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Articles from 2008 In November

Giving Thanks

It’s easy to get into the daily grind of things in the frenzy of getting things accomplished. Our list of things to do is usually chuck full of items that can’t be put off.

1. Grind feed

2. Fix fence

3. Do laundry

4. Buy groceries

5. Sell bulls

6. Buy Christmas presents

7. Pay the bills

8. Worry about HSUS

9. Write a letter to Congress about EPA’s Proposed Cow Tax

10. Get the AI tank filled

11. Clean the barn

It seems this list is never ending and always loaded to the max with the many responsibilities and duties that rule our life. In this holiday season, the most important thing to add to your to-do list is to make time for family and friends, enjoy life’s simple pleasures and give thanks for your many blessings. It’s really simple; come on, I will show you how it’s done.

Like many of you, I’m spending the day with family at my grandparents’ home. The day will be spent with stories, jokes, stuffing and pumpkin pie. After dinner, the men find their respective couches to nap on while the women gather to look at the sale catalogs for Black Friday Shopping. When the day is complete, my family and I will head home to work on our show calves for the Corn Palace Winter Calf Show in Mitchell, SD.

And, it’s in the barn where I’m going to pencil in some time to give thanks. I’m thankful for my family, especially my supportive parents and fun-loving little sisters. I’m thankful for my friends that have made college such a great experience. I’m thankful for my cattle and my family’s seedstock business. I’m thankful for my good health. I’m thankful for the opportunities in agriculture that I have to look forward to as my career progresses. I’m thankful for the roof over my head, the food I eat and the bed where I rest. I’m thankful for God’s many gifts, especially for all of the people that I share my life with.

While I brush my calves, sing to the radio in the barn and talk with my family, I’m going to give extra thanks for my passion in agriculture. It’s this passion that gets me out of bed and moving every morning, and it’s this same passion that drives me to do more for agriculture every single day. I’m so thankful to be surrounded by people like you that feel the same way I do, and I’m blessed to have you in my life.

So this Thanksgiving, as the food is passed around the table and you bow your head to pray, forget about your long list of things to do and give thanks for your many blessings in life. Life is too short to stress about the state of the economy, the market trends and the daily grind of feeding chores. Spend the day enjoying the company of your family and friends, knowing that you are truly blessed in your life. Thanks for being part of mine!

Anti-quality Factors in Beef Cattle Diets

Under certain conditions, beef cattle may be exposed to forages and feeds containing toxic or harmful compounds. When consumed, these antiquality factors can result in reduced cattle growth, depressed reproductive performance, poor health, and even death, say Jane A. Parish and Justin D. Rhinehart, in a Missippi State University Extension Service publication.

Simple management practices often can be implemented to reduce the risk of diet-induced production losses. Identifying potential anti-quality problems in beef cattle diets, using proper treatments, and preventing future occurrences can help protect cattle health and profitability.

Fescue Toxicosis


Fescue toxicosis is the forage-related livestock disorder that impacts the largest number of cattle in Mississippi and causes the greatest economic losses. Most of the tall fescue acreage in Mississippi is in the northern and central regions of the state. Most tall fescue plants in Mississippi pastures are infected with a wild-type “toxic” endophyte (fungus). The wild-type endophyte produces ergot alkaloids, which are livestock toxins.

Clinical Signs

Consumption of toxic endophyte-infected tall fescue depresses body condition, reproduction, and milk production in cows and weaning weights in calves. Grazing toxic tall fescue pastures or consuming toxic tall fescue hay decreases forage intake, lowers average daily gain, and alters hormone concentrations. Cattle that develop rough hair coats exhibit heat stress during warm periods, and suffer losses of ear tips and tail switches during cool periods.

Endophyte-free tall fescue is commercially available and has been marketed as a solution to fescue toxicosis. Although endophyte-free tall fescue does not produce ergot alkaloids and provides good animal performance, removal of the endophyte results in reduced seedling vigor and lower plant persistence. Accelerated forage stand losses in endophyte-free tall fescue pastures, relative to toxic tall fescue pastures, are common without intensive management. Unlike toxic tall fescue, endophyte-free tall fescue can be easily overgrazed and will not tolerate poor management.

“Friendly” endophyte-infected tall fescue contains an endophyte that does not produce ergot alkaloids. It is also referred to as “novel” or “nontoxic” endophyteinfected tall fescue. Novel endophyte-infected tall fescue combines the plant persistence advantage of toxic tall fescue with the animal performance advantage of endophyte-free tall fescue. Plant persistence is higher in novel endophyte-infected tall fescue than in endophyte- free tall fescue, and cattle performance on novel endophyte-infected tall fescue is similar to performance on endophyte-free and higher than performance on toxic tall fescue.

Part of the success that producers have with maintaining productive stands of toxic tall fescue is attributable to the negative effect of the livestock toxins on forage intake. Forage intake is higher on novel endophyte- infected tall fescue than on toxic tall fescue. Therefore, novel endophyte-infected tall fescue stands require a higher level of grazing management than toxic tall fescue stands and should not be overgrazed. Proper establishment to minimize stand contamination with toxic tall fescue seed and proper management practices to minimize stand losses are also vital considerations when renovating with friendly tall fescue.


Although there are several products advertised to alleviate fescue toxicosis, there is currently no drug, feed additive, or supplement proven in university research trials to effectively restore lost cattle growth performance on toxic tall fescue. Cattle should be removed from toxic tall fescue pasture and hay if possible.

Nitrate Poisoning


Nitrate toxicity can be a lethal problem for all classes of cattle, including stockers. Even when nitrates do not cause death, production losses such as reduced milk yield, lower weight gains, and reproductive problems can occur with moderate levels of nitrates in the diet. Generally, nitrates are present in grazing cattle diets at levels that are not normally toxic, but at high dietary levels, nitrates can cause nitrate poisoning. Nitrates normally found in forages are converted to nitrites, then to ammonia, and then to protein by bacteria in the rumen.

Nitrate poisoning in cattle results from excessive nitrate consumption from grazed forage, hay, silage, weeds, water, or other sources. Nitrates accumulate in the rumen when cattle rapidly ingest large amounts of plants containing high levels of nitrates. Although rare, cattle may experience nitrate poisoning from drinking water contaminated with nitrogen-based fertilizer. Nitrate is absorbed into red blood cells and combines with hemoglobin to produce methemoglobin, a type of hemoglobin that cannot carry oxygen in the blood. Lack of sufficient oxygen transport to tissues results in severe problems, including abortions and possibly death.

Clinical Signs

Signs of nitrate poisoning include bluish discoloration of the skin, bluish-brown mucous membranes, labored or rapid breathing, muscle tremors, lack of muscle control, staggering, weakness, diarrhea, frequent urination, dark- to chocolate-colored blood, rapid pulse, coma, and eventual suffocation. Necropsy results often reveal brown-colored and severely coagulated blood. Pregnant females that survive nitrate poisoning may abort due to lack of oxygen to the fetus. Abortions generally occur 10 to 14 days after exposure to excess nitrates.

Plant Factors

Certain forages and weeds pose higher risks of accumulating potentially dangerous levels of nitrates. Forages known to have the potential for accumulation of toxic nitrate levels include sudangrass, sorghumsudan hybrids, pearl millet, corn, wheat, oats, soybeans, tall fescue, and bermudagrass. Weeds that pose a threat include pigweed (carelessweed), smartweed, ragweed, lambsquarter, goldenrod, nightshades, bindweed, Canada thistle, and bull or horse (stinging) nettle. Pigweed and the warm-season annual grasses are typically the more likely culprits in most nitrate poisoning cases in Mississippi.

Abnormally high levels of nitrates in plants are caused by various stress factors such as moisture conditions, low temperatures, and soil conditions. Plants will take up very little nitrate from dry soils. Nitrates are often at very high levels in plants for several days following a rain after drought conditions. Frost and low temperatures interfere with normal plant growth and can cause accumulation of nitrates in plants. Frost can cause leaf damage and reduce photosynthetic activity. So, nitrates absorbed by the roots are not converted to plant protein but are accumulated in the stem and stalk. Deficiencies of essential nutrients such as phosphorus can also lead to plant stress and cause a buildup of nitrates.

Nitrate levels tend to decrease as plants mature. Young plants have higher concentrations of nitrates than more mature plants. Mature plants can still have excess nitrate levels if environmental and soil conditions are favorable for accumulation. Water nitrate levels should also be considered. Nitrate levels (unlike prussic acid levels) in stored forages do not significantly decrease over time, so storing hay containing high nitrate levels is not an effective method of preventing nitrate poisoning. In addition, ensiling is not considered an effective way to reduce nitrate levels in forages.

To read the full report with management tips for producers, link here.

Kansas feedyards see sharp decline in cattle

At a time when the consumer appetite for beef is waning amid the economic downturn, the number of cattle going into feedlots in Kansas and across the nation also has taken a steep dive.

The latest cattle-on-feed statistics come at a time of high input costs for fattening the beef and deep losses for the nation's cattle-feeding industry.

On Monday, the Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service reported that the state had 2.23 million head of cattle in its large feedyards as of Nov. 1. That number is down 8 percent from the same month a year ago, but up 3 percent from last month.

Cattlemen during October also placed 15 percent fewer cattle on feed, meaning the available slaughter supply will remain tight in the coming months. The number of animals leaving the feedyard for slaughter was down 12 percent in October, compared with the same month last year in Kansas.

At Hitch II feeders, assistant manager Dale Nicodemus said the feedyard near Garden City is running at less than three-fourths full. The feedyard has a capacity of 45,000 head.

"At this time of year that is significant. Most of the time we are jammed full at this time of the year," Nicodemus said.

Some of the smaller feedyards — those with a capacity of fewer than 1,000 head of cattle — are empty and for sale, he said.

"Normally we are very full this time of year. The fall run was very small this year — almost nonexistent," Nicodemus said.

He blamed the smaller numbers of cattle coming into the yard in part to a wetter year in Kansas that has allowed cattle to remain on grazing longer and to drought conditions elsewhere that have forced producers to cut the size of their herds.

The Kansas numbers were reflective of trends nationwide.

The U.S. inventory of cattle and calves on feed totaled 11 million head on Nov. 1, down 7 percent from the same month last year. Placements nationwide during October were down nearly 11 percent below 2007 to 2.44 million cattle, while the number of animals leaving the feedyard for slaughter were down 3 percent from last year to 1.81 million cattle.

While cattle supplies have tightened a little more than the industry was expecting before the report came out, the big story remains what is happening to the demand side, said James Mintert, a Kansas State University economist.

Industry experts say the economic downturn may continue to affect the demand for beef, particularly more expensive cuts such as tenderloin, as cash-strapped consumers turn to cheaper cuts or to chicken or pork.

Prices for tenderloin at the beginning of July were running about the same as a year ago. Two weeks ago, they were 28 percent to 32 percent below last year. They recovered slightly in the past week and are now running about 12 percent to 13 percent below a year ago.

"That is indicative at the wholesale level of buyers backing away from high-valued cuts because they were concerned about their ability to market to consumers in an environment where everybody is worried about their income, everybody is worried about what is happening to their asset values," Mintert said.

Those cattle industry concerns also are reflected in the futures market. Since Labor Day, live cattle futures have dropped $20 a hundredweight because of concerns about domestic and export demand, Mintert said.

"We hope that demand can rebound when the economy starts to grow again," said Todd Domer, spokesman for the Kansas Livestock Association. "Nobody knows when and if we've reached bottom yet."

New Jersey Firm Recalls Ground Beef Products

Dutch Prime Foods, Inc., a Long Branch, New Jersey firm, is recalling approximately 345 pounds of ground beef products because they may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service announced today.

These packages of ground beef were packed in 5- and 10-pound shipping cases which bear the establishment number "EST. 5206" inside the USDA mark of inspection.

These ground beef products were produced on Nov. 18 and distributed to restaurants in New Jersey.

The problem was discovered through a routine FSIS sampling procedure. FSIS has received no reports of illnesses associated with consumption of this product. Anyone with signs or symptoms of foodborne illness should consult a medical professional.

E. coli O157:H7 is a potentially deadly bacterium that can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration, and in the most severe cases, kidney failure. The very young, seniors and persons with weak immune systems are the most susceptible to foodborne illness.

Consumers and media with questions about the recall should contact company Secretary-Treasurer Ron Orzechowski at (732) 222-0910.

Consumers with food safety questions can "Ask Karen," the FSIS virtual representative available 24 hours a day at The toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) is available in English and Spanish and can be reached from l0 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday. Recorded food safety messages are available 24 hours a day.

Say No to EPA's Cow Tax

Today's headline is about EPA's desire to tax ranchers for livestock emissions. This proposed "cow tax" will have a colossal impact on the agricultural industry. I urge you to read more on this issue, and read the following press release sent out by NCBA's Policy Affiliate Relations Manager, Elizabeth Bostdorff.


Currently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is collecting comments on an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding regulating Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) under the Clean Air Act.

WE NEED YOUR HELP to tell the EPA NOT to regulate Greenhouse Gases under the Clean Air Act since such regulation would be economically devastating to the entire U.S. economy, including the cattle industry.

There are two forms of the comments that you can submit to the EPA against this rule. See the Call to Action site at NCBA to access these forms. You can also submit your comments via email. Just send them to: [email protected] and be sure to reference Docket ID# EPA-HQ-OAR-2008-0318 in the subject line.

PLEASE help us fight against regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act by sending a letter TODAY!

Deadline for letters is Friday, November 28th.

Retail Complications For COOL

Perhaps it is too early to tell, but I’ve always known mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) is nothing more than a little more bookkeeping at the production level.

Packers are still trying to work through the dynamics of how to make it work with minimal cost, but the real concern continues to be raised at the retail level. There are only so many slots that a store has at their disposal when stocking its meat case. Labels require segregation, and suppliers who have opted for a multi-country or U.S. label have found inconsistency in supply to be an issue, as packers struggle with filling orders and maintaining production efficiency.

Ground hamburger is of course the number one product for the beef industry. Its greatest strength in today's cost-conscious climate is its popularity not as a center-of-the-plate item, but as an ingredient (thank you Hamburger Helper). There is a lot of concern about what the multiple country designations might mean for ground beef sales, and concerns that Canada, Australia and the like will exploit our lack of traceability and food safety issues down the road.

There are too many labels and label combinations for the marketers in the retail chains to stock and promote, which may lead to a narrowing of markets. Of course, seafood has had COOL for several years, and that may be the best indicator of what to expect on the beef side. If that’s the case, the growing pains and expense absorbed by packers and retailers will be pretty non-eventful.

I would argue, though, that there is a fundamental difference between items like seafood and bananas where people expect a good deal of the product to be raised outside of U.S. borders. People see plenty of cows around, and may question why there is a need for multiple countries of origin.

Because U.S. product has such a dominant market share, it will be the benchmark for price. The question will be whether the other products will be priced at a discount or premium to the U.S. product.

COOL Cometh & Plenty Of Questions Linger

If there’s one thing for sure regarding the industry’s move into mandatory country of origin labeling, it’s that nothing’s for sure.

And that, sources tell BEEF magazine, creates uncertainty that has the marketing chain from retailers on down nervously waiting to see what develops.

Some retailers are not fully compliant yet, a retail source tells BEEF, because they’re not sure how to be. “The problem is we’re not just waiting on one shoe to drop. There are probably several shoes yet to fall.” The questions include: How different will the final rule be from the interim rule? How will USDA enforce COOL once they get past the six-month “informed compliance” period?

Answers may soon be forthcoming. USDA’s Craig Morris, speaking at BEEF magazine’s BEEF Quality Summit (BQS) in Colorado Springs earlier this month, said USDA in mid-November began circulating a draft of the final rule within USDA. Morris, deputy administrator of USDA’s Ag Marketing Service, told cattlemen that USDA is aiming to send the final rule to the Federal Register on Dec. 24.

Whether that makes for a merry Christmas remains to be seen, but retailers aren’t holding their breath. “It’s extremely difficult for us to manage COOL,” says Kelly Mortensen, corporate meat, deli and seafood director with Associated Food Stores in Salt Lake City, UT. Mortensen, who spoke on a BQS retail panel, says they handle nine different beef lines, including several branded programs. He’s concerned that COOL will add more categories to the retail line-up.

COOL dictates four categories – Category A, which is beef born, raised and slaughtered in the U.S.; category B, multiple countries of origin for beef from cattle raised elsewhere but fed and slaughtered here; category C, cattle imported to the U.S. for immediate slaughter; and category D, which is imported meat.

“If we have to add more categories, like A, B, C or D, one of those (existing) categories will have to go. Or two or three, in order for us to keep our coolers from overflowing.” That means COOL-labeled meat could become a competitor to existing branded-beef lines, if for no other reason than allocating a limited amount of shelf space. “We could have three categories (of COOL) in our meat cases in our stores,” he says. “And you can’t commingle those categories. They have to be in a separate section.”

A brief history. COOL was first dictated in the 2002 farm bill. Through a series of legislative maneuvers, the program for most of the covered commodities was set aside. COOL for fish and shellfish was implemented in 2005 and USDA has been enforcing that program for three years.

The 2008 farm bill changed things, and COOL for a number of commodities, including beef, became effective Sept. 30. Adding the other commodities, each with its own unique supply chains, complicated the issue. So USDA declared the first six months a period of “informed compliance.” Beginning April 1, 2009, USDA will begin enforcing COOL, which can result in fines up to $1,000/violation.

That enforcement will be through retail and supplier audits, Morris says. This fiscal year, USDA will conduct around 2,000 retail audits on fish and shellfish. With the additional commodities, USDA has made a budget request to increase audits to 5,000/year. “For all the retail reviews we do, we do tracebacks on approximately 2% of those,” which means USDA will be asking packers to prove the origin of the products sold at retail.

What this means to cattlemen. So will a USDA inspector show up at your door, asking you to prove the statements you made on the affidavit when you sold your calves? No, Morris says.

“I don’t regulate you, I regulate packers,” he told the BQS crowd. “We cannot, under this law, ever assess a penalty on a beef producer.” So, if an audit reveals a producer falsified the affidavit on a set of cattle, the packer is on his own to resolve the problem.

But cattlemen still have COOL obligations. While industry-wide affidavits have simplified the requirements, documentation is still needed.

“Additional to the universal affidavit, there has to be information that is unique to the transaction,” says Marty O’Connor, chief of the Ag Marketing Service’s Standardization Branch. “So those normal business documents that are communicated still have to contain COOL information that can be traced back through the supply chain.” Normal business documents are acceptable. “Bills of lading, invoices or whatever else is used as long as it can tie that product and that shipment uniquely from that seller to the next person in the supply chain.”

Then there’s cost. How much of the additional costs that retailers and packers will assume will be passed back to cattlemen? Nobody knows. However, industry sources speculate it could ultimately downsize fed-cattle prices by $3 to $4/cwt.

Whether that will happen, and whether it will affect feeder-cattle and calf prices, are big unknowns. The legislation is, however, affecting the price of Mexican and Canadian cattle coming into the U.S.

Earlier, Tyson indicated it would pay $60/head less for Mexican cattle fed in U.S. feedlots, which put a scare into the border market. Some 2,000 Mexican steers and spayed heifers crossed at the Santa Teresa, NM pens the last few days of October. The 300-lb. steers brought $1 to $1.05/cwt and the 3-weight spayed heifers brought 80¢. That same week, 3-4 weight steers at Oklahoma City returned $1.19 to $1.22 and 3-4 weight heifers brought $98 to $1.14.

Those discounts are prompting Mexican cattlemen to rumble about retaliation, saying their response to the drop in the value of their calves will be to stop the flow of U.S. beef to Mexico, currently the No.-1 export market for U.S. beef. Canadian cattlemen are contemplating action under NAFTA. One U.S. cattle feeder, Cody Easterday of Easterday Ranches at Pasco, WA, has sued USDA over the program, claiming commercial buyers are paying as much as $30/head less for Canadian and Mexican cattle, while there is no premium for U.S. cattle.

In spite of all the uncertainty, COOL is upon us and retailers will stay in compliance, sources tell BEEF. “We’re not hearing any outcry (from consumers) for it at the retail level,” sources say. “It hasn’t increased sales. Has it cost sales? I haven’t talked to anybody (who says) it drove (consumers) away from protein. But it may have driven them from one end of the meat case to the other. We’re happy that the penalties for failure are less now than they were originally. But we’re not happy with the prospect that this will be a profit opportunity.”

For complete information, go to

Research Needed To Make Good On Biofuel Promise

While cellulosic biofuels derived from grasses, crop residues and inedible plant parts have real potential to be more efficient and environmentally friendlier than grain-based biofuels like corn ethanol, more research and science-based policies are needed to reap these benefits, says an international group of experts.

In an article published in the journal Science, Purdue University ag economist Otto Doering and a team of 22 other scientists say there is an urgent need for more comprehensive and collaborative research. This will help next-generation fuels avoid the pitfalls of grain-based biofuels, which include increased nutrient runoff and clearing of new land to recoup lost food production, Doering says.

"It's important that we begin thinking about how to deal with the unintended consequences of cellulosic biofuels as early as possible in order to ensure that they can be produced sustainably," Doering says.

The Renewable Fuel Standard within last year's energy bill guarantees cellulosic biofuels a relatively bright future, mandating that American companies purchase 21 billion gals. of cellulosic ethanol by 2022. But many questions remain unanswered, like how to comprehensively measure the impact of biofuels. To date, measures often reflect a single dimension rather than considering the system as a whole.

"There is a broad array of concerns," Doering says. "We need to consider biofuel's likely impact on water use and availability along with water quality, especially nutrient runoff. Greenhouse gas emissions must also be considered, as well as effects on soils and the landscape."

Rising demand for corn grain ethanol has gone hand in hand with increased water use and, oftentimes, increased nutrient runoff, Doering says. There also is mixed evidence that corn grain ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions. The intensive corn cultivation encouraged by high ethanol demand can degrade soil and water quality, he adds.

Doering, recently appointed to the Environmental Protection Agency's Scientific Advisory Board, says more work is needed to develop and successfully apply "best management practices" to minimize nutrient, chemical and water use while limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

It's important to remember, Doering says, that existing best management practices can help soften the impact of increased corn production and intensified agriculture. Such practices include no-till farming methods, planting of cover crops, diversity-oriented crop rotation and inclusion of uncultivated fallow land into the landscape. All these practices help retain soil nutrients and offer benefits like wildlife habitat and natural pest suppression.

"The paper is really a plea to think carefully before jumping into cellulosics," Doering says. "We want to avoid making mistakes we're likely to later regret."

Michigan State University researcher G. Philip Robertson was lead author of the Science article. Authors hail from universities and institutions from two countries and 16 states.
-- Purdue University release

The Economy Will Bounce Back

The current economic mess is evidence of a problem that government officials were too slow to address, says Richard Fisher, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. In describing the role of the nation’s central bank, Fisher referred to a former Fed chairman who said the Federal Reserve’s responsibility is to “take away the punch bowl just as the party gets going.”

“We’re in the midst of experiencing the consequences of the failure to take away the punch bowl,” Fisher says. “We must never allow this to happen again. But first we must deal with the situation at hand.”

Fisher says the Federal Reserve has made a robust effort to help keep credit flowing. “We’ve reached deep into our tool kit to lend by every possible means and in modes never adopted before. We have been neither scanty nor slow. In rapid order, the Federal Reserve has stretched out the terms with which we lend to bankers, accepted new forms of collateral, (and) broadened access to our lending window to securities dealers.”

Recognizing that the global economy is inextricably interwoven, Fisher says the Fed has also established swap lines to help meet the dollar-funding needs of 14 central banks around the world. He also notes the Fed is providing substantial intellectual input to assist other regulators such as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the U.S. Treasury Department.

“This combination of measures, together with an effective Fed funds rate of less than 1%, is unprecedented. We believe they are a necessary antidote to what ails the economy and a needed impetus for the restoration of confidence,” Fisher says.

He adds there are limits to what the central bank can do. “Our efforts must be complemented by fiscal policy and by initiatives undertaken by other regulators. And we also know that it will take time before confidence is reestablished.”

The crisis at hand is troubling, Fisher says, “But Americans are a resilient people and our economy will bounce back.”
-- Texas Cattle Feeders Association release