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Articles from 2014 In February


Flash Grazing Can Increase Forage Use

You don't have to only graze winter pastures in the winter, says Robin Salverson, South Dakota State University (SDSU) Extension cow-calf field specialist.

Try "flash grazing" winter pastures in the Northern Plains in the spring instead. The grass will grow back before fall and you'll have the same amount of forage to use in the winter.

"Results of a study at the SDSU Cottonwood Research Station suggest that grazing winter pastures in May, targeting 25% relative utilization, allows sufficient regrowth to occur during the remainder of the growing season to maintain sufficient stockpiled forages for winter use," Salverson says.

However, be careful not to graze at a higher utilization rate of 50% in May or extend the grazing period into June, even at a lower utilization rate of 25%. Standing forage available for winter use could be reduced. There was also a negative shift from mid to short grasses when plots were clipped in June.

To read more about flash grazing, click here.

 

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Charges Of Blasphemy Over Science Make A Comeback

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Charges Of Blasphemy Over Science Make A Comeback

Charges Of Blasphemy Over Science Make A Comeback

Down through time, few things have been punished more severely than blasphemy or heresy. To disrespect commonly held views, or worse yet to hold unconventional ones, has always been treated fairly severely. Well before the Salem witch hunts, there’s been a certain element of fear and self-preservation that has forced people to react negatively to anyone or any idea that challenges the conventional thinking of the time.

Ironically, in a world supposedly more open-minded and tolerant, we’re just as quick to accuse someone of blasphemy or heresy. The difference today is that the charges, in the U.S. anyway, usually don’t center on religion but whether one dares to challenge the liberal orthodoxy of the day.

Charles Krauthammer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, is the latest victim. He became a heretic by simply saying that he wasn’t sure whether global warming existed or not. That was enough to spur 110,000 people to sign a petition asking the Washington Post to no longer carry his column. I find it unnerving that someone with the intellect and elegance of Krauthammer would be silenced because his views don’t fall in line with the establishment’s views.

Another example is Phil Robertson, patriarch of the Duck Dynasty reality show. He ran afoul of the thought police when, in response to a question during a wide-ranging interview, he said he believed in the traditional Judeo-Christian view of marriage.

 

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Of course, while these protests are aimed at high-profile personalities like Krauthammer and Robertson, their real intent is to intimidate and silence anyone with less “star” power who might think about expressing an opinion that questions the unapproved way of thinking. President Obama made this very clear in his State of the Union speech last month when he pronounced the debate about climate change is settled. That’s, of course, despite the abject failure of models to accurately predict global warming. As Krauthammer lucidly points out, science isn’t decided by consensus: “There is nothing more anti-scientific than the very idea that science is settled, static, impervious to challenge.”

But if one dares to challenge the conventional politically correct dogma, your career is in danger. It’s long been understood in the scientific community that you either do research that conforms or you won’t be funded. Intimidation is the new norm.

The real danger, however, isn’t the attempt to force people to conform and the derailing of public discourse. It is the license it has given governmental groups, whether it be the Environmental Protection Agency or the Internal Revenue Service, to act outside of any legislative mandate to effect policies outside of the legislative process.

The economic boycotts and pressure brought by these groups are well within their rights. Personally, I haven’t bought a single CD from any country singer who advocates for vegetarianism. That’s my right, but I haven’t taken part in any efforts to remove their songs from the airwaves.

The difference has become that the left has perfected its economic boycott mechanisms; almost instantly, they can generate 100,000 outraged citizens on just about any topic. Technology has provided tremendous clout to the vocal minority.

The vocal minority has become extremely sophisticated in its tactics. It has invested in technology and become proficient in guerilla warfare. The silent majority has no such organization and infrastructure. I liken it to the early days of terrorism before society began to make significant investments to protect itself.

Instead of just complaining that public discourse and non-establishment thinking is being curtailed, we need to step forward and fight for sound science and honest debate. A monolithic world not only doesn’t make good decisions, it leads to tyranny.

 

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U.S. Supreme Court Will Determine The Supremacy Of EPA

U.S. Supreme Court Will Determine The Supremacy Of EPA

The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard arguments from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding how much leeway regulatory agencies have in rewriting legislation and using their regulatory powers to reach beyond the intent of legislation. This case involves the Clean Air Act and whether EPA has the legal authority to regulate greenhouse gases under this act.

Regardless of how the court rules, it’s expected that carbon emissions likely will be regulated. However, the decision is expected to have an impact on whether EPA has free rein to regulate any and all emissions.

The Court, as it is on most politically sensitive decisions, is expected to be deeply divided, with one swing vote expected to carry the day. On a micro-level, in the state of Colorado, livestock groups like the Colorado Cattlemen’s and Colorado Livestock Association spend as much, if not more, time protecting the interests of the industry on the regulatory front as they do on the legislative front.

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In fact, it is a testament to the democratic legislative process that it represents far less danger to the industry than either the regulatory side or the ballot initiative side, where decisions tend to be made with very little substantive discussion or input. It’s difficult to overemphasize the impact of regulations. For example, in Obama’s first term in office, rules issued by EPA are estimated to have added $37.8 billion annually to private sector compliance costs.  

Technically, the Supreme Court is ruling a narrowly defined EPA action as they are looking specifically at the EPA’s “carbon endangerment” rule. But the bigger picture is it will help to establish how much government agencies are allowed to rewrite laws by bypassing democratic consent.

No matter how noble the cause (saving the world from the excesses of man and capitalism), will a government agency be allowed to broadly interpret a law and, in effect, create legislation without the input of the legislature? The importance of this debate is very important and very opportune. The great question seems to be that it can be argued that the Clean Air Act, does allow for the EPA actions based on the interpretation of the law. The decision may not be as important as how the Justices explain their decision, whatever it may be.

 

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Industry At A Glance: Corn/Soybean/Wheat Acreage Forecast

USDA released its initial crop acreage forecast last week at the USDA Outlook Forum. Overall acreage is largely in line with last year’s planted acres. However, there is a slight rotation out of corn into soybeans.

Note that the chart indicates 2014 forecast corn coverage is down to 92 million acres – a decline of 3 million acres vs. last year. Meanwhile, soybean acres have increased by an equal amount to 79.5 million acres.

Simultaneously, USDA is forecasting next year’s corn carryover to exceed 2 billion bu.; that’s the highest level in 10 years and the largest carryover in the ethanol era. That’s all contingent, though, on a forecasted yield of 165.3 bu./acre.

Clearly, there are lots of factors going forward that will change all of these assumptions. However, at this point, how do you see these forecasts with your observations out there in the country? How are you preparing for the potential of lower feed costs? Does the growing carryover make you more optimistic about the long-run feed outlook and willingness to grow the cowherd? Leave your thoughts below. 

 

USDA Extends Comment Period On Brazilian Beef Imports

USDA Extends Comment Period On Brazilian Beef Imports

Two days before Christmas 2013, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) published a proposed rule that would allow, under certain circumstances, beef imports from 14 Brazilian states.

Reaction from cattle country was immediate and resolute. Given that Brazil has a long history of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), cattlemen expressed strong concern about the ability of the two respective governments to protect the U.S. cattle industry from the disease.

“We believe in the World Organization for Animal Health, we believe in taking down trade barriers, and we believe in making sure we have the opportunity for as much trade as possible,” says Colin Woodall, chief lobbyist in Washington, D.C., for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “But, we need to make sure we’re doing that without putting our own domestic herd at risk.  No amount of trade is worth that,” he says. 

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Comments on the initial proposal, published Dec. 23, 2013, were to close Feb. 21. However, APHIS yesterday reopened the comment period. Comments now are due by April 22. “Over the next 60 days, we will be putting our questions and concerns into our comments in hopes that USDA will slow this process down and ensure those issues are addressed,” Woodall says.

So far, the more than 500 comments submitted are running strongly against the proposal. “We are ranchers in the Texas Panhandle. We work hard on a daily basis to keep our cattle healthy both for their benefit and ours,” said Kathryn Carlisle. “The importation of Brazilian beef would be devastating to this industry. What we have spent years protecting our herd from would now be right here with us. I don't believe you can assure us that Brazilian beef will not be tainted with FMD. Please reconsider this plan. Vote no to import Brazilian beef.”

Daph Hobelman agrees. “Brazil has not the track record to justify the risks involved; nor have they been completely forth-coming or transparent with problems in the past. I am a rancher in the Nebraska Sandhills, and I speak for very many others who have a vested interest in maintaining the integrity of our quality, health and safety of our cattle, and our markets.”

The proposed regulation changes would allow the importation of chilled or frozen beef, while continuing to protect the U.S. from an introduction of FMD, USDA says. Due to long-standing concerns over FMD, only thermally processed beef (cooked) from Brazil has been allowed into the U.S. The designated export region is composed of the Brazilian states of Bahia, Distrito Federal, Espirito Santo, Goias, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Minas Gerais, Parana, Rio Grande do Sul, Rio de Janeiro, Rondonia, Sao Paulo, Sergipe, and Tocantis.

Click here to read the proposed rule.

To read the comments submitted so far, click here.

 

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What Will The Future Of Preconditioning Look Like?

What Will The Future Of Preconditioning Look Like?

Preconditioning has been utilized since the 1960s. It’s commonly defined as having calves weaned for three weeks, bunk broke, and on a comprehensive health program. But what else is encompassed under the ideal definition of preconditioning, and what impacts and expectations will face the cow-calf producer who chooses to utilize this management tool in the future?

Darr Feedlot Inc., in Cozad, NE, feeds about 100,000 head of cattle annually. Partner Craig Uden says successful preconditioning is a by-product of overall herd management. He adds that while the industry has made rapid advances in the last 30 years, the science of preconditioning demands additional progress, particularly in the areas of health, accountability and transparency.

“Independence is cattlemen’s greatest asset, but it’s often also their greatest challenge. We have to communicate and acknowledge that we aren’t only cow-calf, feedlot or seedstock producers, but food producers. That has never been more important than right now,” Uden says.

The push for improved communication is driven both by the need to maximize returns and the fact that today’s consumers want to not only know where their food comes from, but how it was managed from birth to plate. The ability to provide that information will increase marketability, but also efficiency and profitability for the cow-calf sector.

Optimal use of health products

“One example is that we’re still overusing vaccines because we don’t have a good history from one segment to the other of what cattle have had. So, we’re each covering our end and revaccinating. We need to have more open communication so that we’re not duplicating and using what is today’s common shotgun approach. We have too much cost in these cattle to be duplicating unnecessarily,” Uden notes.

Such duplication is also of concern to many consumers, who are pushing for a reduction of vaccine and/or antibiotic use in livestock production. Uden says more inter-sector communication would better enable the beef industry to combat activist groups as well as implement a more consumer-favored “holistic” approach to raising cattle. “We’ll need to focus more on nutrition going forward, and less on drugs,” he adds.

Overall, herd health on a year-round basis is where the production of a healthier feeder animal that can maximize available nutrition and minimize the need for drugs begins. “Preconditioning health starts pre-calving through managing the lifecycle of the cow. Those people that do a better job with their cows have a much tighter breed-up and they’re giving shots on time in the spring,” Uden says.

Uden says his operation has traced many problems to calves that weren’t vaccinated in the spring. “Those spring shots are more important than what’s given in the fall. I still want the calves given shots in the fall because they won’t have enough immunity once they leave the cow and meet that stress without them. However, those branding-day vaccinations will result in fewer health problems in that calf’s future,” he says.

While improved health management across an entire herd will result in fewer health issues in a given calf crop, it’s hardly a catch-all that will prevent any and all sickness.

“I’m not saying calves won’t get sick in the future; as we know it sometimes will be 60° above on a Monday and -60° on Wednesday, and those cattle have to live through that stress. But when cattle do get sick, those that are managed well throughout that cow’s life cycle tend to respond better to one shot. That’s a real benefit and value for us,” he explains.

Uden bases his statement on data derived from the tracking system Darr Feedlot has on all cattle fed in their facilities. The system provides real-time information on animals under their care, and insight as to why they are, or are not, performing optimally.

Looking ahead, technology use and data-based decision making will continue gaining momentum. Not only in better documenting communication regarding animal management prior to leaving the ranch, but also in identifying unforeseen hiccups that may impact future calf health and performance.

One example that Uden provides is the transportation component, during which neither the producer nor the feeder typically are in control.

“We do trace and note any transportation issues on cattle arriving at our facilities because there’s nothing more frustrating than you doing your job and me doing mine and a bad trucking job putting those cattle in jeopardy,” Uden says.

It starts at the beginning

However, that doesn’t change the fact that, in some instances, the basics aren’t being adequately covered at the ranch level. A quality vaccination program is a must in getting cattle started right. That means not only proper timing and dosage but ensuring that vaccine products are handled correctly to maximize their effectiveness. Learning to handle cattle in a low-stress manner on foot is another, as are good facilities. These are additional key components of management that will pay back in dividends, perhaps to a larger degree in the future than has ever been witnessed in the past, he says.

“As there is more pressure from above, as in government entities or consumer advocates, I think adhering to Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) guidelines, and being able to tell people this is a BQA facility will be instrumental,” says Uden of where he sees the future of accountability regarding basic management decisions heading.

Utilizing DNA technology, as it becomes more accurate and affordable to identify and produce animals with the highest degree of disease resistance, is another future preconditioning tool that Uden suggests producers begin familiarizing themselves with today.

For those within the cow-calf sector willing to go the extra mile regarding preconditioning, a significant increase in return is attainable.

“We feed 100,000 cattle, and we can find the good ones. Right now, the market is really good, but we are still seeing a $10-$20/cwt. difference in cattle. The reason is that the guys who are managing their cows and the entire program, and telling the story of what they’re doing and passing that on to the second owner of those cattle, are making more money. Right now, if you’re talking $20/cwt. from high to low on 500-weight calves and you sell 100 of them, that’s a $100 bill each or an additional $10,000 you could have had,” Uden says.

Managing herd health year-round, optimizing and balancing costs (vs. focusing on simply being low cost), striving for prevention over responsive treatment, and implementing low-stress handling to the highest degree possible are all key strategies that will be demanded in exchange for that additional $100 bill going forward.

“Change is ongoing. If you don’t like change, you’re in the wrong business, and I think consumers will drive that change. That pressure is already at the meat retailer and packer, and will go down to the feedlot; it won’t be long before that pressure is down to the cow-calf segment,” Uden says.

Heather Hamilton-Maude is a rancher and freelance writer based in Caputa, SD.

 

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It’s Time For Old Man Winter To Step Aside

It’s Time For Old Man Winter To Step Aside

I often scroll through my Facebook and Twitter news feeds to get ideas for blog posts. As I perused the comments from my ranching friends from across the country, I could have concluded it was a slow news day, until I realized that everyone was talking about the same thing -- the cold weather.

Whether you live in the South and your idea of cold is below freezing, or if you live in the North and you’ve gotten pretty sick and tired of seeing a negative before the number on your temperature gauge, I think it’s safe to say that many of us in the cattle business are tired of winter.

With March just around the corner, I keep hoping for signs of spring; however, looking at the weather forecast for the week ahead, I don’t think spring is even close to making its arrival.

 

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Driving east a couple of weeks ago for a speaking engagement in Wisconsin, I couldn’t believe the snow drifts that were piled up. However, at home in South Dakota, we’ve barely had any snow cover at all since that first blizzard back in October. It’s been a cold, dry, open winter, and for drought-stricken areas, this is only making matters worse.

I recently came across an article in the The Daily, an Oklahoma-based publication, entitled, “Coldest, Driest Winter In Years Creates Worries For Farmers.” The article gives an idea of how bad things are actually getting for some ranchers.

Here is an excerpt: “The drought impact started being evident in 2011. From fall 2010 to the end of 2011, Oklahoma’s agricultural industry lost about $1 billion. U.S. corn exports were the lowest they had been since 1970, at 715 million bushels, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) data.

“The drought hit Oklahoma and most of the nation with full force. But it didn’t stop there. The Midwest and Plains regions of the nation were estimated to have lost $35 billion in 2012, according to the NDMC data. From 2011 to 2012, ranchers in Oklahoma sold nearly 20% of their cattle because of low feed and water supply.

“At the end of 2013, 71% of Oklahoma was categorized as at least ‘abnormally dry.’ The combination of three cold, dry winters create worse than ‘abnormal’ circumstances for farmers, says Gail Holland, USDA county executive director.”

Read the entire article here, which includes a rancher’s testimony of how he is getting through this tough winter.

How is the weather this winter in your neck of the woods? Are you getting any moisture? What is the drought status in your area? Share with us in the comments section below.

 

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In Ranch Management, People Make The Difference

In Ranch Management, People Make The Difference

The second of my “Five Essentials for Successful Ranch Management” is to strive for “continuous improvement of the key resources – land, livestock and people.” I’ve previously written in this column about the improvement of livestock via bull selection and cow culling, and of the land with good grazing management. Last month, I discussed improving soil health. However, nothing changes or improves without people implementing ideas, practices and proven techniques for the betterment of our land and livestock. For that to happen, people need opportunities to improve.

As manager of the Rex Ranch in Nebraska, we often had groups of students, ranchers, etc., that would visit to view our practices and management. One thing these visitors quickly observed was that each of our full-time employees had a herd of cows and perhaps a group of yearlings for which they was responsible. When questions were asked about the grazing, the supplemental feeding or the various costs of running the herd, we managers almost always deferred to the person responsible for the herd for an answer. Upon seeing that our people understood the ranch’s “shared vision” and that they knew the costs of what they were doing, the visitors would often ask, “Where do you get people like this?”

While I was fortunate to work with very good people, I nonetheless believe that many people can be led to learn, think, analyze, work and implement like our staff did.

After a few groups had visited our operation and observed our people, I was asked to speak at several events on the topic of how to empower employees. Each time I did so, I found myself wishing I’d been asked me to talk about our grazing methods or how we selected our bulls, culled cows, or marketed our production. It would have been easier and the ideas are more transferrable.

 

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The reality is that a manager can’t empower anyone; empowerment is an individual and ongoing activity. As managers we can encourage, facilitate and reward empowerment. If we do our part and the employee has the necessary talent, ability, motivation and work ethic – and many do, then they can become empowered.

For many years I have said, “The manager’s job is to create an environment in which people want to excel and then provide the tools, training and freedom to do it.” Part of creating that environment is to show or help (encourage) your people understand their potential.

During the hiring process, you should have already explained your vision and each team member’s part in that vision. If part of that vision includes each person (perhaps your children) being given more responsibility and opportunity to participate in management as they learn their jobs and demonstrate proficiency in each aspect – and if people get excited about the possibilities and they truly do want to excel – then you move to the facilitation phase.

To facilitate another’s empowerment, I like to use:

1) On-the-job training, which is best done by well-qualified trainers, and

2) Ongoing educational opportunities to help the person see, grasp, understand, analyze and implement new methods and ideas.

On our operation, we used a combination online courses, experts that came to the ranch to teach us, visits to other ranches, short-courses and seminars. Examples of things taught on the ranch are artificial insemination, pregnancy diagnosis, reproduction, nutrition, range management, animal handling, etc. Some of our own people became qualified to teach refresher courses and to introduce new employees to the concepts.

 

While all are good methods, I personally prefer having a qualified teacher come to the ranch or short-courses and seminars because of the opportunity to get acquainted with and interact with the speakers or instructors. In addition, I usually budgeted for a significant off-ranch learning experience (a seminar, short-course or a 2-3-day visit to another ranch) for each employee annually.

As people begin to learn and perform their job well with less supervision, it becomes time for reward. Most of our ranches don’t have many levels of management; therefore, we need to promote within a job or expand its size and responsibilities as the person demonstrates his/her competence and capabilities.

This is where “freedom to do it” comes in. When people are given opportunities to use their own ideas more, to be self-supervising and to put ideas into the management scheme, they feel rewarded.  Everyone wants a chance to succeed; and when they get it, they feel rewarded. 

Those visiting the Rex Ranch often made the observation that “each of your employees has their own ranch within the larger ranch.” It wasn’t quite that autonomous, because they needed to use our grazing methods, follow our genetics and marketing programs. But, they had a lot of flexibility in how they did it.

These folks also had opportunities to present and suggest new ideas; and, I must say, that many of our good ideas came from our people – perhaps as a result of their empowerment efforts. 

The owner-manager-leader (one person or several) should put forth a vision and then move that to a “shared vision.” To have such a shared vision requires true buy-in and participation of all stakeholders, including employees. It doesn’t take long for people to sense if they are a robotic extension of the boss or a valuable member of a team of independent thinkers with good ideas for improvement.

Remember, leadership is best gauged by the voluntary response of those being led.  Otherwise it is “pushership” or coercion.

Burke Teichert, consultant on strategic planning for ranches, is retired as vice president and general manager of Deseret. He resides in Orem, UT, and can be reached at [email protected].  

 

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Zoetis Partners with Customers to Provide Support to FFA, AABP, AAEP Programs in 2014

Zoetis announces the return of its Industry Support Program for youth involved in agriculture and veterinary medicine. For the sixth year, Zoetis is partnering with veterinarians, animal health suppliers and dealer customers to support students through FFA, the American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP) Foundation and the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) Foundation. Since its inception in 2008, this program has donated more than $5.9 million.

Through April 30, 2014, a portion of funds from eligible purchases of Zoetis cattle and equine products will be directed to local FFA chapters and/or veterinary student scholarships through the AABP and AAEP foundations on behalf of local veterinarians and animal health suppliers.

In previous years, more than 1,000 veterinarians, animal health suppliers and dealer customers from across the country have participated in the program. FFA chapters and veterinary students continue to benefit each year from the support of these organizations.

In 2013, the Canton, Pa., FFA chapter received a donation from its local veterinary clinic, Troy Veterinary Clinic, through the cooperative efforts of the Zoetis program.

“Our chapter is very appreciative of all the support offered by Troy Vet Clinic in helping to be able to maintain a successful agricultural program,” said Tom Hojnowski, Canton FFA advisor. “Troy Vet Clinic has been a great supporter of the Canton chapter through their participation in county livestock events, visits to our classroom, administration of exams in production agriculture and hosting visits to their clinic.”

For former veterinary student scholarship winner Dr. Megan Hays, who earned her degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, this support means a continued commitment to the future of veterinarians. 

“This program provides an opportunity to give back to the upcoming generations of veterinarians,” Dr. Hays said. “By providing mentorship, hands-on training and scholarship opportunities for student veterinarians, practicing veterinarians and organizations show that they are interested in and dedicated to building a strong network of veterinarians with the knowledge, opportunity and leadership capabilities necessary to continue the growth of our field of work.”

The Industry Support Program and donations are possible only because of the generosity of customers, said Rob Kelly, vice president, U.S. Cattle and Equine Operations, Zoetis.

“Last year, our customers helped contribute $1.2 million to more than 1,800 local FFA chapters across the country and AABP and AAEP veterinary student scholarships,” Kelly said. “We’re thankful for the continued support and the important work these organizations do to prepare young people for a future in American agriculture.”

For more information on how to enroll in the 2014 Industry Support Program, call 866-611-2626, contact your local Zoetis representative or visit zoetisUS.com/industrysupport.

Support of FFA and the AABP and AAEP foundations is a component of Commitment to Veterinarians, a Zoetis initiative supporting veterinarians through training and education, research and development, and investing in the future of the veterinary profession.

 

Selenium is Key Ingredient in Producing Healthier Meat For Humans, Brazilian Study Finds

Selenium may be a key ingredient to producing healthier meat and lowering animal cholesterol levels according to researchers at the University of São Paulo (USP) in Brazil. The study aimed to determine the effects of canola oil as a fat source when combined with the antioxidants vitamin E and selenium, as well as determine the metabolic lipid oxidation and nutritional value of the beef. The result – a meat enriched with vitamin E and selenium with lower levels of cholesterol.

Selenium, an essential nutrient for animals and people, is a powerful antioxidant and plays a critical role in metabolism, reproductive health and the body’s natural defense system. The organic selenium used in the USP study was Sel-Plex®, from Alltech, a natural source of selenium enriched yeasts with higher bioavailability than inorganic sources. Sel-Plex is the only FDA reviewed and the first EU approved form of organic selenium for all animal species.

“We’re excited to share these independent results, obtained by one of the most prestigious universities in this field of study, with the global livestock and poultry sectors,” said Steve Elliott, global director of the mineral management program for Alltech. “Selenium has once again been confirmed as a critical component for the human diet, and Alltech is committed to delivering a safe and efficient source of selenium to animals and humans in a natural way.”

According to the lead researcher, Dr. Marcus Antonio Zanetti of the School of Animal Science and Food Engineering, USP, studies like this are important to improve human nutrition in a time of great demand for healthier products.

"Strengthening the immune system of people and helping health professionals, nutritionists and all those involved in the meat production chain find a practical way to do so is one of the objectives of this research," Zanetti said. 

In the first part of the study, 48 Nellore bulls were divided into four groups with and without additional supplemental selenium, vitamin E and canola oil. The second phase aimed to provide selenium-enriched meat to a group of elderly people.

"We supplemented the diet of animals with 2.5 mg of organic selenium per cow per day for a period of three months during fattening and found that in addition to increasing the amount of selenium in the blood of animals, the mineral content in the meat produced was six times greater than meat from beef cattle that have not had the supplemented diet,” Zanetti said.

According to Zanetti, the cholesterol level in the blood and meat of the animals that were fed the selenium-enriched diet was also reduced significantly.

In the second phase of the research, to assess the effects of meat supplemented with selenium on lowering cholesterol in human blood, the researchers conducted a study in a nursing care facility in São Paulo. For periods up to 90 days, the cattle meat supplemented with selenium and vitamin E was included in the meals of 80 elderly people in different variations on the menu. The special diet was coordinated by a registered dietician for the project.

After 45 days, a blood test analysis for the group showed an increase in the amount of selenium in the blood plasma. Zanetti emphasized that the results of cholesterol rates are not yet completed.

"However, through this research, we have seen an increase in the availability of vitamin E and selenium in the blood of the group that ate the meat,” Zanetti said.
 

According to nutritionists, selenium is considered an important antioxidant mineral that prevents the formation of free radicals, enhances immunity and thus helps fight infections in humans. However, many people are still deficient in selenium in their daily diet. According to the faculty of pharmaceutical sciences, USP, selenium levels are low in the Brazilian diet due to the country’s mineral deficient soil.

Zanetti believes that the development of supplemented products can help improve human nutrition.

“The daily consumption of 200 grams (7 ounces) of meat supplemented with selenium is able to provide the recommended mineral [50 micrograms] daily intake,” he said.
 

In a previous trial, Zanetti and other researchers supplemented the diet of cows with sunflower oil, organic selenium and vitamin E to increase the mineral availability in milk produced by the animals. The diet supplemented with milk was offered to a group of children in first through fourth grade. The research results showed the additional improvement in the quality and preservation of enriched milk by increasing levels of selenium and vitamin E in the blood of the children. 
 

“This is pioneering research on selenium enriched milk and meat that links animal feed and nutrition to human health,” Zanetti said. "In the world, there has only been basic investigation into this, but nothing as extensive as our studies.”