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Beef Alliance announces first-ever Startup Challenge


The Beef Alliance is pleased to announce a new initiative, Feeding Innovation: The 2021 Startup Challenge. The Startup Challenge is a virtual pitch competition for innovators with solutions related to the cattle feeding industry.

The Beef Alliance is an organization of innovative, progressive and relevant cattle feeding companies. Through collaborative innovation, scientific exploration and value chain engagement, the Beef Alliance is committed to being a leader and catalyst for positive change in the beef supply chain. Beef Alliance members include Adams Land & Cattle, AgriBeef, Beef Marketing Group, Beef Northwest, Biegert Group, Cactus Feeders, Five Rivers Cattle Feeding, Friona Industries and LaVaca Cattle Co.

“Central to the vision of the Beef Alliance is to be a trusted leader that drives positive change in the cattle feeding industry. We can’t achieve that vision sitting on the sidelines, and the Startup Challenge is an opportunity to step up and be a leader in our industry through supporting and driving innovation in cattle feeding,” said incoming Beef Alliance Chairman Scott Whitefoot. “This event aligns commitments to continuous improvement and enhanced transparency and stewardship in cattle feeding with an openness to new technologies that improve our ability to deliver a high-quality product to our customers and ultimately enable consumers to access high-quality beef.”

The Beef Alliance Startup Challenge is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to align the customers of technology (cattle feeders) with the creators of technology (startups) to put high impact solutions to work. By allowing startups to engage directly with prospective customers and strategic investors in the cattle feeding segment, the goal is to establish direct visibility for startups with their prospective customers, and for cattle feeding operations to gain visibility to nascent technology solutions.

Finalists will pitch their product directly to major feedyard decision makers for the opportunity to win a $50,000 cash prize and the chance at a pilot with a Beef Alliance member company.

The Beef Alliance is opening the competition to any startup with an offering for feedyards with a focus on the following areas:

- Environmental & Natural Resource Management

- Animal Health

- Animal Nutrition & Production Efficiency

- Livestock Monitoring & Traceability

- Business Management

- Improvement in Operational Efficiency

- Food Safety

Companies interested in applying to the Startup Challenge can find more information about the challenge, including the application, at

Cornstalk grazing: What supplementation is needed?

Tyler Harris Cattle and corn stalk residue
ECONOMICAL OPTION: Cornstalk residue is an economical forage resource across Nebraska, which can help producers reduce annual cow costs.

With about 9.8 million acres of corn yielding an average of 182 bushels per acre, cornstalk residue can be an accessible and economical winter grazing forage option for producers in Nebraska. Historic research at the University of Nebraska has suggested cattle select mostly dropped corn, husks and leaves.

The total digestible nutrients of the selected diet can be variable, but it tends to range from 50% to 60% TDN. Variability can be attributed to many factors, including stocking density, harvest methods and conditions, weather, and grazing duration.

Additionally, producers must remember the highest forage quality in a residue field is available at the onset of grazing. As the more desirable plant parts are selected, the quality of the remaining residue decreases. Therefore, questions often arise about proper supplementation for cattle grazing residue fields.

Weaned growing calves

While maximizing gain is typically not the goal for producers grazing weaned calves on cornstalks, supplementation is still necessary to achieve the desired gain for the winter. Growing calves not receiving supplement will lose weight.

If a producer wants 600-pound calves to gain 1.5 pounds per day, the calves will need 9.2 pounds of TDN and 1.53 pounds of crude protein. Grazing cornstalk residue alone, the calves would likely only consume 6.8 pounds of TDN and 0.66 pounds of CP, falling very short of the desired outcome.

Research at the University of Nebraska has shown calves grazing cornstalks and supplemented with 4 pounds of dried distillers grains (as is basis) per day will gain 1.5 pounds per day.

Have a different target rate of gain in mind? Check out the table in this UNL BeefWatch article: Low Cost Option for Growing Calves: Corn Residue Grazing with Distiller Supplementation.

Dry pregnant cows

Fortunately, the dry pregnant cow in only the second trimester of pregnancy has a rather low nutrient requirement if she is in moderate-to-good body condition (5-6 on a 1-9 scale). A mature cow in moderate condition could maintain her weight consuming about 26 pounds of residue (DM basis).

A five-year study at the University of Nebraska found that mature cows supplemented 2.2 pounds per day of dried distillers grains (DM basis) experienced an increase in body condition (5.4 to 5.6) while nonsupplemented cows maintained a body condition score of 5.4 from October to February. No difference was detected in calf birth weight or subsequent pregnancy rate.

While weather conditions, residue availability and previous BCS of the cows all play a role in the need for supplementation, producers should be aware that little to no protein or energy supplementation may be needed for the mature pregnant beef cow until very late gestation.

However, a free choice mineral to provide supplemental phosphorus, copper, zinc and vitamin A would be needed. For a free choice mineral, with a target intake of 4 ounces per day, suggested concentrations would be 4% to 5% phosphorus, 1,500 to 2,500 parts per million copper, 3,000 to 5,000 ppm zinc and 140,000 IU per pound of vitamin A.

Lactating cows and nursing calves

Lactation increases the energy requirements of the cow substantially. If a lactating 1,350-pound cow could eat 30 pounds (DM basis) of residue, it would only supply about 13 to 15 pounds of TDN, which is short of the energy needs of lactation.

An energy supplement is needed, not just a protein supplement at this point. For example, consuming 1 pound (as is basis) of a lick tub would not supply 1 pound of TDN, and the cow would need 3 to 5 pounds of supplemental TDN to meet her needs just for maintenance, without consideration for mud and weather conditions.

The nursing calf also needs supplemental nutrition in addition to milk while grazing cornstalks. Calves will graze the stalks and likely manage to consume some of the supplement given to the cows.

Summer calving cows

A University of Nebraska study indicated supplementing summer born (July/August) pairs after breeding on cornstalks with 5.5 pounds of dried distillers (DM basis) resulted in nursing calves gaining 1.43 pounds per day from December to March, while confined nursing calves gained 2.1 pounds per day.

However, because the cornstalk residue was an economical forage resource, the net income was more for the lighter residue grazing calves compared with the confined calves. Producers who desire more gain during residue grazing might consider a method of creep feeding or creep grazing.

Fall calving cows

Producers will want to pay special attention to the fall calving cow grazing cornstalk residue during peak lactation, just before breeding. This is a time when her nutrient needs are the highest and need to be met to provide the best chances for rebreeding.

Supplementing 8 pounds as is of dried distillers grain per pair would provide enough energy to meet the demands of the cow, as well as provide some supplement for the calf.

Producers often ask about supplementing alfalfa on cornstalks, but for the lactating cow in peak lactation, the energy in alfalfa is simply not enough to meet their needs. Producers who would like assistance in developing a supplemental ration for lactating cows on cornstalks are encouraged to contact their local university Extension beef personnel for assistance.

Cornstalk residue is an economical forage resource across Nebraska, which can help producers reduce annual cow costs. Supplementation strategies can be cost-effective when producers understand the nutrient needs of the cattle grazing residues and design supplementation programs accordingly.

Wilke is a University of Nebraska Extension cow-calf systems and stocker management specialist. Drewnoski is a Nebraska Extension beef systems specialist. McCarthy is a Nebraska Extension cow-calf specialist.

Source: UNL BeefWatch, 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.

Beef and biochar

Curt Arens A small bag containing a sample of the type of biochar used in Nebraska cattle feeding studies
JUST A SAMPLE: This small bag contains a sample of the type of biochar used in Nebraska cattle feeding studies, which included adding biochar as a small part of growing and finishing rations to see if it produced additional daily gain or reduced methane emissions from the animals.

Ranchers and cattle producers across the Great Plains recognize that eastern red cedar is a formidable invasive tree and is encroaching on grasslands. One of the ways to clear out the invading cedar would be to find a solid economical use for this rapidly advancing resource.  

The Nebraska Forest Service, along with forestry and conservation agencies across the region, have been working on this goal for many years.

Recently, NFS partnered with the Animal Science Department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to study the concept of feeding biochar — a charcoal-like substance made from burning organic biomass like cedar — to growing and finishing beef animals in hopes of improving ration digestibility and even reducing methane emissions from the animals.

Biochar is not approved for the feeding of cattle, so UNL had to seek special authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to conduct its research.

Encouraging results

According to Andrea Watson, Nebraska research assistant professor in ruminant nutrition, this new research began with a small trial at facilities on the UNL East Campus and continued with a larger study at the Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension Center in Mead last year.

The results from these trials have been mixed, but researchers are encouraged by other similar studies being conducted around the world. A key study in 2012 in Southeast Asia, using biochar made from rice hulls on animals with different genetics and different rations from cattle fed in the U.S., found a marked reduction in methane emissions from animals fed biochar.

These results encouraged Nebraska researchers in studies of their own. In smaller trials of only six animals fed a grower ration followed by a finishing ration, feedstuffs were fed that included the control ration with no biochar, a second ration that was comprised of 0.8% biochar, and a third ration made up of 3% biochar. The biochar used was processed by High Plains Biochar, and it was made of ponderosa pine.

While the 3% biochar ration was not as beneficial, the smaller study showed a slight improvement in organic matter digestion in animals fed 0.8% biochar in the grower ration, and a 16% reduction in methane emissions among the cattle in the finishing segment of the study.

Bigger study

“This study was only six animals, so we wanted to follow up with a bigger study,” Watson says. In this larger study, which consisted of 128 animals, cattle were put through trials in a pen setting.

“We didn’t see any improvement in daily gain, and we did not improve methane emissions,” Watson says. “We didn’t hurt anything, but we didn’t improve it either.”

A recently completed Canadian study just wrapped up and found the same results, with no improvements in daily gain or methane emissions. “There is so much more to study,” Watson says. “Although these larger studies did not show improvements, we haven’t studied different types of biochar with different pore size, surface area or bulk density, which could change the results in a growing or finishing ration.”

Watson says finding an economical and efficient use for red cedar biomass is a high priority in the state. She says Nebraska researchers are hoping to continue to study the potential for feeding biochar in cattle rations, and varying biochar production methods and characteristics, as well as ration components.

Learn more by contacting Watson at [email protected].

Meat exports see growth in key markets

ATU Images/Getty Images Plus beef, pork, lamb meat

U.S. pork exports posted broad-based gains in October, solidifying 2020's record pace, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). Beef muscle cut exports were also higher than a year ago in October, though lower variety meat volumes pushed total beef exports slightly below last year. 

October pork exports were up 8% year-over-year to 242,536 metric tons (mt), with value also increasing 8% to $641.1 million. Exports to Mexico, Japan, China/Hong Kong, Canada and the Philippines were substantially higher than a year ago while shipments to Central and South America were the largest since March. Through the first 10 months of the year, pork exports were 15% ahead of last year's record pace at 2.46 million mt, with value up 16% to $6.33 billion. With Mexico as the top volume destination, October muscle cut exports posted double digits gains at 201,723 mt (up 11%), with value up 10% to $551.8 million. This pushed January-October totals for pork muscle cuts to 2.07 million mt (up 20%) valued at $5.49 billion (up 18%). 

October beef exports were slightly lower than a year ago at 107,591 mt (down 0.4%), valued at $646 million (down 0.5%), but exports to China set another new record and volumes were above year-ago levels to Japan, Taiwan, Central America and Africa. While still below last year, beef exports to Mexico were the largest since March. For January through October, beef exports trailed last year's pace by 7% in volume (1.02 million mt) and 8% in value ($6.2 billion). Beef muscle cut exports trended higher than a year ago in October, increasing 5% to 85,445 mt valued at $573.8 million (up 1%). January-October muscle cut exports were 5% below last year in volume (791,694 mt) and 8% lower in value ($5.48 billion). 

"While the tight labor situation continues to limit the cut and variety meat specifications available for export, red meat demand is strengthening in many critical markets," said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. "October exports of bone-in hams, for example, were near the July record and up 50% from a year ago. This has been a volatile year, filled with shifts in consumer preferences and a lot of uncertainty for international buyers. But the U.S. industry has responded positively to these challenges and the demand dynamics for red meat are quite strong as we approach year's end. When the gains made at retail over the past several months are combined with a stronger foodservice recovery, the prospects for export growth are very promising." 

October exports of U.S. lamb were below last year but muscle cut exports trended sharply higher, mainly on strong growth to Mexico. Through October, lamb exports increased 31% from a year ago to 17,355 mt, but value was down 5% to $20.5 million. Lamb muscle cut volume was substantially higher at 8,203 mt (up 355%) with a more modest increase in export value ($12.4 million, up 7%). 

A detailed summary of U.S. red meat exports through October, including market-specific highlights, is available from the USMEF website.

Source: USMEF

The source 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 8, 2020

Max Armstrong shares insight on G.T. Thompson who is the new ranking member on the House Agriculture Committee. Max shares some history of Thompson who will be the top Republican on this important committee, including his history as a volunteer fire fighter. Max also shares that he's familiar to farmers from his home state of Pennsylvania.

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: Astrid Riecken/stringer/Getty Images

How to plan for an uncertain 2021


This year has thrust upon us unimaginable hardships. From the loss of life due to a novel coronavirus, to hundreds of thousands of businesses closing, to tens of millions of people losing their jobs, to skyrocketing rates of divorce, depression, suicide, child neglect and abuse, to our elderly dying alone in isolation and worse.

We have seen a growing chasm in America today following a deeply divided and bitter presidential election contest, and while Biden reveals his cabinet picks and plans to move forward, Trump vows to contest the results to the highest court of the land.

Notably, a massive Victory Rally was hosted in Georgia with Trump speaking on behalf of the two Republican Senate candidates — Perdue and Loeffler — with the crowd shouting phrases like, “Stop the Steal” and “Fight for Trump.” Needless to say, if and when the Electoral College certifies the votes and confirms that Biden is, in fact, the president elect, there is a groundswell of support for Trump, leaving the Biden/Harris camp in tough shape as they work to unify the country and reassure doubting Americans that this was a fair and free election.

And whether you feel confident in the election results or you’re closely paying attention to the growing list of eye witness accounts who have testified under oath and sharing stories of fraud that they saw on election night, one thing I think all of us are wondering, how the heck do we plan for 2021 with so much chaos, uncertainty, division and unknowns ahead of us?

Ranchers are resilient. We are tough. We are disciplined. We plan ahead. We gear up for challenges. We have contingency plans. We make the hard decisions to ensure we are in business for another year, and another generation.

However, 2020 has brought so many unprecedented curveballs, and to be honest, I’m scratching my head wondering how to prepare my businesses for what’s to come and how to anticipate the unknowns that may derail my plans moving forward.

Mike Kappel, founder and CEO of Patriot Software, LLC, recently wrote an article for Forbes titled, “Planning For 2021 — A Lesson from 2020,” that I think is an applicable read for any type of business owner, beef producers included.

Kappel writes, “Well, it’s been one heck of a year. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to see what 2021 has in store. But before we start fantasizing that next year is going to be sunshine and rainbows, let’s take a step back and cool our jets.

“If 2020 has reminded us of anything (in bright neon flashing lights), it’s that man plans, and God laughs. At the same time, planning is a key part of business. What’s an entrepreneur to do?”

In the article, Kappel lists four action items to do as you make a game plan of attack for the upcoming year.

These action items include:

1. Leave wiggle room in your budget
2. Keep up with the news
3. Be willing to adapt
4. Assess your vendors and suppliers

He adds, “What have you learned from 2020? Here’s what I’ve learned. Plans can get derailed. Do I contradict myself by titling this “Planning For 2021?” Possibly. But there’s a method to my madness.

“Like you, I’m an entrepreneur. I like to plan. Sure, I’ve done quite a few things without preparing (like when I first leapt into entrepreneurship, to be quite honest). But, that’s precisely when I learned that planning was my friend.”

You can read his four action items in detail by clicking here.

I would add that depending on how this presidential election shakes loose, your plans may be wildly different based on the outcome. I don’t believe agricultural producers should be crippled in fear right now, but I also think it’s wise to temper aggressive plans with a bit of caution, too.

A Biden Administration will dramatically change how we operate from how we did business in these past four years, so keep that in mind as you weigh out your plan to move forward.

Any seasoned ranchers willing to share some advice for how they have weathered through tough, unprecedented times in the past? I’m guessing there are a few of us who could use the help and guidance. Please, share in the comments section below!

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

Evaluating change, but making the right move

vectorbomb-ThinkstockPhotos artwork of cowboy riding market
Watch each Friday for Doug Ferguson's Market Intel blog on Beef Producer and BEEF magazine.

Several years ago I stopped in at the local tobacco outlet store to get some cigars. The clerk handed me my change, and after I looked at it I made a deal with the clerk to buy his change drawer, and I had to throw in a little cash for him too for his effort to get the deal done.

When I bought those cigars that day I noticed some rare and valuable coins were placed in my hand when the clerk made change. My first thought was someone stole grandma’s coins to buy a pack of cheap off brand cigarettes. I was willing to place the bet that there were more of those coins in the drawer, and I guessed right.

I am not a coin collector, I have just picked up a little knowledge from some auctions I have been to. This was a really good sell/buy trade. I bought the drawer for face value, paid the clerk his commission, and walked out with collector value in a plastic bag.

I have never done this kind of thing before, it was a change of behavior for me. Here is what makes change hard: we can measure what we are giving up, but we have no way to measure what we are going to gain, if anything. I had no way of knowing if there were more of those coins in the drawer, but I knew I’d be out the ten dollar commission if there weren’t.

I am going to pinpoint you cow calf producers this week because you are the most resistant to change. I get it, I used to be the same way. Those cows and calves are a family legacy, and that brand has been handed down through the generations. There is a certain way of doing things.

I remember the first time I was exposed to Kit Pharo’s philosophies of raising cattle. I thought someone needed to clue him in, to put it mildly. His ideas represented change and it made me uncomfortable. Then one day I was doing book work and I enterprised things out for the first time, and realized my cow herd was losing money, while my other enterprises were making money. I still remember the feeling of denial. I triple checked the numbers for errors and I finally had to face it, and the pain set in.

I remembered Kit’s philosophy that I stumbled across years earlier. I jumped in with both feet and made the changes. I tore off the band aid and it hurt. I didn’t just pull off hair I ripped some skin off with it. That first year was rough, and I was really second guessing what I had done. People in my family had run cows for generations and I may have just been the one to fail. After that year things got much better and started to gain momentum. The change was worth it in the long run. When you go through something like that and succeed making changes gets a little easier.

Aiming for best

When I taught the marketing school a couple months back, I talked to the students about the different levels of resonance. Every next level of your life will demand a different version of you, for better or worse. I love this quote from Bud Williams “There is no limit to better”. That means there will be changes.

We all have changes we can make to in order to better our operations. We can tweak a grazing plan to get the full value of our grass. We can market our cattle in a way to capture appreciation value and deflect depreciation cost. We can learn about relationship values so that we can put our money to better use. Maybe we manage our herd differently. Maybe we need to make the toughest change of all and delete an enterprise from our business.

The market is always changing. Last week I wrote there was appreciation value to be captured by breeding open heifers. This week that is not the case. The market was clear that it is more expensive to breed heifers than to buy them already bred. There was a premium paid for AI bred heifers again, and buyers still preferred the bigger ones that weighted over 1000#.

Three to seven-year-old cows sold very well. A bred three-year-old appreciated in value by several hundred dollars over a bred heifer, and that value depreciated only slightly up to age seven. I do not expect this to become a trend, especially since seven year old cows brought more than the AI bred heifers!

Here is what I will say is trending, bred three- to five-year-old cows are in high demand, if in good flesh. They are appreciating in value and maintaining that value over bred heifers. It seems hit or miss if bred heifers will bring enough to cover their expenses. Another trend is a cows teeth will cost you more than your kid’s teeth. Once they are called spreaders or broken mouth the depreciation expense is at least $200 per year of age from that of a six-year-old cow. And the last trend is late calving cows are discounted.

Cow calf people I am going to make you uncomfortable. I am suggesting you examine these female sales and identify if you have some of these overvalued females in your inventory and consider selling them and replace them with the younger undervalued ones. This will do two things for you. First, you’ll deflect some serious depreciation when your cows teeth start to wear, and you can easily capture the appreciation value when replacing with these undervalued young females.

Rethinking the cowherd

For those of you who aren’t hyperventilating now that I suggest selling good cows, hold on. What if we replaced with the late breds, and move the calving date back from January to May. I realize that’s a big decision. I moved my calving date back and you couldn’t pay me enough to calve in January again, or early April. Consider a few things though. First if we did this trade of selling 3 to 6-year-old cows due to calve in Jan/Feb. and replaced with younger cows due in May, we still have the same number of cows, only now we have $900/head in our pocket. It won’t take trading very many head before you have five figures in cash. What will you do with it?

One more thing to consider. A percentage of calves typically die within the first three weeks. I can’t help but wonder how many of those deaths are weather related, given the time of year most people choose to calve. This loss will go down when calving later.

I also realize there is the fear of having smaller calves at weaning time. That’s easy, just wean later. Or wean and then kick them back out with the cows to graze. You could background them and sell later when they are overvalued. Here’s the deal, guys like me are looking to buy cattle all year round. The big feedlots have even expressed they wish the cow calf sector would spread out the supply of cattle a little better by calving at different times. My point is don’t worry about selling those calves it will work out its just going to take a little different management.

In the feeder markets the Value of Gain (VOG) seems to have lost its balance again. Buyers are still zeroing in a certain weights giving those weights an attractive VOG, while other weights have a VOG that is only a third of the Cost of Gain (COG). This is setting up some really good feeder to feeder trades. Three weights and six weights seemed to be mostly ignored by buyers. The VOG falls off on cattle weighing eight hundred in most places. In Nebraska the VOG remained positive up to 900#.

This week unweaned cattle were 6-8 dollars back. Feeder bulls were 3-22 back, the bigger they are the bigger the discount. Another thing to be cautious of is getting these cattle to fleshy. This week we saw a discount on those in Nebraska of 8 dollars. This is easy to do since the weather has been pleasant.

Nothing has changed with fats. The only profitable buy backs are on the heifer side and now some six weight steers.

Ag appropriations, COVID relief could come this week


The House will be in session from Monday through Thursday this week as hopes remain high for passage of a final omnibus spending bill ahead of the continuing resolution’s Dec. 11 expiration date and possibly additional COVID-19 relief.

On Dec. 1, the Problem Solvers Caucus and a bipartisan group of 25 Democrats and 25 Republican Senators announced a four-month bipartisan, bicameral COVID-19 emergency relief framework including a total of $908 billion in relief, with $560 billion repurposed from the initial COVID package passed in the spring. The bipartisan, bicameral proposal added new life into stalled negotiations on COVID relief.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday that she expects the omnibus and the coronavirus pandemic bills to be combined. “That would be our hope because that is the vehicle leaving the station,” she says. “So, if there’s a vehicle, and we can add this language once we see the text, that is what we would be doing.”

Pelosi also left open the door that the work could extend beyond the Dec. 11 date if additional time was needed to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate appropriations bills and put legislative text to the COVID relief framework released. Pelosi’s spokesman said the Speaker and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have a shared interest in completing work on both.

The COVID relief framework includes $26 billion for agriculture, including a $20 billion in additional Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) authority for the secretary of agriculture and $6 billion for additional nutrition needs. It also includes $10 billion for additional broadband funding.

Outgoing House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., says he hopes whatever ends up being directed at the agriculture industry isn’t just giving money away. He says Congress should not allow USDA to “just give out direct payments whether they need it or not” as the current proposal does not have any specifications on the $20 billion and doesn’t offer any support for the ethanol industry.

He called the Senate’s “slushfund” account for USDA a “mistake” and instead suggests focus should be on the meat industry and food supply chain packing plants to ensure they have adequate funds to help keep their employees safe.

The COVID relief framework does include a liability provision that provides a temporary suspension on any liability related lawsuits associated with COVID, explains Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who says this will give states enough time to put in place their own protections.

However, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., says the bill could “encourage corporations to avoid implementing the common sense safety standards needed to protect workers and consumers – and make a bad situation worse.”

The Senate Committee on Appropriations released all twelve of its Fiscal Year 2021 funding measures and the FY21 subcommittee allocations on Nov. 10. The agriculture portion includes $23.33 billion in total funding, and specifically $3.3 billion for agricultural research programs, $1.06 billion for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, $1.07 billion for the Food Safety and Inspection Service and $1.434 billion for the Farm Service Agency (an increase of $20 million above FY20 enacted levels.)

The House included passage of its appropriations bill in a four-bill minibus package on July 24, 2020. For FY 2021, total discretionary funding in the House legislation is $23.98 billion, an increase of $487 million above the FY 2020 enacted level. The House legislation includes $1.088 billion for food safety and inspection programs. The legislation provides $1.835 billion for farm programs, which is $30.3 million above the fiscal year 2020 level. The House legislation includes $1.07 billion – $27 million above the fiscal year 2020 enacted level – for APHIS. The House version provides the same level of funds for ag research - $3.3 billion – $92 million above the fiscal year 2020 level. This includes funds for the Agricultural Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Tanner Beymer, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association's director of government affairs & market regulatory policy, says he expects the livestock mandatory reporting to get included in whatever appropriation package moves and extended for another year. LMR expired on Sept. 30, and although the Senate approved a five-year extension, the House had not taken up action. Beymer says it’s unlikely to see a five-year extension in the omnibus.

Beef winter meetings scheduled

LifeJourneys/Getty Images Black Angus herd that is being driven through a snowy winter field
EFFICIENCY AND MANAGEMENT: This winter’s Ohio State Extension Beef Schools will focus on herd efficiency and management.

What a year 2020 has been. Are you looking to improve herd efficiency and profitability to weather the storm? Look no further than the slate of winter programming offered by the Ohio State University Extension Beef Team. Programs planned for early 2021 are designed to provide valuable information for all segments of the beef industry.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge to the beef industry, and the effects will continue to linger for some time. One thing we have learned this year is that there continues to be a need for gained efficiency and improved management within our beef cattle operations.

This winter’s Ohio State Extension Beef Schools will focus on herd efficiency and management. Given university policies regarding COVID-19, this year’s Beef Schools will be offered in a combination of virtual and in-person programming.

Leading off the 2021 Beef School will be a cow-calf outlook meeting via webinar at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 26. Kenny Burdine, livestock marketing Extension specialist from the University of Kentucky, will be the featured speaker.

Burdine will give a market outlook for 2021 and discuss how cow and calf management plays a role in determining value at the time of marketing.

For the cow-calf school, we will be in-person in Ohio, addressing genetics, reproduction, calf management and forage production during the two-day schools. Featured speakers for the cow-calf schools include John Grimes of Maplecrest Farms in Hillsboro; Alvaro Guerra Garcia, cattle reproduction specialist at Ohio State; and a variety of OSU Extension staff. 

The programs will be Jan. 27 and Feb. 10 at Garwood Cattle Co. in Columbiana County. The second program will be Jan. 28 and Feb. 11 at the Caldwell Extension operations office and the Eastern Ag Research Station in Noble County.

Challenges and genetics

The first week of the programs will address overcoming forage challenges given the recent history of wet weather, and strategies for grazing management. During the second week, we will discuss genetics, cow longevity and breeding season management. Attendees also will have the opportunity to participate in a semen handling activity and evaluate a number of cows to make sound culling decisions.

Cow-calf school registration is available on the Beef Team webpage. Registration is required and limited to the first 40 registrations at each site.

The need for increased risk management for fed cattle has been highlighted by a couple of “black swan” events: COVID-19 and the 2019 Tyson packing plant fire.

The 2021 Cattle Feeding and Management School will feature Justin White of Hudson Insurance, who will present on risk management for fed cattle, specifically the Livestock Risk Protection and Livestock Gross Margin insurance programs.

To finish up the program, Jason Hartschuh of OSU Extension in Crawford County will discuss feedlot ventilation needs. This program will be held via webinar. Registration will be required.

Rounding out the winter programs will be a webinar addressing a fairly new topic for Beef Team programming. Ohio’s dairy industry is a significant contributor to beef production across the state.

At noon March 10, Allen Gahler, Extension educator in Sandusky County, will be teaching an Introduction to Beef on Dairy session, looking at what EPD and genetic criteria should be considered when mating beef sires to dairy cattle.

Lastly, continue to stay up to date on county-based Beef Quality Assurance education opportunities. Many producers in Ohio were certified three years ago in 2018 and will be due for recertification in 2021. Beef Quality Assurance training dates and information, as well as registration for the above-mentioned programs, all can be found at

Not knowing what COVID-19 has in store for this winter, we hope to able to bring our in-person programs to you in early 2021. Keep in mind that we may have to ask attendees to social distance and wear a mask. We are looking forward to working with as many of you as possible in the coming year. Stay safe.

Ruff is the OSU Extension beef field specialist. He also is a member of the OSU Extension Beef Team that publishes the weekly Ohio BEEF Cattle letter, which can be found at

Researchers aim to 'upcycle' nutrient waste on farms using duckweed

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With a $1.7 million grant from the National Science Foundation, Penn State researchers will investigate how duckweed could be grown on Pennsylvania farms to limit nutrient pollution into the Chesapeake Bay.

Duckweed, a tiny plant resembling a lily pad, grows rapidly in water with elevated levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, often the result of fertilizer and manure runoff. While many consider the plant a pest, farmers may find duckweed doubly beneficial, according to Rachel Brennan, associate professor of environmental engineering and lead investigator of the project.

“Not only can duckweed capture the nutrients before they cause problems like algal blooms and dead zones, but it can also ‘upcycle’ those nutrients into something that farmers can use again,” Brennan said. “It can be harvested multiple times per week and used as a feed supplement for farm animals. We have also demonstrated that it can be used as a soil amendment to support crop growth with much less runoff than conventional fertilizer. Duckweed has enormous potential for taking a waste product and giving it greater value.”

In a preliminary assessment, Brennan’s team calculated an estimated economic return for farmers if they repurposed some of their land from growing soybeans — often used for cattle feed — into a pond to grow duckweed. By mixing manure with water in the pond instead of applying it to an open field, farmers could not only reduce waste but also produce more protein.

“Soybeans contain an enormous amount of protein, but they do not grow very quickly,” Brennan said. “Duckweed’s protein content is high and so is its growth rate, so it has a higher yield. Given the same area, you can produce more protein if you switch to this little aquatic plant.”

In the four-year project, a multidisciplinary series of experiments will evaluate both the environmental and economic benefits of the team’s duckweed proposal. Co-investigators on the project include Lauren McPhillips, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and agricultural and biological engineering; Wayne Curtis, professor of chemical engineering; Alexander Hristov, distinguished professor of dairy nutrition; and Christine Costello, assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering.

The team will first work with Matt Royer, director of the Penn State Agriculture and Environment Center, and Penn State Extension dairy advisers to survey local dairy farmers for their initial impressions of the proposal. Dairy operations make up a significant portion of the farms in Pennsylvania, which covers 35% of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

“For this to work, it needs to be economically advantageous for farmers,” Brennan said. “They should not have to buy as much chemical fertilizer or feed because they can take their own waste nutrients, convert them to duckweed and then use them again.”

Some of the experiments in the project focus on duckweed’s performance as a feed supplement, including how well cows digest the plant and its impact on milk production, as well as ways to improve both. 

Others will investigate duckweed’s effects as a fertilizer. According to McPhillips, there are indications it might not only reduce the amount of nutrients in runoff but could also reduce the emission of nitrous oxide, the third most abundant greenhouse gas.

“A main goal of this project is to leverage duckweed to help reduce harmful nutrient losses of any sort,” she said. “A less-considered pathway is the loss of nitrous oxide, which can be produced by microbes in the environment. Generating soil amendments and feed supplements on site also reduces the energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions that would have otherwise been required to produce and transport them to the farm.”

The team also plans to examine the proposal from a holistic perspective, brainstorming ways a duckweed-based “circular bioeconomy” could sustainably scale beyond local farms.

“Collecting biomass from fields to make ethanol in central processing plants is a well-established practice, and maybe a similar approach could be used for collecting manure from farms to produce duckweed,” Brennan said. “It could be vertically farmed in large warehouses because it only needs about an inch of water to grow. It would be a big change, but any major transformation to agriculture is going to seem radical at first.”