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Articles from 2020 In December

Farm Progress America, December 31, 2020

Max Armstrong continues his look at the economy ahead, with the help of CoBank. One area to keep an eye on is the Federal Reserve, which could impact the value of the dollar. Those economists offer insight into the range of factors that could show persistent weakness for the dollar, which can be good news for farm exports. The Fed worked hard to stabilize the economy when the pandemic hit in early 2020.

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: Federal Reserve

PPP changes in COVID relief bill offer more aid for farmers

Money Horizon

In the midst of the pandemic, the popular government’s response to small businesses in the Paycheck Protection Program got a needed boost of funds in the latest action by Congress to offer additional funds to meet the ongoing challenges of the coronavirus market impacts. Specifically, the bill provides $325 billion to support struggling businesses, including an additional $284 billion for PPP.

Those who signed up during the first round can again apply for new loans starting Jan. 1.

During the first round of PPP, which ran out of funds in August, those businesses in the farming, forestry and hunting sector received $8.18 billion, which is considerable since each year the average take home pay for the sector is $100 billion, explains Jackson Takach, chief economist at Farmer Mac. Dairy and miscellaneous crops (such as vegetables) were the highest users of PPP in the sector, and all regions benefited.

Of the estimated 2,000 agricultural banks, 85% participated in offering at least one PPP loan to a customer, compared to an 82% participation rate for all banks. The Farm Credit System delivered $1.4 billion in PPP loans, Takach adds.  

A recent American Business Association and Farmer Mac joint survey of ag bankers found that more than half of their borrowers inquired about PPP or the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program from their bankers. And although there was some initial confusion, the quick distribution of funds and utilization across all regions showed the strength of the loan program, Takach adds.

A major win in the update allows expenses paid by the PPP loan to be tax deductible in 2020 and streamlines forgiveness for loans under $150,000. Takach says allowing the tax forgiveness on any PPP loans taken out takes a “little bit of a load off” those in the agricultural sector who already as an industry tend to be very tax aware.

The legislation also clarifies the eligibility of sole proprietor farmers and ranchers for PPP to more fully facilitate the participation of farmers and ranchers in PPP. It also simplifies the loan forgiveness process for PPP loans up to $150,000 to help farmers, ranchers, rural businesses, and health care providers participating in PPP, as well as their commercial bank and Farm Credit System lenders. It also repeals the requirement of deducting an Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance from the PPP forgiveness amount.

Takach says this will be a big help as the average size of the ag PPP loan was $84,000 to $85,000 and over 90% of all the PPP loans to ag producers were under $150,000. “I think this will offer a net benefit for those who were tapping into the PPP program and an easier path to loan forgiveness and not as much stress on the recordkeeping aspects,” he adds.

The final bill also helps ensure farmers, ranchers and rural communities have equal access to PPP loan funding through a set-aside for lenders with less than $10 billion in assets that includes rural commercial banks and Farm Credit institutions. It also creates a set-aside for very small businesses with 10 or fewer employees and for small businesses located in distressed areas.

It also clarifies that deductions are allowed for expenses paid with proceeds of a forgiven PPP loan, effective as of the date of enactment of the CARES Act and applicable to subsequent PPP loans. This same tax treatment also applies to EIDL grants and certain loans and loan repayment assistance.

Guidance for PPP Act

Click on the links below for additional resources on PPP.

20 best 2020 BEEF Daily blogs


This year has been one for the history books. Full of ups and downs, dark turns and small victories, communities rallying together, political turns and ranchers fighting back — 2020 will be a year we won’t likely forget anytime soon.

While I’m praying that 2021 is a little more calm and a lot less stressful, I anticipate we have some rocky months still ahead of us. Yet, no matter what challenges await us, I know the agricultural industry is strong, resilient and determined. We won’t back down or shy away from facing these challenges head on, and I know that this difficult season we are in has prepared us for what is to come.

Before we prepare for a new year, let’s look back on some of the highs and lows of 2020. I have rounded up some of the most popular BEEF Daily blog posts from the past 12 months. Not surprisingly, you might notice a theme here — activists, fake meats, policies, the election, wildfires and beef nutrition have been a large focus this year. You can expect more hard-hitting news posts and uplifting stories in the year ahead.

One change you might notice is I’ll be writing two posts each week in 2021 instead of my usual four.  However, you can still expect the BEEF Daily newsletter to hit your inbox every Monday-Thursday like usual. I will continue to curate articles and industry voices for you to read and enjoy. Thank you for being part of this community. Enjoy these 20 articles, and Happy New Year!

1. 'Build back better' without beef?

The Great Reset promises to 'build back better' by reinventing capitalism and solving climate change through reduced beef consumption.

2. On voting, censorship & American beef

As a nation votes, this rancher discusses censorship on social media platforms, why everyone shouldn’t vote and the potential for American-labeled beef.

3. Log it, graze it or watch it burn

As wildfires consume the western United States, it's time to remind the public of the critical role that cattle play in reducing fuel for the flames.

4. Democrats release 2020 platform — What’s in it for agriculture?

Is Biden’s plan for rural America appealing to farmers and ranchers? Two different writers weigh in with their views of the 2020 Democratic platform.

5. New bill in California would ban feeding food byproducts to livestock

One of the best things about cattle — that they are upcyclers! AB 2959 in California would rather see these feedstuffs end up in landfills.

6. Ranching families: You’ve got to stand for something

In times of great uncertainty, strong voices in the beef cattle industry are more important now than ever before.

7. Kids & advocacy: Some advice from a ranching mom

Keep your kids safe and engaged on social media with these four tips from this agricultural advocate and ranching mom of three.

8. Rancher thanks Trump for deregulating WOTUS

An Arizona rancher recently joined President Donald Trump at the White House to testify about WOTUS and thank him for deregulating the overreaching rule.

9. Burger King: What’s the environmental impact of an Impossible Whopper?

Why are we still talking about cow farts when we should be focusing on providing food to nourish a hungry planet during a global pandemic?

10. Activists working to pinpoint your ranch on an aerial map

Extremists are taking advantage of this crisis and moving in on their target — you.

11. Nutrition the best medicine to safeguard against pandemics

Nina Teicholz addresses the elephant in the room during the COVID-19 crisis — good nutrition boosts immune systems and wards off chronic illnesses.

12. Dear Jonathan Safran Foer: Meat is here to stay!

An inflammatory op-ed titled, “The end of meat is here” spurs this rancher and beef lover to respond.

12. Fake meats made from plants, cells & humans?

Warning — blog post may contain disturbing material about fake meats grown from human cells.

13. A steak a day to keep the doctor away?

As COVID-19 continues to impact America, why isn’t the mainstream media focusing on how diet can improve our health and boost our immunity?

14. COVID-19: As plants close; where’s the meat?

As plants shutter their doors due to COVID-19, the broken link in the supply chain has many worrying about meat shortages.

15. 3 strategies fake meat companies are using to take ranchers down

In a fair fight, beef can compete against any protein. But what happens when the playing field is no longer fair?

16. Protecting state fairs and rodeos from permanent shutdowns

COVID-19 has negatively impacted agricultural fairs and rodeos. A new bill aims to protect these events before they become extinct.

17. Watch out feedlots & auctions: Warren & Booker are coming for you!

Politicians want to phase out CAFOs and abolish livestock auction markets. Here’s what you need to know.

18. Scholastic: This ranch mom rejects your anti-meat rhetoric

Students are being spoon-fed lies about beef production in an effort to guilt-trip and scare them into vegetarianism.

19. Netflix film reveals activists’ strategies to take your ranch

“The Stand At Paxton County” was released on Netflix over the weekend, and the true story is more chilling than the thriller portrayed by Hollywood.

20. Americans shine during coronavirus pandemic

As the coronavirus rages on, Americans are rising to the occasion — doing their part to support local communities and people.

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

On-the-ranch herd health programs support healthy cattle markets

Todd Johnson, OSU Agricultural Communications Services todd-johnson-osu-vet-wynn.jpg
Veterinarian Dr. Eric Wynn administers vaccines as part of a total herd health program.

Cow-calf producers have embraced management strategies that make their livestock a better value to the U.S. beef cattle industry, but Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) continues to be an area where improvement is needed.

“Better BRD control is going to require an industry-wide effort that focuses on animal health, starting with cow-calf producers,” said Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist and holder of the university’s Charles A. Breedlove Endowed Professorship in Agribusiness. “Unfortunately, a misalignment of costs and benefits across production sectors is serving as a roadblock. We call that a market failure.”

Simply put, cow-calf producers may not have the proper economic incentives to invest in additional BRD control. Commonly called shipping fever, BRD is caused by the interaction of pathogens that combine in many cattle production sectors. Activities such as weaning and transporting animals, changes in their nutrition and commingling are just a few factors that can increase the likelihood of infection. Even animal stress caused by weather fluctuations can spur on the disease.

Studies have shown BRD generates an estimated $800 million to $900 million annually in economic losses from death, reduced feed efficiency and veterinary treatment costs within the U.S. cattle industry. The disease causes 70% to 80% of health problems in feedlots and 40% to 50% of feedlot animal deaths.

“Shipping and commingling cattle are unavoidable, but there are practical things many cow-calf producers are doing to increase the odds that animals stay healthy to perform well in later production stages,” Peel said. “Ideally, all producers should be doing them.”

Preconditioning programs add value to cattle, which is consistently reflected in premiums for certified preconditioned calves sold under programs such as the Oklahoma Quality Beef Network. Weaning is arguably the most important component of preconditioning, and protocols routinely call for a minimum of 45 days weaning prior to marketing calves.

“Sixty or more days weaning is preferred by buyers struggling with continuing health challenges in their cow-calf herds,” said Dave Lalman, OSU Extension beef cattle specialist. “Castration, dehorning, deworming and required vaccinations, including two rounds of respiratory vaccine, are important before cattle are marketed.”

Those practical steps are laying the groundwork for more industry advances:

  • Fetal programming that affects lifetime health and productivity.
  • Genetic identification of disease susceptibility.
  • Providing improved economic incentives for better coordination of animal health management across multiple production sectors.

“We have large producers, small producers and those who raise cattle as a hobby,” said Michael Kelsey, executive vice president of the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association. “There are no insignificant operations when it comes to ensuring the U.S. beef industry succeeds in its ultimate goal of providing a safe, healthy, delicious food product for the consumer. What we do on the ranch can and often does make a difference.”

Informative fact sheets about research-based herd health and cattle management practices are available online and through all OSU Extension county offices.

Source: is OSU, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

Farm Progress America, December 30, 2020

Max Armstrong reports on the challenges facing the livestock industry. With corn and soymeal prices rising, swine, beef and dairy producers could be challenged. Add in that China is rebuilding its hog inventory, which could slow meat imports into that big Asian market. Max shares that CoBank economists believe that the dairy industry could see a boost, turning to dried whey as a protein source, as China turns to more commercial-style pork production.

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: alexsl/iStock/Getty Images News

Newly released Dietary Guidelines for Americans miss the mark

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The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) were released on Tuesday, Dec. 29 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS).

After years of discussion and debate, it appears to be much of the same old that we have seen in years past.

The theme of the guidelines is “Make Every Bit Count” and encourages Americans to limit saturated fats and animal proteins to just non-fat or low-fat dairy and lean meats.

According to the Executive Summary of DGA, “Since the first edition was published in 1980, the DGA has provided science-based advice on what to eat and drink to promote health, reduce risk of chronic disease, and meet nutrient needs. Publication of the Dietary Guidelines is required under the 1990 National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act, which states that at least every 5 years, the USDA and of HHS must jointly publish a report containing nutritional and dietary information and guidelines for the general public.

The statute (Public Law 101-445, 7 United States Code 5341 et seq.) requires that the Dietary Guidelines be based on the preponderance of current scientific and medical knowledge. The 2020-2025 edition of the DGA builds from the 2015 edition, with revisions grounded in the Scientific Report of the 2020 DGA Committee and consideration of Federal agency and public comments.

“The DGA is designed for policymakers and nutrition and health professionals to help all individuals and their families consume a healthy, nutritionally adequate diet. The information in the Dietary Guidelines is used to develop, implement, and evaluate Federal food, nutrition, and health policies.

“It also is the basis for Federal nutrition education materials designed for the public and for the nutrition education components of USDA and HHS nutrition programs. State and local governments, schools, the food industry, other businesses, community groups, and media also use DGA information to develop programs, policies, and communication for the general public.”

The DGAs suggest limiting saturated fats, which can be derived from nutrient-dense foods like beef, to just 10% of calories starting at age two. Fats are categorized alongside added sugars, sodium and alcoholic beverages while grains, vegetable oils and fruits get a free pass for consumption.

In a video from USDA Sonny Perdue, he said, “With the release of the DGA, we have taken a very important step to provide nutritional guidelines to help all Americans make every bite count.”

In that same video, we discover that 60% of adults have one or more diet-related chronic diseases, 74% of adults are overweight or obese and 40% of children and teens are overweight or obese.

The skyrocketing obesity crisis in this country aligns closely with the timing of the start of the DGA 40 years ago when animal fats and proteins were first demonized. And frankly, after all these years and time, money and efforst spent on these guidances, perhaps it's time to admit that they are irrelevant and harmful.

According to the Nutrition Coalition, “As of 2018, more than 42% of adults in America were obese, compared to less than 18% in 1980 when the Guidelines were launched.”

It appears that the DGA is more of the same tired rhetoric that we are used to seeing, but it is unfortunate that these guidelines continue to fail and provide a disservice for the growing number of sick, obese and depressed Americans.

And what makes the DGA particularly tone deaf this year is the fact that our nation and the world is facing a global health crisis. We have been told we must social distance, wear masks, quarantine, vaccinate and "do our part" to slow the spread.

However, I have yet to hear talking heads out of Washington, D.C. encourage us to eat healthfully, drink plenty of water, exercise routinely, breathe fresh air, enjoy sunshine each day, take supplements to boost immunity and get a full night’s sleep. That advice has been notably absent during this global pandemic, albeit with one exception — First Lady Melania Trump.

In a statement following her own COVID-19 experience, the First Lady shared, “I was very fortunate as my diagnosis came with minimal symptoms, though they hit me all at once and it seemed to be a roller coaster of symptoms in the days after. I experienced body aches, a cough and headaches, and felt extremely tired most of the time. I chose to go a more natural route in terms of medicine, opting more for vitamins and healthy food.

“I encourage everyone to continue to live the healthiest life they can. A balanced diet, fresh air, and vitamins really are vital to keep our bodies healthy. For your complete well-being, compassion and humility are just as important in keeping our minds strong. For me personally, the most impactful part of my recovery was the opportunity to reflect on many things—family, friendships, my work, and staying true to who you are.”

Perhaps the DGAs work for some, but based on the growing number of sick and obese Americans who are now facing extreme illness or death should they contract COVID-19, perhaps it’s time to get back to the basics and encourage all Americans to practice a healthful diet and lifestyle that will help them boost their immune systems to fight disease and illness.

For me, that regimen includes plenty of time spent outside enjoying the fresh air on the ranch and a diet that is rich in animal fats and proteins, including ribeye steaks and hamburgers, saturated fats included!

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

USDA, HHS release dietary guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025


Nutrition in America took a major step forward today with the publication of Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. Jointly published by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services (HHS) every five years, the guidelines provide science-based recommendations designed to foster healthy dietary patterns for Americans of all ages – from birth through older adults. Importantly, this edition expands the guidance, for the first time including recommended healthy dietary patterns for infants and toddlers.

guidelines 2.png“At USDA and HHS, we work to serve the American people – to help every American thrive and live healthier lives through access to healthy foods and providing nutrition recommendations,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “With the release of the dietary guidelines, we have taken the very important step to provide nutrition guidance that can help all Americans lead healthier lives by making every bite count."

Dietary Guidelines for Americans is the nation’s trusted resource for evidence-based nutrition guidance. The guidelines are designed for use by healthcare professionals and policy makers for outreach to the general public and provide the nutritional foundation for federal nutrition programs. The dietary guidelines should not be considered clinical guidelines for the treatment of disease.

The science tells us that good nutrition leads to better health outcomes, and the new dietary guidelines use the best available evidence to give Americans the information they need to make healthy decisions for themselves and their families,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “USDA and HHS have expanded this edition of the dietary guidelines to provide new guidance for infants, toddlers, and pregnant and breastfeeding women, helping all Americans to improve their health, no matter their age or life stage.”

As always, the new guidelines build on the previous editions and were informed by the scientific report developed by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, along with comments from the public and input from federal agencies. USDA and HHS thank the committee for their work and dedication over the last fifteen months, providing the departments with a comprehensive scientific review and proposal of overarching recommendations, a highly regarded step of critical importance in dietary guidelines development. USDA and HHS also made transparency a priority in this edition and appreciate the many public comments that were received throughout this process.

Today’s release provides the public with the most up-to-date evidence on dietary behaviors that promote health and may help prevent chronic disease. Steeped in scientific evidence, the key recommendations look similar to those of the past and address two topics that garnered much attention throughout the development of the guidelines – added sugars and alcoholic beverages. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 carried forward the committee’s emphasis on limiting these dietary components, but did not include changes to quantitative recommendations, as there was not a preponderance of evidence in the material the committee reviewed to support specific changes, as required by law. As in previous editions, limited intake of these two food components is encouraged. In fact, this sentiment remains prominent throughout the policy document and complements the four overarching guidelines, which encourage Americans to “Make Every Bite Count” by:

  • Following a healthy dietary pattern at every life stage.
  • Customizing and enjoying nutrient-dense food and beverage choices to reflect personal preferences, cultural traditions, and budgetary considerations.
  • Focusing on meeting food group needs with nutrient-dense foods and beverages from five food groups – vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy and fortified soy alternatives, and proteins – and staying within calorie limits.
  • Limiting foods and beverages higher in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium, and limiting alcoholic beverages.

For consumers, USDA’s MyPlate translates and packages these principles of dietary guidance for Americans in a way that is handy and accessible. To share these messages broadly, USDA offers the Start Simple with MyPlate campaign and a new MyPlate website to help individuals, families, and communities make healthy food choices that are easy, accessible, and affordable, in addition to helping prevent chronic disease.

For more information, please visit

Criollo-cross calves graze Texas-bred wheat in New Mexico

Kay Ledbetter, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension kay-ledbetter-criollo-cross-calves.jpg
Criollo-cross calves carry the black Angus attributes.

A set of calves grazing winter pasture at the New Mexico State University Clayton Livestock Research Center near Clayton, may look typical of Texas High Plains cattle, but this group is special – they are Raramuri Criollo crossbred calves.

And, the improved pasture they are grazing is planted with a Texas A&M AgriLife Research wheat-breeding program variety in an effort to closely mirror the beef production systems of the Texas High Plains.

The Criollo-cross calves project is a part of an almost $9 million U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant, said Brent Auvermann, Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center-Amarillo director.

Raramuri Criollo are a biotype of Criollo cattle, originally brought to the Americas by the Spanish conquistadors and currently raised by the Tarahumara people of Copper Canyon in Chihuahua, Mexico.

Criollo cattle are related to the Texas longhorn and known to use semi-arid rangelands more fully or efficiently, said Glenn Duff, superintendent at the Clayton Livestock Research Center and a co-investigator on the project. Criollo cattle have a tendency to travel further on the range than Angus or Brangus cattle. The breed’s cows are also well known for easy calving, which is critically important in the expansive, remote, desert rangelands of the Southwest.

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Criollo cattle in the New Mexico State University Clayton Livestock Research Center pens near Clayton, New Mexico

“What we are trying to determine in this project is if the hybrids of these animals – Criollo and Angus or Brangus – mirror how fully the pure Criollo use the rangeland,” Auvermann said.

Criollo-cross calves find new homes

The research project will include three rotations of calves from Criollo cows crossed with red and black Angus and Brangus bulls that are brought to this region from three different ranches in California, Nevada and Utah, Auvermann said. There are 120 calves in each rotation, with 40 from each ranch. Half are steers, and half are heifers.

This first set of calves will spend about four months on wheat, due to some timing issues with the COVID-19 precautions this year. However, the plan is for each set to arrive in October and spend six months on wheat pasture and then in the feedlot for about six months, which is typical of current cattle production systems.

DSC_7782-1.jpgIrrigated TAM 204 wheat is a part of the Criollo-cross research program. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Kay Ledbetter)

Of particular interest to AgriLife Research is how the calves perform on the pasture planted to TAM 204 wheat, developed by Jackie Rudd, AgriLife Research wheat breeder, Amarillo. TAM 204 is an increasingly widely adopted dual-purpose wheat variety developed specifically for the Rolling Plains.

Rudd said the TAM 204 is an awnless hard red winter wheat developed for grazing, but in addition to high forage yields, it also has a great grain yield throughout Texas. The parentage of TAM 204 includes the popular drought-tolerant TAM 112 and Jagger, which was well known for excellent fall grazing.

Following their time on wheat, half of the calves in each cycle will be shipped to AgriLife Research’s feedlot facility near Bushland to finish on a standard, high-concentrate diet characteristic of commercial cattle feed yards in the High Plains, while the other half will be fed at the Clayton livestock center. 

All the animals will then go to the Tyson plant in Amarillo, where the Beef Carcass Research Center at West Texas A&M University led by Ty Lawrence, will score the carcasses and collect steak samples. The steak samples will be sent to Texas A&M’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Sensory Science Evaluation Laboratory directed by Rhonda Miller, meat science professor in the Department of Animal Science in Bryan-College Station, for taste and tenderness testing.

Ultimate goal

This five-year project will analyze the Criollo crossing effects on profitability, efficiency, ecosystem, feed yard performance, and carcass and meat quality.

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A Criollo-black Angus cross calf.

“In these crossed calves, if there is any adverse effect on the ultimate carcass quality and palatability, to a great extent that will determine the marketability of this kind of animal,” Auvermann said.

Duff said so far, these cross calves look very much like an Angus – no Criollo horns and with a “gorgeous” Angus frame. And the same appears to be true of the Brangus crossed with Criollo.

Ultimately, the grazing performance of the Criollo cattle, plus the Brangus and Angus crossing made for meat quality and carcass yield, is expected to improve the animals’ prospects for adoption in cattle-feeding production chains of this region, Auvermann said.

Source: is AgriLife TODAY, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

On the ranch, going to the circus can be a 'circus'

Rebecca Bearden Honda-dally-a.jpg
The Honda Dally: One cow in need of foot-rot treatment required Rachel to rope her and tie her off to the ATV.

One afternoon in November was all that Rachel asked of her bovine charges—one afternoon in which to take her two boys to a circus one county away.

After coordinating a team effort to cover childcare (me and Mama) and align cow punchers (my brother-in-law and his buddy), she successfully branded 27 replacement heifers that morning. Feeling productive, her next step was to check the rest of the cows, dress her boys and herself for town, and head to the show.

Post branding, we sent our exhausted Mama home (six straight days of babysitting was Granny’s limit). After filling 16-month-old J.B. with chocolate and soft drinks, I took the afternoon shift with four-month-old Gary as Rachel hurriedly departed with J.B. and an ATV loaded with feed and an assortment of supplies.

True to form, the various herds got wind of her afternoon plans and commenced to execute a few performances of their own.

I received a text not long after noon. “And I present the Honda dally.”

One cow in need of foot rot treatment required Rachel to rope her and tie her off to the ATV. “Lucky,” Rachel admitted. “Slow elephant.” The afternoon was young.

She managed to check two other herds without issue before discovering a big problem with the third.

“Do I have any milk left for Gary?” she texted. As he’s guzzling down bottle number two, I texted back, “One bottle.”

“Okay maybe that will be enough for later,” she messaged. “Bringing a calf in to bottle feed.”

Rachel had found this calf’s mama in such a state of illness that she could barely move, much less stand. Hopeful but realistic, Rachel had given her a dose of oxytetracycline dihydrate and secured the calf in the bed of the ATV.

Gary finished his bottle and insisted I take him to the front porch to witness the next act. Upon a rushed arrival, J.B. seemed unphased by the hollering calf thrashing in the back and just wanted to be unlatched from his perch (baling twine works just as well to fasten car seats to the ATV—ranch mom hack). Rachel ran into the kitchen, hurriedly heated up some frozen milk, transported J.B. and the tethered calf to the barn, and procured the feeding tube from the shed.

After I saw that J.B. was granted his wish to “help Mama,” I secured Gary in his car seat, and we headed out to assist where possible. By then, Rachel had unloaded the calf, tried to bottle-feed with no luck, and was positioning the calf near the feeding tube she had mounted on the pen panel. I set Gary outside the gate and held off J.B.’s requests to play just long enough to pour the bottle milk into the tube.

After successful completion of the feeding process, the confused calf was placed in the loving company of the current trap residents—a mama with twins. Upon assessment of the situation, the twins’ mom gave my sister a look indicating shared frustration, “Fine, but just for tonight. You know I have two of my own.”

I managed to keep J.B. from experimenting with just enough manure, dirt, and trough water to avoid a bath. We ran inside initiating a tornado of baby clothes and diapers and dry shampoo. After approving of which onesie in which to dress Gary, Rachel confessed that she had been watching one of the first-calf heifers pace in and out of a fenced-off area, laboring intensely for the last 30 minutes.

“She’s clearly crazy and will probably calve in a gully,” Rachel said exasperated. “I just want one afternoon with my family. I absolutely have to go.”

For the rest of the story, check out next month’s column.

Farm Progress America, December 29, 2020

Max Armstrong continues his look at the outlook for 2021 from CoBank which reports that the impact of the pandemic will go on. Consumers will continue to eat at home more, which puts pressure on suppliers to the food service industry. The economists at CoBank share that continued rationalization of production will continue as the market adjusts.

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: Maksim Tkachenko/iStock/Getty Images Plus