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Articles from 1999 In December

Forage Focus NewHy offers more than salt tolerance

Looking for a grass that tolerates salty soils, but is still palatable and productive? NewHy, a hybrid wheatgrass may be the solution.

NewHy is significantly more saline-tolerant than crested and intermediate wheatgrass, and is nearly as saline tolerant as tall wheatgrass, according to Kevin Jensen with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Logan, UT.

But in addition to its salt tolerance, NewHy provides a tremendous amount of forage and retains forage quality late in the season, Jensen says. Livestock also find NewHy more palatable than other salt tolerant species, he says.

Surprisingly the hybrid is a cross between quackgrass and bluebunch wheatgrass. But don't let that scare you.

"NewHy is not as aggressive in spreading as quackgrass," says Mark Majerus with the USDA Plant Materials Center in Bridger, MT. "It doesn't have the weedy nature quackgrass has and stays within the confines of where it's planted."

Developed and released in 1989 by the ARS, NewHy is becoming popular with producers. "Producers can double crop NewHy and still graze it in the fall," says Jensen. The productive hybrid also stockpiles well.

Best Of Both Worlds The NewHy hybrid was developed to combine the vigor, productivity, salt tolerance and persistence of quackgrass with the drought resistance, growth habit, seed quality and forage quality of bluebunch wheatgrass.

A long-lived, cool season perennial, NewHy is adapted to semiarid areas such as the Intermountain and Northern Great Plains that receive 13-15 in. of precipitation annually. It may perform well in the Pacific Northwest as well as the Central Plains, but that has yet to be tested, Majerus says.

While NewHy is recommended for use on saline farmland and subirrigated sites, it also works well in saline areas that don't have adequate water for the year. It will produce on saline, dryland conditions, says Jensen.

Although NewHy typically begins growth in early spring, its leaves remain greener and more succulent during late summer than other wheatgrasses, Jensen says.

NewHy yields average 3-4 tons of dry matter/acre. Forage quality can be as high as 17-20% crude protein in early spring and then taper to about 7% in July and August.

Establishment Advice NewHy is relatively easy to establish and has good seedling vigor, according to Majerus. He says seed is becoming readily available.

On dryland range sites seed should be planted late enough in the fall to ensure germination won't occur until the following spring. Spring seedings can be effective, but are risky if weather conditions and excess soil moisture delay planting.

Jensen says NewHy can be established in areas with saline soils and then is able to spread into adjacent areas with higher salinity where plants would not initially establish from seed.

Because of its quackgrass parentage, the hybrid is resistant to moderate grazing pressure after establishment and it recovers rapidly after grazing.

Recommended seeding rates are 7-10 lbs. of pure live seed/acre.

Since NewHy seed is similar in appearance to the quackgrass parent, only certified seed should be purchased.

Quality & Profit

Beef producer Dave Devore thinks he has a ticket to increased profitability. One of 150 producers affiliated with ProBeef Co., the Dawson, ND, rancher averaged more than $100/head above traditional marketing channels on the cattle he sold this year.

"In the past, we backgrounded our Saler/Simmental-cross calves and sold through the sale barn in mid-winter. This year, we put them into the ProBeef program and went through the feedlot. It made a pretty good profit," he says.

To be exact, Devore made $140/head above traditional marketing channels on his first 58 head. Another 78 head earned $100. He gives credit to his Pro Beef involvement.

ProBeef began in early 1998. It's the exclusive supply arm - providing 22,000 head of cattle annually - to PM Beef Group, a Kansas City, MO-based company that supplies quality beef to two select retail chains with more than 40 supermarkets. The beef is then branded by the stores that sell it.

Rather than focus on dubious quality indicators such as hide color, ProBeef uses proven science to benefit producers and consumers. The program is not breed specific, but is cattle-type specific, says president/CEO Nita Effertz, Mandan, ND. PM Beef specifies that cattle be relatively lean and well muscled.

"Cattle that return a high cutability and have Select or better marbling are desired," Effertz says.

Effertz initiated the ProBeef program after working as a market analyst for the failed Northern Plains Premium Beef Cooperative. "I saw an opportunity to provide PM Beef with northern cattle," she says.

The ProBeef program encourages, assists and rewards long-term genetic improvement. "That is the only way we can improve the beef product," Effertz says.

"This is not something producers can shop around to do or give a try," Effertz says. She is adamant that ProBeef is not an alliance. "As an alliance all you are is a gathering point for cattle, and you shop them around and see which grid they work best on. This (ProBeef) is all advanced planning.

"ProBeef is not a revolving door," Effertz says. "Cattle have to be part of the system - from the beginning - and producers must be dedicated to producing cattle for a certain retail specification."

Year-Round Supply ProBeef moves on a wheel principle: seedstock hubs with commercial producer spokes. Twelve seedstock hubs are located in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Virginia and California. The coastal hubs help provide a year-round cattle supply.

Of ProBeef's marketing slots, 80% are filled by seedstock hub customers. Commercial producers who work directly with ProBeef fill the other 20%.

Seedstock hubs were chosen based on location, proximity to other hubs, cattle quality, cattle breed(s), operation size, variation in marketing times, customer service, interested customer base, genetic improvement plans and long-term commitment.

"We didn't want all our hubs in the same breed and we had a minimum hub size," Effertz says. "We also wanted hubs willing to work with other hubs of similar breeds to reduce genetic variation ... at least within breed groups."

Of the commercial producers, Effertz says, "As long as their cattle out-perform cattle in the hubs, we don't require them to go through a seedstock hub."

While most ProBeef producers retain ownership, some seedstock hubs buy their customer's calves. Retained ownership is preferred, Effertz says, because the returned value is an incentive for operators to change their herds.

Figure 4 Cattle Co., Somerset, CO, is a ProBeef seedstock hub that produces Saler and Saler/Angus composites. Owner Gary Volk says it captured his interest "because it gives the producer a little more share of the consumer dollar." In 1998, Volk earned $169/head above what he would have received through traditional marketing channels.

"They've got a good quality grid if you've got the right kind of cattle," Volk says. "The premium gives you a reason to improve your cattle," he adds.

Feedlot And Grid Specs ProBeef cattle are fed at one of nine PM Beef-certified feedyards in South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa. The PM Beef-owned Caldwell Pack is located in Windom, MN.

Feedyards must adhere to requirements regarding time on feed, ration megacalories and Vitamin E feeding schedules. For example, to enhance flavor and tenderness, Vitamin E is fed at 1,000 IUs/day for 100 days, and cattle are fed a high megacal requirement for 110 days. In addition, a minimum 14-day aging after processing is required before the product is packaged for consumers.

PM Beef's carcass formula is based on carcass traits that best indicate differences at the checkout counter. The company claim is 97% accuracy in predicting those differences.

The ProBeef base price is a premium to the futures market and producers can lock in a price anytime between when the cattle go on feed and when they're ready to kill. The Quality Grade target is high Select to low Choice with low Select as a minimum.

"Beyond that, we're looking for red meat yield," Effertz says, noting that PM Beef delivers a boxed retail yield that is up to 9% above other boxed beef products.

Grid specifications include a hot carcass weight of 600-950 lbs., rib eye area of 11-17 in., and fat thickness under 0.7 in. Premiums are paid for carcasses weighing 750-875 lbs., a rib eye area of 12.25-16.75 in., fat thickness less than 0.4 in. and a rib eye area above 1.8 in./carcass cwt.

"Grid specs will always stay the same," Effertz says. "Over time, they might put more premiums in the center of the grid and more discounts on the end to target the cattle better. But, right now we're only running about six percent outs, which are valued on the commodity market."

Feedback Is The Key To ProBeef advisory chairman Jack Dahl, Gackle, ND, it's clear the PM Beef process works. "It's quality control from producer to consumer. They love the tender, tasty beef presented as a branded product from the retailer," he says. Dahl adds that "ProBeef is measuring carcasses and getting the data back to the producer. By improving genetics over time, we're making positive changes as far as the consumer is concerned."

In the system, 100% of carcass value differences are passed back to the producer. From April to July 1999, producers within the system returned an average of $36/head above the commodity market.

In addition to marketing and carcass data, ProBeef can assist producers with risk management, nutritional and animal health guidance in cooperation with a producer's veterinarian, replacement heifer packages, discounts/rebates on animal health, implant and semen packages, and financing for retained ownership.

Producers are currently standing in line to get involved. Program growth may create room for more producers.

"We will pursue opportunities to provide process-verified beef to other markets that are willing to return the true value of the cattle back to the producer," Effertz says. "There is so much opportunity right in our own herds if we can just get the feedback in a system that actually rewards producers for making improvements."

"I think it's a fabulous product," Tom Heinen says of PM Beef. Heinen is co-owner of Heinen's Fine Foods, a 13-supermarket chain in greater Cleveland, OH, which has offered its customers PM Beef since January 1998.

Initially, Heinen was not an easy sell for PM Beef. "I did not embrace this at all," he says. "I had seen too many branded beef programs in which you overpaid for a name that didn't deliver (the quality, flavor or tenderness desired)."

He says PM Beef is different. "It is extremely consistent in flavor and tenderness." With the PM product in his stores, he says, "beef is leading a resurgence in our meat cases in the last six to 12 months." Since offering PM Beef to its 120,000 customers per week, Heinen's has had no returns due to the quality of the beef.

Heinen decided to try PM Beef based on the company earning USDA's ranch-to-retail "Process Verified" package stamp in January 1998.

"Source-verification is an important element. We trade in middle to middle-upper income markets. Our customers sincerely care where their food comes from and they like to know that we know where their food comes from," Heinen says.

Heinen believes ProBeef producers share his commitment to satisfying the customer.

"There are people associated with PM Beef Group that are absolutely way ahead of the rest of the beef industry based on their ability to understand growing an animal using science to benefit the customer," he says.

There's no question, he adds, that his stores' affiliation with PM Beef has enhanced its beef image and given its customers what they believe is a superior product.

"We could get good product under the commodity system, but it was not a guarantee," Heinen says.

The final column

Q In a recent column, you mentioned something about health problems developing as a result of cattle ingesting plastic twine. Can you give me more information on this?

Ed Yedlicka

Fromberg, MT

A Most plastic is inert and relatively non-toxic. Technically, however, in order to allow a plastic material in a feed it must be FDA approved for use in feeds. Even plastics that touch food or feeds (feed sack liners, bread wrappers, etc.) must be from FDA-approved material.

Aside from the legal issue, however, I always recommend that my clients remove the twine before grinding. The reason is the potential for impaction.

Because the twine is inert and indigestible, any strands left by the grinder hold the potential for binding together and creating intestinal blockage. An alert cowboy can usually spot an impacted animal, but accurate diagnosis and treatment is expensive. That is, for diagnosis a veterinarian would have to X-ray the animal and then surgically remove the balled-up twine.

A Parting Note It is with great melancholy that I must mention that this will be my last article for BEEF magazine.

The political and perception problems we face as an industry, as well as rural Americans, are far greater than technical/nutrition problems. Therefore, what little time I have available for writing will be redirected in an attempt to become a syndicated newspaper columnist.

As it is today, on the editorial page no one is representing rural, or even middle America. Most columnists are professional journalists based in East or West Coast big cities. Someone needs to represent those of us who are in the crosshairs of such issues as environmentalism, government regulation and consumer activism.

With your help, I think we can do it. If you would be willing to help place an editorial in your hometown newspaper, please write, call or e-mail. The first article to be run will be "Ranchers, Real-Life Environmentalists," a discussion of how ranchers have greatly expanded wildlife populations through water development.

David Price, PhD, is a consulting nutritionist specializing in range and feedlot cattle. He can be reached at 5804 Leasburg Dr., Las Cruces, NM 88005; phone: 505/525-1370; fax: 505/525-1394. His e-mail address is [email protected]

The Fantasy Beef Quality Challenge Winners

Adelina Valenzula

Gatesville, TX

Age 13 and under

One $1,000 Savings Bond & Trophy

Brandy Kieth

Tahoka, TX

Age 14-18

One $1,000 Savings Bond & Trophy

Michael Reiman

Butte, NE

Age 19 and over

One Free Trip To

2000 NCBA Convention (Up to $1,500)

Niman Ranch Feedlot

Left to Right: Debbie Rogers, Michelle Stokes, Rob Stokes and Domenic Cianfichi Petaluma, CA

Feedyard Team Category

$5,000 Of IVOMEC(r) Brand Products

Thanks to all those who played ball in the Fantasy Beef Quality Challenge and congratulations to those entrants that were drawn from each category and won the prizes provided by Merial. All total, there were 4,871 entries. These people said they either own or manage over 5 million cattle collectively.

Of all the entries received, not one person drafted the correct five steers, proving that it is extremely difficult to select the "best" or most profitable cattle based on visual observations.(See November BEEF for final results.)

Following are key points I hope you take with you from this year's contest.

* Good cattle come in all colors and breed types. In addition to selecting a breed, it is as important to select a bull that has good performance and carcass EPDs (Expected Progeny Differences). The same seven breeds were found in the Top 5 steers and the Bottom 5 steers.

* USDA Quality and Yield Grade of the carcass is only one portion of the net return equation. Cattle value is also influenced by animal health status, average daily gain (ADG), feed efficiency, initial feeder calf price, dressing percent and other carcass traits (i.e., carcass weight and dark cutters).

* Cattle that get sick often not only result in added health care expenses, but also have inferior feedyard performance and below average carcass merit. All of the Bottom 5 steers had ADGs in the feedyard less than 3 lbs./day and produced USDA Select carcasses.

* In a pen of cattle sold on a carcass grid, a great increase in the value of the pen would occur when reducing the number of discounted carcasses (i.e., Standards, Yield Grade 4 and 5, dark cutters and extremely heavy or light weight carcasses). The Bottom 5 steers in the Fantasy Beef Quality Challenge created a significant monetary drag on the rest of the cattle because of poor feedyard and carcass performance.

* Taking individual weights at the beginning of the feeding period and again at re-implant time can enable you to identify poor performers. Culling those poor performers at re-implant time and selling them, potentially makes the owner money with one exception, when the feeder cattle market declined significantly between the date the cattle were put in the feedyard and the day they were re-implanted.

* Calf management practices including a vaccination program, parasite control, nutritional program and a weaning period of at least 45 days can significantly add to the value of the calf. The challenge is to identify marketing channels that reward you for the added expense incurred when conducting this kind of program.

Focused On Food Safety

Nowhere is food safety more of a front-page concern than in the European Union (EU). For American beef producers, that concern's been felt firsthand as a result of stringent hormone regulations that have halted U.S. beef exports to Europe since 1990.

Among those 15 EU member countries, none has been as aggressive on food safety as Denmark, which hopes to position itself as a world leader in food safety. Although few beef cattle are raised in Denmark, their food policy standards could raise the bar for future U.S. beef exports.

An island country with 5 million people in an area twice the size of Massachusetts, Denmark is known primarily for pork and dairy exports. Despite its small size, however, Denmark produces enough food annually to feed its 15 million people, plus export two-thirds of its ag products. In actuality, Denmark is the largest food exporter in the world when compared on a population basis.

"The Danish food industry prides itself on fulfilling high standards so we can export to Germany, China and the U.S.," says Peter Gaemelke, a pork producer and president of the Danish Farmers Union.

Half of Denmark's ag exports go to other EU countries, with Japan and the U.S. as its main export destinations outside the EU. Altogether, Danish ag exports go to more than 175 countries.

"We see the foodstuffs sector changing all over the world, and Denmark wants to be a leader in foodstuffs," says lb Byrge Sorensen of Denmark's ministry of agriculture. "In an international context, safe food is more and more the focus."

Sorensen attributes this food safety focus to the BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) outbreak in the early '90s.

"BSE was the first issue that led to major changes - not only in England, but all over Europe. Consumers demonstrated they want clear information and safe foodstuffs," he says.

With that cue from consumers and prestigious export trading partners established, here are steps the Danes intend to take on food safety.

Listen To Consumers Much of Denmark's current guidelines for producing foodstuffs stem from its 1995 Food Policy, put in place after the peak of the BSE outbreak. It places emphasis on food safety, consumer knowledge of food production, animal welfare and the environment. The result has been some of the highest food quality standards - both domestic and export - in the world.

Ten regional points across Denmark are utilized as a system of food safety controls from farm to fork. They oversee everything from chemical pollution and nutrition to the food flavorings used in the end product.

"What is most important is to have transparent guidelines," says Sorensen. "This is a national effort, but a lot is based on international guidelines." Denmark's hope, he adds, is: "It should be worthwhile for a country to have special standards when it comes to food safety."

At the forefront of Denmark's Food Policy is food safety. Denmark hopes to make its distinguishing mark in the export marketplace by voluntarily eliminating the use of all antibiotic growth promotants in livestock beginning in January 2000. This voluntary, national plan of action will make Denmark the only export-oriented country free of antibiotic use.

Danish producers already adhere to strict EU regulations on the use of growth promotants, and currently use half of the antibiotics they used two years ago. Current studies show no traces of antibiotics in Danish beef, poultry or pork, says Bent Claus Lassen, a producer who serves as chairman of theDanish Bacon and Meat Council and the Danish Ag Research and Food Council and vice-chairman of a slaughter cooperative.

At present, Lassen questions if it will give Denmark a competitive advantage, but says, "we hope so."

The Danes have also aggressively tackled Salmonella infections. In 1998, Salmonella screenings were implemented, concentrating on chickens and eggs, but monitoring beef and pork as well. Poultry producers are still checked every nine weeks. The result: Denmark has seen human Salmonella cases decline, according to Lassen.

And, Denmark is the only country voluntarily controlling and publishing results of zoonoses cases. Zoonoses are diseases transmitted from animals to humans through food.

"Denmark formed these voluntary plans because we feel the EU is too passive," Lassen says.

These food safety programs are also being put in place in part because the Danes do not believe irradiation is acceptable for general use to control microbiological problems in foods, Lassen says.

Denmark's Stand On GMO's The Danes are less definitive on their position when it comes to the ethics of producing products with the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

In the U.S., GMO technology has helped develop Roundup Ready corn and soybeans - crops that are tolerant to Roundup herbicide, and therefore require less tillage and herbicides.

Currently, only Roundup Ready soybeans are approved in Europe. Denmark calls for strict labeling of products produced from GMOs to alert consumers of such products.

"The ag sector regards gene technology as valuable technology - if it is used with care," says Lassen. "Genetically engineered products should be based on their characteristics and not characteristics created by genetic engineering."

But, for the environmentally conscious Danes, GMOs could offer some conservation-minded solutions. For example, GMO corn requires fewer pesticides.

"That's an example of using GMOs and caring for the environment," says Gaemelke. "We need to inform consumers about those benefits."

Animal & Environmental Welfare Touted as the "environmental capital of Europe," Denmark's producers face strict environmental and animal welfare laws. The aim is to utilize production practices that meet consumers' approval, says Gaemelke.

Awareness of livestock welfare has led to facilities that allow animals more space. Operations with free-range hens and pigs are increasing and, instead of all-year stabling, cattle are allowed to graze in the summer.

Ecological production without the use of herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers is also increasing and is supported by the government. In the last five years, the use of pesticides has been halved, Lassen says.

To minimize nitrogen seepage, 65% of farmland must be covered by green crops in winter. Therefore, many producers concentrate on winter crops of wheat, rye, rapeseed and barley.

Being "green" (environmentally friendly) has not paid dividends, says Lassen. But the hope is that in five years Denmark will have positioned itself enough with consumer conscience that it will pay off, he adds.

In the future, the Danes hope to learn how to market products to cover increasing production costs, Gaemelke says.

One of those strategies is organic production involving special feed and care of animals, no use of fertilizers or sprays and lower yields. Currently, 20% of milk in Denmark is produced organically and the trend is growing. Organic milk production has proven to be successful, though they are subsidized.

Lassen and Gaemelke both say they believe the modern consumer is increasingly willing to pay for products manufactured utilizing special farming techniques or animal-housing conditions.

"We think there's a market for foods produced without GMOs and growth hormones, and we are ready to compete," says Gaemelke.

Editor's Note: Kindra Gordon visited Danish beef producers in August while attending the Congress of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Although Henning Davidsen raises beef cattle in Denmark, he faces many of the same problems as American producers. His biggest concern: getting a good price for beef in Denmark.

Davidsen is one of a handful of beef producers in Denmark - a country noted mostly for its pork and dairy exports. Much like the rest of Europe, the Danish beef sector was adversely affected by the BSE or Mad Cow Disease outbreak in the United Kingdom. Today, the national herd is less than 700,000 head, compared to almost 1 million in the early 1980s.

Davidsen has a polled Simmental herd of 30 cow/calf pairs he raises on 116 acres - about the average size of Danish farms. Half the calf crop is retained each year to sell as breeding stock, the remainder are fed on the farm and slaughtered as 1,200-lb. bulls.

Beef prices haven't been favorable for Danish producers in recent years. Young bulls, Denmark's only specialized beef production, bring about 17 Danish Kroner/kg of carcass, with an average carcass weight of 245kg. (That's about $1.18/lb. of carcass.)

Despite subsidies provided by the European Union (EU), economically viable production of beef on a large scale is seldom possible. Large farms are limited by environmental laws requiring a balance between the number of animals and the acreage of a production unit. The more livestock the farmer has, the more land he must own to balance manure disposal. Therefore, most beef cattle are in small herds, where the owner also has other sources of income.

Davidsen works full time off the farm and, like many American farm families, the Davidsens have started their own bed and breakfast to generate more income. In addition to that income, Davidsen receives about $10,000 per year in subsidies for such things as not fertilizing his grassland because it's adjacent to a river, and a flat rate for each animal on the farm.

Davidsen has accepted producing beef in the EU without growth hormones. As for allowing U.S. beef into the EU, he says, "I would agree to bring in U.S. beef as long as it's labeled as hormone-fed beef."

He says the U.S. label alone isn't enough, because consumers may not realize those animals have been given hormones. "We should trade, but the consumer should be made aware."

Salmonellosis - one tough customer

Salmonella can affect cattle in every stage of production, including pregnant cows, young calves and feedlot and adult cattle. The pattern and clinical appearance will vary with animal age, production setting and the Salmonella serotype.

There are three forms of disease caused by Salmonella - enteric, systemic and inapparent. It's the enteric form that is characterized by foul-smelling, brownish, watery diarrhea with shreds of mucous, fibrin and fresh blood.

Treatment of cattle with Salmonellosis is challenging and often only marginally successful. Successful control of a Salmonella outbreak can't be done through medication alone. It requires understanding of how the disease occurs and aggressive implementation of control strategies.

Your Veterinarian Is Key Working closely with your veterinarian is critical to controlling an outbreak as quickly as possible. Taking steps to prevent Salmonella is much more rewarding than fighting your way out of an outbreak.

Salmonella can be isolated in low percentages from a huge number of potential sources, including inapparent carrier animals (cattle, dogs, birds, people, etc.), feeds, water and other places in the environment. Salmonella is one of the few organisms that can live and multiply inside the cells of the immune system, making it especially difficult to treat or control through vaccination.

Salmonella is transmitted primarily by the fecal-oral route. This means that fecal contamination of anything that will go into the mouth - water troughs, feed bunks, hay, oral medication equipment, etc. - is a very effective means to spread Salmonella. Less frequently, aerosol transmission can also occur.

Since Salmonella is transmitted by the fecal-oral route, control and prevention strategies should center on this transmission route.

Salmonella carriers are more likely to shed the bacteria when they are stressed. Where do we congregate our stressed cattle? In calving pastures and hospital and receiving pens.

Thus, these are focal areas for our control and prevention measures. These measures will focus on three principles: reducing contamination, increasing sanitation and reducing stress.

A Hit List Of Control Strategies Here's a list of control strategies:

* Wash waterers twice daily using a dilute bleach solution, especially in high-risk areas.

* Feed hay in hayracks or bunks, not on the ground where it will become contaminated with feces. Make sure feeders aren't overfilled, resulting in spillage onto the ground.

* Fill in low spots and holes that can collect water.

* Scrape dry lot pens lightly multiple times a week to remove organic matter, promote drying and expose the bacteria to UV light from the sun.

* Do not overcrowd hospital and receiving pens.

* Segregate cattle with persistent diarrhea - do not send them back to the herd or home pen.

* Avoid using oral medications for treatment. But, if oral treatment is necessary, be very sanitary. For example, wash all treatment equipment in disinfectant between calves, change your disposable exam gloves between calves, store nose tongs and rectal thermometer probes in disinfectant between calves.

* Don't use the same loader bucket to clean pens and move feed.

* Don't step in the bunks when entering and leaving pens.

Human Risks Vaccines are available and may offer some degree of protection. But, vaccines will be insufficient if management strategies to reduce contamination, increase sanitation and reduce stress aren't implemented.

There are more than 2,300 serotypes - or servovars - of Salmonella. There's much confusion and disagreement on how these serotypes should be grouped and named. Several Salmonella have the ability to infect and cause disease in multiple species, including both cattle and man. This is a very important detail to know about Salmonella.

There are reports of people contracting Salmonella while caring for sick cattle. There are also reports of cattlemen carrying the infection home to their families.

The first step in preventing this is education of personnel about the risk of infection to themselves and their family. Advise them to consult their physician for further advice. Enforce good hygiene such as wearing disposable gloves and safety glasses, not allowing eating and drinking (or dipping) in cattle working areas, and hand washing.

A sound strategy to prevent catching Salmonellosis from cattle, along with other zoonotic diseases, is called "universal precautions." This means treating every calf as if it could potentially give you Salmonella (which is true).

One other note - are you familiar with Johne's Disease (pronounced yo-nees) in cattle? If you're a cow/calf producer, you should be. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association has an informative booklet titled "Johne's Disease: Should You Be Concerned?" Contact them (303/694-0305 or to obtain a copy.

In addition, "What Do I Need to Know About Johne's Disease in Beef Cattle?" is available on the National Animal Health Monitoring System Web site. Go to ( ceah/cahm, then click on Beef Cow-Calf).

Footnote: Thanks to Bob Smith, DVM, for sharing his Salmonella control strategy list.

A very dry fall

We shipped our calves last month. They were weaned on pasture with three "babysitter" cows, and did very well during their three weeks on pasture.

All our fields and pastures are very dry this year, with no appreciable rain since June and not enough water in the creek for irrigation after we put the hay up.

The weaned calves grazed on a few wet acres we didn't cut. It's part of a large area of hillsides and small hayfields; this field has sub water from the fields above it, and is usually too wet to cut (bogging down machinery). This grass gets dry by the time we bring the calves off the range and wean them, but the understory still has some green and they do well on it.

We rounded the calves up the afternoon before we shipped them, calling them with the feed truck. We brought them into the corrals the next morning at daylight to sort and load, leaving a few of the smaller ones home. Weights were good this year despite the dry summer range.

We had no rain this past month - the driest October on record. The cows on our 320 acres of mountain pasture have been gaining weight since we weaned their calves in mid-September and put them up there. The calves did well on the range but the cows lost weight on the dry feed while lactating.

Our native bunch grasses have been dried out since mid-summer. We've never had to supplement this feed, but this fall seems to be drier than our eight-year drought in the late '80s and early '90s. We purchased some dry supplement to mix with loose salt - a mineral mix and a protein-vitamin A mix - putting it in big tubs scattered strategically in the pasture.

The cows seem happier and spend more time grazing. They now have enough protein to utilize the dry feed. Without adequate protein their "gut bugs" can't digest and ferment the roughage efficiently.

With the supplement, the cows willingly used the rest of the grass on the steep upper end of that pasture, then we let them down into the lower corner below the crossfence. This end is too small for that many cattle. There was enough food, but they were restless.

Cattle need a certain amount of space; if you have too many in a small area they are not as content. This is something people often don't consider when using a rotational pasture system that concentrates cattle into smaller areas. You have to find, sometimes by trial and error, what the ideal stocking rate is for certain pastures - a figure that cannot be totally based on available feed.

After a few days, we split the group, sorting them at the gate into the 160-acre pasture. We fed a little hay on both sides of the fence to keep them content while we sorted. Michael and Andrea guarded the gate, while Carolyn and I on horseback sorted out the ones to take down to the fields and easier grazing - a few of the older cows, the coming three-year olds, getting ready to have their second calves, and a handful of thin cows, 52 in all. That left 82 to finish grazing the steep mountain pasture - a better number for the smaller area and water supply.

Is this cow leasing time?

The option of leasing cows looks brightest when profits begin creeping into the cow/calf pasture, as they are today. But owners who lease out their cows (lessors) or producers who pay to lease them (lessees) can quickly snuff out all profit potential on the front end if they ignore equitable allocation of cattle costs and revenue.

"The key is to have equitable leases, and I haven't found leases to be very equitable in the past," says Harlan Hughes, livestock marketing economist with North Dakota State University (NDSU).

In fact, Hughes explains, "I had quite a few IRM cooperators in the early '90s who were leasing cows. When everyone else was making money, some of them were just working hard."

The problem wasn't necessarily the costs producers were accounting for as they negotiated their percentage of the calf crop. It was the revenue and the fact that owners retain all of the cull cow income in a typical lease arrangement.

"Ranchers sometimes forget that, and they'll give 40 percent of the calf crop to the owner, plus all of the cull cow income," says Hughes. In round numbers, that means in a typical 60:40 lease, the lessee is paying 60% of the expenses, but may be getting half or less of the total income. In other words, the typical 60:40 split may in fact not be equitable.

For all of the variables, Hughes says it's fairly easy to calculate a lease where both parties share the costs and the revenues equitably. He says costs should include all of the normal feed, grazing and livestock costs for the lease cows, as well as the opportunity cost of the lessee's labor and management, plus account for the equity and capital of both parties.

On the revenue side of the fence, Hughes emphasizes cull cow, cull heifer and cull bull income must be considered along with the calf income. In other words, since cow owners typically retain cull income, the percentage of the calves they receive in an equitable lease will be lower than if you disregarded the culls.

As well, Hughes advises lessors and lessees to negotiate replacement females up front. While lessors frequently supply the replacements, he points out that's not always the case.

The Opportunities Pushing a pencil to explore the possibilities of leasing can pay other dividends besides cash. As an example, Chev Sherman at Mullen, NE, began leasing cows eight years ago when he needed more of them. The returns, however, couldn't justify borrowing the money or putting up the cash.

"It allowed me to get my numbers up to fill a lease on some ground I had, and I didn't have to borrow the money on them and pay the interest," says Sherman. Plus, he explains adding numbers that way can sometimes help flesh out an extra potload for marketing leverage.

On the flip side of the leasing coin, John Buxton at the X Bar Ranch at Laramie, WY, began leasing out cows the last time the market turned south.

"We had some awfully good cows here and I didn't really want to sell them ... We retained them at that point because we thought we could make more money than by selling them," he says.

The Challenges Although Buxton still has some cows out on lease, he thinks he may have been money ahead to take his medicine by selling them.

"You lose control of your cattle. They wound up being worth more when I put them out than when I got them back," says Buxton. Even though the market improved, and there are lessees who treat the cows like their own, Buxton found that others treated them as a disposable commodity and sucked the value out of them.

Moreover, Buxton explains, "Some people are looking to lease cows because they don't have the money to go to the bank and borrow the money."

With these concerns in mind, Buxton encourages owners considering lease arrangements to visit the operation of the prospective lessee for a look at their management. Then, go visit with their banker to make sure they have enough equity and credit to take care of the cows.

Sherman also says lessees need to enter leases with their eyes wide open. "What everyone involved needs to know is that the lessor will probably just maintain his numbers because the operator has to have about all of the calf income to make it work," says Sherman.

That means both parties must be flexible and willing to adjust percentages based on markets and weather served up by a given year.

Still, leasing can offer producers the chance to restock or expand without borrowing money, and it can allow owners to broaden their cow-based equity without taking on more land. If leasing will ever work for an operation, the odds run highest at this stage of the cattle cycle.

"When there's profit in the cow business, there's something to share," says Hughes. "I think the timing is about right and as profits go up, I think it will make more sense for both parties." Just as long as it's equitable.

For detailed leasing and budgeting information, you can request NDSU's, "Leasing Beef Cows for a Profit," by calling Paulanne at 701/231-7393.

A Good Start

When nearly 2,000 cows start calving, it can be a heyday or a mayday. Terry Forst and her crew find more heydays since adjusting calving seasons, watching nutrition and monitoring calves closely.

Forst manages the Stuart Ranch, which has operations near Caddo, OK, and Waurika, OK. To get better returns from the land and cattle, and to increase labor efficiency, she's moved the herds to two calving seasons.

"We use 60-day fall and spring calving seasons," she says. "This lets us concentrate breeding seasons, keep the cows in better body condition, have more uniform weaning times and sell calves in a narrow timeframe."

A similar fall and spring schedule works for the Fuhrmann Brothers operation, near Gainesville, TX. Edward, Paul and Andy Fuhrmann run a combined seedstock and commercial outfit calving about 280 head a season.

Cows get a 90-day calving period, heifers get 75 days. Fall calving starts in late August, the spring session begins mid-February. First-calf heifers calve when they're two years old and follow the same schedule as cows. Heifers will be moved into the cow herd when their first calf is weaned.

"Generally, two-thirds of the calves are born in the first 30 days of the season," Paul says. "Most are from natural service, although we do use a limited amount of AI."

To minimize calving difficulty, Andy says they breed cows to bulls with birthweight EPDs of 85 and heifers to birthweight EPDs of 65-70.

Makes Sense There are benefits to spring and fall calving and pitfalls, too.

"Late spring calving has warmer temperatures, but can be wet" says Peter Chenoweth, Kansas State University (K-State) veterinarian and professor. "Forage resources are matched to cow requirements better than early spring or winter.

"Late winter, or early spring weather can be extreme, but marketing options are well established," he adds.

The veterinarian adds fall calving is a good time for reducing weather stress.

Caring For Calves Forst starts calving fall heifers about Aug. 16. While the last calf may not drop until Oct. 16, more than 75% of the calves are born in the first 30 days.

At 60 days old, they're vaccinated, branded, castrated and dehorned. Two weeks before weaning, they're re-vaccinated and dewormed with a pour-on. Steers get implanted and calfhood vaccinated when they're turned on to pasture. Heifers also get a calfhood vaccination.

The Fuhrmanns follow an intensive birth monitoring program, combing pastures twice daily to check heifer and cow conditions and looking for newcomers.

"As soon as a calf is dry and has nursed, we tag and weigh it, and iodine the umbilical cord; treat for fire ants as well, if we need to," Andy says. "Because of the drought, we've had to watch for dust pneumonia."

Vaccinations are given to cows prior to calving. At weaning, they vaccinate calves with blackleg, hemophilus, IBR, PI3, BVD and BRSV. Overall, they follow the herd health recommendations made by Texas A&M University.

Whether it's spring or fall calves, Forst and her crew are adamant about incorporating Total Quality Management (TQM) practices.

"We use subcutaneous injections in the neck region. We're always changing needles. We constantly remind ourselves that improper injections are a hit to both us and the industry."

Forst says cows scheduled for September and October calving are generally in a body condition (BC) of a high 6. The crew tries not to rotate pastures with the cows until the calves are more than 60 days old. This lets forages stockpile and puts the cows in a BC of 5 to 6 by the time bulls are turned out Dec. 1.

"We pull the bulls at the end of January and the cows are kept on a maintenance program so we don't lose body condition," Forst says. "Winter annuals start coming on in February and March while we're feeding a 38% protein supplement and hay as needed."

Spring calves follow a similar procedure and are generally weaned in October to go on wheat pasture.

Cow body condition is watched closely at Fuhrmanns' as well. "We're feeding a ryegrass silage that we got by overseeding bermuda with ryegrass," Edward says. Their goal, Paul says, is a minimum of 2 lbs. of protein into each cow per day. They also use alfalfa hay depending on availability.

"To get good calves, it takes genetics management, good recordkeeping, health management, nutrition and range management," Andy says. "Computer recordkeeping is a good tool to make overall decisions, but it still takes hands-on individual calf management."

Nutrition On Target Nutrition is key, according to Mike Sanderson, a K-State veterinarian.

"Just about anything you vary from a nutrition standpoint has an effect on calf health," Sanderson says. He says the Fuhrmanns and Forst are on track by closely watching BC scores and nutrient requirements.

"You can divide a cow or heifer's nutritional needs into four periods," he says. "Each has a definite impact on how an unborn calf will develop or how a nursing calf will perform."

He describes the periods as: * From calving to 85 days postpartum - the highest nutritional need of cows and heifers. Cows should calve at least in a BC of 5, heifers in a BC of 7. If BC drops below 4, it can hurt calf vigor.

* The next 125 days - often in a summer grass situation. Nutrient requirements drop 10% or more. If the grass is high quality, mineral supplement is all that's needed.

* The next 105 days - post weaning, non-lactating cow. Her nutrient requirements are lowest. A maintenance diet is recommended.

* 50-60 days prior to calving - the second-highest nutrient requirement period. She needs a balanced ration or reproductive performance is harmed.

"Cows and heifers in good nutritional shape produce the highest quality colostrum," Sanderson says. "It's important that the calf suckle and get all the colostrum within the first six hours."

He adds it's important to vaccinate cows for Campylobacter, Leptospira, Trichomoa and BVD. For heifers, he suggests brucellosis, vibrio/lepto, four-way modified live (BVD, IBR, BRSV, PI3) and a 7-way Clostridial vaccine plus booster.

Strict Culling Procedures Forst uses a no-holds-barred culling approach. "My cows must meet my requirements and fit my environment," she says. "Any no-breeders get sent to town, as do those that lose calves. I'll allow a cow to miss one calf if it's caused by a management error, but that's all the leeway I give. We also cull any undesirable calves, whether it's for performance, temperament or anything else. All the calf management in the world won't mean much if we let the quality drop," she adds.

A 91% natural-service rebreeding rate on cows and heifers, despite drought conditions this year, evidences Forst' calf-to-cow quality management. The Fuhrmanns have similar culling criteria. Bad temperament, poor mothering and poor calves will cull a cow.

The Fuhrmanns and Forst concur that a total package is what makes the whole deal work. That includes genetics, nutrition, cow health, calf health, vaccinations and good pastures.

"It's putting a lot of common sense to work that helps us come out ahead," Forst adds.

No matter what season you select for calving, Peter Chenoweth, a veterinarian and professor with Kansas State University (K-State), says the period immediately after birth is critical.

A 1997 NAHMS beef survey found that 58% of calf mortality from birth to weaning occurs within 24 hours of birth; 78% occurred within the first three weeks after birth, Chenoweth says.

"It's been shown that weaning weights can be 35 lbs. lower in calves that experience a morbidity incident between birth and 45 days of age. These results highlight the importance of proper calving season management."

When it comes to calving time, both Chenoweth and fellow K-State veterinarian Mike Sanderson recommend:

* Calve cows and heifers separately so you can watch heifers closely.

* Calves cows and heifers somewhere besides wintering grounds. It decreases pathogen accumulation.

* Make sure calving pastures are adequately drained.

* Minimize pathogen build-up in dystocia pens. Clean them often.

* Consider calving when weather is less stressful.

Regardless of when you calve, Chenoweth suggests that by monitoring calving and newborns closely, you'll reap more rewards on the selling end.