture the legacy, you must understand what your family legacy is.

“A legacy is formed by the sequences of actions that resemble one another and are lived out in each generation. It is the repeated behaviors and actions that shape your family legacy.”

READ: Questions to ask at your next family business meeting

What really resonated with me in this article is the statement, “Your family’s legacy is too important to expect it to ‘just happen.’”

Success isn’t an accident. You don’t just stumble into profitability. You can’t just wish for family unity. You can’t just hope things will all work out.

With a written and clearly communicated plan, on both the day-to-day operations, the long-term strategies and the exit and transition plan in place, everyone will be on the same page and will understand the goals of the business and the family.

SKM says it best when they say, “The legacy you leave is the life you lead.”

For my Grandpa Alvin, he lived a life in tune with the land and the livestock. He may have lost some of his memories, but he’s still a cattleman at heart. I’m proud of what he’s built and what my dad has contributed in the last generation, as well.

Now it’s my turn to make my mark. Even though I’m a “young” 30 years old, it’s never too early to start. If I want a meaningful and impactful legacy for my kids and grandkids, doing nothing is not an option.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or Farm Progress.