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Articles from 1997 In December

Go With Gluten

A by-product of the corn processing industry, corn gluten feed has found its way into both cow-calf and feedlot feeding regimens. Like most by-products, gluten feed is especially popular with producers who are close enough to processing plants to make transportation cost effective.

Corn gluten is a by-product of the wet corn milling industry that produces starch for ethanol or fructose for corn sweeteners. Generally, researchers claim corn gluten feed may be fed wet or dry; however, research has shown wet corn gluten feed to be more digestible than dry.

In the U.S. there are 28 wet corn millers processing nearly 10% of the nation's corn crop, says Reed Ethington, feed product's manager at Minnesota Corn Processors, Marshall, MN. That number, he says, has nearly doubled over the last 10 years.

In the mid-'80s, when feeding corn gluten first became attractive to producers, Will Greig, Estherville, IA, jumped on the bandwagon. He started feeding the by-product in a pelleted form at the family cow-calf and feeding operation in 1985. Two years later, however, price and distance from the plant at Eddyville, IA, forced him to stop.

But in 1991 he returned to the gluten game, this time getting the by-product from a nearby plant at Marshall, MN.

"I feed 10 lbs. of gluten to first- and second-calf heifers, along with 5 lbs. of silage and free-choice corn stalks or stover," Greig says. "In emergencies, I've even fed up to 40 lbs. of gluten feed per head per day in winter without acidosis or foundering problems."

With older cows, he feeds corn stalks and 10-15 lbs. of gluten a day. In fact, when Greig weans calves he starts them on gluten and free-choice brome hay, and claims they go on feed faster and stay healthier. "The best creep feed is gluten in a dry, pelleted form. But, it's expensive for us because of transportation costs," he says.

Besides the 170-head purebred Simmental and Red Angus operation, Greig is also involved with the family 3,000-head feedlot that regularly uses corn gluten in its three-phase starting ration for calves. When cattle near finish, they're primarily on a corn diet.

Greig says he likes the gluten because it's higher in protein than corn, and higher in fiber.

Allen Trenkle, animal scientist at Iowa State University, likes the product, too, because it's usually competitively priced with corn and has nearly the same nutritional value on a dry matter basis. Pricing corn gluten, however, varies widely depending on the export market, he adds.

A beauty of corn gluten feed is that it's very palatable and complements low- as well as high-quality feeds, Trenkle says. "It's high in digestible energy, protein and phosphorus. A lot of feedlots like to keep it in rations to reduce dust. And, because it's not high in starch, it's safe."

With cows, Greig likes the ability to limit feed the gluten. "By combining gluten with silage, it somehow maximizes my corn stalks. It works great in the winter. I can also feed corn stover more efficiently and don't have to feed so many tons of hay."

Once fall tillage is complete and corn stalks are no longer available, he moves young cows in and starts feeding gluten in bunks once a day. Normally, that's always before November 15.

Older cows, however, are kept on grass pastures as long as possible in the winter. There, he feeds wet gluten on the ground at 20-25 lbs. every other day and free-choice cornstalks in round bales.

Added Benefits "The energy value of gluten on a dry-matter basis is similar to the energy value of corn, and costs about the same f.o.b. our feedlot," Greig says. "So, the extra protein and fiber in the gluten is free."

Overall, Greig claims there's a tremendous advantage to feeding corn gluten and hay as a starting ration for weaned calves. "The extra protein and fiber mean the energy levels of the ration can be higher without causing acidosis and stress, and that reduces sickness. And, corn gluten lets you maximize the use of low-quality feedstuffs for cows in your wintering rations," he says.

The downside to gluten, Greig explains, is when weather is hot, the wet gluten needs to be fed within five to seven days. In winter, however, he's able to store it safely for up to 21 days without problems. Gluten is stored on a concrete slab at the bunker.

Big Bad Baby

Just how much El Nino will affect your local weather remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: The phenomenon is real, and it will affect worldwide livestock production and economics.

It could also dramatically change weather cycles for the next year or more in your region of the U.S., with increases or decreases in rain or snowfall being most influential on beef producers. That will include producers who rely on pasture or rangeland conditions, as well as feeders who rely on commodity feeds.

Predicting El Nino 's Effects So what might happen this winter and spring? BEEF contacted several regional offices of the National Weather Service to find out. In general, the southern parts of the nation should be warmer and wetter than normal, and the northern parts should be warmer and drier. "The winter of onset (1997-98) and the spring following are going to be wetter than normal in the Southeast," says Mike Helfert, director of the Southeast Regional Climate Center in Columbia, SC. He's talking about an area from Virginia down into Florida. "We see an increase (in precipitation) of around 10 percent."

Of course, he's speaking of potential, but he sees that potential based on past history. He says there could be an average of two more rainy days each month during that period. Obviously, some areas could see huge rain or snow increases, and others little or none. "People will really stand up and take notice this winter," Helfert says. He adds that temperatures are more difficult to predict than precipitation. So far, the pattern is holding. This past summer the Southeast was drier than usual, which also verifies the onset of an El Nino effect.

Benefits For Producers Oddly enough, U.S. agriculture should be able to benefit from El Ninos. A report published this year by scientists and economists from several institutions claims that $240-323 million in increased agricultural value can be realized from this El Nino if farmers act on the knowledge that it is coming.

Rodney Weiher of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is also a contributor to the report. He says the benefits accrue to producers and consumers alike. The range of figures is based on whether farmers make skillful use of El Nino predictions or not.

Cow-calf operators in the South, for example, could expect increased pasture and range grass production and act accordingly. Feeders in the north could expect warmer winter feeding conditions.

Some Effects On Prices Another contributor to the report, Bruce McCarl, an ag economist with Texas A&M, has worked with graduate student Chia-Chung Chen to look more closely at effects of past El Ninos on livestock as background for the above report.

"Beef yearling price goes down a bit, about $1," McCarl says of the historical figures. "Calf price is up about 25 cents. Hay prices show a small rise."

Corn prices typically go to $2.79, as opposed to $2.07 under normal conditions. That could have a large effect on feeders' economics.

Livestock producers in general should take obvious physical precautions based on predictions of weather change. In the southern half of the nation, for example, this includes improving feedlot drainage, stocking and covering feeds, and weatherproofing homes. In some areas of Southern California, for example, it's difficult to hire a roofer due to demand from people heeding the wet weather forecasts.

El Nino And The Jet Streams An El Nino affects the jets streams that flow across the U.S. from west to east. True to form, they prevented much of the Southeast from getting the normal summer storms -- which originate in Africa.

"We can't get a thunderstorm in conditions like that," Helfert says. It led to reduced crop yields in his area, with farmers hurrying to get the harvest in before predicted rains began. El Ninos are typically a breeding ground for Pacific hurricanes (and a deterrent to Atlantic hurricanes), and Helfert says that pattern is also holding true. There were 10 Pacific hurricanes by October.

"It has popped one of these hurricanes every 10 days," he points out, and some hurricanes such as Olaf dissolved and were reborn several times -- an unheard-of phenomenon in normal years. The heavy rains in East Texas and flooding in Acapulco in early fall were a good indication that El Nino was already chugging out water.

Ken Kunkel, director of the Midwest Regional Climate Center in Champaign, IL, says El Nino should mean two things for producers in an area from Minnesota and Wisconsin across to Iowa and Kentucky. "The Upper Midwest is particularly likely to be warmer in the winter during El Nino events," Kunkel says. "The farther north you go, the more significant that could be."

He's also predicting, based on past performance, that Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan will get "below-level" snowfall -- perhaps half of normal.

But it's not as likely that Iowa, Minnesota and Missouri will have reduced snowfall. Cold air in Alaska and Canada, where Midwest winter storms originate, should dip down farther eastward than normal during El Nino . That cold air normally doesn't have as much moisture in it as warmer air coming from the south.

At the Western Regional Climate Center in Reno, NV, chief meteorologist Kelly Redmond says California should feel the first effects of anticipated rainfall. That weather will extend westward more or less straight across the country.

It Starts In California "As a broad generalization, we see a swath of wet conditions extending through Southern California, south Nevada, Arizona, southern Utah, New Mexico, a little of southern Colorado, and on eastward to Texas," he says.

There's an opposite behavior in the northern half of the West, Redmond adds, with Washington to Montana being drier than normal.

But in looking at data from 12 past El Ninos , Redmond says the chancy nature of the phenomenon is revealed in some oddities. For example, the Pacific Northwest should be dry during the winter and spring, but Oregon's records show an actual increase in rainfall during past El Ninos .

In addition, the High Plains states have a very mixed reaction to the phenomenon. Effects are spotty, and precipitation levels could go strongly either way. The data say that in late spring there is a region from Nebraska south to Oklahoma and northern Texas that gets a maximum amount of moisture.

Redmond says this El Nino, if it performs as expected, could be a relief to much of the West because some northern areas have experienced excess rainfall during the last year, and they should be drier this winter. Parts of the West that need water, such as southern Arizona, should get very wet.

He adds that El Nino not only produces more total rainfall, but also more rainy days.

"The results of this are really magnified," he says, pointing out that the effects on rangelands could be very beneficial. Redmond emphasizes, as all the scientists do, that none of these potentialities are hard and fast predictions. "There are some El Ninos that have been drier in Southern California," he notes.

El Nino And The World Picture Agricultural economics can change drastically during an El Nino , often for the worst. That's because its weather patterns are contrary to the normal, which can damage crops. Doug Le Comte, chief of the National Weather Service's ag division, says the total worldwide damages from the 1982-83 El Nino were $10-13 billion. A sizeable portion of that was agricultural, he says.

Le Comte says the effects of El Nino on other continents can be severe. Australia, for example, usually has drought in its eastern grain-growing regions, though that hasn't held true so far this year. Eastern Australia had good rains in September.

South America, like the U.S., has mixed effects. The big cattle producing regions of the southern countries tend to be wetter and warmer from November through February, which could bring good feed conditions. But, the northern countries and Central America tend to be drier than normal.

"We're already starting to see heavy rains in southern Brazil," Le Comte said in October. Effects in Mexico are difficult to predict, though the northern states should be wetter than normal.

Africa, from Southern Zambia southward, should be wetter than normal during El Nino years, and Europe "has no strong links" to the phenomenon. Southern and Southeast Asia are supposed to have below-normal rainfall, but that effect has not been seen yet this year.

El Nino And Global Warming In addressing the causes of El Nino , Dan Cayan was asked if this was part of a global warming trend. "That's unclear," says the director of the Climate Research Division of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, CA, and a researcher for the U.S. Geological Survey.

But, he points out that El Ninos are entirely normal events that help drive the planet's weather. Three centuries of records indicate El Ninos are a normal part of planetary weather patterning.

But he adds that this particular El Nino is a very big child indeed. The water off the entire West Coast of the U.S. is warmer than normal, and the big vat of warm Pacific water extends all the way from the South American coast all the way to the international dateline.

"Potentially, across the U.S., get ready for a real active winter," Cayan warns.

In Spanish, El Nino means "the little baby" and is a reference to the Christ child. It was so named by fishermen off the coast of South America because the weather phenomenon tends to occur around Christmas.

El Nino is a naturally occurring but irregular climate cycle born in the Pacific Ocean. Warmer than normal surface waters -- a huge pool of it that currently is up to 10 degrees warmer than normal in some parts -- shift from one sector of the ocean to the other. That pool of hot water is currently farther north and east than during normal El Ninos . In fact, it's off the west coast of Mexico.

Called the second largest factor in worldwide weather patterns (next to the seasons), El Nino 's waters force changes in oceanic and atmospheric conditions and weather patterns. It produces a huge concentration of tropical rainfall which affects the frequency, severity and direction of storms in the Pacific. That, in turn, can make both the monsoons of India and the winter flooding in California much more severe than usual, and Pacific waters on the South American coast are a foot higher than normal due to the increased mass of the warm water.

In the summer following an El Nino , the effects are usually just the opposite. If it's warm and wet in the winter, it's often dry and cool the next summer. That effect has been dubbed either "La Nina" (the little girl) or "El Viejo" (the old man) by the scientific community. There have been three outlandishly large El Ninos in this century: 1905-06, 1972-73, and 1982-83. Even the last of these could not be predicted. But today, with a lot of data now coming from satellites, ocean buoy sensors and other sources, computer models have been built that forecast potentially severe climatological changes from this El Nino .

"Oh yeah, it's real," says Dan Cayan when asked if all the hoopla about El Nino is justified. Director of the Climate Research Division of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, CA, and a researcher for the U.S. Geological Survey, Cayan explains that, statistically, weather from El Nino is just as much an odds game as at any other time. But, he adds, the odds are about double that the Southwest U.S., for example, will see the kinds of weather associated with the worst El Ninos of history -- including intense rain and snowfall during the winter and early spring.

"This is not cast in concrete," Cayan says. In fact, the probabilities are that the El Nino that started in spring of 1997 will die out in spring of 1998 and lead to a colder and drier winter in the southern part of the country next winter.

Calves continue strong showing

The fed-cattle market moved higher in October, ending the month close to $70/cwt. in the Amarillo area. While this helped feedlots register profits, it still allowed them to push feeder animal prices lower, mostly due to larger supply. Compared to last year, feds are $4 lower but feeder steers are bringing $15-20 more. All in all, the last two months have benefited all segments, but particularly cow-calf producers.

Cattle Feeding Is Up The cattle feeding segment continues to be bullish on the future. As of October 1, numbers of cattle and calves on feed in feedlots with capacities of 1,000 head or more reached 9.96 million head. That's up 13% from last year and 9% over the month-earlier figure.

Fed-cattle marketings in September were 1.82 million head. That's 15% more than last year but, as expected, down from the high levels of the last few months. Forecast equations now suggest even further reductions in October and November. Current weekly sales in the Southern Plains area, however, show fairly substantial feedlot movement. This also happened in September but probably because that area of the nation did record larger marketings than did the country as a whole.

Feedlot placements in September were 2.71 million head, up only 2% from a year ago. This likely reflects the losses currently being recorded by the lots. It still represents the largest placement level in several years.

The number of feeders by weight groupings placed on feed in September increased in only two categories -- less than 600 lbs., and the 800 lbs. or more group. These rose 16% and 8%, respectively. The other two weight classes -- 600-699 lbs. and 700-799 lbs. -- reported a decrease in numbers compared to last year. The two heaviest classes still represented the bulk of placements -- 64%.

The Future Of The Beef Industry The May issue of the Louisiana Rural Economist had an article in it entitled "A Discussion On The Future Of The Beef Industry In The United States." I highly recommend this excellent critique. The precepts are sound, the problems are real and, unfortunately, the solutions are quite limited. Here are a few of the comments in the article:

Per capita consumption of beef and chicken have been moving in opposite directions since the mid-1970s.

*Vertical integration has allowed the broiler industry to achieve, through changes in breeding, feeding and management, high and predictable uniformity in product being marketed on a geographic and chronological basis.

*The U.S. beef cattle industry is currently organized around mostly independent stages of production and marketing.

*Except through pricing policies, packers and feedlots pass very limited information back to the cow-calf producer on changes in consumer demand or on the performance of calves in the feedlot or packing house.

*Whereas broiler meat has become more uniform from bird to bird, beef differs almost on a carcass-by-carcass basis.

*Another factor contributing to uncertainty in the future of the beef industry is the apparent division of the beef market into two segments, a high-quality, high-price segment and a competitive, lower price segment.

*Reports suggest that major beef packers began contracting for cattle and feeding cattle in the feedlot primarily to ensure that adequate supplies of high-quality beef were available when needed.

*The competitive portion of the total beef market (USDA Select and ungraded) is in a battle for market share with poultry, pork and other meats.

*The separation of the beef market into high and competitive segments is probably permanent. This portion of the market is likely to become more vertically coordinated as buyer preferences filter down through the feedlot stage to the cow-calf stage.

The article also offers three options for the competitive segment of the beef industry: 1. Attempt to compete with poultry on a price basis; 2. Produce a product that is more responsive to consumer demand; and 3. Continue to accept a declining market share.

The Short-Run Outlook The fed-cattle market did very well in October. Cattle penetrated the $70 mark for the first time this year. This summer's large placement levels are still expected to show up this fall and winter. This could create a supply problem for the slaughter-cattle market. If feedlots avoid bunching, things could still go well.

Despite the increased seasonal movement of feeder cattle and calves, their prices are holding. Traditionally, calf prices hit a low in November when ranch sales peak. Grazing conditions and other weather factors affect the exact timing of such movement. So far, this year's weather has been great and marketings could be just a bit later.

Litter feeding isn't a good idea

About 10 years ago or so I sat in the audience as an executive from McDonald's explained the fast-food giant's rationale for switching from foam packaging to paper packaging. The change was made, he said, despite the fact that McDonald's leadership believed that science indicated foam packaging was actually better for the environment than paper.

"We're in the business of selling hamburgers, not defending types of packaging," the McDonald's exec said. In other words, if McDonald's customers wanted paper packaging, then it was paper they'd get.

I've recounted this story before but I think it offers some perspective on the discussion framed on pages 23 and 24 of this issue -- Should the beef cattle industry be feeding poultry litter to cattle?

I say "no," but not because the practice is unsafe. Literally decades of research and experience with processed poultry litter have shown that the practice is not only safe and efficacious, but it also makes good economic and environmental sense. We should stop feeding poultry litter because the concept can't be sold to the consumer.

The Downside To Poultry Litter The downside to feeding poultry litter is that most consumers find the concept far from tantalizing. When you consider that the beef industry has spent years and tens of millions of dollars selling the "sizzle" and taste image of beef, don't we run a serious risk of sabotaging all those efforts by potentially damaging that mouth-watering appeal?

Glenn Smith of the Georgia Cattlemen's Association makes some extremely valid points in his letter on page 24. In defending the practice of feeding poultry litter to beef cattle, Smith cautions about the "slippery slope" down which the industry begins to slide when it allows the popular opinion of the day to overrule sound science. "Cattle industry leaders," he says, "must not react to emotional challenges without full benefit of scientific review."

I don't think it's possible to win a public relations battle on this poultry litter issue because it's so easy for opponents to evoke a negative image of the practice and thereby harm our product. Science works well in defending ideological or political issues. But, it's a much tougher battle for science when it goes up against emotion spearheaded by gastronomic preferences and taste buds.

The Public Sees It As "Manure" We can call it what we want and argue its safety, feed value, environmental attributes, etc., but outsiders still see it simply as "chicken manure." And, the most valid and convincing scientific argument isn't going to counteract a gag reflex.

Dr. David Price, the consulting nutritionist whose column appears monthly in this magazine, says that no more than 3-5% of the nation's cattle receive any poultry litter, and most of them are cows in breeding herds or backgrounding cattle. Less than .5% of cattle on finishing rations receive litter, he adds.

But, as Allan Pratt, a producer from Webster, SD, asks in his reader letter on page 23: How much is that small percentage feeding litter affecting the future and fortunes of the much larger majority?

The beef industry adopted a strong consumer-oriented focus when it developed its long-range plan. That philosophy seems to really be catching on among beef producers today. It's refreshing to receive letters like those of Pratt's and Larry Bryant of Kansas. It shows that more producers are taking seriously the notion that beef demand is the number-one priority, and satisfying the consumer is the best way to approach it.

Feeding poultry litter to beef cattle, even though it's done sparingly, does make sense -- a whole lot of sense. Scientifically, it's a safe and sensible practice. But, is it in the best interest of a beef industry truly listening to its customers? I don't think so.

Healthy ToThe End

Keep calves healthy from birth to slaughter and you'll see greater performance and better profits. It's a simple concept but it seldom works. Fact is, calves get sick.

Shan Ingram, livestock specialist with the Noble Foundation in Ardmore, OK, says calfhood vaccinations and health-related procedures can be adjusted to any operation and still keep sickness rates at a manageable level.

Start At Birth "The most important thing, health aside," Ingram says, "is to establish identification on the calf, so you can trace it back to its mother and have a basis for making decisions on how the cow is performing.

"Also, let the cow establish 'mothering identity,' but castrate bull calves as early as possible after birth," he says. "It's less stressful on the calf and he'll be over the procedure by the time he's learned to walk well. Granted, not everyone can castrate calves right at birth, but do it quickly. Remember, the less stress calves incur, the less health risk there is."

David Lalman, Extension beef specialist with Oklahoma State University (OSU) agrees.

"Although castration at birth is the best approach, it's not always practical," he says. "If you can't get them at birth, get them as soon as you can. Also, dehorn as soon as you can."

Implant Recommendations "We recommend implants for suckling calves," Ingram says. "If you know which heifers are going to be your replacements, there's no point in implanting them. But if you're unsure, get the weight gain on all of them until you make your decisions."

Where vaccination's concerned, Ingram says the Noble Foundation recommends vaccinating against clostridial diseases, while recognizing calves are immunized against most diseases via colostrum through six to 12 weeks.

Lalman says the bulk of OSU recommendations mirror the Vac 45 Program. The Vac 45 Preweaning option includes the following at two to four months of age or at least three to four weeks prior to weaning. Revaccination can be done at weaning.

Vaccination against IBR, PI3, BVD, BRSV, 7-way blackleg and P. haemolytica with leukotoxoid component.

Revaccination against IBR, PI3, BVD, BRSV and P. haemolytica.

Wean calves a minimum of 45 days prior to shipping.

The Vac 45 Weaning option includes the following: Vaccination against 7-way blackleg at branding. Vaccination against IBR, PI3, BVD, BRSV and P. haemolytica with leukotoxoid component weaning and revaccination 14-21 days later.

See BEEF, September 1996, page 66, for more detail.

"If you've had problems with calf scours, it's prudent to vaccinate cows a month prior to calving to get a high level of antibodies in the colostrum," Ingram says. "Don't do this unless you have a problem. If you get an outbreak early on and still have cows to calve, that's a good time. Work with your veterinarian to determine the type of problem you have and get control of it quickly."

Parasite Control Ingram says the staff at the Noble Foundation doesn't deworm suckling calves. However, calves are administered a broad-spectrum larvacide at weaning. Suckling calves may need deworming in cases of severe infestation, he believes. Deworming calves in summer, though, can net you a $20-40/head return, depending on your location. If you're uncertain, do some diagnostic work with your veterinarian to determine if there's a problem, he advises.

Don't Forget Nutrition "We've found high-protein, limited amounts of creep feed to be helpful prior to weaning," Ingram says. "That's especially true where people are retaining ownership of their calves because weaning weights are increased and there's less stress on calves. We've observed they don't walk and bawl as much as pulling them off the cow cold turkey."

Ingram adds this is particularly helpful on spring calves. In addition, a lot of fall calving operations have been doing this from the latter part of January through the first of March.

For producers seeking low-cost weaning programs, feeding quality grass hay in combination with a pound of supplement that includes an antibiotic will provide a low-cost and effective ration, Lalman says.

Healthy After Weaning Ingram says a health program for weaning calves really depends on your operational goals.

"We worked with an operator who wanted to retain ownership, but wheat pasture didn't develop," Ingram says. "The best thing for him to do was to sell the calves immediately, and not put any more money into them. With the current market structure, that was a prudent marketing decision.

"For those retaining ownership of calves for 60 days or more, we recommend a preconditioning health program that includes a respiratory complex, a booster on clostridials, a pasteurella vaccine and five-way lepto," he says. "We like to do that a month prior to weaning and boost them a day before weaning. This gets all the vaccinations completed before the calf incurs the stress of weaning."

Lalman recommends a solid backgrounding program if you retain ownership. He says if it costs you $15-20/head to background calves, you'll save that much or more once they're in the feedyard.

Retained Ownership Tips "If you're retaining ownership, overall risk is reduced by being well prepared," Lalman says. "Develop a good relationship with your feedyard and communicate with the manager so you don't duplicate procedures. Come up with a program the two of you can use to meet backgrounding and feeding goals."

Once calves are in the feedyard, work with feedyard management to be sure procedures that fit finishing goals are performed.

Basic procedures pay off at slaughter. Lalman says Texas Ranch to Rail data indicates there's an overall advantage of $80/head for healthy animals compared to sick ones. By practicing commonsense procedures, you can pad your pocketbook.

Grazing bill gets House approval

The U.S. House has approved the grazing bill, formally called the Forage Improvement Act of 1997. The bill would increase cattle industry stability by allowing federal lands ranchers to plan for forage use, says National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) Federal Lands Committee Chairman Jeff Menges.

"A number of senators have said they may sponsor a grazing bill that could move early next year," he says.

The bill would base range management decisions on sound science by requiring scientific rangeland monitoring and allowing agencies to coordinate monitoring with ranchers and qualified rangeland consultants.

The bill would: require the U.S. Forest Service and BLM to coordinate grazing management with each other, create discretionary authority for the government and ranchers to enter into cooperative allotment management plans, prohibit subleasing of grazing allotments by absentee ranchers, and implement a grazing fee formula that increases the current fee by 36%.

The U.S. and Canada have agreed on a pilot project that should allow ranchers in Montana and Washington to move more cattle into Canadian feedyards. The project waives certain disease testing requirements that currently cost $24/head for cattle coming from low disease-risk areas. Once the project is established, the U.S. and Canada will work to expand it to include more U.S. states.

Cattle losses could total close to $2 million in the October snow storms that hit western Nebraska and Kansas, and eastern Colorado. According to the Nebraska Cattlemen, Kansas and Colorado had the greatest losses, ranging from 20,000 head in western Kansas to 15,000 head in southeast Colorado.

World beef markets are looking up, according to a World Trade Organization (WTO) report. "After three years of weak prices, the world beef market looks poised for a recovery this year," the WTO says in its report "The International Market for Meats 1996-97." All global markets are expected to become more active next year and the U.S. is no exception. Beef imports into the U.S. are expected to rise as the domestic beef supply tightens. On the other hand, WTO economists say U.S. cattlemen will sell 860,000 tons of beef this year into overseas markets, an increase of 11,000 tons over last year.

Plants as edible vaccines are on the way. Last month, Mycogen Corporation entered into license agreements with Washington University, St. Louis, MO, for exclusive commercial rights to genetically alter plants to produce and deliver edible vaccines for human and animal use.

The technology could be used to immunize animals and solve food safety problems caused by bacteria that infect poultry and other livestock and contaminate meat.

According to Mycogen, products could be available in 2-3 years, but full approval might be 5-10 years away.

The USDA Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration has appealed an administrative law judge's decision to dismiss USDA's complaint against IBP for violating the Packers and Stockyards Act. In 1995, USDA filed a formal complaint alleging that pricing agreements offered to select feedyards by IBP gave the feedyards an unfair competitive advantage. On September 25, a USDA administrative law judge dismissed the complaint, saying there was no evidence of any injury to competition.

A South Korean government team has returned home after visiting the U.S. in the wake of a positive E. coli sample. The team met with Food Safety and Inspection Service and Food and Drug Administration personnel, and visited a packing plant and feedyard. Although Korean officials found no problems, they gave no indication of plans to change the 100% testing requirement of shipments from Nebraska and a 20% testing requirement of product from six surrounding states.

A new vaccine against brucellosis in cattle shows promise for protecting bison against the disease. Bison and elk are the last major sources of brucellosis in the U.S.

Scientists with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have been checking a new vaccine containing B. abortus strain RB51 for its effectiveness and safety in bison. In an ARS experiment, scientists have vaccinated 10 female bison calves.

In other news, California was listed a Class Free brucellosis state in October.

Cattlemen looking to buy feed in bulk can find weekly price quotes through an Oklahoma State University web The site is updated every Friday and lists sources for feeds such as cottonseed meal, alfalfa pellets, pelleted corn gluten feed and others.

Sign, then sell. That's the plan in New York. Reported in the Wall Street Journal, an ice-cream stand in Saranac Lake, is the first burger vendor to require customers to sign a waiver before eating any hamburger less than well done.

Big On By-products

There are hundreds of by-product feeds available around the country: corn gluten and distillers' grains in the Cornbelt; wheat midds in the Plains, potato waste in the Northwest, chicken litter, rice bran and cottonseed in the South. The list keeps growing as the world demand for food products expands, and the value-added concept hits the front burner.

Any way you look at it, by-products are big business. They also offer a real potential to trim feeding costs and boost cattle performance.

However, you must do your homework to make sure a by-product fits your needs and is available at a competitive price, whether for brood cows, stockers or in the feedlot, advises Monty Kerley, University of Missouri Extension nutritionist.

Feeding by-products isn't a practice without criticism, however. Mostly this is confined to two areas: Food safety concerns of feeding chicken litter and ruminant by-products like blood meal to cattle.

The added competition for corn in feedlot country from new alcohol plants that produce ethanol and provide wet and dry distillers' grain solubles, a nutritious source of energy and protein in cattle rations.

Controversial Feedstuffs Feeding chicken litter and ruminant by-products like blood meal have raised concerns about beef's image, even among cattle producers. Two examples are located on page 23 of this issue in the form of reader letters responding to an October article defending the practice of poultry litter feeding.

"Consumers don't want manure fed to their beef," one reader wrote. "The place for that is on the land for fertilizer. If we don't do what we can to please the consumer, we're headed for another round of decreased beef consumption, lower prices and poorer cattlemen."

A rebuttal was provided by Glenn Smith, executive director of the Georgia Cattlemen's Association. He notes that years of research shows the practice is not only safe, but if handled correctly, is the smart, economical thing to do.

By-products do offer a significant potential to reduce feed costs and enhance animal performance. But, each by-product has its plusses and minuses, Kerley points out.

Certain by-products are particularly adapted to different phases in the production cycle. For example, in designing supplements using by-products for brood cows or stockers, look at how these alternative feeds complement forage intake and digestion compared with corn, which if fed above optimum levels of 0.2 to 0.3% of body weight, could reduce forage utilization, Kerley says.

"Using by-product feeds depends on being able to locate the feedstuffs, capability to store and handle the materials and sufficient nutritional information to effectively incorporate feeds into diets and supplements," he says.

You must also recognize that by-products may vary widely in nutrient content, Kerley notes. That's why analysis is so important if you're buying the raw product. It's also a good rationale for buying through a commercial feed supplier, who typically has gone through a lot of testing to make sure the product is consistent.

Checklist Of Availability If you're exploring feeding by-products, Kerley says to consider these factors: price, availability, handling/mixing, storage/shelf life and consistency.

Once you've decided to go the by-product route, here are some sources to check for availability: Companies such as Cargill; Archer-Daniels-Midland; Producers Coop Association, Girard, KS; or Riceland Foods, Stuttgart, AR; all of which sell by-products as an alternative to other disposal systems.

Brokers that may offer several different by-products. Feed suppliers who offer branded products including one or more of these by-products.

One quick source in the Midwest is the By-product Feed Price List prepared by the University of Missouri. Similar programs may be available in your area.

You can access the Missouri price list either through your regional livestock specialist or on the Internet at:

The report is updated weekly and lists company sources, prices and delivery details on nearly 40 different by-products.

When you contact a supplier, Kerley suggests you ask: What the by-product is. Its physical and chemical characteristics. What is undesirable about the product. The by-product's nutritional analysis.

In addition, a computer program is available to help you evaluate certain by-products to your specific production regime. The IBM-compatible program is called "feedvalu" and is written by Frank Brazle at Kansas State University (KSU).

"It's simple and helps you compare prices," Brazle tells BEEF. "You can use any product as long as you know its analysis."

For more information, call Cathy Bandyk at KSU (785/532-6131).

Since harvested and purchased feeds make up 40% of most cow-calf production costs, you have to constantly look for ways to optimize animal performance and minimize supplement costs, says David Lalman, Oklahoma Extension specialist.

The answer may come from alternative feeds like wheat midds, sunflower and soybean hulls, cottonseed and cottonseed hulls, rice bran, corn gluten, brewers' and distillers' grains. The list goes on and on.

C.Y. Cattle Company, Gove, KS, has used sunflower hulls as a roughage replacing ground alfalfa in its basic feedlot ration for 10 years, according to manager Leroy Heim.

The product comes from a plant in Colby, KS. "It works very well," Heim says. "It's consistent, the moisture content stays steady, and it has good protein and fat content because of the oils and seeds."

Missouri nutritionist Monty Kerley is high on soy hulls as an energy by-product, but also includes corn gluten, distillers' grains, wheat midds and cottonseed in this category. "They are high in digestible fiber and have energy values similar to corn when supplemented to forage-fed cattle," he says.

A recent Missouri study compared soy hulls as a hay replacement for wintering beef cows. Those fed 4 lbs. of soy hulls per day ate less hay, had better body condition and weaned slightly heavier calves, notes Kerley.

A two-year Oklahoma State study compared steers fed fescue forage supplemented with 0.7% body weight of corn, wheat midds and soybean hulls. Cattle gained 0.66 lbs. a day with no supplement, 1.32 lbs. on corn, 1.5 lbs. on soybean hulls and and 1.52 lbs. on wheat midds at a cost of 28 cents /lb. of gain.

"Dry cows fed a winter supplement of rice bran enjoyed a nutritional value similar to soy hulls," Kerley explains. "Rice bran, like whole cottonseed, are energy dense and high in fat which can limit inclusion into the formula (maximum of 6% of the diet)."

Cottonseed hulls are an excellent forage source, but have little nutritional value and should not make up more than 20% of the diet, Kerley says.

Distillers' and brewers' grains have an added value. Their fermentation and drying process can enhance by-pass protein value. Kerley recommends a maximum of 25% in a ration.

Chicken or turkey litter, though facing food safety criticism, gets strong support from most scientists as a cost-effective and valuable feed for beef cows or stockers, if handled correctly.

Ten million tons of litter are produced each year in the Southeast. The leading states are Arkansas, Alabama and Georgia with Alabama alone having 1 million tons suitable for cattle feed, reports B.G. Ruffin of Auburn University. But, poultry production isn't restricted only to that section of the country. It's fed in more than a score of states from California to North Carolina.

Ruffin defends the use of broiler litter to ruminants. He makes this analogy: a cow must be off litter for 15 days before slaughter, but a mushroom can go directly from its bed of manure to the grocery store.

Broiler litter has been used for cattle feed for more than 35 years without harmful effects, insists Arkansas livestock specialist George Davis. But, he emphasizes that the decision whether to use it or not is up to you.

Broiler litter is worth four times as much for cattle feed as fertilizer, Davis points out. It's a good source of protein, energy and minerals, especially for brood cows and stocker cattle. Currently, very little litter is fed to finishing cattle.

In late September, leaders concerned about adverse publicity sent a memo to 12 key officials in key cattle feeding and cow/calf states. "We must be careful to stand on the firm ground of science and not make rash judgments based on emotions," Glenn Smith, executive vice president of the Georgia Cattlemen's Association tells BEEF. "Our industry must be willing to look at poultry litter in the context of a wide array of by-product uses."

After years of research, Matt Poore, ruminant specialist at North Carolina State University, insists that based on scientific studies there is no reason to fear the use of processed broiler litter as a feed.

Ruminants are ideally suited to use by-products and waste products because their rumen is exposed to microbial fermentation before passing to the rest of the digestive tract.

Broiler litter is an economical source of protein, minerals and energy. It's equivalent to good quality hay with a 50% TDN, making it a good source for both stocker cattle and brood cows. However, it does vary in nutrient composition. That's because the product contains manure waste, bedding and spilled feed. For that reason, it should be tested for nutrients, Poore suggests.

Winter bull feeding

Bulls are typically either grossly over-fed or neglected. Overfeeding should be avoided for several reasons. The most recent to come to light is that overweight bulls have lowered sperm production. This is because a layer of fat will reportedly line the scrotum and insulate the testes. This raises the temperature, thereby retarding the development of viable sperm.

Another problem related to overfeeding is liver abscess. Actually, this isn't directly related to being overweight, but a product of sub-acute acidosis. This occurs most commonly with high-grain "growing" rations often fed by purebred breeders and/or centralized bull-test feeding facilities. Since we've discussed these other aspects of bull feeding previously, we'll restrict this column to winter feeding only.

Winter Feeding Is Simple With respect to mature bulls, winter feeding is rather simple. The feed requirements are essentially the same as for a dry cow. The only complication would be if you're fall calving and use bulls for breeding during the winter. In this case they may need additional energy (more on this later).

But for simply maintaining mature bulls, just feed them as you would dry cows. If we want to be technical we can say that bulls don't need as much vitamin A as dry cows, and need somewhat more grass or hay. However, as a practical matter, a protein/vitamin/mineral supplement designed for dry cows will maintain bulls quite nicely, and bulls will simply eat more of whatever grass or hay is provided to compensate for their needs.

Mature bulls need on the order of 24-30 lbs. of mediocre grass hay or dormant grass and, in most instances, 1-11/2 lbs. of a 38-45% crude protein supplement, along with about 15-18 grams of phosphorous and 25,000-28,000 IUs of vitamin A daily. Trace mineral requirements will depend on the area and soil type, but again they will be similar to the cows' requirement.

If we're talking replacement bulls (calves, yearlings or two-year olds) with growth requirements, then additional energy will be required. In that case, analysis of the grass or hay becomes more important in order to precisely determine how much additional supplementation is required.

Likewise, the climate must be considered when contemplating gain. For mild climates, usually 3-4 lbs. of an energy concentrate (in addition to protein) will be required for a bull calf to gain 1 lb./day through the winter. This assumes good-quality range grasses (such as grama grass) or hay. For low quality range grasses (such as tobosa, love grass, etc.) or mature hay, the amount of energy concentrate required can easily increase by 50%, and can double in the case of extremely coarse forage. Cold weather can increase energy concentrate requirement from 1-3 lbs., depending upon the severity.

Fall Calving Recommendations If you're fall calving (breeding during late winter), some energy supplementation of bulls may be desirable, though not obligatory. In the South, if there is green grass (or you are breeding on cereal pastures) energy supplementation would not be required. (Nor would protein, if the grass is green.)

In the North, bulls breeding on dormant grass would definitely benefit from energy supplementation, though failure to supplement energy would not result in a catastrophic problem. (Failure to supplement protein would seriously impede bull potency.) However, the question is academic since cows bred on dormant grass would definitely require energy supplementation, or conception will be markedly decreased (bulls running with the cows would obviously eat whatever supplement is given to the cows).

Caution should always be taken when feeding energy concentrates to valuable breeding stock. Specifically, care must be taken to ensure larger aggressive animals don't eat a disproportionate share, or that excessive amounts in general are not fed. This can create sub-acute acidosis, which in turn can create liver abscess.

Although it has not been proven conclusively, liver abscess could conceivably result in reduced longevity. On occasion, I've been called in on mysterious deaths of cows and bulls which, on necropsy, the veterinarian reported severe liver abscess. In reviewing the nutritional history of the animals, years previously, high-grain rations or supplements were fed.

Sweet Toppings

Candy toppings aren't just showing up on ice cream anymore. A mix of ground candy and cereal is proving to be a useful by-product to preserve silage, ground corn and other fermentable feedstuffs.

The high-energy feed -- a blend of ground candy, cereal, and oat or soy hulls -- is spread 4-6 in. thick on top of feed in a bunker silo. Within 10 days, the sweet mixture melts together and forms a seal to keep water, the biggest deteriorator of feeds, out.

"Once it seals up it's just like an umbrella. Any rain that hits it rolls off," says Dean Hoy, sales manager for Stickle Custom Feeds. The east-central Iowa-based company has been blending and feeding throwaway human-grade food products like candies, snack foods, and breakfast cereals to hogs and cattle since 1967.

The fat in the candy and cereal helps melt the mix together and, since candy and cereal don't contain a lot of protein and carbohydrates, they won't break down, according to Hoy.

"The silage underneath absolutely will not spoil," says Hoy.

Bob Lemmer will attest to that. He first discovered the topping 10 years ago and has been covering silage and shelled corn with it for his 800-head feedlot near Monticello, IA, ever since.

"By using silo topping, not only have producers eliminated the shrink, they've also added feed value," says Hoy.

Because of the high amount of fat in the candy, the silo topping has about 15% more energy than corn to start, but after weathering for 6-9 months the energy value is about equal to corn.

Don Stickle began feeding salvage foods and grains to livestock because of that fat, seeing it as an inexpensive opportunity to add energy to his livestock diets. Today, he finishes 3,000 head of Holsteins and crossbreds annually, in addition to his custom feed business.

"In the end, producers have invested in a product that has a feed value equal to corn. And, they've made life easier on themselves by not having to deal with plastic and tires to cover their bunker silo," says Hoy.

No More Plastic Steve Recker, Hopkinton, IA, switched from plastic and tires to the silo topping two years ago. He uses the topping to cover ground ear corn in a bunker silo and feeds out 400-500 cattle a year. "With plastic, wind still got up underneath it and I had a lot of spoilage. Since I switched to the topping, I have almost no spoilage," Recker says.

"The downside to the topping is that it seems to attract birds," Recker says. Lemmer agrees, but says, "I don't know if there are any more than there would be otherwise. Any grain is simply an attractant to birds."

This year Recker purchased a boom gun that fires at different intervals to scare them off. "That's about 50 percent effective," he says.

Hoy estimates one ton of the topping is needed to cover 50 sq. ft. He says the secret to applying it is to make a rounded pile so water will run off. Recker uses a small skid loader to spread the topping.

A fibrous material like rice or soy hulls is usually mixed with the sticky candy and cereal to make the topping easier to handle. Paper wrappers are commonly found in the mix, but they're biodegradable and a source of roughage for cattle, says Hoy.

"The paper is a negative, but it's not a real problem," Lemmer says.

Stickle Custom Feeds currently markets the silo topping to about 25 livestock producers in Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and Missouri. Stickle prices its silo topping at about $70 per ton.