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Articles from 2011 In November


Vegetarian Veterinary Student Examines Modern Food Production

Vegetarian Veterinary Student Examines Modern Food Production

Which came first: the factory farm chicken or egg demand? This was the question posed by Nicole Wyatt in the Star Tribune recently. Wyatt is a vegetarian who studies veterinary medicine in California. As a Minnesota native, Wyatt submitted this column to the Twin Cities' newspaper, and she provokes some interesting points to discuss and debate.

"Factory farming may not be pretty, but we all need to take a step back, look at how we got here and try to understand the industry on a scientific, nonemotional level. On Oct. 31, the world population hit 7 billion. Our food animal industry has had to modify production methods to safely and efficiently meet the growing demand. Yet our population is becoming increasingly urbanized, with little or no exposure to farming. As a veterinary student, I entered school with people who had gone their entire lives without stepping foot on a farm prior to our large-animal rotations. People who have not been exposed to large production farming have a difficult time understanding its current state. We have become an urbanized society susceptible to emotional reactions and extreme animal-rights propaganda," she writes.

Watts goes on to talk about her life as a vegetarian and the responsibility that consumers have to get educated about today's agriculture industry.

"As a vegetarian who plans on being a small-animal practitioner, I can say that there are aspects of modern agricultural practices I don't like. But I have also learned that they aren't quite as bad as they seem. I see room for improvement, along with the importance of providing food for our population. Do we want more expensive food? My guess would be no, but many changes will come with a price that must be passed on to the consumer. As consumers, it is your job to develop a better understanding of agriculture practices so that issues regarding animal welfare and our food supply are approached in a practical way. You must also understand the consequences of any demands you make on the industry."

Undoubtedly, Watts makes some interesting points. Certainly we cannot sacrifice animal care in order to feed the world, and I don’t believe we do so. However, agriculture has to start taking an honest look at the things we could improve upon and take control over the animal welfare debate before activists do it for us. In addition, I think we need to do a better job of policing ourselves and not tolerating the bad apples in our industry. Both of these considerations don’t come with easy answers, but in agriculture, we must do it all — please our consumers; meet the demands of regulations; produce safe, wholesome food; care for the animals; and sustainability tend to the environment.

What's your take on this article? Read the full piece here and let me know what you think!

Beef

Bovance Announces Second Year Of Scholarship Contest

Bovance is happy to announce the second year of their youth scholarship program, which was won by Brent Sexton from Iowa in 2011. This $1000 scholarship is open to high school seniors and college students in their first or second year of undergraduate study in an agriculture related field. Students must write an essay between 750 and 1000 words based on one of the following questions:

1. How could genetic preservation and cloning help feed the world in the years to come?

2. If you have a particular cow or bull that has contributed greatly to your herd, or the breed, explain why would you clone her/him.

3. How could cloning be used as part of comprehensive reproductive toolbox of ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology) services in a purebred or commercial operation?

4. How would you explain the benefits and safety of cloning to a consumer/friend who is questioning the value of the technology?

Entries must be received no later than March 1, 2012, with the winner being announced by April 15, 2012. The runner up will receive a free Express Tissue Bank on the animal of their choice (Value $300) and honorable mention entries will receive a certificate for $100 off a Genetic Preservation or Express Tissue Bank on the animal of their choice. All entry essays may be used in Bovance promotional materials in the future. For a submission form, please contact Diane Broek at 1-800-999-3586 or Melain Cox at 1-877-4-BOVANCE (1-877-426-8262).

Beef

ALIMET® Fills Gap Left By Grass To Improve Weaning Weights

Without supplementation, cattle on grass are deficient of methionine, an amino acid. When methionine is lacking, growth and performance are limited – and cow-calf producers are missing profit potential. By adding ALIMET® feed supplement from Novus International, Inc. to their herds’ diets, cow-calf producers are supplying the rumen-bypass methionine that cattle need, plus aiding rumen efficiency. This results in improved weaning weights and cows that breed back quicker: double the benefits of traditional, protected methionine supplementation.

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins or lean tissue growth. Cattle need many different amino acids to grow and optimize performance. If just one important amino acid is lacking, overall performance will be limited. For cattle on pasture, or a grass diet, the first-limiting amino acid is methionine.

“As the costs of production continue to increase, there is still too much financial risk when cattle don’t perform to their greatest potential,” says Stephanie Gable, Global Marketing Manager with Novus. “Supplementing with the right methionine source can set up backgrounder or feedlot calves for better performance, and the market gives incentive for larger, healthier animals. By improving their herds’ dietary amino acid profiles, cow-calf producers can increase profits and reduce risk.”

Matt Hersom, Ph.D., Extension Beef Cattle Specialist with the University of Florida observed positive results in the University’s cowherd when supplemented with ALIMET. The University of Florida conducted a recent survey to look at the effect of methionine supplementation in yearling steers on pasture grass. As the level of methionine increased in the supplement, the steers’ average daily gain increased.

“ALIMET ensures that methionine can be supplemented to cattle diets at a reasonable price, which is particularly important in forage-based diets, where amino acid profiles are weak in methionine,” Hersom explains. “If cow-calf producers are looking to improve the nutritional status of their growing calves, heifers or cows, ALIMET is a resource for them. ALIMET supports growth and performance without adding more crude protein or nitrogen to the herd’s diet.”

Among growing cattle with high-forage diets supplemented with ALIMET, producers have reported a 0.2 pound per day increase in average daily gain. For a steer or heifer that is on grass for three months, that increase can equate to 18 extra pounds. ALIMET supplementation for weaned heifers means better reproductive development, as well.

“With the heifers, we increased average daily gain early on, without adding extra protein to their diet,” says Hersom. “Relying on corn protein for a methionine source would increase the crude protein percentage of the feed, which would have a negative effect on breeding. By supplementing with ALIMET instead, we enhanced the amino acid profile and saw a numerical increase in reproductive tract scores.”

Cows supplemented with ALIMET will also produce more milk with higher quality, without loss in body condition. By delivering methionine to the rumen, ALIMET increases microbial production and efficiency – allowing cattle to utilize feedstuffs better.

“With improved milk fat yield, milk protein yield and milk production, cows can raise calves that are heavier at weaning,” says Gable. “Improving milk production without hurting the cows’ longevity contributes to the long-term profitability of herds. ALIMET boosts performance in every part of a cow-calf operation: growing calves, backgrounders, replacement heifers and the cow herd.”

ALIMET is a liquid but is available also in a dry form as MFP™ feed supplement. The two forms provide flexibility in integrating methionine supplementation into individual operations through mineral, creep and background feeding programs.

To experience double the benefits of methionine supplementation with ALIMET, beef producers should contact their nutritionist or a Novus representative. Learn more about ALIMET by visiting www.novusint.com/beef.

About Novus International, Inc.

Novus International, Inc. is headquartered in metropolitan St. Louis, Mo., U.S.A. and serves customers in more than 90 countries around the world. An industry leader in animal nutrition and health, Novus’s products include ALIMET® and MHA® feed supplements, ACTIVATE® nutritional feed acid, ACIDOMIX® preservative premix, CIBENZA® feed additive, MINTREX® and MAAC® chelated trace minerals, SANTOQUIN® feed preservative, MERA™MET aquaculture feed additive, AGRADO® feed ingredient and many other specialty ingredients. Arenus (www.arenus.com) is a division of Novus Nutrition Brands LLC (a subsidiary of Novus International, Inc.), that focuses on developing health and dietary supplements for the equine and companion animal markets. Stratum™ Nutrition, a division of Novus Nutrition Brands LLC, focuses on human nutrition through specialty and functional ingredients for manufacturers of foods, beverages and dietary supplements (www.stratumnutrition.com). Novus is privately owned by Mitsui & Co. (U.S.A.), Inc. and Nippon Soda Co., Ltd. For more information, visit www.novusint.com .

®ACTIVATE, ALIMET, AGRADO, CIBENZA, MAAC, MHA, MINTREX, SANTOQUIN and Novus are trademarks of Novus International, Inc., and are registered in the United States and other countries.

®ACIDOMIX is a trademark of Novus Deutschland GmbH and is registered in Germany and other countries.

™MERA and MFP are trademarks of Novus International, Inc.

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Changes To Labor Laws Hurt Farmers

Farming is not a job. It’s a lifestyle. The job is never done, and it’s never easy; it takes a special soul to work the long, hard days during the planting and harvesting seasons or live the vacation-free existence that comes with animal husbandry. At the same time, it’s the most important industry on the planet, and farmers will tell you it’s the most fulfilling: Besides raising a family, there is little on Earth more rewarding than tending the soil and growing from it — and raising on it — valuable nourishment for others.

To prepare someone for that intense lifestyle you need to start young and introduce teens to the work ethic and investment of self that are necessary to develop a love affair with farming. Youth have long been able to participate in agricultural work but that could change soon. The Obama administration has unveiled a series of proposed revisions to child labor law specific to farming. Citing provisions that have remained virtually untouched since 1970, the administration felt compelled to modernize them. That act of modernization will irreparably harm farming’s future by destroying its very foundation — the youth who should represent tomorrow’s workforce and farm owners.

To see the full article, click here.

National Cattlemen’s Foundation Announces Scholarship Program

The National Cattlemen’s Foundation (NCF) is announcing an initiative to strengthen the future of the beef industry. Together with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the CME Group, NCF will award ten $1,500 scholarships to outstanding students who are pursuing careers in the beef industry. The 2012-2013 Beef Industry Scholarships are open to graduating high school seniors or full-time undergraduate students enrolled at two-year or four-year institutions for the 2012-2013 school year.

Applicants must demonstrate a commitment to a career in the beef industry through classes, internships or life experiences. Fields of study for potential scholarship recipients may include education, communications, production, research or other areas related to the beef industry. John Lacey, interim chairman of NCF's board of trustees, says the scholarship program is aimed at helping future industry leaders.

“The Beef Industry Scholarships will help ensure a bright future for deserving students and for the beef industry in the U.S.,” says Lacey. “Investing in future industry leaders through contributions toward their continuing education is an important way to develop our industry and our young people.”

For more information on the scholarship, click here.

Convenience Stores Providing Competition For Fast-Food Restaurants, Research Finds

Consumers are taking advantage of the expanding convenience store food service options, many times at the expense of quick-service restaurants, according to recent research by food service research firm Technomic.

Of consumers polled on their most recent convenience store-food service purchase, 27% indicated that if they had not bought their meal from the convenience store in question, they would have purchased it from a fast-food restaurant. This number is nearly identical to those who said they would have ordered from another convenience store.

The survey also found more than 27% of consumers said they purchased an afternoon snack during their most recent visit, while 19% purchased lunch. Impulse buying plays a big role in convenience store foodservice purchases. More than 30% of convenience store food service consumers said that seeing an item, which triggered a craving, was the primary motivation for purchasing it.

The report was compiled using a nationally representative sample of 3,755 consumers and individual convenience store visits.

World's Biggest Meat Critics Are Ranchers

Opening up the Monday edition of my local newspaper, The Daily Republic, I was pleased to read Amy Kirk's opinion piece about beef safety and nutrition. The column was titled, "The Ultimate Meat Skeptics," and talks about how beef is safe, wholesome and great tasting. And, if you want to get the best experience out of every bite of steak, just ask a rancher!

Kirk, who is a local ranch wife and a regular contributor to the paper, writes, “To clarify whether or not beef is safe to eat, I would encourage people to dine with the world’s biggest meat critics: ranchers. Trust me, having lunch or dinner with a rancher will cure all skepticism. Cattlemen are the ultimate connoisseurs of beef. Besides potatoes and maybe bread, beef is pretty much all they eat and the last thing they want to do is jeopardize their dinner. Cattle producers know their product, and ranching families rarely experience food-borne illness from beef because they know how to properly prepare and cook it.

“My family has high expectations of meat. It should be beef. My husband wants his beef cooked to his specifications regardless of where he eats it. Beef is king in our home and for good reason -- it’s satiating, tasty, and provides necessary nutrients (zinc, iron and protein, among others) for energy -- which is very important around here -- but beef reigns over all other meats with most ranching families.

“If people need proof that American beef is safe to eat then they should read the label’s expiration date, ensure it’s been kept cold, wash their hands before handling, use different platters and utensils for cooked and uncooked meats, and cook the meat until it reaches the right internal temperature. Still, any skeptic’s best bet is to find out what a rancher orders when he goes out to lunch or dinner. Producers believe in beef because they’re the ones producing it. Regardless of what else is on the menu, 99% of ranchers will order steak or prime rib. The other percentage will order a hamburger.

“There is no stricter or more obsessive meat critic than cattlemen. Going out to dinner with them can be just as aggravating as cooking for them. Once they’ve eaten steak or prime rib at a restaurant that cooked it to their satisfaction and met their high expectations, they become loyal patrons. They’re not interested in trying out new restaurants if they’ve found a place that serves beef consistently cooked the way they like it. Any restaurant that a rancher patronizes regularly is getting the highest compliment and seal of approval it can receive. The best way to reassure those who question beef’s quality, healthiness and safety is to dine amongst ranchers.”

There's no better way to promote beef than sharing the ways you, as a rancher, enjoy it. That was the focus of one of my previous columns, "Beef Producers Must Promote To Consumers," which stressed the importance of sharing recipes, cooking tips and even grilling videos to inspire others to get out there and purchase beef. As December approaches and the holiday season gets into full swing, make the extra effort to promote your product. Beef, it's what's for dinner this Christmas!

Time To Find Common Ground On Immigration

I am the owner and operator of a large, northern Colorado-based organic family farm. For me, it is imperative that we solve the immigration issue. The American farming industry is completely dependent on migrant farm hands. Without immigrant workers, crops wouldn't be picked and packaged; food wouldn't make its way to supermarket shelves for our families to purchase at affordable prices. In fact, farming in the U.S. would largely disappear without immigrant workers.

The Mountain West Summit: Forging a New Consensus on Immigrants and America was held in late October in Salt Lake City, UT. This summit gathered prominent business, faith, law enforcement and government leaders from Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and Idaho to think about pragmatic ways to solve our immigration challenges.

Although participants came from different states and perspectives, they were able to find common ground on the issue of immigration, by agreeing that the Mountain West's economy has been strengthened by hard-working immigrants who have provided essential labor in crucial sectors of our local economies.

To see the full article, click here.

New Phone App Will Help Stranded Winter Motorists

A new smartphone application from the North Dakota State University (NDSU) Extension Service will help motorists stuck in winter weather.

The Winter Survival Kit app can be as critical as a physical winter survival kit if you find yourself stuck or stranded in severe winter weather conditions, says Bob Bertsch, NDSU agriculture communication web technology specialist. It’s available free for both Android and iOS systems.

“Our app will help you find your current location, call 911, notify your friends and family, and calculate how long you can run your engine to keep warm and stay safe from carbon monoxide poisoning,” says Bertsch. “You can use the Winter Survival Kit app to store important phone and policy numbers for insurance or roadside assistance. You can also designate emergency contacts you want to alert when you become stranded.”

If you become stranded, the Winter Survival Kit app will help you determine your geographic location and contact emergency services. The app's gas calculator will help you estimate how long you can run your engine on your remaining fuel.

To see the full article, click here.

Drought & Supply Continue To Shape The Market

"Cattle feeding has mostly become a game of small margins on economies of scale mired in risk management that many times offers more opportunities than the cash position itself," say analysts with the Agricultural Marketing Service. "Most feedlots refuse to operate with empty pens, and their desire to maintain inventories causes an accumulation of feeder cattle that have unrealistic breakevens."

That's one reason cattle feeders are pushing snug calf and feeder cattle supplies to record and near-record high prices, despite poor cattle feeding margins. According to the October Cattle Finishing Returns from Kansas State University, the breakeven price for October was expected to be $122-$123/cwt., resulting in a loss of $24-$45/head. Breakeven prices for this month and next were pegged at $124-$128.

Fed cattle prices and wholesale beef prices are also at record and near-record levels with extraordinarily strong domestic consumer beef demand, given the tottering economy. Steamy beef export demand continues to help underpin those prices. Choice wholesale boxed-beef cutout values are near $200/cwt.

Earlier this month, David Anderson, Texas AgriLife Extension ag economist, pointed out that fed cattle prices last year were $98/cwt., compared to the recent highs of $127/cwt.

"The seasonal price pattern usually peaks in the springtime but with another peak late in the year, and that's exactly the kind of seasonal pattern we've seen this year," Anderson says. "Prices were more than $120 for fed cattle in April, and now are back up over $120 again, after hitting a summertime low of about $104."

Though the seasonal ups and downs are to be expected, Anderson explains the prices are being driven to unprecedented levels by several factors, including strong beef export demand as well as some break in feed costs. The key driver, though, continues to be the historic drought in the Southern Plains.

Tim Petry, North Dakota State University livestock economist, pointed out in last week's In the Cattle Markets that placement weights in November's Cattle on Feed report continue to reflect the drought.

"Placements of calves under 600 lbs. were up 11% over last year, while 600-699-lb. placements were down 6.25%, with 700-799 lbs. down 2.7%, and the 800-plus-lbs. category down 6.4%," Petry says. "Many of the under-600 lbs. calves would normally be placed on winter wheat that is not available this year due to drought conditions.

"The decline in placements in the over-600-lbs. category was expected and more in line with the fewer number of feeder cattle that are available. USDA-NASS reported that there were 2.5% fewer calves and feeder cattle outside of feedlots in the July 1 cattle inventory report. Expectations are that placements will continue to fall below last year in the next several months."

Meanwhile, analysts in this month's Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook, said: "Drought continues to dominate non-fed slaughter, despite recent rains that provided temporary relief and promoted emergence of winter wheat in the Southern Plains. One result of the continuing drought is that proportionally heavy cow and bull slaughter rates and declining supplies of Choice-grade cattle have decreased the relative supply of Choice beef and contributed to a widening spread between Choice and Select steer and heifer cutout values (see "Choice-Select Spread Grows"). Walmart's decision to sell Choice beef has also contributed to the demand for Choice beef."