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Basic information pays

I liken the breeding of cattle to fishing. It takes patience and the willingness to throw a line into depths that don't allow you to see what you've hooked or might hook.

For example, probably the biggest advancement the beef industry ever made was the introduction of artificial insemination, followed by expected progeny differences (EPDs), then ultrasound and now DNA markers.

Each can be powerful a tool. But, they all exist in the murky waters of chance. Which, if any of them, plays a major role in the profitability of a commercial cowherd?

I believe many seedstock producers have oversold all these tools to their customers. They've used them more as gimmicks to sell bulls rather than as real opportunities commercial producers can use to make immediate profit.

Start With Your Own Records

On the other hand, an amazingly valuable tool for commercial producers — one that you don't hear many seedstock producers talk about — is standardized performance analysis (SPA).

The SPA program, designed to compare production and financial records in the commercial operation, has opened at least as many doors to commercial profitability as genetics and genetic evaluation.

It tells us things about our genetics and our management that none of the more publicized and promoted technologies can.

For instance, in our own operation and across the SPA system, this analysis tool proves that pounds of calf weaned/cow exposed and cow feed costs comprise a primary profit center for any ranch that sells beef by the pound.

Table 1. Cow/calf profitability
25% most
profitable producers
25% least
profitable producers
lbs. weaned/cow exposed 462 437
cost of raised and purchased feed $38.46 $64.40
Source: Texas Agricultural Experiment and Extension Service, Stan Bevers, economist

In fact, across nine years and 93 herds (ranging from 36 head to almost 14,000) here in the Rolling Plains of Texas, the data says that producers in the upper quartile of profitability put $25.91 fewer dollars of raised and purchased feed into their cows (Table 1), yet wean calves an average of 25 lbs. heavier. Multiply these pounds by a conservative price of $95/cwt., and you're talking an extra $23.75/calf.

Add that to the savings in feed costs, and the producers in our region who are in the top 25% are returning $49.66 more/calf back to their operations, compared to those in the bottom 25%.

Plus, this economic advantage only considers fertility, calf survivability to weaning and the increased efficiency of transferring roughage into pounds of beef.

You won't find any of this information in a sire evaluation report, but I'll guarantee that your banker will understand the importance of an extra $49.66/head with or without an EPD.

Yes, genetics for growth can add to weaned pounds. EPDs can predict the odds of getting a live calf on the ground through calving ease. DNA can improve our future calf crops by determining accurate parentage in multi-sire pastures; perhaps in the future it can even tell us about other traits of economic value.

But, currently none of these technologies get directly at profitability. Where can we find an EPD for structural soundness, direct fertility, mothering ability, livability, natural fleshing ability, environmental adaptation or longevity?

Perhaps we will never have EPDs for economically relevant traits, as opposed to the predictor traits we evaluate today. And, this fact should remind us that for all of the promise of technology, we as cattle producers must still rely on our eye and our own records if we want to be profitable.

Fish For What You See

The bottom line is that breeding profitable cattle still depends on the eye of the master to select the cattle that fit his own unique operation, and his own accurate records to verify that. EPDs, DNA, ultrasound and other technologies may be helpful in solving the puzzle, but none of them are the solution.

If you dangle your fishing line into the unknowable depths of the semen tank, you might retrieve a good investment, or you could land a man-eating bull shark. Cast into the depths of genetic evaluation, DNA and all of the rest, you might snag what you want or you might not.

Drain the pond, however, get rid of all the shadows and reflections by dredging up accurate and objective records, and you can see the big fish of profit and how close or far away you are from catching them.

SPA does require investing some time, but the information it provides can turn an entire operation around. It's helping us and our customers thrive rather than merely survive. It can do the same for you.

The Bradley 3 Ranch at Memphis, TX, has raised “Ranch-Raised Angus Bulls for Ranchers” since 1956. In 1986, the Bradley family opened its own beef processing facility and began marketing its own branded beef products under the B3R Country Meats label.

The program currently includes producers in 17 states and retailers in 18 states. Minnie Lou runs the ranching operation, while daughter Mary Lou runs the beef business. For more information, call 806/888-1062, visit or e-mail [email protected].

Old Basics, New Dollars

Buyers of any product will always pay as little as possible. That's just common sense. But, feedlots are proving they will consistently pay more for the extra value that comes through reduced downside potential.

“Buyers are looking for these lower risk cattle because they're confident they will consistently perform without added health costs,” says Ken Jordan, executive vice president of cattle operations of eMerge Interactive. He refers specifically to cattle flowing through his firm's CattleInfoNet Premium Auction Sales.

All told, buyers are giving $8-$14/cwt. more (basis 500 lbs.) for CattleInfoNet's premium calves. These calves are electronically identified, weaned and preconditioned for at least 45 days, then commingled and sorted into uniform load lots with no more than a 75-lb. weight spread.

Jordan points to a recent Texas A&M University (TAMU) study that found health program, uniformity and lot size contributed to a gross slide-adjusted premium of about $100/head for steers and heifers. That's compared to cattle selling in 10 other traditional auction sales during the same time period.

“Buyers are willing to pay more for these kind of cattle because they're getting the value out of them,” says Jordan. “They know they can get back what they pay — and more — in return.”

Health Is The Driver

The math is simple, says Jordan. Feeder calf and cattle buyers adjust their bids based on risk. Nothing adds to risk like cattle that get sick even one time.

The last full year of TAMU Ranch-to-Rail data show that cattle needing treatment even once in the feedlot returned $120/head less than cattle never needing treatment. That makes healthy calves worth $23/cwt. more heading into the feedlot.

Certainly, the same holds true in the stocker pasture. Folks like Kevin Stauffer of Holton, KS, prove that taking care of health on the front end pays them on both ends.

Stauffer is a cow/calf producer who retains ownership in his calves through backgrounding. He then markets them through a health-verified, LMA-VACC sale at the Holton Livestock Exchange.

“In five years, I remember one head we had to treat one time,” explains Stauffer. “Vaccinating and weaning the calves here at home has paid for itself and then some just because we haven't had to pull anything, and nothing went off feed. As far as the sale goes, I know it has made us some, too.”

Admittedly, the premiums consignors receive for health decline as cattle weight and age increase. But, Stauffer says any extra he gets at sale time is gravy because he's already collected his premium in added performance at home with less health and labor cost.

A recent Kansas State University (KSU) study of 7,600 head sold in four, health-verified sales at the Holton market over the last two years found that buyers paid an average premium of $24.90/head compared to cattle selling in the regular sales. The premium sale cattle had a similar spread in weight (284-917 lbs.) and condition (BCS 3.7, compared to 3.5, respectively).

Plus, lot sizes were similar — 4.5 head in the regular sales versus 5.5 in the premium sales. So, even without the benefit of large lot sizes, health commands a premium.

Regarding lot-size economics, a recent study from the Iowa Beef Center indicates an 8-10¢ premium/cwt. for each additional head added to a lot of cattle, at least up to a point.

For instance, say that a 5-weight steer alone will bring $1/cwt. Put him with 50 others in one lot, and each should be worth $1.04-$1.05/cwt. (the 8-10¢ premium times the 50 head added).

“I feel you should see a $15 per head premium over the cost of doing the work,” says Dan Harris, manager and co-owner of Holton Livestock Exchange. “I believe we'll see that premium increase as more buyers come and try the calves, take them home and have such little trouble with them.”

Jody Holthaus, the Jackson County Extension agent who helped organize the Holton sale concept, says that even though buyers prefer larger lot sizes, “they can put together lot loads and know they have all been managed the same.” Periodic buyer surveys verify their satisfaction.

In fact, Harris says the success of the special sales is boosting the price of similarly managed cattle in his regular sales.

Credibility Is Everything

Both the CattleInfoNet and Holton sales include veterinarians and third-party process verification or signed affidavits and certification, including vaccine lot and serial numbers and purchase receipts. These enhance buyer confidence.

In the Holton sales, veterinarians must be present for at least one round of vaccinations. They also verify such practices as effective castration and proper injections.

“The veterinarian certification really put teeth in our program,” says Harris, “But, it's also been the biggest challenge with producers. When producers think of including a veterinarian, they start to see dollar signs.”

But once they go through the process and see the returns relative to the cost, Harris says they bring calves again the following year.

“We've always based our business on repeat customers,” explains Harris. “The same principle applies to producers. You have to keep your customer happy. This program helps them build the reputation of their cattle.”

What's more, rather than a market where the premium declines as supply increases, Jordan expects the health and process verification premium to keep growing as the beef industry continues to move toward branded beef systems.

New Meaning For Old Basics

Dale Blasi, a KSU beef Extension specialist, points out that the industry's move toward specification beef underscores rather than supplants traditional value basics. For instance, while different cattle types have flowed in and out of favor over the years, the price spread between genetic types is growing.

In 1993, a KSU study compared the value difference at auction between 10 different breed types, all else being equal. The spread was $12.98/cwt. By 1997 when Oklahoma State University (OSU) compared the same breed types in a separate study, the gap was $20.83/cwt.

Blasi says a safe bet for buying genetics that feeders demand is English/Continental crossbreds. With half of fed cattle trading outside cash today, that's what many coordinated systems describe as the perfect beast.

In fact, of the 36 consumer-based systems listed in this year's “2001 Alliance Yellow Pages” (August BEEF) 13 specifically required that mix. Another 12 require at least 50% English or 50% Continental.

  • Blasi says buyers also monitor other value factors like condition and fill. Shrink them out, tank them up, push them too hard or too slow before trading time, and he says you can count on discounts.

  • Delay castration and dehorning until after weaning, and that can add up to a $10/cwt. hickey. That's based on KSU research indicating calves castrated after weaning suffer decreased performance of 0.35 lbs./day for 96 days, adding up to discounts of $3-$7/cwt. on the purchase side. And, a 1997 OSU study of 31,000 head pegged the cost of late dehorning at $3.30/cwt. on steers, $1.94/cwt. on heifers.

Jordan cautions that producers adding value to their cattle must work with a program that can retrieve the benefits of that effort for them. That means finding a credible way to document the cattle and then presenting them with enough similar kinds of cattle that buyers can put together loads.

“It's easy for people to tell producers they can make them more money, but it's important to participate in a marketing model that can accomplish that,” he says.

Jordan suggests producers look at programs backed by solid research. If you or the system you're selling in can't verify the value attributes of the cattle and make potential buyers believe it, buyers will assume the worst and bid accordingly.

For a detailed fact sheet about adding value to cattle, visit Beef Stocker USA at or BEEF at

9/11/01 and the cattle market

Nobody knows the actual impact the cowardly terrorism and unspeakable tragedy of Sept. 11 will ultimately have on the economy overall. If history is any indication, though, the chaos wrought shouldn't have much impact on the cattle markets.

For perspective, the folks at Cattle-Fax took a look at the market on both sides of national upheavals during the past 50 years. These included historic incidents like the Korean War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, JFK's assassination, the Gulf War and the Oklahoma City bombing.

“Over the longer term, it's hard to see any impact on prices from these events,” says David Weaber, Cattle-Fax marketing analyst. “Most of the fluctuation can be explained by the normal cyclical forces going on in the business.”

As an example, the average Omaha fed steer price in 1995 was $66.57/cwt. That's the year Oklahoma City was bombed. In 1996 the average price fell to $65.00/cwt., but Weaber points out 200 million more lbs. of beef that year explains virtually all the price differential.

Likewise, when average fed prices jumped $5/cwt. the year after the Korean War began and $1/cwt. the year after the Gulf War started, cyclical forces explain them.

In sum, Ron Plain, University of Missouri Extension livestock marketing specialist, says, “Our prediction is that we'll look back a decade from now and not notice anything significant about agricultural prices.”

Feds Were Poised To Fall

No one is disputing that live cattle futures broke when the Chicago Mercantile Exchange opened up a few days after the attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. The live fed market soon followed.

But Weaber points out, “The basis was abnormally wide (creating a false premium in the futures market), and it was going to collapse some anyway because of the large cattle placements we had in June and July.”

He says the events in September might have made it happen quicker and deeper because of doubts about the economy and concerns about the stock market melting down.

“Getting this basis premium out of the market should help us clean up the cattle on feed numbers we have staring at us because there's no incentive to hold them any longer,” Weaber says.

As well, Plain says retail price series released just before the attacks served up the third largest month-to-month decline in a decade. This led some to worry about erosion in escalating beef demand.

Don McCasland, who owns Wheeler Feedyard in Wheeler, TX, has seen more red ink over less noteworthy events.

“The dairy herd buyout in 1985 was a tough market. It broke more like $15. I remember a truck strike in New York that broke the market by about $10. And, of course, the wreck of 1974 is always on our minds.

“That's why I buy puts on every pen fed in this yard,” explains the cattle business lifer who has personally managed his own and clients' risk for decades.

Considering what's happened, McCasland feels the good fortune may be that things haven't broken harder than they have. In round numbers he explains live cattle futures tumbled about $6 in the aftermath, but he agrees much of it has to do with cattle inventory and the wonder about demand.

“I don't think anyone needs to jump ship. Just hang on, be a good marketer and get the cattle marketed,” McCasland says.

Fundamentals Are Still Strong

Yes, the global and U.S. economies were already faltering. Yes, increasing strength in the dollar against foreign currency has pressured exports this year. But, Weaber points out, there is still no cowherd expansion occurring. That means tight numbers will continue to buoy calf prices. Plus, even though calf prices are taking a seasonal dip, the availability of wheat pasture has kept lightweight calves at a premium.

Moreover, though there are concerns about what recent events spell for demand, beef has been on an upward demand climb for 10 of the past 12 quarters.

Even more hopeful, at press time, McCasland said he believed cattle futures had finally found the bottom.

“When the market breaks hard and it hits bottom, you'll see a rebound of about 50 percent of the break. Then you have to work hard to get the rest of it,” he explains. “University studies have taught us when a market breaks it will take about four times as long to recover the ground that was lost.”

And, Weaber stresses, every market offers opportunity. “In these bull market years, if a cow/calf producer can retain ownership in any form, it's the time that these kinds of programs usually do the best,” he says.

For feeders, McCasland says, “When the market breaks, there are always a lot of doomsday philosophers. Let's not forget the gains we've made in demand. I think if the industry just keeps its cool and doesn't back cattle up, when the economy gets moving again, the market will come back.”

And, let's not ever forget the unspeakable losses of Sept. 11. Keep the lost and their families in your prayers, along with the nation and its leaders. Keep America strong!

Full Speed Ahead

If things seem under control, you're just not going fast enough, says auto racer Mario Andretti. And that may be the case for some folks in the cattle business.

“We're going to need a little bit of that Andretti spirit in us if we really want to be in the ballgame in the future,” says Tom Field, associate professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University. “All I see ahead is faster speed and tighter turns.”

The next few years will tell if the beef industry uses recent growth as momentum or throws beef demand and the entire industry into reverse.

At least that's what the Beef Industry Planning Group is saying. Formed by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) and the Cattlemen's Beef Board (CBB), the group recently identified a few major trends the industry must address to increase beef demand and enhance the future business climate.

One trend that will either be an ally or adversary — depending on how the beef industry responds — is changing consumer demographics in the U.S.

The planning group notes that Baby Boomers are aging, Generation X is cooking less and the population of Hispanics, Asians and other ethnic groups is growing. Age, disposable income and ethnic background impact taste, preferences and target markets for beef — thereby influencing beef demand.

That's partly why the number of value-added or branded products in the meat case is going to increase, Field says. Since 1998, more than 350 convenience beef products have hit the shelves, according to an NCBA estimate.

Field says the mindset of the future will be product lines rather than “a” product.

“We're not going to be in the business of selling beef. We're going to be in the business of selling uniquely named, identifiable products that have lost this commodity orientation and that meet specific needs in the marketplace,” he says.

The industry must balance the focus on improving eating quality attributes with the needs for acceptable cutability, feedlot performance and productivity at the cow/calf level, Field says. He adds that selection indices and decision aid models will become the standard in the future.

Furthermore, commercial cow/calf enterprises and industry alliances focused on meeting diverse consumer demands will dictate the selection criteria of seedstock producers, Field says.

“For the seedstock industry, staying close to the customer will not be an option but rather a prerequisite,” he says.

Global Rivalry

Another trend is globalization. Geographic and political boundaries no longer define markets, competitors and business opportunities.

International beef producers will continue to become more competitive, especially Australians, New Zealanders, Brazilians and Argentineans, Field says.

“I would love to tell you that Americans have a corner on knowledge, motivation, work ethic and faith in getting the job done,” Field says. “Unfortunately, I've traveled, and that assumption doesn't hold water.”

High U.S. beef prices and a strong U.S. dollar already have given the competition a leg up on exports, says Phil Seng, president and CEO of the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). Such is the case in the Japanese market, where, for the first time in six years, the U.S. is losing market share.

“I am concerned about that because our share is going down in a growing market. Australia is increasing, Canada is increasing, and the U.S. is going down,” Seng says.

Once primarily a commodity supplier, Australia's beef industry is now more brand driven and customer specific. They are developing specific programs for the Japanese market and using source verification as a selling point, he explains.

You can argue that the U.S. beef industry is larger and has more cattle on feed than Australia, but what gains back market share is better funding of export programs and a source-verified product, Seng says.

“The more you can explain your product and how it's produced… the more opportunity you have to sell that product,” he says, adding that USMEF needs more dollars to help extol the safety and wholesomeness of the U.S. product.

Spectator Scrutiny

Source and process verification are instrumental back home, too, given public concerns about animal welfare, food safety, land, water and air. Those concerns are resulting in more regulation and scrutiny of beef production practices.

“Natural resource management and conservation of agricultural lands are keys to the successful continuation of the beef industry,” Field says. “We've got to embrace that movement better than we have in the past.”

Field predicts that environmental concerns will shift cow/calf production onto more marginal lands, particularly in the West. More marginal lands will require animals with different genetics than those on highly productive lands.

New Technology

Cattlemen may be in the driver's seat, but there's help on the sidelines and in the pits. Whether it's a genetic marker for marbling or a Web site that helps you exchange information, new technology tools may help the beef industry achieve its goals faster and more efficiently. And information is really the key, Field says.

“Those with information will have the opportunity to share in value-added returns,” he says. “Those without information will be resigned to trying to survive in an increasingly limited commodity market.”

Lessons From The Road Behind

Some of the auto industry's past mistakes teach valuable lessons that can be applied to the beef industry, says Tom Field. He's an associate professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University.

In the late 1960s, the U.S. auto industry was alone at the top of its trade, Field explains. But it became comfortable, complacent and arrogant. It didn't recognize changes in the marketplace and failed to look for useful ideas beyond its borders.

By 1980, domestic cars were completely out of touch with consumer needs, and foreign imports nearly brought the industry's giants to their knees, he says.

One take-home for cattlemen is this: Arrogance and inaction make companies and people vulnerable.

“When people get comfortable, they get complacent,” Field says. “The second you think you've got it won is when you're the most vulnerable.”

That's why it's important to take action — even if it's wrong. “Failure you can survive; inaction is terminal,” Field says.

Another lesson is avoiding the “it's not my job” attitude.

“In this age of change, new thinking and speed, each of us has to be cross-trained to take responsibility for the performance, whether we're taking about an individual herd or an organization. It's everybody's job — period,” he says.

The beef industry also can learn from the auto industry's comeback, Field says. To gain back market share, carmakers changed their mindset. They stopped building the cars they wanted to build and started building the cars Americans wanted to drive. That required years of listening closely to customers.

The same approach applies to improving the quality of beef products, Field says. And, listening among the industry's segments must improve.

“There is lots of talking, lots of telling, lots of advocating for certain things. But too infrequently is there real quality listening,” he says.

Improving the quality of any product or service is hard work and requires not just doing things better but also doing them differently and faster.
Diana Barto

Terrorism And Trade

Over the next six months, the U.S. response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in Washington, D.C., and New York City will impact trade more than anything else, says Phil Seng.

“We haven't seen any major disruptions in any of our exports at this point in time,” says the president and CEO of the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

U.S. beef products are still flowing in all countries that have destinations for it. Though the immediate impact has been minimal, it's hard to say exactly how beef trade will be affected in the near future, he adds.

“The major concern is what is going to happen henceforth,” Seng says. “It's too soon for me to predict… because we don't know the impact of the U.S. response, how far that's going to reach and where that's going to reach.”

It's another added concern to what was already an unsteady trade situation. U.S. beef exports are down in several major markets this year. Uncertainty about the future is likely to compound the situation.

Overall, beef exports are down about 11% for the first six months of 2001, according to USDA. While Mexico is up 13% and the Russian federation is up 76%, exports are down 11% to Japan and 29% to Korea. Hong Kong, China and Taiwan are also down.

Another major concern is the worldwide economy. Even before the attacks, experts were predicting zero economic growth worldwide, and now there may be a worldwide recession. That's quite a different picture economically than last year's 5.5% growth, Seng says.

The good news, experts say, is that after the World Trade Organization meets in November, an additional $600 billion may be added to world trade. That would help the U.S. economy, the world economy and agricultural trade in general, Seng says.
Diana Barto

Just let us vote

I too, am tired of all the nonsense about the checkoff (BEEF, September, pages 4 and 12). We voted three times on a checkoff law — it lost the first two times and was passed the third. Now, the voting has stopped. I get to vote on the president every four years whether I want to or not.

Besides all this, what have the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) and the Cattlemen's Beef Board got to hide that they're putting up $150,000 to make sure I don't get to vote on the checkoff? The cost of voting is not a significant argument.

This is supposed to be a democracy. Let us vote and get on with the business of making the best steaks in the whole world.
Harry Humbert
Twin Bridges, MT

[email protected]

Editor's note: The mechanism exists within the checkoff law and order for a vote. It requires 10% of producer signatures. If checkoff opponents can't muster that required 10%, why should the industry spend the time and money on a vote? Clearly, there is neither support among producers for a referendum nor is there even a hint of a majority who are dissatisfied with the checkoff program.

A Floridian Agrees

I just finished reading Wes Ishmael's CATTLEconomics article in your September issue (page 12). He did a fine job with his article titled “Get busy on the checkoff.” I compliment you and your staff for spelling out the facts on this issue.

If you will grant permission, we would like to reprint this article in our Florida Cattlemen's Association magazine. I want all producers to understand the facts in this issue, and this article captures them quite well.
Jim Alderman
Florida Cattlemen's Ass'n

Small Producers Count

I've been an avid reader of your magazine for several years. Being a young person (almost 30), I'm looking for information and education to help me in the business. Lately, I've found it more difficult.

I have a small operation (60 cows and less than 600 acres of pasture, hay, alfalfa, wheat, soybeans and milo). I work full-time off the farm, and my young family struggles monthly to get by. I'm similar to the vast majority of beef producers in this country.

It's discouraging to find article after article about managing your employees, joining cooperatives, etc., in BEEF — topics that only pertain to the rich and elite in the business. Producers like me don't read articles about lowering feed costs so we can buy new pickups and more land. We read them because we have to do everything we can to stay in business.

I use A.I. in my herd, precondition my calves, buy quality bulls and cull substandard cows from my herd. I have yet to feed out a calf from my worst cow that wasn't the best tasting, most tender meat around. I'm very offended when magazines state that small producers like me are what stand in the way of producing a better product.

My intention is not to attack your magazine or the people who produce it. I'm excited to see it each month. Publish some articles about choosing the right bale bed, using crop residues, feeding cows in confinement (it is so hard to rent land) or any number of topics that relate to the men and women who get their hands dirty every day.
Greg Steere
Alta Vista, KS

[email protected]

BEEF As A Teaching Tool

The University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service is preparing an educational program for Florida cattle producers on marketing. Can you provide us with 60 copies of your Spring 2001 Cow/Calf issue (“What Are Your Calves Worth?”)?
Joan A. Dusky
Assistant Dean

We Expect Better Returns

In your September BEEF Stocker supplement, Randy Blach from Cattle-Fax is quoted as saying that stocker operators were looking at good returns — “$30-$60/head return on summer stocker cattle.” As a small stocker operator (100-200 head), I would be very disappointed with a return of less than $100/head.

There are many definitions of a stocker operator. We graze replacement heifers and sell them either open or bred. If the market goes south, we keep the heifers and make mother cows out of them. Unlike some of my cohorts, I am not afraid to share some of the secrets of my operation, since it changes constantly.

Personally, I put a lot more value on my fellow ranchers' opinions than a so-called expert consultant.
Mike Graves
Nashville, AR

A Note To Veterinarians

Doug McInnis' article on veterinary partnerships in your September BEEF Veterinarian supplement left out an important point. He says the most important part of a partnership contract is a description of the duties of the members in the partnership. Just as important, however, is to have a sunset clause. I know from firsthand experience. We did not have one, and it was difficult to arrange the dissolution of the partnership.
Clair M. Hibbs DVM, PhD
Lynden, WA

Does Brainwashing Hurt?

I'm wondering. Did it hurt a great deal when the Beef Board pulled your brain out and washed it?

All you do is harp on how great the beef checkoff is. If it's doing so much good and 72% of producers are in favor of it, why not have a referendum and give people a chance to confirm what you're saying?

The simple truth is that we producers buy at retail, sell at wholesale and pay the freight both ways. Now, some of the big shots think we can add on the price of advertising and make it better.

It's only better for the middleman. Producers don't get any trickle-down effect. We've only added an extra cost of production. I haven't seen the $30-$40 return on every checkoff dollar spent that you refer to. What a joke.

The checkoff violates my First Amendment rights. I don't wish to be a member of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA). I can't be the only one because NCBA's membership is less than 10% of all cattlemen nationwide.

I know you won't print this because it disagrees with your brainwashed thought process. Now you know, however, that not all of us buy into your misguided thoughts.
Gary Malone
Palisade, NE

Too Much Checkoff Overhead

I've enjoyed your magazine for quite some time. I'm confused, however, why Joe Roybal and Wes Ishmael are for the beef checkoff, or more accurately, are attacking the Livestock Marketing Association? (September BEEF)

I know that NCBA and the Beef Board aren't paying writers to present their case because I don't believe these men could be bought. Therefore, I believe they're wholeheartedly behind their writing.

But, do they own any cattle? Do they sell any cattle?

I do think that the checkoff has done some good things. The people who work in the Oklahoma office promoting beef are one small example.

But, think about this operation 50 times over. In every state, there are five to 10 people in a fancy office with faxes, computers, etc., all making a living off the small family farmer. My main problem with the checkoff is all the office workers, film writers, etc., that I am supporting.

Both Roybal and Ishmael claim we never got the signatures of 10% of all beef producers required for a referendum on the checkoff. But, we had the signatures. An independent firm decided 44,000 of them weren't valid. I just don't believe that a third of all the signatures collected were invalid.

Why are you people so scared? Let us vote again. If a new vote is taken and it passes, fine.

P.S. Over the past years, the checkoff has taken many thousands of dollars from me. I've never gotten a card, calendar, cap, etc. What do they do with all our money?

They should be more appreciative. Feedlots and sale barns pass out coats and briefcases, etc. Wouldn't you think if they took $5,000 from my family in the last five years, they could send us a present, pat us on the back or invite us to cookouts?
Joe Davis
Nardin, OK

Sending Money To Hollywood

Joe Roybal writes that 72% of cattle producers are for the national beef checkoff (“Editor's Roundup,” September, page 4). Then, let's vote on it. Are these 72% afraid of a vote?

I once asked the Beef Board for a list of their people by name and their wages. All I received was information on what a good job they're doing.

Roybal writes that the LMA failed to gather the 10% of producer signatures needed for a referendum. I know there were a lot of ranchers in Montana's Rosebud and Custer counties that signed. Some have told me their signatures weren't verified. And, no one called my family and asked if we had sold cattle.

Look at all the money leaving the small towns for the media and Hollywood.
George Luther
Rosebud, MT

Thanks For The Issues

Thank you to the staff of BEEF for the excellent job you do in preparing the magazine every month. In today's time crunched society we never stop and take time to tell people when they are doing a good job. However, it's funny we always have time to write and complain if we're not satisfied.

I believe as a flagship magazine for the beef industry, you and your staff do an excellent job. I don't always agree with your positions on every issue you cover, but you do an excellent job covering the issues.

Team Beef at Penn State University would like to thank you for the extra copies of the August 2001 issue of BEEF. As we discuss alliances in our Capstone Beef Production class, the August issue — with its “2001 Alliance Yellow Pages” — will be an excellent resource.
Dan Kniffen
Team Beef
Penn State University

I Liked Your Cover

Great cover photo on the September issue of BEEF. It would make a great photo to sell.
Wayne Blair
[email protected]

Send reader letters, with name and address, to BEEF, 7900 International Dr., Suite 300, Minneapolis, MN 55425; or e-mail to [email protected]. BEEF reserves the right to edit for length.