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A sweet substitute

Sugar beet silage produced using unprocessable sugar beets and straw may be an alternative in cattle feed when grain or other silage is short. That's according to researchers at the Lethbridge Research Centre in Alberta, Canada.

Beet silage in finishing diets produces similar gains to diets containing barley silage, but it may be less efficient and more likely to cause bloat, researchers say.

In a recent feedlot study, 216 crossbred beef steers were given either 100% barley silage, a combination of 50% beet silage and 50% barley silage, or 100% beet silage.

Researchers say beet silage had very little effect on growth rate and no effect on carcass characteristics.

The fiber digestibility of the beet silage was lower than that of barley silage and led to a greater incidence of bloat. That indicates a greater proportion of fiber is needed in diets containing beet silage, researchers say.

Feed intake increased by 3.6% when 50% of the barley silage was replaced by beet silage, and by 6.2% when barley silage was fully replaced by beet silage. Researchers attribute the increased feed intake to the lower energy content of beet silage in comparison to barley silage.

The higher feed intake lowered feed efficiency by 4.6% when 50% of the barley silage was replaced by beet silage, and by 7% when barley silage was fully replaced by beet silage.

To maintain the same cost of gain, the cost of beet silage would have to be lower than that of barley silage.

For more information, contact Karen Beauchemin, Lethbridge Research Centre, at 403/317-2235.

To submit items for “Research Roundup,” e-mail [email protected] or fax to 952/851-4601.

Don't Slip on Slides

Feeder cattle price determination is a complex process. Many factors affect feeder markets — markets that, however they evolve, at some point become squeezed between the cost of feed and the price of the fed cattle.

The object of feeding cattle, whether stocking, backgrounding or finishing, is to add weight at a cost that's less than the value of the weight gained. But, as cattle grow, the cost of adding that weight changes.

In order to adjust for cost of gain, buyers “slide” prices depending on weight. But, a formidable task facing both buyers and sellers is determining how to value feeder calves at different weights.

This is especially tough in times of price volatility and uncertainly in feed costs and future fed cattle markets.

“The negative relationship between weight and price, what we often call a price slide, reflects a buyer's expected cost of gain versus the value of gain,” says Kevin Dhuyvetter. He's a professor of agricultural economics at Kansas State University (KSU). “Thus, feeder cattle price slides will vary as both cost of feed and the price of fed cattle vary.”

Buyers and sellers often use a predetermined price slide. But, if premiums and discounts associated with weight vary with market conditions, a price slide that's held constant increases risk to both parties.

“A dynamic price slide — one that varies with market conditions — is more appropriate than a fixed price slide,” explains Dhuyvetter. The most economically important price-weight slide determinants are price of feed and expected fed cattle price.

Using 10 years of historical sale barn data, Dhuyvetter and KSU's Ted Schroeder have estimated several formulas to demonstrate price-weight relationships.

Figure 1 shows the feeder steer price-weight relationship for three levels of corn price. As corn prices vary, the price slides respond differently.

The expected fed cattle price also has a sizeable impact in the price-weight relationship as shown in Figure 2.

“Price-weight slides increase notably when corn prices decline,” Schroeder says. “In other words, premiums for lightweight calves increase as feed prices decrease. Likewise, when expected fed cattle prices increase, price-weight slides increase.”

Figure 3 shows the relationship between feeder steer and feeder heifer prices as weight varies with corn and fed cattle prices. As expected, the price slide is negative for both sexes. But the relationship differs between steers and heifers.

A couple of possible explanations exist for this result, says Dhuyvetter. First, an 800-lb. heifer is not equivalent to an 800-lb. steer because they have different end weights. The price-weight relationship is not expected to be exactly the same.

Also, it is possible that heifers may be in a completely different market than steers at times (e.g., breeding stock versus feeder cattle). Thus, differences between price slides would be expected.

“Regardless of the reason, the price slide is similar for lightweight steers and heifers, but it's considerably less for heavy weight heifers and steers on average,” Dhuyvetter says.

Analyzing these feeder cattle price-weight relationships can be made easier using an electronic spreadsheet developed at KSU.

“Our spreadsheet estimates the expected price-weight relationship for various corn and fed cattle prices and feeder cattle weights,” adds Dhuyvetter. “Using this information, producers who forward contract feeder cattle, backgrounders who feed calves to varying weights, and producers who purchase feeder cattle can do a better job of adjusting weight-price relationships in a very complex marketplace.”

For more information and an Excel version of the KSU feeder cattle price-weight relationships spreadsheet, contact Dhuvetter at 785/532-3527 or [email protected].

Do I need a consultant?

The question is common. The answer depends on each operation and how efficient and profitable the operation is or the manager wants it to be. In most cases, operations could be more efficient.

Large feedlots saw early on that they couldn't be experts in all areas of feedlot management. They realized they themselves couldn't effectively do all the work that needed doing.

In large feedlots today, consultants in animal health, nutrition and marketing are routinely used on a continual basis. At other times, they may seek consultation on an as-needed basis for such tasks as cattle handling, employee relations and waste management.

Generally, cow/calf managers are less apt to hire consultants as they have less cattle numbers than feedlots. Moreover, most consultants do not want to work with small to medium operations because it's time-consuming and they do not make as much money as they would on a larger operation.

Cow/calf managers also are less likely to be able to afford the added cost. A ranch analysis may run from $500 to $2,000, depending on the type of operation and type of feed. Consultants usually charge $40 to $60/hour with the follow-up. Some don't charge for their service as long as the customers buy their supplement or mineral, but — believe me — they are still paying for the service.

Instead of hiring a consultant, cow/calf managers often rely on beef Extension agents, veterinarians, salesmen/nutritionists, animal health representatives, a livestock publication like BEEF or the local coffee shop.

All these can be good sources of information up to a point, but some may not be as independent as a manager might like. In addition, no one person is knowledgeable in all areas concerned in farming and ranching.

Many professional consultants, however, have a degree of knowledge in one area that overlaps other areas — i.e., animal health/nutrition, crop production/nutrition, range management/nutrition. All these areas overlap in one form or another, and each are an integral part of the livestock operation.

My field is nutrition, but I am also involved in crop production and harvesting, range management, animal health, cattle handling, genetics and marketing. I routinely use consultants from other areas to assist me in servicing my clients.

Consultants tend to service a large area. Thus, they're exposed to more problems and situations than an individual producer. Not many producers can make all the mistakes that are possible with cattle, although I know a few who are certainly trying.

Consultants have studied or are trained in their particular area. They try to stay on top of new developments through meetings, seminars, classes and publications.

With everything else they have to do, producers can't be experts in all areas of livestock and crop production. Still, they must be knowledgeable in all areas to have a successful and profitable operation. That's the role of an outside consultant.

At the same time, a consultant's advice must be cost-effective. It must provide a return to the producer either in dollars or in increased efficiency and reduced costs.

For small- to medium-sized cow/calf producers, I approach consulting work this way:

  • I typically do a one-time comprehensive ranch analysis to see what we have to work with and what has been done in the past.

  • We then develop a long-term plan and update it yearly to provide a plan for the current year.

This method gives both the producer and the consultant a basis for making long-term decisions and for yearly changes in the operation. In my area of the Northwest, this method has proven economical for the producer, both in price and results.

The producer now has a basis to make long-term plans with only minor changes at certain times of the year. Most can't afford a full-time consultant, but when they have a problem or concern, they have a place to go for assistance.

David Wieland is a Shepherd, MT-based nutrition consultant. Specializing in cow/calf, feedlot and horses, he also publishes a subscription newsletter. Contact him at 406/373-5512 or [email protected].

Managing Cash Flow

There are three basic questions we need to consider in regard to managing money in our ranch businesses:

  • Is it profitable? (economics)
  • How will I pay for it? (finance)
  • What are the tax consequences?

This is the order in which we should ask the questions. If a venture isn't profitable, financing is irrelevant. Financing a losing proposition makes no sense.

If the business is profitable, and we've created adequate cash flow, then we should take steps to minimize taxes.

Too often, though, we ask these questions in reverse order. And, in our efforts to minimize taxes, we make questionable economic or financial decisions.

Sometimes, financial constraints limit economic opportunities. For example, if an investment pays big dividends several years from now but doesn't provide short-term cash flow, we may find it hard to put food on the table now.

Frequently, the constraints are self-imposed and result from either not recognizing the time value of money or not being willing to manage cash flow.

Here's an example. A rancher recently told me he needed to maintain a spring calving herd and a fall calving herd so that he had income twice a year instead of once a year. He acknowledged it would probably be more profitable to shift to one herd, but he said he needed income twice a year to make his loan payment.

This isn't a problem of two paychecks versus one. The problem is ignoring the time value of money and failing to manage cash flow.

Which would you rather have: $120,000 today or $10,000 a month for the next 12 months?

Using simple interest at a rate of 10%, the $120,000 paid today would be worth $132,000 a year from now. Meanwhile, the $120,000 paid over the next 12 months in equal installments would be worth about $125,500 at the end of the year.

Cash flow
Income Overhead
January budget
cumulative difference
February budget

I'll take the money up front, please.

Managing cash flow begins with creating a cash flow budget that projects income and expenses for the year. A good time to prepare the budget is after weaning and pregnancy-checking in the fall.

At the Ranching for Profit School, we teach participants how to construct a cash flow including one income column per enterprise, several columns for overhead costs, several for direct costs and at least one for capital expenses (see Figure 1).

We use four lines for each month. The first line is to record the budget for each income and expense item. The next line shows the expense for each item that was actually incurred that month. This should be completed as soon as figures are in for that month.

The third line shows the difference between the budget and the actual expenses for that month. The fourth line records the cumulative difference between the budget and actual expenses for the year to date.

A cash flow report clearly shows periods of cash surplus and shortage before they occur and can help you determine how to manage through these periods. It will help determine if, when and how to use short-term financing.

But cash flow is more than just a page of income and expense figures. At the Ranching for Profit School, we refer to cash flow as “the minutes of the production meeting, written in dollars and cents.”

The plan communicates precisely to partners and workers what is planned. It shows when you expect sales to occur and when you anticipate making major purchases. It also will help you determine the tax consequences of your plans well before the taxes are due.

The cash flow plan is more than just a budget. In fact, the greatest value of the cash flow is not the plan itself but the process of completing it. The thought that goes into assessing various management alternatives is much more important than the sheet of paper (or the computer screen) that holds your projections.

The cash flow is also a monitoring tool. By updating it each month to show the actual movement of cash into and out of the business, you have a red-flag warning as soon as the actual income and expenses significantly deviate from the budget. Used this way, the cash flow becomes an essential tool if you are ranching for profit.

David Pratt of Ranch Management Consultants teaches the Ranching for Profit School. Visit, or contact him at 707/429-2292 or [email protected].

It's turkey time

En route to bestowing our sixth annual Turkey Award, it's time to review the weird, the wacky and the wackos that keep the livestock world interesting. The finalists are:

The “Crowning Achievement” Award. When Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh ordered his final meal, he said “no meat.” People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) proudly took credit for the mass murderer's decision. That's something to be proud of?

What's pink and dangerous? How about a pig with a hand grenade? In England, a pig named Bangers caused a major security incident when he wandered home with a live grenade he'd rooted out of the ground in Marlborough, Wilshire. Apparently, the grenade had been abandoned during army exercises on nearby Salisbury Plain.

“The hills are alive with the sound of ammonium nitrate.” What's more dangerous than a pig with a hand grenade? An Austrian cow re-entering the atmosphere.

Austrian livestock producers are required to dispose of dead animal carcasses, something the army used to handle for free. Because of recent budget cuts, however, there's now a $300/head charge.

Rather than pay the fee, farmers hatched the idea of dynamiting the carcasses into convenient, biodegradable bits. Problem is, the locals don't like hiking Alpine meadows strewn with cow parts.

The “Tough day on the job” award goes to American soprano Barbara Hendricks' pool cleaner. Hendricks called local authorities in Clarens, Switzerland, to report that she'd found a cow in her swimming pool. It seems the animal had wandered into her pool from a neighboring farm. Since the cow was pulled unharmed from the pool, it's unlikely she arrived there riding the concussion of dynamite from nearby Austria.

The “Gee, honey, your hair smells like…” award. A cow shelter in Jaipur, India, collects and sells the urine from its 155 cows as a cure for indigestion and skin cancer, and it sells soap containing cow dung. Its monthly sales at times approach $3,000/month. In addition, the shelter sells cow dung with the claim that when spread on the roof it can protect homes from nuclear radiation.

The “Children's champion” award goes to Paul McCartney. The PETA activist and former Beatle's latest cause is convincing youngsters to stop drinking milk. McCartney supports distribution in schools of PETA-produced pamphlets alerting children to the “dangers” of milk because it makes them “fat and spotty.” Let's hope Paul is less effective in this effort than he and his rock pals were in romanticizing illegal drug use for the kids of his generation.

Julia “Butterfly” Hill showed her commitment to preserving old-growth forests by living in a tree for two years. Now, Dona Nieto is “exhibiting” hers.

Nieto is “a topless conservationist.” In her campaign against clear cutting, she bares her breasts to lumberjacks to “represent Nature and put a human face on what is happening to the Earth.”

Nieto says that when she airs her “arguments” before loggers, the initial shock stops them from working. “But, then when they listen to what I'm saying, their heads start nodding,” she says. Well-shaped logic will do that, Dona.

In Egypt, a sheep being raised for sacrificial slaughter almost got in a preemptive strike on its owner. In Egyptian cities, livestock are often kept on roofs or in basements. One sheep's owner, Waheeb Hamouda, was severely injured after the animal butted him off the top of a three-story building where he had been fattening it for an approaching religious observance.

“Hey, it kinda tastes like humpback whale!” After being hit by a boat, an endangered leatherback turtle was brought to the Miami Seaquarium where it eventually died of its injuries. Being practical folks, and a bit hungry, the staff fixed it for lunch. Environmental activists went ape. Said one: “We're changing the name to the Miami Seaquarium and Barbecue.”

My apologies to the world's livestock, but the 2001 Turkey Award goes to a varmint — Osama bin Laden. Let's hope this turkey is served up by Thanksgiving.

Tyson's upstream attitude

An upstream attitude. That's what John Tyson will bring to the beef industry. It's what his grandfather John Tyson, his father Don Tyson and he have brought to the chicken industry — a focus on the end-product with attention to convenience and making chicken an enjoyable and affordable “everywhere” food.

During a recent interview (October BEEF, page 16), John Tyson, the man who just spent nearly $3 billion for controlling interest in IBP and overnight control of 28% of the beef market, talked about the past. It's not hard to figure that Tyson's past is beef's future.

And, no matter how much you hate meatpackers — no matter how badly they have burned you in the past — face the fact that Tyson means business. He's a tough, tough businessman who will not fail.

Don Tyson grew the chicken business by focusing on two important philosophies.

First, he didn't necessarily intend to sell more chicken. He figured the long-term solution was to get more for the chickens he produced.

Second, he decided early on that he needed the food retailers and food service industries to be profitable. So, at every juncture he worked to provide business solutions for his customers.

John Tyson says it “just happened” that Tyson Foods was in a position to ride two growth curves at once — growth in per capita consumption and growth in demand. Of course, it didn't hurt the chicken business that cattlemen simply didn't understand who was signing their paychecks.

To be fair, ranchers did have something to show for their efforts. Second- and third-generation cattle producers built some impressive, efficient operations on cheap land with cheap labor (whoever put a value on farm labor in the '50s and '60s?). Building on what their dads and granddads had put together, they pumped out impressive amounts of commodity beef to a public whose desires were changing.

Trouble is, producers kept looking back at the downstream end of the business — diversifying, making bigger cattle and inventing more ways to make them different.

Today, the only rule left for the rancher is the one that says success lies as much in what's upstream from the cutting chute as in what lies downstream.

What's the upstream outlook with Tyson as the chief navigator on our waters?

Number one, Tyson doesn't want to own ranches. Not even Tyson has the wherewithal for the investment it would take to control enough cattle for significant integration. He knows there are plenty of men and women out in the country who want to own land and can grow beef efficiently.

What Tyson has done is buy into a mature meatpacking business. IBP has ironed out most of the inefficiencies of meatpacking. Tyson is poised to take IBP full speed ahead into the value-added, end-product future.

Tyson will put tremendous resources into the finished beef product. He certainly didn't invest $2.7 billion to let nearly one-third of an entire industry flounder. But, he's not going to be patient if supplies begin to wane or if the cattle he buys don't fit his needs. He will do everything in his power to keep the pipeline full.

For the rancher in the country, the ultimate question is: How will Tyson approach the supply end of the beef business?

He might not need to own cattle, but there's no question he'll be looking at his suppliers to offer him business solutions. If he's able to get more for the beef he produces, will he reward those suppliers commensurately?

Or, will he try to use his market power to manipulate the ebb and flow of cattle supplies? If he does, will it work in today's changing market structure?

Either way, it's likely there will be an ever-widening split between prices for types of cattle. There'll be a price for source-verified, uniform cattle that fit the high-end product category. Then, there will be a significantly lower price paid for the hodgepodge that will ultimately be dissected into bite-sized pieces.

Spreads will widen for different classes of fed cattle, with separate price schemes paid for “program” cattle. But, whether spreads will close wholesale cutout and retail prices is any one's guess. That's where people like Tyson can come to the table. It's a two-way street — he needs to provide business solutions for his suppliers, too.

Can John Tyson look upstream while keeping an eye on what's downstream? I think so.

The pain of '94 to '96

The beef industry is dividing into two distinctly different marketing systems based on two distinctly different production systems. Beef cow producers must decide which system they will target.

First, there's the traditional beef system producing and marketing commodity beef. Then, there's a value-based beef system producing and marketing quality beef designed to meet tight consumer specifications.

In the next several columns, I'll identify some key production, economic and financial underpinnings of change in the beef industry. This month, we'll look at the economic stress caused by the last cattle cycle's price downturn. I'll also suggest specific management action to reduce the effect of the next downturn in prices.

The Last Downturn

The historic nature of the cattle cycle — and its resulting beef price cycle — implies that cattle numbers will again build to the point that beef prices again turn downward during this decade. In fact, that expansion appears to already have begun.

Kris Ringwall, North Dakota Extension beef specialist, reports that among North Dakota beef cowherds there is now an average replacement rate of 16.3% and an average culling rate of 12.5%. This data from North Dakota's 2000 Production Benchmarks suggests that North Dakota producers are responding to today's strong calf prices by expanding their herds.

While recent droughts in the western U.S. may be delaying this decade's beef herd expansion, I believe it has begun in non-drought areas. Consequently, a downturn in prices should occur this decade.

Producers weighing a decision on whether to produce commodity or value-based beef must understand that I project that commodity beef herds and value-based herds will weather the next price downturn quite differently. Let's begin by examining the impact the last downturn in beef prices had on commodity beef producers.

Figure 1 shows the average profit/cow earned by North Dakota's ranchers and beef farmers in the 1990s. Average profits/cow were high in the early part of the decade and averaged $152-$192/cow.

The downturn began in 1994 when beef cow profits fell 74%. Average profits went negative in 1995 and fell even more in 1996, finally turning positive in 1997. Profits continued upward through 2000 when they hit $124/cow.

Profits/cow in 2001 were projected to continue upward, but the uncertainty following the Sept. 11 terrorism acts has cast some doubt about the upside. As of Sept. 30, however, I believe beef cow profits with 2001 calves will still be quite good. And, I expect them to remain strong into, and maybe through, the 1994 calf crop.

As producers weigh their decision to either produce commodity beef or to produce value-based beef through the next price downturn, they must be aware of two economic facts.

  • First, the 1990s' downturn was the first time in history that North Dakota's beef cow average profits went negative.

  • Second, it appears that profit margins are shrinking each progressive cattle cycle. No year in the 1980s averaged below zero, while two years in the 1990s averaged below zero.

In fact, the 1990s' five-year low averaged $3 profit/cow/year while the five-year low in the 1980s averaged a positive $33/cow/year. I believe these numbers are indicative of the total U.S. beef cow sector in general.

If profit margins continue this long-term decreasing trend, the next price downturn could be particularly severe for commodity beef producers. Without some dramatic changes, I expect a substantial number of whole-herd liquidations during the next price downturn.

Reducing The Stress

My Integrated Resource Management studies indicate that the best way to reduce the economic stress generated by beef price cycle downturns is to increase economic efficiency in the cowherd. You do this by increasing total production, lowering total production costs, or both.

Increased economic efficiency, in turn, leads to lower unit costs of producing a cwt. of calf. My low-unit-cost producers made a profit each and every year during the previous price downturn.

The key measure of economic efficiency is your unit costs of producing (UCOP) a cwt. of calf. UCOP gets its management power by including both economic costs and production. Using cost/cow isn't enough because this measure doesn't include any production measures.

No other management factor comes close to UCOP in impacting profits in commodity beef production. As profit margins in the ranching business continue to get smaller, the key to economic profitability (even survivability) is to become a low-unit-cost producer.

Value-based producers, on the other hand, believe they can add value to their beef production through value-based marketing. In fact, my study of premiums paid by various alliances indicates there is added profit potential in value-based marketing.

I'm personally disappointed, however, in the magnitude of the premiums coming back to beef cow producers. I'm also concerned about the increased management required to operate a value-based beef cowherd.

In addition, I'm disturbed that there is little value-based marketing discussion emphasizing the reduction of production costs at the ranch level. There's substantial potential for most producers to pull production costs out of value-based beef production at the ranch level. In fact, there is as much potential for cost reduction at the ranch level as there is for adding value at the ranch level.

Ranchers that do both — reduce unit costs and add value — may well have the best of all worlds.

Harlan Hughes is a Professor Emeritus of North Dakota State University. Retired last spring, he is currently based in Laramie, WY. He can be reached at 701/238-9607 or [email protected].

Year-Round Herd Health

The goal of a vaccination program is to prevent the incidence and severity of infectious disease. The payoff, however, comes in the huge dividends that result by reducing the incidence of open cows, lost pregnancies, poor-performing calves and calf death loss.

Vaccination doesn't completely prevent infection; it just stimulates the development of immunity. Thus, if the animal contracts the disease, the severity should be less.

Two Vaccine Classes

There are two classes of vaccines — killed vaccines and modified live (MLV) or attenuated vaccines.

Killed vaccines are purified protein derivatives of specific infectious agents. The proteins are mixed with an adjuvant — a chemical carrier designed to enhance the effect of the vaccine and the recognition and response of the immune system.

The response generated by a killed vaccine is generally not as strong and is shorter lived than that of an MLV product. Many different killed viral and bacterial (bacterin) vaccines are available.

MLVs, on the other hand, are purified preparations of live infectious organisms. The live portion of the vaccine is attenuated (deactivated) so it won't cause significant clinical disease. Many viral and some bacterial vaccines are available in this form.

After vaccinating with an MLV, the organism in the vaccine multiplies in the body. Because the immune system interprets the vaccine organism as a naturally occurring infection, it responds by developing antibodies. Thus, the animal's susceptibility to the disease at a future time is reduced.

Because they contain live organisms, MLVs carry the risk of inducing the clinical disease associated with the vaccine, such as abortion.

Toxoids are a class of vaccines used to combat diseases caused by bacterial toxins. They're prepared from the actual toxin produced by the bacterial organisms. This vaccine group primarily applies to the clostridial diseases.

Toxoid vaccines retain their ability to stimulate an antibody response but have lost their toxicity during the vaccine preparation. The resulting antibodies have the ability to neutralize the toxin and thus prevent disease occurrence.

Year-Round Vaccination

Here's a suggested year-round vaccination program for the beef cowherd.

The Calf. The first line of defense for a calf is its mother's colostrum. This protection, however, diminishes within a few months. When the calf's immunity level declines and the animal is exposed to a disease challenge greater than it can handle, the animal gets sick.

Most calves can be effectively vaccinated as early as four to six months of age. Both MLV and killed vaccines may be used, but MLV vaccines are generally believed to provide a better immune response in calves.

Before using MLVs on nursing calves, make sure the dams have been adequately vaccinated against these same agents. This will reduce the risk of vaccine virus that may be shed by the calves causing reproductive problems in the cows. This procedure isn't completely without risk, but it greatly reduces the cow exposure risk when using an MLV on calves that are still nursing their dams.

All calves should be vaccinated with:

  • A 4-way viral vaccine against infectious bovine rhinotrachaeitis (IBR), bovine viral diarrhea (BVD), parainfluenza-3 (PI3) and bovine respiratory syncytial virus (BRSV).

  • 5-way leptospirosis vaccine, which is often included with the viral vaccines.

  • 7-way clostridial vaccine. An 8-way should be considered in areas where the disease redwater is a concern.

Tetanus toxoid also may be recommended in high-risk areas of the country.

Booster vaccination with BRSV, 5-way leptospirosis bacterin and clostridial toxoid must be administered in three to four weeks after this primary vaccination. If a killed viral vaccine was used, all components of that vaccine must receive a booster. Failure to provide this booster will result in failure of these vaccines to stimulate an immune response.

It's preferable to perform the booster vaccination at least 30 days before weaning. This provides the highest level of protection for calves as they confront the stress of weaning.

Some producers also may elect to administer a dose of intranasal IBR/ PI3 at weaning to provide additional protection against viral respiratory diseases at this stressful time.

Brucellosis vaccination is performed by your veterinarian and is recommended for all females up to one year of age. Many states require a brucellosis vaccination for interstate transport of cattle. Some states also require a negative blood test within 30 days of interstate shipment. Check with your veterinarian for the destination state's requirements.

Herds utilizing natural service should also include vibrio (Campylobacter) vaccination for all replacement heifers 30 days to seven months prior to the breeding season. Some of these vaccines require a booster and some do not, so read the manufacturer's label carefully.

The Cowherd. Cows should receive at least one set of booster vaccinations every year. This would include a 4-way viral, 5-way leptospirosis, clostridial C&D toxoid and vibrio vaccines for respiratory, reproductive and calf intestinal diseases.

The viral vaccine can be an MLV if the cattle aren't bred. This annual vaccination is typically given at weaning, pregnancy examination or prior to calving — times at which cows are typically pregnant. Thus, a killed viral vaccine should be used.

Calf scours vaccines are recommended on a case-by-case basis. If scours have been a problem in the past, vaccinate. To be most effective, vaccinate the cow for calf scours a minimum of 60 days before calving. This allows sufficient time for an immune response prior to secretion of antibodies into the mammary gland.

The level of vaccination program for a cowherd depends on four factors:

  • The local level of threat or exposure to differing diseases.

  • How much risk the herd manager is willing to assume.

  • Cost-benefit analysis. If the cost of vaccination outweighs the level of risk, then adjust the program accordingly.

  • Whether the calves will be sold and transported out of the local area. What risk will they be exposed to in their next environment?

This outline is only a suggestion. Each producer must tailor a program to meet their specific herd's needs. The best sources of herd health advice are local veterinarians, who will know your area's level of disease exposure. You also can consult local Extension personnel.

Editor's note: Recent USDA research indicates that the timing of parasite control can affect moderate to heavily parasitized calves and yearlings' immune response to vaccination. See April 2001 BEEF, page 22, or visit Click on the icon “USDA parasite control research.”

Rob Callan, DVM, and Bob Mortimer, DVM, are practitioners at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. Dan Kniffen is an Extension beef specialist at Penn State University in State College.

Contest deadline is Nov. 15

The deadline for entering the 2001 Beef Quality Challenge is Nov. 15. At stake is $8,000 in prizes. See the insert in the September issue of BEEF or visit to enter.

In light of recent terrorist actions, producers need to be extra vigilant of their livestock and property. The Texas Animal Health Commission suggests producers:

  • Check livestock regularly. Immediately report signs of disease.

  • Report suspicious activities, intruders or circumstances to local authorities. Be sure to record license plate numbers and descriptions of trespassers.

  • Report sudden, unexplained death loss in the herd, or severe illness affecting a high percentage of animals.

  • Report any blistering around an animal's mouth, nose, teats or hooves; unusual ticks or maggots; or central nervous system disorders that cause an animal to stagger or fall.

The Texas Cattle Feeders Association adds these suggestions:

  • Thoroughly screen new employees.

  • Prohibit unnecessary visitors and ask employees to report unescorted visitors to management.

  • Get license plate numbers on suspicious vehicles.

  • Immediately report suspicious movements to police.

  • Keep and post a list of emergency contacts throughout the operation.

  • Review internal safety and security procedures with all employees.

  • Report all threats, thefts, inventory shortages, vandalism and sabotage to police.

Organic is neither safer nor healthier than conventional or genetically modified (GM) foods. So say researchers with the Swiss Association for Research and Nutrition after an extensive literature search.

Among the findings were:

  • Some studies show that organic foods may contain more fungal toxins than conventionally-produced foods.

  • There are no significant differences in nutritional composition and the effects between conventional and GM feeds fed to animals. And, meat, milk and eggs from animals fed GM feeds are as safe as from animals fed conventional feeds.

  • Field studies with transgenic, pest-resistant crops don't confirm the environmental risks predicted by critics.

  • Transgenic plants are a valid option for a farming approach that sustains resources and protects the environment.

See the entire report at

Fiscal year 2001 was a good one for U.S. Premium Beef (USPB). The beef marketing cooperative reports it processed its 2 millionth animal, surpassed $30 million paid in grid premiums and $50 million in total earnings, while exceeding the $1.8 billion total sales mark.

In addition, USPB says it set a record weekly average premium of $31.28/head and a single lot record premium of $150.55/head. Meanwhile, the average USPB stock price has grown from $54.87/share in fiscal 1998 to $93.25/share in 2001.

The American Heart Association issued a warning on high-protein diets. Named specifically were the Atkins, the Zone, Protein Power, Sugar Busters and Stillman diets.

“Although these diets may not be harmful for most healthy people for a short period of time, there are no long-term studies to support their overall efficacy and safety,” the Oct. 8th science advisory said.

High-protein diets have surged in recent years, with claims that disease risk, obesity and diabetes can be reduced by controlling carbohydrate intake.

Mary Young of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association says the group's position has always been that fad diets aren't needed to tell the positive story about beef's “power pack.” The executive director for nutrition says beef has always fit into a healthful diet.

“According to government definitions, a three-ounce serving of beef is an excellent source of five essential nutrients and a good source of four others,” she says. “That's an excellent food all on its own.”

The recipe for Cumin-Crusted Beef Steaks with Orange-Olive Relish was worth $50,000 to a Concord, CA, woman. Priscilla Yee won the 24th National Beef Cook-Off° grand prize with that dish.

The biennial competition is sponsored by the American National CattleWomen and is funded in part by the national beef checkoff. This year's competition focused on convenience and drew nearly 5,000 entrants to compete for $110,000.

The categories included fresh beef, prepared beef, fresh beef and potato, and prepared beef and potato. The entries were rated on taste, ease of preparation and appearance. For a copy of the winning recipes, call 800/848-9088 or visit

Following the lead of the Tyson/IBP merger, Smithfield and Excel recently made moves. Smithfield, the world's largest pork processor, added Packerland Holdings Inc. With the earlier acquisition of Moyer Packing earlier in 2001, Smithfield now ranks as the nation's fifth largest beef packer. Recent rumors had Smithfield eyeing ConAgra, but the price was reportedly too high. Smithfield also added two processed meat firms — Stadler's Country Hams and RMH Foods Inc. — to its holdings in late September.

Meanwhile, Excel acquired Emmpak Foods to nudge ConAgra out of the number-two spot in beef packing capacity.

Questions on this column? Contact Joe Roybal at [email protected].

BEEF Taste Test

The jolly Green Giant deserves a pat on the back for his Complete Skillet Meal Beef Stew.

The product rated an overall score of 8.6 (10-point scale) and a “Good” from our BEEF taste test panel of six Minnesota Beef Council and BEEF editorial staffers.

That positive overall review, however, wasn't unanimous among panelists. Overall scores ranged from a high of 9.5 to a low of 7.5, which points up the difficulty of pleasing wide-ranging palates when it comes to a dish as familiar to Americans as beef stew.

The 32-oz., four-serving package carries the “mark of beef quality” seal and sells for $4.99. It's available in frozen retail sections nationwide through Pillsbury and is part of an eight-product line that includes six chicken dishes and two beef dishes. The second beef offering, introduced in June, is Green Giant® Steak Teriyaki.

The beef stew entree includes pre-cooked potatoes, carrots and peas, as well as separate pouches of beef stew chunks and frozen sauce. The ingredients are mixed prior to heating on a stovetop or in a microwave.

Green Giant® Complete Skillet Meal Beef Stew scored a 4.1 or better (5-point scale) in all individual categories except for ease of preparation (3.8) and flavor (3.95). Panelists lauded the product's packaging for its clarity and attractiveness (4.3), its complete preparation instructions (4.4) and the completeness of its nutrition information (4.35).

Some panelists downgraded the product for its ease of preparation because of the multiple ingredient packaging. Interestingly, panelists who liked the flavor and crispness of the vegetables credited the individual packaging for those attributes.

In the sensory factors, the product rated a 4.3 both in visual presentation and tenderness, a 4.25 in both texture and juiciness, and a 3.95 in flavor. One unimpressed panelist rated the product's visual presentation and flavor both as 3.5. She said the product “looked a little too thin for stew and had a strong aftertaste.”

The other five panelists, however, largely indicated they'd buy the product again.

“This is the second time I tried this product, and it seems to taste better each time,” one said. “Very good flavor. I'd buy again,” said another. And a third said: “Seems like a ‘light’ stew, but I liked it.”