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Articles from 2017 In December

Have you heard about vitamins lately?

Has anyone noticed the increased cost of supplements and manufactured feeds lately? What's the reason? Vitamin costs. In beef cattle nutrition, it seems a lot of attention is given and information is reported, regarding the importance of nutrients like protein, macro and trace minerals, fats and carbohydrates (starch and sugar). Vitamins get attention as well and are about to get a lot more. Why? Simple, they are now a lot more expensive than they were just a few months ago. And not just a little higher, they are exponentially higher for some of the vitamins most commonly fed by cattle producers. The cause for the price increase is simple too- there's a shortage in supply. Overseas production has been limited due to manufacturing restrictions and disruptions. For our feed industry community, this issue is here to stay for the foreseeable near future.

Vitamins are important for overall nutritional status, affecting reproduction, immune function, health, and performance in beef cattle. Vitamin deficiency in cattle can be linked to weak calves, poor reproduction, muscle and skeletal issues, calving issues, etc. Water soluble vitamins, include C and the B-vitamins, and aren't focused upon too much in ruminants because rumen microflora can synthesize these, and thus the animal has its own supply. There are exceptions with some, as with thiamin that can be deactivated by antagonisms in the rumen such as sulfur. Feedstuffs and environmental sources with high levels of sulfur can aggravate this and in these cases supplemental B-vitamins are beneficial.

The fat-soluble vitamins include; A, D, E and K. Supplementation of these vitamins is more common, except for vitamin K, which is synthesized by rumen bacteria in sufficient quantities. Vitamins A, D, and E are commonly found in feed supplements, especially supplements that are more commonly used with low quality forages and fed in the fall and winter months. These vitamins are available in feedstuffs via precursors like Beta-Carotene that is converted to vitamin A in the body, and vitamin D is formed both in harvested forages and within the animal when exposed to ultraviolet light, i.e., sunlight. Season of the year and source of feedstuffs available will impact the amount of and availability of fat soluble vitamins to the animal. Requirements can and do vary based on diet, stage of production, age of animal, and previous plane of nutrition (as in the case of vitamin A that can be stored in the liver). In the past, it's been relatively easy and low cost to add synthetic vitamins to our supplements and rations to avoid deficiency, and performance responses to higher than maintenance levels have been beneficial as well.

Are we over-feeding vitamins?

In the coming months, a lot of questions may be raised as to how much and which vitamins to supplement. Perhaps not out of need but simply out of cost and availability. This topic is no doubt going to be debated among nutritionist and feed manufacturers. Some supplements are simply "over formulated" to an extent because of a lack of stability in a finished feed, forages, or the supplement itself. In feedstuffs, vitamin A (Beta-Carotene) will significantly decrease in forages over time, especially in weather-damaged forages or feedstuffs exposed to air, mineral, and excessive heat. So, the logical and simple answer is no, we aren't “unnecessarily” over feeding but we are providing a certain level of insurance.

If it cost too much should we just quit?

It's often been said, that the cure for high prices are high prices. There are already signs that some in the industry; producers, consultants and manufacturers alike, are going to be making cuts in vitamin levels. This may be due to a difficulty for some to obtain adequate vitamin supplies and being forced to ration their supply. Cutting out vitamin supplementation simply because of a cost increase in many cases can be a knee jerk reaction without proper thought or nutritional strategy considered. 

The bad news is that costs are up. The good news is that vitamins are not a huge inclusion or proportion of the diet. Take for example a supplement that is affected by as much as $100 a ton or more. If this supplement is being fed in a pre and post calving and breeding program for 6 months, that $100 is about a $5.00 cost increase per cow (more or less). Nobody likes added costs but keep the cost and benefits in perspective. It would not be advisable for anyone to make a drastic cut in vitamin supplementation to save $5.00 per cow, especially this time of year when many of our feedstuffs are low in vitamins and calving season approaches. Having weaker calves, breeding problems, and additional health problems can add up to a lot more than $5.00 per cow. To compare, there probably aren’t of a lot of producers that would stop a vaccination protocol because of $5.00 per head.

The Good News

CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements is an excellent delivery method for all nutrients providing continuous nutrient availability. CRYSTALYX® products have a relatively long shelf life with no expiration date and the nutrient content is very stable, mainly because it has very little moisture or water contained in the product itself as well as being devoid of oxygen or sunlight. Additionally, the use of Bioplex® organic trace minerals in certain CRYSTALYX® formulas can help maintain this stability. Maintaining a good supplement program will not only supply vitamins, but can help the efficiency of use.

Controlling cost in any feed program is very important but be cautious of cutting the wrong inputs at the wrong time. Under-supplementing can add more cost and headaches and reduce overall revenue because of impaired performance. Be confident in your CRYSTALYX® program and feed the right products at the right time for Results by the Barrel®.

Renwick FFA

Max profiles Renwick FFA, Andale, Kan., a new chapter that formed in 2017. The program encompasses two high schools. Member Abbie Schwab shares what members are learning about leadership during the 2017 FFA Convention.

The weekly FFA Chapter Tribute is an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the good work of your local chapter. Tell us about what you're doing, give us some history from your group and tell our viewers of the work you do in the community. FFA chapters across the country deserve recognition for the work they do, make sure we include yours.

To have your chapter considered for this weekly feature, send along information about your group by e-mail to Orion Samuelson at [email protected] or to Max Armstrong at [email protected]. They'll get your group on the list of those that will be covered in the future. It's a chance to share your story beyond the local community. Drop Orion or Max a "line" soon.

The National FFA Organization, formerly known as Future Farmers of America, is a national youth organization of about 650,000 student members as part of 7,757 local FFA chapters. The National FFA Organization remains committed to the individual student, providing a path to achievement in premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. For more, visit the National FFA Organization online, on Facebook at, on Twitter at

'Sonny Sez'

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue shares his vision of USDA and what he wants the department to be for those that engage the agency. The key phrase is "customer focus."

Samuelson Sez is a weekly feature on This Week in Agribusiness, offering viewers insight, and commentary, on key agriculture topics of the day. You can contact Orion at [email protected]

This Week in Agribusiness - December 30, 2017

Note: Start the video and all parts will play through as the full show

Part 1

Orion Samuelson and Max Armstrong are taking a look back, and a look forward, in this final episode of 2017. Max talks with Farm Broadcaster Ty Higgins, Ohio Ag Net, Columbus, Ohio, about how the year went in that part of the country. Agricultural Meteorologist Greg Soulje offers a look at the year in weather.

Part 2

Max Armstrong continues the year-end roundup talking with Farm Broadcaster Brian Winnekins, WRDN Radio, Durand, Wis., who discusses the pressures facing dairy producers in that state. In the FFA Chapter Tribute, Max profiles Renwick FFA, Andale, Kan., a new chapter that formed in 2017. The program encompasses two high schools. Member Abbie Schwab shares what members are learning about leadership during the 2017 FFA Convention. And Ag Meteorologist Greg Soulje looks ahead to the weather of 2018.

Part 3

Max Armstrong talks with Steve Bridge, WFMB Radio, Springfield, Ill., shares the surprise farmers had in his part of the country when combines rolled. Farm Broadcaster Von Ketelsen, KCIM Radio, Carroll, Iowa, shares what farmers in that part of the country found when combines rolled - higher yields.

Part 4

Max Armstrong turns the show over to Orion Samuelson who engages his annual tradition of his talk with the Secretary of Agriculture. Sonny Perdue took over the position nine months ago, but shares how he learned about the potential of being appointed to this position. And he discusses his work with President Trump and some key challenges of interest to farmers.

Part 5

Orion Samuelson continues his conversation with Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, this time with a look at the Farm Bill. Perdue offers his perspective on the key issues for that measure including crop insurance and its future. And Perdue discusses the Trump administration approach to regulation.

Part 6

Orion Samuelson continues his conversation with Secretary Perdue who shares that he started as a veterinarian but went into agribusiness and eventually into politics. Perdue talks about his travels in his first year in the job. He also talks about the opportunity in agriculture for young people. And he shares his thoughts on ag and trade.

Part 7

And this week's show wraps up with "Sonny Sez" as Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue takes over for Orion Samuelson in a special segment of Samuelson Sez. Perdue shares his vision for the Department of Agriculture and a key phrase is "customer focus."

New EPA rule stinks of manure

Amanda Radke Reporting Manure on Pastures

When President Trump took office, he expressed plans to axe half of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This promise was welcome news to the agricultural community after eight years of being bullied, sued and prosecuted by the overreaching government agency.

Almost a year later, more than 700 workers (of the 15,000 who were employed at the end of Obama’s two terms) have left the shrinking department, according to the New York Post. In October, it was reported the agency would also lose 30% of its budget.

In an investigation of the administration’s plans for the EPA, it was revealed that Trump plans to cut 3,200 positions (about 20% of the work force) to meet levels seen during the Reagan administration.

READ: Inside the mass exodus at the EPA

The agency itself is praising the changes, with EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox recently speaking on the improved efficiency of the EPA. Wilcox said, “With only 10 months on the job, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is unequivocally doing more with less to hold polluters accountable and to protect our environment.”

Of course, these reductions in budget and personnel have been highly criticized by environmental activists who believe land should be managed by leaving it alone instead of properly grazing, logging and utilizing the natural resources we have available in this nation.

Yet, it appears even with fewer bureaucrats on the payroll and a smaller budget, whether intentional or not, the EPA is going to continue to be a thorn in the side of animal agriculture, thanks to the unrelenting efforts of environmental activist groups to undermine animal agriculture and put ranchers out of business.

READ: EPA expected to mandate use of 15 billion gallons of renewable fuels

Their current target? America’s beef producers.

According to a recent Capital Press article, “U.S. producers will spend an estimated $14.9 million a year reporting to federal emergency managers that livestock are releasing gas, the EPA disclosed last week. The EPA also projected that the mandate, set to take effect Jan. 22, will apply to approximately 44,900 farms, though producer groups say they’re still sorting out which operations will have to report.”

The new rule will change the scope of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (also known as the Superfund law), which will treat manure like a hazardous substance.

Currently, the EPA is in a 10-year legal battle with environmental groups whether ranches will need to report under the Right-to-Know Act. The court favors the environmental groups, and with this win, if the rule moves forward, this could mean the reporting threshold would be 100 pounds of ammonia or hydrogen sulfide released in a 24-hour period.

This would impact every major feedlot in the U.S., but it could also apply to cow-calf producers with as few as 200 head of cattle.

According to the article, “EPA recently advised ranchers that manure from cows grazing in pastures outside enclosed areas will count toward the reporting threshold.”

READ: Farms to spend $14.9 million to report manure emissions

The vast majority of our BEEF readers have 100 head of cattle or more, so if you are reading this, you may soon have to report the manure emissions on your pastures.

Now, I understand concerns about climate change aren’t going to go away anytime soon, and despite the cars we drive, the energy we use to heat our homes and run our electronics, and the waste we create in our own homes, animal agriculture seems to make a good punching bag.

But let’s put things into perspective. In 2017, there were 93 million cows and calves in the United States. Yes, these animals produce waste, but they also convert poor grass on rough terrains into nutritious beef and by-products that we use. In a sense, the benefits outweigh and maybe even cancel out the environmental impact.

Let’s contrast these numbers to dogs and cats.

Americans own 89.7 million dogs and 86 million cats, all which produce waste but provide no quantifiable resources for us to use. In that regard, pet ownership should also be looked at as a contributor to global warming and climate change.

No, I’m not against having a domesticated animal as a pet (my family has a beloved dog and a handful of barn cats we care for), but I do think it’s a double standard to look at one aspect of animal ownership and not another when we look at environmental impacts. And before someone argues that cattle produce more manure than dogs and cats, let’s not forget about the plastic baggies for picking up pet waste that ultimately end up in landfills.

I’m hopeful once the dust settles in this court battle that this manure reporting for cow-calf producers won’t come to fruition; however, once the EPA posts updated rules in the Federal Register, we must show up to share our thoughts and be part of the discussion on the potential harmful impact of this change to the rule.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or Farm Progress.

8 things to accomplish in 2018

Getty Images/China Photos Celebrating the New Year
CHONGQING, CHINA - DECEMBER 31: (CHINA OUT) Holiday lamps light up at the Southwest University campus to see in the New Year on December 31, 2008 in Chongqing, China. Chinese welcome 2009, bidding farewell to the eventful year 2008. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)

Resolutions — nearly half of Americans make goals for the New Year, but very few actually stick to them. As we welcome 2018, let’s make it our goal to follow through on our resolutions.

To accomplish this, we must first set our resolutions. Then, we must determine ways to realistically follow through with these goals. I’ve listed my top eight areas that I plan to focus on in the New Year; what would you add to my list? Share your resolutions and goals for 2018 in the comments section below.

View the gallery: 60 photos that showcase ranchers' work ethic

1. Prioritize projects & actually finish them

My husband Tyler and I were talking about improvements to the ranch we want to make in the upcoming year. After Tyler rattled off a list of a dozen projects he wanted to accomplish, I told him we needed to make a list and prioritize.

Which ones should we tackle in the next six months? The next year? The next five years? The next 10? How much money will each project take, and which projects are in the budget to finish sooner rather than later? Which should be put off until a later date?

Now that we’ve finalized what we can realistically accomplish in 2018, it’s time to put the plan into action and actually get these plans completed, so we can move down the list to loftier goals in the upcoming years.

READ: 8 habits of the most successful people

2. Find a way to improve productivity

There are always ways to improve efficiencies, increase yields and get more out of each blade of grass and every cow in our care. Identify these areas where you could improve and follow through. Let’s get accomplish more with less in 2018!

3. Spend more time with your family

At the end of your life, it’s not your job that matters, but the people you get to enjoy each day with. Carve out more time for your loved ones. Make memories together as a family. Don’t get so busy with the hustle and bustle of ranch life that you forget who and what really matters.

READ: Do your ranch goals & family lifestyle match?

4. Make better financial decisions

Save. Invest. Reduce expenses. Adjust family standard of living. Make frugal choices, but spend where it counts. Whether you’re in agriculture or not, this is a common resolution for many each year. This year, stick to your guns, and by 2019, your bank account will reflect your new habits.

5. Eat healthier

The average age of the American rancher is 58 and climbing. As we age, more health problems tend to creep up. Take care of your health by making wise dietary decisions. Your body and mind will thank you, and your kids, grandkids and great-grandkids will love having you around for decades to come.

6. Network more

Attend the cattlemen’s meeting you’re always too busy to make time for. Set up a regular coffee date with the neighbors. Make it a habit to engage with your customers more often. Reconnect with old acquaintances. We are the sum of the people we spend the most time with, so network with the people who will make you better and enrich your life. It’s worth taking the time to do so.

READ: 8 drivers of profitability & how to manage them to make more money

7. Learn something new

My dad received a drone for Christmas, and he has high hopes that he’ll be able to check fences, water tanks and calving cows from the comfort of the house. First, he has to figure out how to fly the thing!

Learn something new in 2018. This could be finally mastering social media, improving your mechanical skills to cut down on the costs of equipment breakdowns or investing in genomic testing and using the results to make better keeping and culling decisions — the sky is the limit and there is plenty to learn with so many advancements in agricultural technologies!

8. Schedule more office time

Whether it’s a family business meeting, filing paperwork, tracking inputs and outputs, organizing records or updating the will and estate plan, dedicate more time in the office to manage your business. Making this a priority will help with tax preparation, daily decision making in the business, long-term sustainability of the ranch and keeping all family members on the same page.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or Farm Progress.


Max Armstrong talks lake-effect snow and what that means to folks near the Great Lakes. From This Week in Agribusiness, the price of corn has basically gone nowhere in 2017; and he looks at what happened with soybean and wheat prices as well. Max shares the story of a farmer saved from a grain entrapment. And there's a look at new laws in Illinois that go into effect Jan. 1, which he shares as an example of what others may see too.

Midwest Digest is a twice-daily audio feature produced by Max Armstrong, offering news and commentary from across the Midwest.

Photo: Willie Vogt


Max Armstrong looks at the long-term view for these freezing temperatures, though he offers some warm spots listeners could consider visiting. Max shares that winter weather has also caused airline delays too. Max remembers Rose Marie, who played Sally on the Dick Van Dyke Show, and an interesting tidbit from her early life - she says she knew Al Capone.

Midwest Digest is a twice-daily audio feature produced by Max Armstrong, offering news and commentary from across the Midwest.

Photo: Andrew Burton

Farm Progress America, December 29, 2017

Max Armstrong shares his insight on the big stories for 2017. He looked how key crops fared including corn, soybeans and cotton. Max offers production figures for those crops including the records hit in a challenging year. And he looks at other challenges including dicamba concerns, low prices and trade issues.

Farm Progress America is a daily look at key issues in agriculture. It is produced and presented by Max Armstrong, veteran farm broadcaster and host of This Week in Agribusiness.

Photo: marekuliasz/iStock/Thinkstock