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Articles from 2019 In October

MIDDAY Midwest Digest, Oct. 31, 2019

There's a petition to change the day of Halloween.

Daylight Saving Time is this weekend. 

Critics turned out in mass to complain about the EPA's proposal to increase ethanol consumption.

The bourbon industry is thriving in Kentucky.

Meat Market Update | Great rib rally leads the way

The daily spot Choice box beef cutout ended the week last Friday at $225.44, which was $7.40 higher compared to previous Friday and continued to climb to $230.55 by Tuesday, October 29. It still continues well over last year, when the same Friday last year it was $213.47, which was $5 higher that week. 

The daily Choice loin primal was $13 higher by Friday. The rib primal was $9 higher than the previous Friday and then climbed another $14 by Tuesday, October 29. The rib is now $67 higher since mid-September which is definitely pushing the cutout higher. This great rib rally is because of the upcoming holiday parties when Choice ribeyes are used as prime rib roast. The daily Choice cutout is much higher than previous years already and the march higher is happening earlier.

MORNING Midwest Digest, Oct. 31, 2019

Ford autoworkers have settled their contract.

The 2019 World Series had low viewership.

Tim Walz, Minnesota governor, declared a fuel delivery emergency, particularly for western Minnesota.

An Iowa letter carrier was bitten by a pitbull last month; the same dog that bit someone earlier in the summer.

Max has declared the "fake snow" season has started, with an abundance of Christmas movies already playing that have fake snow in them.

Farm Progress America, October 31, 2019

Max Armstrong looks at the recent meeting of the U.S. Animal Health Association looking at a range of issues the organization deals with. The group includes public and private organizations, and many are veterinarians and the meeting covered a range of technical topics. Max shares some observations about the meeting including his observation of the number of students on hand and the opportunity these young people had to intermingle with these executives.

Farm Progress America is a daily look at key issues in agriculture. It is produced and presented by Max Armstrong, veteran farm broadcaster and host of This Week in Agribusiness.

Photo: Wallaces Farmer

2 ways to reduce discounts on calves with damaged ears, tails

beef cows and calves in snow
FUTURE DISCOUNTS: A calf born in cold weather may lose ears or tails.

There are a couple ways to reduce discounts on calves that lost ears or tails, or suffered damage to their ears and tails due to frostbite after being born, according to Bryon Parman, North Dakota State University Extension agricultural finance specialist.

1. Have a veterinarian examine the animals. A certification from a veterinarian that no further damage was done beyond the frozen ears and tails can assure potential buyers that there are no future health issues with those animals that would result in stunted growth or severe illness.

2. Hold back animals missing ears or tails until they reach a weight of 800 pounds. This would ensure that any cold weather lung or foot damage issues would appear by the time they reach market weight. However, weigh the cost of keeping an animal for an extended period of time to ensure that it is healthy versus the discount that may occur for cold-damaged animals, Parman suggests. When holding back additional animals, it may be costly if there is a shortage of forage or hay.

“While frozen ears and tails are not necessarily a problem in and of themselves, they do indicate a calf was born under cold conditions,” says Karl Hoppe, NDSU Extension livestock systems specialist at the Carrington Research Extension Center. “Whether frozen ears are a result of the cow repeatedly licking the calf’s ears and making them wet during freezing temperatures or a calf being born during a windy, below freezing day, both can result in short ears.”

Short tails could result from freezing temperatures or from being stepped on by a cow. Both are indications that the calf might be, but not necessarily, at a health risk, says Hoppe.

Short ears may reduce the option to implant calves since the ear may not be long enough to be implanted according to labeled directions. Feedlot gain and final weights will be reduced when not using implants.

“Discounts for calves with short, frozen ears or tails, and other less-desirable market factors are always greatest during the heavy fall calf marketing season,” says Tim Petry, NDSU Extension livestock marketing specialist. In the past, discounts of $30 or more per cwt have occurred.

Discounts can vary from year to year and from sale barn to sale barn.  At times, calf sellers are surprised at how severe the discounts are when they receive their sale proceeds. Be sure to contact sale barns for advice prior to marketing calves that may be discounted, Parman suggests.

Source: NDSU, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

3 tips on communicating with consumers, and a story on how not to

Cattlemen's Beef Board Connecting with consumers

Remember the saying, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me?” You probably heard this as a kid and likely passed this wisdom on to your own children. It’s intent, of course, is to help kids toughen up when the inevitable gossip and insults come their way.

But it ignores the fact that words mean things and they can be powerful if used the right way.

The topic of this blog is communicating with consumers. I’ll get to that in a moment. First, here’s a story about how not to communicate…with anybody.

READ: Chuck not only knows beef, he knows how to reach consumers, too

Several BEEF staffers got a phone call from an anonymous and highly profane reader recently, expressing his displeasure with us. That’s fine, at least the part about expressing his displeasure. We don’t try to make everyone happy; we try to make everyone think.

And, as an aside, I’m always struck with this thought when I hear from readers who are angry with what we write—If you don’t like reading what we write, just stop reading our stuff. Life is too short to go around mad all the time, unless you’re one who isn’t happy unless you’re mad.

Back to the task at hand. I’m certainly not one to criticize the use of profanity, having cussed a bit myself when the occasion necessitated. However, I've always wonderd about its usefulness in causal conversation. And I wonder what impression this person would have left if he had used similar language with a consumer?

I can guess what Leah Dorman might say. She’s a farm wife and mother, a beef advocate blogger and a veterinarian with the title of director, food integrity and consumer engagement with Phibro Animal Health. She was the opening speaker at a recent NIAA symposium on Communicating the Science of Responsible Antibiotic Use in Animal Agriculture.

Dorman opened the symposium with three tips on how to communicate with consumers:

  1. “Talk is powerful and it’s not just what we say, it’s how we say it. It’s about the words and how we create those words to capture the spirit of what we do and the essence of why we do it.”
  2. “Keep your conversations with consumers real,” she says, but understand that our lingo might confuse or even frighten consumers. For example, Dorman says she can never decide whether to sell her kids by the head or the pound. Sell her kids? Yep, the goat kids. No, not one of her three daughters. "Keep your conversations real. Avoid the use of lingo to avoid miscommunication.”
  3. Finally, she says our communications have to make a connection. “It’s our job to paint a picture for them. And we might have to do that using our words, using our values, using our emotion to make that connection by sharing our emotions.”

That can be hard, especially for those who find it hard to share their emotions. But it’s important because anti-beef activists use emotion to spread their misinformation.

Related: Survey reveals consumer attitudes about agriculture

“Words are powerful. They have impact,” she says. “Change your words, change your world.”

To do that, start by keeping your words real and avoid using industry lingo. “We need to make that connection. Connect on a values level; share our values, use our emotion. Tap into that. We have that ability. We just have to use it to make that connection with the consumer.”

Here’s Dorman’s challenge to us: “Reframe the conversation about how we and why we use antibiotics in animal agriculture. Change your words, change your world. Learn to share your values in that conversation.”

When we do that, we change that old saying about sticks and stones in a positive and powerful way.

“Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words…words, too, can make or break us.”


MIDDAY Midwest Digest, Oct. 30, 2019

With interest rates and the Federal Reserve in the news today. Did you know there are 12 Federal Reserve district banks. There is one state home to two of those district banks. It is Missouri with a bank in St. Louis and Kansas City.

Grain prices have benefitted – corn and soybeans -  from stalled harvest now put on hold by winter weather in some fields. Long-time customers are making purchases from others. In soybean market, too, it’s very much about the demand. Traders await confirmation there is at least part of trade deal with China.

You likely heard about 56-year-old woman in Iowa killed by shrapnel at a gender reveal party.  The powerful blast shook neighboring houses.

There’s a lot of spending for Halloween observance. Overall spending for Halloween is down little from last year. Rest assured, some continue to celebrate just the way they have. National Retail Federation said $390 million spent on Halloween cards.


MORNING Midwest Digest Oct. 30, 2019

This time of the year in Denver Colorado its usually about 60 degress, yesterday there was a high of 18. Valentine, Nebraska, you’re down into the single digits. It will be back into the 50s by this weekend. Sioux Falls should be back to the 40s by the weekend.

Have you heard some big city hospitals in our region have turned away ambulances. Little record-keeping of this. Reporter cited 21 instances were ambulance diverted with serious consequences to the patient. Of the 21 cases used as examples, one case was in 1990. I think the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel writer needs more compelling news of problem.

Some pork analysts and traders say pork production will be down 65% in China next year. Others say could turn around quickly.

68% of us are celebrating Halloween and $390 million will be spent on Halloween greeting cards. Who sends cards?


China’s meat imports set to increase rapidly as ASF continues

Nevil Speer China Pork outlook 2019

This is the second in a series featuring the outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) in China. There’s been a myriad of stories appearing in popular media during the past month or so. Across those stories exists a wide variety of estimates assessing the impact of what’s really occurring. Accordingly, it’s important to cut through some of the noise and provide a broader overview in order to better understand implications to the global meat market. 

Last week’s column highlighted China’s lost pork production as a result of ASF and provided U.S. data for comparative purposes. By many estimates, roughly 40-50% of China’s sow herd has died as a result of ASF. While it’s hard to get a precise handle on production estimates coming from China, the country’s annual pork production will have declined from roughly 55 million metric tons (mmt) prior to ASF to somewhere around the mid-30 mmt level in 2020.  

As such, the shortfall is likely to approach 22-25 mmt next year. That’s an impossible hole to fill.

Nevil SpeerChina Pork outlook 2019

As noted last week, the shortfall is roughly twice the total annual production in the United States and eight times the entire U.S. pork export projection. Nevertheless, China will be forced to bid up meat prices and increase imports of protein into the country.    

USDA projects China’s beef imports surging to 2.9 mmt (~6.4 billion pounds) in 2020 and pork imports climbing to 3.5 mmt (7.7 billion pounds). Those estimates represent roughly 30% and 35% of total global imports for beef and pork, respectively. Alternatively, China’s projected beef imports in 2020 are about twice the amount of total U.S. beef export volume and just slightly ahead of total U.S. pork export volume.   

The numbers are staggering, yet still leave a huge gap in China’s total meat supply. Clearly, this will continue to impact world protein flow and potentially be disruptive to markets. Stay posted. 

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

Modernizing animal disease traceability will continue

Moving, and tracing, cattle

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) sent a ripple of concern through the beef business when the agency announced it would pause its efforts to modernize animal disease traceability by mandating RFID ear tags for cattle. While the agency didn’t say so, it’s generally believed that the move came in response to a R-CALF lawsuit filed against the effort.

APHIS and state veterinarians have asked for some kind of system to replace paper records, file cabinets and cardboard file boxes; a system to modernize response time for tracking diseased animals from days and weeks to minutes or hours. USDA obviously thought a guidance approach might work, might speed up the interminably slow pace of bureaucracy.

Beyond the disease traceability question, there are other considerations, like being able to pinpoint animals’ locations and exposures and being able to release sometimes hundreds of animals more quickly than paper trails will allow.

In its news release announcing the lawsuit against APHIS, R-CALF detailed its issues with the RFID requirement. The group complained about the cost of RFID tags and readers. But USDA had provided for cost sharing on RFID tags and with veterinarians and markets for readers.

R-CALF also complained about “costly” computers and software. But the software is likely to be provided free and very few ranches have no computers these days. They also complained about “expensive” cattle handling equipment “not currently in use on many ranches.” So, R-CALF members don’t have squeeze chutes?

Current federal animal disease traceability (ADT) regulations apply mainly to interstate travel of animals over 18 months of age. The proposed RFID requirement would only enhance, not expand, the current requirements. Thus, the proposed RFID requirement would only apply to intact animals over 18 months of age. The class of animals most R-CALF members produce—calves and steers—would not be affected.

This stuff must be intended for the consumption of D.C. denizens who know nothing about the cattle business.

However, the attention by R-CALF’s lawsuit, given the guidance sheet requiring a shift to RFID electronic tags by 2023, happened to cross paths with a couple of President Trump’s new October Executive Orders, attempting to tamp down on guidance approaches by federal agencies. These were likely aimed at the kind of executive order and memo techniques that President Obama used at EPA and Interior and Energy to further his big government and environmental aims. But it appears to have caught USDA in its net. There is also some question about USDA’s authority under a law passed in 2013 to add a new identification method to the system.

Most of R-CALF’s legal complaints center on USDA not going through the long rulemaking process of a Preliminary Rule, Proposed Rule and Final Rule, with comment periods allowed in between steps to give affected citizens the opportunity to express their opinions. But that takes time—a lot of time. APHIS was attempting to respond to the cattlemen’s and veterinary groups that have studied the issue and asked the agency to do something before a major crisis hits.

Among its actions to pause its forward motion on adopting RFID technology, APHIS removed its guidance fact sheet on the issue from its website. R-CALF has made a big deal about that, but Mike Beam, Kansas secretary of agriculture, pointed out that USDA-APHIS pulling the guidance down “does not alter the necessity for an expanded cattle disease traceability system that helps sustain and grow domestic and international markets.”

Beam brings up a good point. International customers are leaning more and more toward requiring a traceability system like other countries have. That pressure will continue and must be addressed.

In short, no one we’ve talked to from other organizations expect this turn of events to stop the efforts to modernize the U.S. animal disease traceability system.

Kansas has been running a “Cattle Trace” pilot program for several years to test and refine an “industry-driven, secure traceability program” tracking animals through multiple locations, at the speed of commerce. That program will continue and will add valuable information to how the beef business can develop an animal disease traceability system that works for everyone.

Here’s a question to ponder: In the absence of an animal disease traceability system that works for everyone, which groups would criticize USDA the loudest should a foreign animal disease hit the U.S. and shut down the beef business?

So, it looks like R-CALF’s lawsuit may slow up the process of modernizing our animal disease traceability system. But going through the bureaucratic procedure may, ironically, not be any slower than the 2023 target USDA had originally selected. 

Steve Dittmer is a longtime beef industry commentator and executive vice president of the Agribusiness Freedom Foundation.