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Articles from 2013 In February

Political Debate Moves From Absurd To Sad

Political Debate Moves From Absurd To Sad

The political debate over deficit reduction has moved from the absurd and comical to the simply sad. We need a whole new dictionary to understand the ongoing deficit debate.

If you were to tell most Americans that they had $16,000 in credit card debt on the books and were going to $19,000 in debt this year, they would understand that their debt was growing by $3,000. Washington, D.C., however, would consider it a $4,000 reduction in the deficit, because they had planned to be $23,000 in debt at year end.

And the absurdity just keeps growing. Congress passed a $147-billion tax increase the last time we faced sequester, and claimed it would have no effect on the economy. But a reduction in government spending of $80 billion, as called for in the sequester, is supposed to have catastrophic effects on our economy. I guess it just goes to show that money the government spends is far more important than money consumers and businesses invest/spend.

The biggest fear about sequestration is that the spending reductions will happen and won’t be noticed. Does anyone believe the disruptive cuts in government are the only federal fat that can be found? No, this has become a battle for control of the House in 2014. The opinion polls indicate it’s a winning issue for the Democrats, and they seem committed to doing everything possible to make the cuts as painful as possible. Politically, that might be a good move, but is it in the best interest of the country?

A Closer Look: Fiscal Cliff – A Real Crisis, But Artificial Deadline

Thus, we have threats like the meat inspector furlough that potentially could derail the cattle market for months. And then there’s the release of hundreds of criminals in Arizona this week who were illegal aliens, perhaps endangering public safety. And threats of three-hour security screenings at airports, etc.

The most ironic thing about this whole situation is that everyone agrees the cuts aren’t nearly enough, and that the cuts as proposed are the wrong way to make cuts. Still, there seems to be absolutely no political will to get serious about addressing our debt problem.

The president is back on the campaign trail warning of the coming disaster via the sequester, but no one seems able to detail the calamity that actually will befall us if we don’t address our unfunded liabilities and skyrocketing deficit. Greece, Spain, the former Soviet Union, Iceland, and a host of other countries are good illustrations of what lies ahead, but it’s somehow too big of a problem to address or comprehend in this country.

We all know that not making a decision is, in effect, making a decision; and that if we don’t act, the decision eventually will be made for us. Sadly, this political saga proves much more than that the Republican Party is politically inept, or that the Democrats are politically exploitive. It illustrates just how devoid of leadership and political will the U.S. is today. And that ineptness doesn’t reflect well on the electorate, either.

The old quote about Emperor Nero fiddling while Rome burned is appropriate here. Fiscal conservatives have tried to guide the Republican Party to the right, with the result of seemingly isolating the party and lowering its appeal. Meanwhile, Democrats have moved swiftly to the left, with the tacit approval of the electorate. The result is that government and the federal deficit are growing at unprecedented rates, while we play political games with no real interest in addressing either issue. 

The American public deserves better, but then again we’re getting what we deserve. As long as everyone just nods when politicians talk about creating millions of jobs, at a time when millions fewer are actually working, we’ll likely continue to get lies and the reshaping of not only our language, but basic math and economic principles.

In marketing, we like to say that perception is reality. When it comes to finances, however, reality has a way of eventually overcoming perceptions.

Don’t Forget The Cattle Market’s Undercurrent

Don’t Forget The Cattle Market’s Undercurrent

Not surprisingly, the marketplace seems to be focused mainly on moisture conditions, supply and demand. But a keen eye also is focused on outside forces that might affect us in the near term, like the overall global economy and possible furloughs of meat inspectors, etc. In addition, we’re all looking toward the future with an expectation of improving prices in the backdrop of continually escalating input prices.

Those are the factors affecting our industry’s bottom line right now and for the foreseeable future. The value-based marketing revolution, price differentiation and the like, which were hot topics just a few years back, have slipped into the background for now. With cattle supplies historically tight, no one will have trouble commanding good prices over the next few years; it’s the very definition of a seller’s market. There is no concern about market access or finding a willing buyer.

Still, we do know that numbers eventually will increase, or capacity will be reduced up the chain, which will bring more balance to the marketing equation. In fact, higher prices for both cattle and inputs have actually significantly increased the price spreads between above-average and below-average cattle. The incentive for price differentiation and value-based marketing is increasing, even though the market signals aren’t reflecting the shift.

Perhaps, more than ever, this unique market situation provides producers with an opportunity to make the genetic and management changes needed to create a more consistent, higher-quality product with greater efficiency. In today’s market conditions, producers will have both the time and dollars to make necessary changes without the hardship that typically occurs with shifts in the marketplace.

Just because every animal is a valuable commodity today, the cattle market is still moving in the direction of paying more on the basis of value to the entire production system. And, as is usually the case, that is very good news for the top third of producers (the most efficient), a warning to the middle third of producers, and very bad news for the bottom third (least efficient) producers.

One thing we sometimes forget is that the effects of the drought and high input prices have ratcheted up the competition. Poorer cows and poorer producers are being eliminated, which is increasing the average line. Genetic improvement is coming today at a phenomenal rate. What was above average just 3-5 years ago is average today, and that will be below average 3-5 years from now.

Even Blizzards Are Welcomed Events These Days

Even Blizzards Are Welcomed Events These Days

I hope none of you sleep-deprived ranchers digging through snow drifts in the middle of calving season take the above headline wrong. However, it’s simply amazing to look at the drought index maps today compared to just a month ago.

The eastern Corn Belt has made significant progress, along with a lot of other areas of the country. Eastern Colorado, Wyoming, Northern Nebraska, parts of the Texas Panhandle, and Montana remain in the severe drought categories, but the overall map has markedly improved. The outlook has improved even in the areas that remain in severe drought. In fact, a few areas have been in that category for three years, while others are starting in on their second year. As a friend in Wyoming told me recently, “The drought isn’t over, but we have a fighting chance.”

Yes, a very wide swath of the country has received good moisture in the last two weeks, covering most of the drier cow-calf areas and feeding country as well. Even the ranchers immersed in calving season amid blizzard conditions had to be thankful for the moisture.

All About Oral Electrolytes

oral electrolytes use

There are five major infectious causes of diarrhea in calves less than 21 days of age. These include E. coli K99, rotavirus, coronavirus, Cryptosporidia, and Salmonella species. Noninfectious factors such as insufficient or poor-quality colostrum, poor sanitation, stress and cold weather can also cause or contribute to neonatal calf diarrhea.

Regardless of the cause, diarrhea results in increased loss of electrolytes and water in the feces of calves and decreases milk intake. Ultimately, this process causes dehydration, metabolic acidosis (the blood is more acidic than it should be); electrolyte abnormalities, including a critical sodium deficiency; and a negative energy balance from the lost nutrients and lack of milk.

Oral electrolyte solutions have typically been used to restore fluids, correct the pH and electrolyte levels in the blood, and provide nutritional support with the added benefit of being relatively inexpensive and easy to administer. However, there are a tremendous number of products on the market to choose from and they differ considerably. This article is intended to provide guidance in selection of an oral electrolyte product according to the latest research.

Accurate assessment of a calf with diarrhea is necessary to determine if oral fluid therapy is adequate or if intravenous fluids are indicated. Please consult the December 2012 issue of Off the Hoof regarding how to perform this assessment.

After determination that oral fluids are needed, the solution chosen must satisfy the following four requirements:

  1. It must supply enough sodium to rapidly correct the losses that have occurred;
  2. It must include agents (glucose, citrate, acetate, propionate or glycine) that actually encourage absorption of sodium and water from the intestine;
  3. It must provide an alkalinizing agent (acetate, propionate or bicarbonate) to correct the blood from being too acidic;
  4. It must provide energy because calves with diarrhea are in a negative energy balance.

Sodium, chloride and potassium are all lost in the feces of calves with diarrhea. Sodium is the most important of these and most research suggests a level of 90-130 mmol/L is necessary to correct dehydration. However, sodium absorption from the small intestine will only occur if there is glucose or an amino acid such as glycine, alanine or glutamine that the sodium can join with and cross into the cells in the gut. The ratio of glucose to sodium present in an oral electrolyte solution should fall somewhere between 1:1 and 3:1.

With dehydration, potassium is lost in the feces and urine so calves may experience a profound loss of body potassium stores. A common clinical sign in calves with chronic diarrhea is extreme muscle weakness due in large part to this loss of potassium. Oral electrolyte products should contain between 10-30mmol/L of potassium.

A relatively new theory, called the "strong ion theory," encourages the use of products that deliver an excess of strong cations (sodium and potassium) relative to the concentration of strong anions (chloride) in order to help correct a portion of the acid-base balance in the blood. This "strong ion difference," or SID, is calculated as follows: [Na+] + [K+] - [Cl-]= SID and should fall in the range of 60-80 in an oral electrolyte product. Chloride should be present in the range of 40-80 mmol/L; concentrations at the lower end of the suggested range will beneficially increase the SID.

It’s extremely important that the oral or intravenous (IV) fluids chosen for rehydration will be able to increase blood pH from an acidic state to a more neutral state. This is normally accomplished by alkalinizing agents such as bicarbonate, acetate or propionate found in oral electrolytes. Although all have similar effects, acetate and propionate have several advantages over bicarbonate:

  1. Acetate and propionate help sodium and water to be absorbed in the small intestine but bicarbonate does not;
  2. Acetate and propionate are sources of energy; bicarbonate is not;
  3. Acetate and propionate will not alkalinize (raise the pH) in the abomasum or true stomach but bicarbonate will; this is important because an acidic stomach beneficially kills harmful bacteria before they can reach the small intestine and finally,
  4. Acetate and propionate do not interfere with milk clotting in calves, whereas bicarbonate has been shown to interfere with this normal digestive process. For this reason, experts recommend that bicarbonate-based electrolytes not be used when the calf is nursing the cow. Conversely, products with acetate or propionate do not cause digestive disturbances and are well tolerated when fed with milk.

Commercial preparations may also vary in the amount of particles dissolved in the solution. A "hypertonic" oral electrolyte product has a very large amount of glucose (sugar) in the preparation and may have the denotation "HE" for high energy. These differ from "isotonic" solutions, which have a similar amount of particles in the solution as is normally found in the bloodstream. Hypertonic solutions give greater nutritional support because of the higher glucose level, yet they can cause abomasal bloat and increased diarrhea if the calf is unable to absorb this large amount of sugar.

Depressed calves that aren’t nursing can be given a hypertonic electrolyte product of 500-600mOsm/L if separated from the dam. Beef calves that continue to suckle should receive isotonic solutions.

Remember, milk is better at maintaining a normal blood glucose level than any electrolyte solution so allow the calf to continue nursing. Never mix electrolytes with milk or milk replacer as these products are designed to be mixed with water only.

In summary, it’s important to examine the oral electrolyte product label and understand the contents. Unfortunately, ingredients are often presented in different ways that make comparisons difficult. Consult a veterinarian or nutritionist to properly evaluate your oral electrolyte product before your next case of neonatal calf diarrhea.

Michelle Arnold is a University of Kentucky Extension veterinarian specializing in large ruminants.

Red Meat Is Nature’s Multi-Vitamin, Says Study

winter on the ranch

Have you ever heard the phrase, “overfed but undernourished?” This aptly describes the two-thirds of Americans who are considered overweight or obese. As a society, we are eating plenty, but are we getting the nutrients we need to thrive? And, if not, how does this impact our daily performance, longevity and future generations?

Amidst a sea of Meatless Mondays campaigns and anti-beef sentiments, a new study in the United Kingdom (UK) highlights the crucial role of red meat in the diet.

The study, which is entitled, “The Seven Ages Of Man – Is There A Role For Meat In The Diet?” is set to be published in the British Nutrition Foundation’s Nutrition Bulletin.

Here’s an excerpt from a report on the study:

“Millions of people are putting their health at risk because of inadequate intakes of vital vitamins and minerals, a new study has revealed. But the research also highlights just how important the role of red meat is in the diet in helping to cover this nutrition gap. Meat has been a staple part of the human diet since the dawn of mankind, but in recent years there has been some debate over whether too much red meat can raise the risk of health problems. Now a team of researchers has studied the issue of meat in the diet to help gauge just how important it is for a healthy mind and body – as well as the crucial nutrients that red meat in the diet brings.

“The latest study found that data from dietary surveys indicates that diets for people of all ages can be worryingly low in nutrients normally found in meat, such as vitamin A, vitamin D, iron, magnesium, zinc, selenium and potassium. The researchers say that integrating red meat into diets across the age spectrum, from infanthood to old age, may help to narrow the present gap between vitamin and mineral intakes and recommended levels. In addition, there is emerging evidence that nutrients commonly found in red meat may play a role in supporting cognitive function, immune health and addressing iron deficiency.”

So, what is red meat’s role in the diet? Here is what the study finds:

“Red meat – defined as beef, veal, pork and lamb, which is fresh, minced or frozen – is a source of high-quality protein and important micronutrients. Beef and lamb are classed as a ‘rich source’ – more than 30% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) - of vitamin B3 (niacin), B12 (cyanocobalamin) and zinc. It is also a ‘source’ – 15% or more of the RDA - of iron, potassium and phosphorous. Pork is also a ‘rich source’ of vitamin B1 (thiamin). Meat, particularly from grass-fed animals, can be a valuable source of long chain (LC) n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) such as omega 3 fatty acids. Research shows that these fatty acids support normal fetal development as well as help lower the risk of inflammatory conditions, depression and dementia in later life. Red meat is also an important source of heme iron - a type that is readily absorbed - and data shows that average iron intakes in the UK are inadequate, especially among females in general and during pregnancy.”

I encourage you to read through the study’s findings, which rebut pronouncements that beef has an adverse effect on health. Additionally, it breaks down the deficiencies most commonly found in babies, young people and the elderly, and how red meat can help bridge the nutritional gap.

This is a fantastic study to read and share. Check it out and post it on your favorite social media sites. The good news is you can enjoy your steak or burger, knowing that it’s not just good, but it’s nature’s multi-vitamin, too.

What do you think about this study? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

By the way, response to our “Winter On The Ranch” photo contest has been huge! With close to 200 entries, we will be working hard to sort through them all and select our finalists, which will be announced on Monday.

In the meantime, check out the complete gallery here. Feel free to “lobby” for your favorites and leave a comment in the photo gallery for images you think should make our finalist list! Remember, $200 in VISA gift cards are up for grabs. Good luck!

Proper helmet fit important for rider and retailer

Proper helmet fit important for rider and retailer

Take note retailers: We are hearing there is a legal challenge currently being heard in the courts that may have you liable for safety helmets you sell in which an injury occurs from improper fit or sizing. Even though the information on fitting and use is enclosed with the product, you should consider setting up written protocol for your sales team and make sure they are properly trained to assist customers. Signage that shows proper fitting techniques should also be placed in your respective display areas.

To select and properly fit a safety helmet, follow the helmet fitting instructions below.

Buckle your chin strap. Tighten the strap until it is snug, so that no more than one or two fingers fit under the strap.

Step 1 - Size:  Measure your head for approximate size. Try the helmet on to ensure it fits snuggly. While it is sitting flat on top of your head, make sure the helmet doesn’t rock side to side. Sizing pads come with new helmets; use the pads to securely fit to your head. Mix or match the sizing pads for the greatest comfort. In your child’s helmet, remove the padding when your child’s head grows. If the helmet has a universal fit ring instead of sizing pads, adjust the ring size to fit the head.

 Step 2 - Position:  The helmet should sit level on your head and low on your forehead—one or two finger-widths above your eyebrow.

 Step 3 - Buckles:  Center the left buckle under the chin. On most helmets, the straps can be pulled from the back of the helmet to lengthen or shorten the chin straps. This task is easier if you take the helmet off to make these adjustments.

 Step 4 - Side Straps: Adjust the slider on both straps to form a “V” shape under, and slightly in front of, the ears. Lock the slider if possible.

Does your helmet rock back more than two fingers above the eyebrows? If so, unbuckle, shorten the front strap by moving the slider forward.

 Step 5 - Chin Strap: Buckle your chin strap. Tighten the strap until it is snug, so that no more than one or two fingers fit under the strap.

 Step 6 - Final Fitting:

A.            Does your helmet fit right? Open your mouth wide…big yawn! The helmet should pull down on the head. If not, refer back to step 5 and tighten the chin strap.

B.            Does your helmet rock back more than two fingers above the eyebrows? If so, unbuckle, shorten the front strap by moving the slider forward.

Buckle, retighten the chin strap, and test again.

C.            Does your helmet rock forward into your eyes? If so, unbuckle, tighten the back strap by moving the slider back toward the ear. Buckle, retighten the chin strap, and test again.

D.            Roll the rubber band down to the buckle. All four straps must go through the rubber band and be close to the buckle to prevent the buckle from slipping.

Replace any helmet that has been involved in a crash or is damaged.

For more information on helmet fit, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Web site at:

Export Interest In U.S. Breeding Cattle Has Skyrocketed

exporting live beef cattle overseas

"Honestly, it’s probably the strongest opportunity I’ve seen in the 20 years I’ve been managing this organization,” says Michael Phillips, president and CEO U.S. Livestock Genetics Export, Inc. (USLGE), a not-for-profit national trade association that includes a number of livestock and breed organizations.

Phillips is speaking of the surging interest in U.S. beef and dairy breeding cattle in recent years, especially from Russia and other Eastern European countries.

“We’ve seen an increase in live cattle exports assembled and quarantined in Kansas for export to Russia,” says Kimberly Kirkham, DVM, Kansas Area Veterinarian in Charge for USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Veterinary Services. “These exports have joined the ranks of and currently exceed those to Canada and Mexico."

The value of the dollar in recent years has provided added incentive.

Keep in mind, the total number of beef breeding females exported each of the last several years, represents only a relative handful of the nation’s herd. But, increased interest is nothing short of staggering (Tables 1-3).

Mark Spare of Ashland, KS, saw firsthand how one Russian company is helping build that nation’s beef cattle herd. Spare contracted his management service to Miratorg last year. The company is owned by two brothers who, along with shareholders, already had success in building operations within Russia’s poultry and pork sectors. These days, they’re building large ranches—3,000 cows per ranch—in the Brjansk (pronounced Bree-ansk) region of southwestern Russia.

When Spare arrived there last May, Miratorg had already imported 51,000 beef cows and heifers from the U.S. and Australia. Except for about 200 head of Red Angus, these are all registered black Angus.

That’s what started the buzz about five years ago, thousands of Angus cattle assembled and quarantined in Nebraska and shipped to Russia.

US breeding beef exports

US cattle breeding bull exports

other U.S. cattle exports

Darrel DeGrofft, DVM, co-owner of Colorado Genetics, has been at three of the original Russian ranches several times.

“They want to increase cattle numbers, and also the quality of their beef,” Dr. DeGrofft says. He explains domestic beef production in what was the Soviet Union had become comprised mostly of the leavings from its dairy industry. Though Eastern European countries import beef, recent interest in breeding cattle from countries like Russia represent the first post-Soviet attempt at developing a domestic beef industry.

Phillips adds that interest in Hereford is on the rise in other Eastern European countries.

“Some ranches have only American cattle, some have only Australian cattle and some are a mix,” Spare says. Though yet to be achieved, he explains Miratorg’s goal is to have at last one American manager and one American cowboy on each ranch.

Spare and a fellow American were charged with preparing the heifers from eight ranches for breeding. “It was primarily a 14-day Controlled Internal Drug Release (CIDR) program,” he explains. The Russian company brought over American AI technicians to do the breeding.

Spare was appointed a ranch manager in August. He chose not to renew his contract when it expired this winter.

Though there is no direct comparison, Spare says the geography in that part of Russia reminded him of parts of South Dakota, along with stirrup-high grass in the summer and the dense woods of the East Coast.

“The terrain made it a challenge every day to be on a horse, to move cattle and to communicate with the Russians,” Spare says. Besides the language and cultural barriers, he explains the Russian interpreters weren’t mobile; communication with the crews had to wait until interpreters were available.

Spare says Miratorg plans to import another 50,000 beef breeding females each year until they stock 50 ranches at 3,000 cows each.

As with the dairy industry previously, Dr. DeGrofft says, “The Russian government has put a lot of money into building that country’s beef herd, bringing in feedlots and packing plants.”

Dr. DeGrofft and fellow Colorado Genetics owner, Deb Rest, spent a month in Russia last summer breeding 700 cows and working on an embryo transfer project on two different ranches. Well, it was supposed to be 700 head, but 100 were bred. That speaks to the lack of training and basic management which still lacks in some countries interested in developing a beef industry (more later).

Growing Opportunity for Veterinarians

“Exporting has helped us sustain our practice during the drought,” says Travis McCarty, DVM, one of four veterinarians at the Ashland Veterinary Center at Ashland, Kan.

“Having four veterinarians allows us to devote one veterinarian to these projects full time, and they are projects,” explains Dr. McCarty, who is the designated export manager in the Ashland practice.

In simple terms, the exports Dr. McCarty has managed for export to Russia and Eastern Europe (about a third beef cattle and the remainder dairy) comprises quarantine groups of 1,500-6,000 head of cattle. The quarantine lasts about a month, with cattle going through the chute two, three or four times, depending on the export destination and other factors. A federal veterinarian inspects the cattle when they load out for the port at Galveston, Texas. Just the logistics of coordinating 70 semis or so takes a fair effort. The whole process revolves around having cattle at the port to meet a ship that has been lined up months in advance. Missing the shipping date incurs economic penalties that quickly run into six figures, whether you drop the ball on the first day of the process or the last.

“We’ve had two quarantines going on at the same time,” Dr. McCarty says.

“We strive to coordinate all activities with the accredited veterinarian, testing laboratory, isolation facility, export and department of agriculture,” Dr. Kirkham says. “In Kansas, an accredited veterinarian works with state and federal authorities who make sure requirements are met and efforts are maximized.”

“Vets communicate regularly with us. We coordinate the test results and coordinate with the state department of agriculture,” Dr. Kirkham says. The APHIS office also coordinates a massive amount of requisite data, from the electronic individual animal ID numbers, to testing dates, to test results. That effort has become easier for her office and the veterinarians involved through development and introduction of what is called Mobile Information Management Software which veterinarians can use chute-side via a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA).

For veterinarians interested in becoming part of the export process, Dr. McCarty explains the bottom line challenge is, “Coming up with a plan to get everything accomplished for the health certificate in a short period of time without compromising animal welfare."

Dr. McCarty starts with the shipping date and works backwards identifying when each of the preceding and necessary steps must be complete.

“Countries often negotiate their requirements for import with the U.S.,” Dr. Kirkham says. “These requirements often outline items such as isolation (quarantine) period, testing regimes, vaccination protocols, identification requirements, as well as the completion of an international health certificate by an accredited veterinarian.”

In the case of the Russian exports, cattle can only come from states accredited to be free of bovine tuberculosis (TB) and brucellosis. Before cattle are purchased and before they can enter quarantine, Dr. McCarty says they have to be bled for bovine leukosis virus. A second leukosis test must be conducted 30 days later, along with TB testing and bleeding for Johne’s and brucellosis while in quarantine.

Through it all, Dr. McCarty explains a Russian veterinarian is on hand to monitor the process.

“You need to put together the inventory, have all of the cattle identified and present the data to the USDA veterinarian,” Dr. McCarty says. “They determine if the cattle are acceptable for quarantine.”

Not only are tests expensive, there is fallout, of course. Dr. McCarty has seen a fallout as high as 15 percent for leukosis and as low as 2 percent.

“Everyone knows how to bleed cattle, how to do a TB test,” Dr. McCarty says. “Data management is the biggest learning curve, getting the health certificate together and working with the quarantine facility (feedyards at Guymon, OK, and Montezuma, KS, in their case) to make sure the cattle are taken care of.”

The facilities he works with have great crews. Still, cattle care is an ongoing challenge with that many cattle going through the chute for so many times, for so many tests in such a short period. Throughout this process, Dr. McCarty adds that the new cattle owners are looking for every way possible to shave days from the process.

Spare puts it this way: “The need for veterinarians isn’t so much whether you’re a capable veterinarian as it is the need for people who can communicate cross-culturally with people who don’t necessarily know anything about cattle, what stress does to them, production efficiency or how we as Americans process information to find solutions."

According to Dr. McCarty, the boat ride to Russia usually takes about 21 days. Then there is a 21-day quarantine in Russia. In the case of bred females, they ship when they are about five months pregnant so they won’t calve in transit or in either quarantine.

Export demand has been strong enough at times that the folks in Ashland have expanded their program by subcontracting some of the work. If demand strength continues, Dr. McCarty says they may consider more subcontracting.

Given how much time the process takes, though, Dr. McCarty says, “I think it would be tough for a single practitioner to do it.”

International Demand for U.S. Genetics is Longstanding

Though the recent surge of interest in U.S. cattle has created lots of chatter, understand that this nation has a long history of exporting live breeding cattle and especially semen and embryos around the world.

“The U.S. is recognized as the world leader in genetic development,” Phillips says. “Performance-based genetics have the U.S. at the top.” If not looking to import live cattle, he explains international customers often look to buy semen first in order to improve the genetics they already have. Next, some look to embryos.

As alluded to by Dr. Kirkham earlier, Canada and Mexico have historically been the primary destination for U.S. breeding cattle exports. But frozen U.S. genetics have been moving around the world for decades.

That’s were Dr. DeGrofft has focused much of his international effort for the past three decades.

“Sending frozen genetics is usually simpler,” Dr. DeGrofft says. Though regulations for some countries like Russia can be complex, he explains that in addition to complying with the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) requirements the regulation for Brazil and Canada are basically that a certified veterinarian do the embryo collection using CSS-approved semen and that the genetics come from herds accredited free of bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis.

Shipping frozen genetics is lots cheaper, too.


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Dr. DeGrofft shares a comparison of relative freight cost. “In 1992, we flew a load of heifers from Denver to Europe that cost $2,000 per head for freight. A boat ride from the East Coast at that time cost $200-$400 per head. We shipped 2,000 frozen embryos for less than $10 each.”

The world is interested in U.S. non-breeding cattle, too. Countries as far-flung as Egypt, India and Iraq have either imported U.S. feeder cattle in recent years or are making efforts in that direction.

Phillips explains one reason for interest in U.S. feeder cattle is that drought and other limiters have diminished what had been traditional sources of supply for some countries.

Still, this author could find no definitive reason for why these countries would rather import feeder cattle than beef.

Service and Expertise are Needed as Much as Genetics

As much as genetics, the folks interviewed for this article say that many countries importing U.S. genetics also need training in basic cattle management, along with instruction in technical areas such as embryo transfer and artificial insemination.

“A lot of these countries want to leap ahead to the reproductive and genetic efficiency of the U.S. in 2013 without taking the necessary steps to get from where the U.S. was 50 years ago,” Dr. DeGrofft says. “They truly need veterinary services and consultation for basic beef cattle management including health care, nutrition and reproduction.”

The past says some of these countries will make the management transition. Some of the countries where Dr. DeGrofft taught embryo transfer techniques a couple of decades ago still import embryos but they have become technically self-sufficient.

Getting Started

For veterinarians interested in the export process or seeking information because clients are interested, Dr. DeGrofft says, “The first thing is to contact USDA to get the current export regulations.” He adds that USDA is usually easy to work with. As a director for USLGE and the American Embryo Transfer Association, Dr. DeGrofft also says USDA continues to work with veterinarians in developing health regulations with the various countries.

Next, Dr. DeGrofft says he’d call the Livestock Exporters Association of the USA (LEA). “They can give you lots of information about insurance and financing to ensure that you get paid in the dollars you thought you were going to be paid in,” he says. “They can give you information about quarantine facilities and shipping. Currently, we’re being told it is taking four to eight months to get access to a ship.”

Incidentally, LEA often crops up as an expert source in these kinds of conversations. That organization also offers annual seminars where those interested can get information and begin to network.

“Rather than reinvent the wheel, contact another veterinarian with export experience and other breeders who have exported to that country and see if they’re willing to share their experiences,” Dr. DeGrofft says.

“The biggest thing is communication. Veterinarians doing this for the first time need to make sure they’re communicating with the USDA vet in charge,” Dr. McCarty says. “I make sure I call the USDA vet in charge in the state where we intend to quarantine cattle. We need to have a team relationship with USDA.

“If you’re going to do it, you really need to sit down first and have a conversation with the export company, the USDA vet and the feedlot manager.”

“Our job is to assist veterinarians in figuring out what they need to do,” Dr. Kirkham says. “I highly encourage veterinarians to become engaged with their local USDA APHIS office.” She adds that veterinarians and exporters can find a wealth of help at the APHIS export website.

Of course, there is the language and cultural barrier, too, sometimes obvious and sometimes not.

A Closer Look: Kazakh Cowboys Tour North Dakota, Get Cattle-Tending Tips

“If the regulation specifies a territory, make sure you know how that’s defined,” Dr. DeGrofft says. Depending on the country it could mean an area as narrow as a county or as broad as an entire U.S. region.

Dr. DeGrofft was putting together an embryo export to Mexico several years ago. It never took place because of a flawed translation that mixed up “in vivo” with “in vitro”.

Speaking of export neighbors north and south of U.S. borders, Dr. DeGrofft says the regulations and process make exporting live cattle to those countries easier than exporting off-shore.

“Deb faxes export papers to the border veterinarians and makes sure they will sign off on them before we ever load the trucks,” he says.

“Any miscommunication leads to a need for flexibility,” Spare says. “Be ready to slow everything down. You’ll have to be able to make quick decisions and respond to the unexpected.”

Besides language and cultural differences, Spare says some of the stop-and-go nature of the export process stems from the unknowns surrounding the process for importers.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty on the buyer’s part,” Spare says. “They’re still often unsure about what a successful venture looks like. Their values are different. You may get rubbed the wrong way.”

Ultimately, the producer or veterinarian may encounter requirements that make them abandon the opportunity. If not, though, they may find opportunities they hadn’t counted on.

For instance, Colorado Genetics has received recent inquiries about semen, embryo and live cattle from countries including Paraguay, Kazakhstan, India and Australia.

Undoubtedly, some of those inquiries represent tire kicking. Just as surely, some are the real deal.

“The whole U.S. system is its strength,” Phillips says of international interest in U.S. beef cattle genetics.

 “Cattle have always been treated well in the United States and we could see those benefits when they reached Russia,” Spare says. “I was very impressed with how the cattle could respond.

“To be a successful exporter, you can’t lower your standards. As American producers, I think the most important thing is to maintain higher standards in the cattle, how we produce them and how we manage our ranches.”


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Why marketing so often goes wrong

Marketing is a mystery — at least that’s the way it seems when compared with just about every other company function. There’s plenty of talk about “marketing,” but efforts to nail it down, specifically, usually end in an uncomfortable silence. It makes the point that it’s difficult to get your arms around marketing.

There are more “marketing geniuses” floating around than anyone can count. Everyone has an opinion as to what’s needed, what works and what doesn’t.
And whatever marketing activities a company implements, there will always be those who rush forward with criticisms and complaints. 

Such turmoil may help explain why so many companies harbor serious doubts about marketing, others keep it on a short leash, and some solve the problem by turning it into a glorified “gofer” function. 

As it turns out, demystifying marketing is rather easy. After peeling away the nutty (and usually meaningless) jargon, marketing is simply aligning an organization’s products and services so customers come to identify with a brand. Unfortunately,  much of what passes as “marketing” fails to pass the test. 

To better understand why marketing goes wrong and what can be done about it, here are seven common pitfalls, obstacles and stumbling blocks: 

1. Management believes it knows marketing. It’s not uncommon for the person in charge of marketing to report to someone who “loves marketing” and has strong opinions, but little or no marketing knowledge. This is often the same person who  says, “I seem to have a flair for marketing.” In such a situation, the person charged with the marketing responsibilities has two options: either bang heads or cave-in to the pressure.

An annual marketing plan that’s approved by management can help avoid such difficult and, frankly, depressing situations. Without that, there’s only chaos and unacceptable results. 

2. Marketers make a splash rather than a difference. While management may a marketing culprit, marketers can be to blame, as well. Making a quick “impression” is often the goal. As one marketing manager said the first week on the job, “We’ll be rolling out a new logo in a couple of months.” The logo remained, while the marketing manager didn’t. 

Soon after arriving at Radio Shack as EVP and CMO, Lee Applbaum kicked off a campaign to rebrand the lack luster performance of this venerable company. It would now be known simply as “The Shack.” That didn’t last long and neither did Applbaum. Unfazed by reality, his final Tweet, as reported by the Dallas Business Journal, said it all, “Been a great 3.5 years @RadioShack. Hopeful I had a positive impact on the brand. On to the next one.” 

Rather than listening to what a marketer says, it’s better to ask questions. For example, “What would be your plan for the first 90 days on the job?” 

3. Lack of discipline. It’s easy for marketing to get out of hand, particularly when there are so many “great ideas” flying around everyday. It takes a very strong person to listen and then say “no” to anything that’s off plan. Making exceptions and giving in can spell trouble. 

The best way to stand firm is to have carefully developed, absolutely clear and well-documented objectives. 

4. Failure to engage customers and prospects. Although it’s difficult to believe, the tendency to equate “selling” with “telling” persists. It’s hard to root it out of our thinking, particularly when anything less direct seems wimpish. 

Yet, Lincoln Motor Company’s recent 60-second TV spot got it right by abandoning “telling,” starting with its “Steer the Script” title. They invited people to Tweet about their favorite road trip, and the spot featured excerpts from fun episodes, not the car. It ended this way: “The story starts with you because luxury always should.” 

And it isn’t just “luxury” that should start there.  That’s where all marketing should begin. 

5. Unrealistic budget. While there are always ways to improve marketing efficiency without damaging effectiveness, all-too-often companies expect those in marketing to produce extraordinary results with an underfunded budget. 

There’s nothing wrong with a lean budget, but one that’s anorexic simply won’t work. Today, marketing tools cost money and not to take advantage of the latest technology is a prescription for failure if a company wants results to match its expectations. And, while junior marketers can add value, it takes a senior, experienced professional to steer the ship in the right direction. 

6. Failure to think through the implications. Ron Johnson created Apple’s hugely successful Apple’s retail stores and then moved on to tackle JCPenney’s faltering brand. Soon after arriving, he rolled out a massive TV marketing campaign that succeeded in thoroughly confusing consumers who had been accustomed to 400 “sales” a year. When Women’s Wear Daily asked him how he was going to correct the problem, he told the interviewer that the marketing “overreached,” adding, “It didn’t do the hard work. People found it entertaining but it wasn’t doing what we needed to do to build our business.” Then he noted, “There was too much TV and not enough print.” 

If you wonder what those words mean, here’s the translation of the jargon: he roared in as CEO, shot from the hip with “a great idea” and when it failed, he came up with an excuse and flipped back to JCP’s traditional print promotion strategy, which isn’t doing the job, either.

Failure to think through marketing initiatives follows one path: justification for failure and repeating the cycle.

7. Keeping marketing too narrowly focused. Although bouncing too many marketing activities at one time is possible, there’s a seductive tendency to do just the opposite, to lighten the load by peeling away activities or stripping them down so they’re only marginally effective.
Marketing success today moves in many directions. It depends on connecting with customers and prospects in all the ways that work for them. Inevitably, this means marketing programs must be multi-faceted.

While marketers often speak rather glibly about “integrated marketing communications,” walking the talk isn’t so easy. It’s a daunting task to integrate social media, media advertising, public and media relations, eMarketing and sales promotion so they connect with customers and prospects, and even more demanding to do it consistently so the effort enhances the brand.

If there’s a clear thread running through these seven ways marketing goes wrong, it’s that marketing is more than great ideas, innovative events or cutting edge techniques. At its core, marketing success depends on an understanding of prospects and customers, and making something happen to turn one into the other.

To accomplish this objective takes vision, innovative thought and persistence.


John R. Graham of GrahamComm is a marketing and sales consultant and business writer. He publishes a free monthly eNewsletter, “No Nonsense Marketing & Sales.” Contact him at [email protected], 617-774-9759 or

Senators Ask Vilsack To Preserve Food Safety Inspections

U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), a senior member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, says that under law, USDA is obligated to perform meat and poultry inspections for the safety of consumers. This is despite threats by the Obama administration to furlough Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) employees due to forced spending cuts set to take effect March 1, 2013.

In a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack with other senators from rural states, Roberts decried the scare tactics of the Obama administration in implementing spending cuts that amount to a small percentage of government funding. He wrote, “We are confident you have the ability to implement sequestration at USDA without jeopardizing the ability of Americans to feed their families and seriously hurting U.S. farmers, meat and poultry production facilities, and workers in those facilities.

“The Administration should produce legal justifications and furlough plans to provide transparency to the American people for USDA’s implementation of sequestration,” Roberts says. “The costs to farmers and ranchers, already hard hit by drought, will be enormous. USDA must explain whether it can cut costs and other operating expenses to protect the safety and availability of our food supply.”

Industry experts say the USDA furloughs would cause meat, poultry and egg product plants to shut down, impacting approximately 6,290 establishments nationwide and costing more than $10 billion in production losses. Meanwhile, industry workers would experience more than $400 million in lost wages.

To read the entire article, click here.

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