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Articles from 2012 In December

2012 Drought Sends Cattle Prices Higher

cattle prices go higher

The persistent drought throughout 2012 has created a shortage of cattle, which has pushed sale prices up a bit from this time last year. The lack of rain and ground moisture led to limited supplies of hay and other cattle feed.

Silvia Christen with the South Dakota Stock Growers Association says they have seen drastic increases in the prices for older cows as they come to market, while calf prices have remained steady from last year.

Christen says the decline in herd numbers across the region has created more demand for cattle which has driven up the price.

To read the entire article, click here.

Caption This Photo To Win A Western Art Print

Caption This Photo To Win A Western Art Print

Whether you feed 10 or 10,000 cows, the talk of 2012 was the increasing price of feed and forages in the beef industry. While high input costs in the cattle business isn’t new news, the worst drought the U.S. has seen in a half-century blanketed more than two-thirds of the country and created a shortage of these commodities, elevating the problem even further.

Now, I’m not sure what 2013 will bring; if the drought continues, it could be a dangerous combination for U.S. beef producers, who are currently maintaining the smallest beef herd since the 1950s. Maintaining or increasing the size of the U.S. herd could prove difficult as pasture and hay supplies run short.

Despite this worry, I certainly don’t want to end 2012 on a negative note. So, to round out the year, I thought I would give away one more prize -- three copies of a western art print entitled, “The Overseers,” by Amarillo, TX-based artist, Jack Sorenson. This is a limited-edition, numbered print, signed by the artist and retails for $100.

To enter, simply leave a caption for the photo below in the comments section. The deadline to enter is noon on Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. Our winner will be announced on Jan. 3, and two additional copies of the print will go to entrants drawn at random. Good luck!


By the way, be sure to participate in our weekly reader poll at This week's poll asks the question: "Are you optimistic about 2013?" The choices are:

  • Yes. I’m feeling optimistic.
  • No. I expect it to be worse for me.
  • 2013 will be a lot like 2012.
  • I have no idea.

And be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section after voting.

Winter Management Of Beef Cattle

Beef Cattle Feed Management in Winter

As winter approaches, nutritional needs and increased stress on cattle are becoming a concern. Winter feeding plays a very important role in the profitability of a beef cowherd because it can comprise a large percentage of your cost of production.

When the environment results in an effective temperature below the animal’s lower critical temperature, the animal must increase heat production to maintain a constant body temperature and performance. To produce more heat, the animal must either receive an increase in energy from the cattle feed ration or draw on body stores.

To compensate for the energy deficit created by the cold stress, follow this rule of thumb: Increase the amount of feed 1% for each degree of cold stress. If you have the wind-chill temperature, use that temperature.

Keeping hay in front of the cattle may not take care of meeting the extra nutrient needs. If the hay is good, meaning it was harvested before it matured or was rained on, cattle can probably make it through the cold weather and still maintain good body condition. If the quality of the hay is poor, the cattle may not perform as well.

To read the entire article, click here.

Rural King Partners With Red Brand To Support FFA

Rural King Supply representative Josh Gordon presented a check to the National FFA Foundation at the 2012 National FFA Convention and Expo. The proceeds are the result of Rural King's participation in Home Grown, a funding partnership with Red Brand fence, manufactured by Keystone Steel & Wire in Peoria, Illinois.

"We appreciate the opportunity to partner with Red Brand and Home Grown in this funding initiative," said Gordon, "and as a result, we are very proud to provide financial support to the National FFA Foundation and to offer a way for local chapters to receive funding.

Foundation sponsors make possible award and recognition programs, scholarships, service learning activities, global engagement programs, national FFA convention functions, educational materials, teacher training and much more. "Without the generous support of companies like Rural King and Red Brand, the Foundation could not be effective in our efforts to reach out to the local, state and national FFA levels," explained Robert Cooper, Executive Director of the National FFA Foundation. "The financial assistance we receive directly impacts the lives of FFA students throughout the organization, so we are deeply grateful for this contribution."

According to Doug Wright, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Keystone Steel & Wire and current member of the FFA Foundation Sponsors' Board, “We've been supporting FFA since 1947 and FFA holds a special place in our hearts, as a lot of our employees–from people working on the manufacturing floor to the executive level–came up through FFA programs. Many of them still have children in FFA; it’s interwoven into the history of the company. We understand and appreciate the vital role that FFA plays in the lives of our country's young people," he continues, "and we are committed to helping to support their efforts. That's why we created Home Grown. Today's check is only part of the effect of Rural King's Gold Level participation in the Home Grown program. Along with the generous financial support for the Foundation, Home Grown gives local retail stores the ability to fund their local FFA chapters, sometimes with hundreds of dollars. Home Grown is truly a grass-roots effort where the local community can support their local FFA chapter," explained Wright.

Home Grown was launched in 2010 and has raised funds for over 700 FFA chapters annually. For details about the program, visit

About Rural King

Rural King Supply was founded in 1960. Since that time Rural King has grown to 60 stores in a seven state area (Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Michigan and Missouri).  The corporate offices, distribution center and flagship store are located in its city of origin, Mattoon IL. Their 60 locations carry items such as agricultural fencing, livestock feed, farm equipment, agricultural parts, lawn mowers, work wear, fashion clothing, housewares and toys. For more information, visit

About FFA Foundation

The National FFA Foundation was created in 1944 to support the National FFA Organization and education-related organizations associated with the National Council for Agricultural Education. SinceFFA programs are funded through private donations and sponsorships at the local, state and national levels, the National FFA Foundation, a separately-registered nonprofit organization, works with business and industry, organizations and individuals to raise funds to support FFA activities and recognize members’ achievements. For more information, visit

About Red Brand

Keystone Steel and Wire Company, founded in 1889, created the Red Brand line of fence to be the premier agricultural fencing product in the country and it quickly became a household name on American farms. The use of high-quality materials and expert craftsmanship earned Red Brand the reputation of 'the most respected name in farm fence'. Truly American-made, the products delivered by Red Brand boast an earth-friendly component, as the wire used to produce its line of fencing is made of reclaimed and highest quality reprocessed steel. Appealing to a broad range of consumers and building on the early success of its products, Red Brand has enjoyed a loyal following from generations of farmers, ranchers and hobbyists. For complete details of Red Brand's history and full product line, visit

Duck Dynasty Is Taking Over Our Household

Duck Dynasty from Duckcommandercom
<p> Photo from</p>

I’m not into reality television shows, but one in particular has earned favor in the Marshall household recently.

The show is called Duck Dynasty, and it follows the adventures of a newly rich Louisiana bayou family, the Robertsons, who operate a thriving business by fabricating top-of-the-line duck calls and decoys out of salvaged swamp wood. Each episode highlights their special brand of Southern know-how and down-home humor.

My boys got hooked first; they think it’s hilarious. I had seen a preview of the show, where these bearded guys get out of a limousine, wearing tuxedos and camouflage. I figured that it was just more programming designed to appeal to the sensibilities of teenage boys and, after watching an episode for 10 minutes, I was unimpressed. But I watched a second episode at the urging of my daughter, and I now have to admit that I’m officially a Duck Dynasty fan!  

I like the show because it reflects a lot of the values we in agriculture share. Duck Dynasty features successful business people who are hunters. But, more importantly, they love the land and the animals, and they understand the circle of life and the unique role humans play in it. They understand and appreciate how food gets onto our table and, even more surprisingly, they believe in concepts like freedom and private property rights – concepts you don’t see much of on television these days.

I like that they represent the American dream and are financially successful, but they also place far more value on the fact that it is a family business. They know how lucky and blessed they are to work together, and they believe in God and say grace before meals.

Yes, they are rednecks, and they take pride in their beards and camouflage clothing, which almost seems like a uniform that imparts the message: “Heck, yes, I’m proud of who I am and the tradition behind it.” I suspect our boots and hats send a similar message to outsiders.

When you watch a few episodes, it’s obvious these people don’t lack sophistication, and only partly fit the stereotype the outside world assigns to them. Being in agriculture, it’s easy to identify with the hick label that often gets applied to us.

Duck Dynasty likely won’t garner any Emmy awards or change the world, but it does depict traits that many of us hold dear – a reminder that makes it pretty good entertainment. Of course, we have cowboy hats and boots instead of beards and camouflage, but Duck Dynasty embodies a lot of things that make this life we live truly special. I like it because nearly every show reminds me of that very fact. Even more, however, I like it because my kids see that as well. I have to believe the fans of Duck Dynasty are indirectly friends of agriculture and we share a lot of common values.

Tragedies Should Cause Personal Reflection

Tragedies Should Cause Personal Reflection

The recent shooting in Newtown, CT, was an indescribable tragedy. While every innocent and needless death is a tragedy, this seemed particularly heinous in that young children were the primary targets and the massacre occurred ahead of the holiday season. Few would argue with President Obama’s statements that something needs to be done to deter these types of tragedies. Sadly, however, all I have heard thus far is: “I believe this tragedy can be used to advance a political agenda.”

In today’s political world, it’s inevitable that such senseless criminality would give rise to talk of gun control and rolling back the Second Amendment. And it is a reasonable discussion to have in a free and open society.

While seen largely as a black-white issue by both sides of the discussion, these types of issues have their shades of grey because it isn’t just a mixture of world views and paradigms but competing rights. Most importantly, these aren’t debates that should be shaped by majority opinion. By its definition, the safeguarding of rights should protect the minority from the majority.

Like most people, I have an opinion on gun control. I grew up in Wyoming in an avid hunting and sporting family; thus, few would be surprised at my leanings. This country was born as a result of citizens being able and willing to stand up and fight tyranny. That same dynamic is on display today in the Middle East where folks are battling oppressive regimes in the “Arab Spring” movement.

We can debate whether anyone needs a semi-automatic weapon for recreation, to protect themselves, or to fight oppression, but it doesn’t address the real issue. It isn’t that a psycho used a gun to kill innocent children, or that some of the deaths could have been prevented if the school principal had been armed. The dilemma is how to minimize these tragedies without paying too great a price in terms of freedom. Another question is whether any measure can succeed in preventing mass killings.

BEEF Daily Blog: A Call For 26 Acts Of Kindness

If there’s to be some positive from this tragedy, then the conversation needs to be more comprehensive. That means in-depth discussion about violence in entertainment. I’d like to see a renewed focus on valuing human life, and correcting the cultural changes that have diminished that over time. The discussion should also focus on getting God back into our schools and not being afraid to teach morality to a society desperately in need of it.

We also need a serious discussion on improving mental health care, testing and diagnosis. If the issue is gun violence in general, then we should address this nation’s rampant drug problem, as well as the decline of the traditional family.

Sadly, we won’t have that type of national debate; it will merely center on gun control and, more precisely, gun control on a very limited class of guns. The idea, of course, is to prevent these rare actions of murderous psychopaths, but any criminal bent on having them will have access to them.

There are no easy solutions to the societal problems we face. However, if we are ever going to do more than pay lip service to these tragedies, we have to understand that applying a band-aid while ignoring the underlying cancer isn’t a solution. It just makes us feel better.

Full-Size & Heavy Duty Pickups For 2013

Ford, Dodge, Chevy, GMC and Toyota offer a multitude of models in the full-size and heavy-duty pickup category for 2013. Here’s a photo gallery of 11 new models for 2013 and a summary of their winning features.

Rural Economy Surges To Close Out 2012

Rural Economy Surges To Close Out 2012

In spite of a mixed bag of economic news and a significant amount of market volatility, the rural economy found its strength the last few months of 2012. In fact, December results of a monthly survey of small-town and rural bankers in a 10-state region found the rural economy surging for a fourth straight month.

The Rural Mainstreet Index (RMI) climbed to a healthy 60.6, its highest level since June 2007, and up from 57.5 in November, says Ernie Goss, the Jack A. MacAllister chair in regional economics at Creighton University in Omaha, NE. The index, which Goss calculates monthly, ranges between 0 and 100, with 50.0 representing growth neutral.

Goss says very strong agriculture commodity prices and lower energy prices boosted rural mainstreet business activity for the month. “This is the healthiest reading that we have recorded since well before the national economic recession began in 2007,” he says.

A Closer Look: Rural Economic Outlook Promising But Drought A Concern

 However, the confluence of lower energy prices and higher commodity prices has the ethanol industry in a quandary. “As a result of higher corn prices and lower ethanol fuel prices, 23.2% of bankers expect shutdowns or temporary closure of ethanol plants in their area. On the other hand, only 3.6% of bankers expect an increase in 2013 ethanol revenues from 2012 for ethanol plants in their area,” Goss says.

Here’s a look at the rural economy by sector:

Farming: The farmland-price index (FPI) continues to show very brisk growth, though the December reading dipped slightly to 82.5 from November’s 83.9. This is the 35th consecutive month that FPI has been above growth neutral.

This month, bankers were asked how much cash rents for farmland changed over the past 12 months. “On average, bankers reported a 15% increase in cash rents over the past year,” Goss says. “The Federal Reserve’s cheap money policy is pushing agriculture land prices higher.”

The farm-equipment sales index bounced to 67.0 from 60.4 in November. “With solid financial footing, farmers remain optimistic about future agriculture economic conditions and are expanding their purchases of farm equipment,” Goss says.

However, cattlemen continued to struggle throughout the heartland, and they put the final nail in 2012 on a much less positive note. In order to reduce costs, the 2012 drought and higher corn prices have forced ranchers to cut the size of their animal stocks. On average, the drought forced a 14.8% reduction in livestock herds.  

Banking: After moving below growth neutral for two straight months, the loan-volume index expanded to 62.1 from November’s weak 47.8 and October’s 44.2. The checking-deposit index advanced to 75.8 from November’s 75.1, while the index for certificates of deposit and other savings instruments declined to 40.2 from 45.5 in November. “Bank CEOs are reporting significant increases in borrowing to purchase farmland and farm equipment,” Goss says. 

Hiring: December’s new hiring index (NHI) expanded to 53.5 from 53.0 in November. “Despite recent gains in rural mainstreet jobs, the region’s employment level is down by 3% from pre-recession levels,” Goss says.

Confidence: The confidence index, which reflects expectations for the economy six months out, expanded to 55.5 from November’s 45.6. “Improvements in retail sales, home purchases and lower energy prices boosted banker’s economic outlook,” Goss reports.

Home and retail sales: The December home-sales index slipped to a still-healthy 61.3 from November’s 62.0. The December retail-sales index soared to 59.0 from November’s 51.5.

The outlook by state

Each month, community bank presidents and CEOs in approximately 200 rural communities with an average population of 1,300 in a 10-state area are surveyed regarding current economic conditions in their communities and their projected economic outlooks six months down the road. Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming are included.

Colorado: For a third straight month, Colorado’s RMI moved above 50.0, climbing to 55.9 in December from November’s 51.8. FPI and ranchland-price index (RPI) increased to 70.7 from November’s 63.1. Colorado’s NHI for December was 44.9, up from 38.9 in November.

 Illinois: For a third consecutive month, the RMI for Illinois moved above growth neutral, but dipped to 65.2 from November’s 65.9. FPI was higher (84.2), up from November’s 79.5. NHI increased to 53.9 from 49.8 for November.

Iowa: The December RMI for Iowa advanced to 63.6 from 61.3 in November. FPI expanded to 84.2 from November’s 80.1, while NHI increased to 53.9 from November’s 50.2. 

Kansas: December RMI climbed to 67.7 from November’s 63.1, while FPI rose to 82.6 from November’s 82.3. NHI increased to 52.8 from 51.7 in November. Dale Bradley, CEO of the Citizens State Bank in Miltonvale, says that weather and economy are the key components for area farmers in 2013.

Minnesota: RMI rose to 69.6 from November’s 63.0, while FPI rose to 87.7 from 84.6, and NHI to 56.2 from 53.2. Pete Haddeland, CEO of First National Bank in Mahnomen, reports, “Very mild winter here, but very little snow. We have seen little or no effects of pending fiscal cliff.”

Missouri: December RMI climbed to 58.7 from 55.5 in November, while FPI increased to 72.2 from 56.7, and NHI advanced to 45.9 from 34.6.

Nebraska: For a third consecutive month, RMI was above growth neutral, though December RMI dipped to 57.4 from November’s 57.7. FPI slipped to 84.6 from 86.2, while NHI increased to 54.2 from November’s 51.3.

North Dakota: December RMI advanced to a regional high of 88.3, up from 86.7 in November, but FPI declined to 84.5 from November’s 89.5, and NHI fell to 84.9 from November’s 88.3.

South Dakota: RMI increased to 61.3 from 57.7 in November, while FPI decreased to 81.6 from 85.6, and NHI expanded to 52.2 from 48.0 in November.

Wyoming: December RMI declined to 59.1 from 60.6 in November, while FPI and RPI expanded to 80.6 from November’s 79.2. NHI climbed above growth neutral with a December reading of 51.5, up from 49.6 in November.

The Future Use Of Antibiotics Will Be More Limited

livestock antibiotic use

From a regulatory standpoint, concern about antibiotic-resistant bacteria has been at the forefront of FDA’s agenda for 40 years or more. That has led to a change in regulatory policy and an ever-tightening regulatory environment.

In fact, in 1988, FDA declared that all new antibiotics approved for use in food animals must be prescription only, according to Richard Carnevale, Animal Health Institute vice president of regulatory, scientific and international affairs. Since then, the drums have continued to sound for even more regulatory authority on the use of antibiotics in food animals.

“In the future, what do we expect to happen?” he asks. Of the four uses for antibiotics in food animals – treatment, prevention, control and growth – he expects cattlemen will be able to maintain the three that provide for therapeutic use. “However, growth promotion uses will be limited to non-medically important antimicrobials as defined by FDA,” he says.

Another Perspective: Is Solving The Antibiotic Resistance Dilemma Possible?

He says FDA will phase out growth promotion use for older, medically important antibiotics over the next 3-5 years, depending on how quickly they can move on their regulatory timelines.

“The other thing I would speculate about, and this is speculation, are the other forms of medially important antimicrobials out there,” he says. “There are injectibles, there are boluses and tablets.” Some of those medically important compounds are still sold over the counter and FDA regulations and oversight isn’t as strict.

“So I expect, when FDA gets done with animal feeds, they’ll also take those medically important antibiotics that aren’t available by prescription or in other dosage forms, and put them under prescription. So a lot of those products that are now available in feed stores, like oxytetracycline, down the road won’t be available over the counter anymore.”

However, there’s no need to panic just yet – that prospect is quite a ways down the road. “FDA hasn’t proposed that yet,” he says. But he suspects that if FDA is going to phase out medically important antibiotics used for growth promotion, the next logical step is to tighten the availability of those products in other forms, even though they’re for therapeutic use.

In addition, that doesn’t mean all antibiotics will only be available from a veterinarian. “Take away ionophores, which are not used in human medicine, and 30% of the antibiotics used in animals are not used in human medicine,” he says.

Top 10 Feature Stories In 2012

2012 proved to be a rather challenging year for beef producers. Record input and cattle prices combined with an ongoing drought that dashed hopes of cowherd expansion in 2012 resulted in a year of huge volatility and risk. In turn, a record number of producers turned to for advice on how to weather the storm.

Page views at ousted 2011’s record year by nearly 500,000, garnering 2.7 million total page views for the calendar year. We’ve compiled a list of our top-10 most-viewed articles for 2012.

You might be surprised by some of the articles that make the top 10 list. Classics such as the “Bud Box” article highlights stockmanship advice from the recently passed beef industry leader, Bud Williams, and the “BEEF Chat Inside Costco” dates all the way back to 2003. However, industry hot topics such as the lean finely textured beef debacle from late spring and a controversial article on grass tetany also take top spots.

Here are the top 10 most-viewed feature articles by readers in 2012:

1.     Ranchers Sing The Praises Of Mob Grazing of Cattle

2.     BEEF Chat Inside Costco

3.     Bud Box

4.     Cow-Calf Production Is Largely A Part-Time Business

5.     Salt Can Prevent And Treat Grass Tetany

6.     First Publicly Traded Farmland Fund To Be Launched

7.     What Is Lean Finely Textured Beef

8.     2012 Feed Composition Tables

9.     New Mexicos Iconic Bell Ranch Changes Hands

10.   Latest Grazing Rates Survey Rates Inching Up

You might also remember that in early 2012 we launched a website redesign at that improved navigation and functionality. It also made it much easier to enjoy and browse through photo galleries, and it comes as no surprise that most viewed items of all content types are these photo collections.

The top 10 most-viewed galleries in 2012 are:  

1.     Updated Winter Wonderland On The Ranch

2.     Photo Gallery Celebrating The Workhorses Of The Ranch

3.     Santa’s Little Helpers

4.     2012 Spring Calving Photography Gallery

5.     Rubes Cartoons

6.     BEEF And Roper Cowboys and Cattlemen

7.     VOTE: Farm Boy "Workhorses" Of The Ranch Finalists

8.     Winter Wonderland On The Ranch Photography Finalists

9.     Farm Boy’s 2012 Spring Calving Photography Finalists

10.  Holmes and Fletcher Classic Cartoons

Thanks for stopping by We look forward to an exciting 2013 and will continue to strive to cover all the issues that are important to you! Happy New Year!