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Articles from 2018 In February

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3 consumer headlines that will make you go “hmm…”

Alex011973 / ThinkStock Cultured Meat

This year marks my 10th year as a blogger for BEEF, and in the last decade, one of my primary focuses — aside from sharing personal stories from my family’s ranch — has been identifying consumer trends and strategizing best ways for beef producers to remain part of the conversation.

What I’ve learned over the years is that to truly understand our consumer, we need to think as an urban shopper would and not from our vantage point as ranchers who spend our days working directly with land and livestock.

Yes, we are also consumers and we have a great deal of shared values with our customer base; however, our day-to-day lives look vastly different on a remote cattle ranch than they would in the concrete jungle of the nation’s largest cities.

To get a better grasp on how our consumers think, I’ve compiled three headlines for us to review and evaluate. As you read through these stories, think of your initial reaction and compare it to how our consumer might be thinking about the article. Does that change the way we might respond to some of these hot button issues? Let’s take a look at this week’s most interesting consumer headlines and determine the best ways for us to balance out the conversations.

1. Alliance pushes back against alternative protein’s ‘clean meat’ claims

Call it cultured meat, test tube meat, fake meat or lab meat, but don’t you dare call it clean meat! That’s what the Animal Agriculture Alliance (Alliance) is telling the press given the recent media hype with this new meat product hitting the market. In a recent interview, Kay Johnson Smith, Alliance president and CEO, says while they support consumer choice, calling this product “clean meat” implies that conventionally raised beef is somehow unclean. Whether it’s plant-based meat or test tube meat, the claims that these products are somehow better for the environment are currently unsubstantiated. What’s more, she says consumers can certainly look at these alternatives, but they shouldn’t do so because they are scared of traditional meats available at the grocery store. Watch her interview here.

How do you think consumers will respond to clean meat on the market place? Do you think their perceptions may change if they are referred to as test tube meats or cultured meats? Do you think the term “clean meat” perpetuates the perception that conventional meats are “unclean?”

READ: Will the real truth about meat please stand up?

2. Florida Supreme Court: You can’t grow vegetables on your own property

Home owners associations aside, this is one of those cases where neighbors should worry about their own yards instead of messing with the houses across the street. In Florida, one homeowner took this issue to court after the neighbors complained about the vegetable garden they had planted in their yard. Despite arguing that being unable to plant food for their own personal consumption is a violation of their rights to acquire possess and protect property, the Florida courts thought otherwise. Even though the battle was lost, the war is not over. A bill introduced in the Florida legislature would protect individual property rights. Learn more about it here.

If neighborhoods feel they can control what the houses next door and across the street can do with their personal property, do you think they also feel entitled to decide how you manage your pastures and fields? Do you think many consumers want a closer eye on farmers and ranchers? Do they want a say in the seeds you plant, the genetics you breed your livestock to, the technology you utilize in your operations, the chemicals you apply to your fields, and the time you’re allowed to graze or occupy the land?

READ: From homebuilder to fulltime ranchers, couple learns what it takes to restore rangeland

If they’ve been told their whole lives that agriculture is inherently bad for the environment, why wouldn’t they want to control your private properties a little bit more closely? Just like this case of a couple having to fight to plant a few tomatoes in the back yard, it’s not much of a leap to think consumers would want to fight to leave the land dormant, under the misguided notion that man is “bad” and letting nature take on its own is “good.” So what’s the best way for the industry should respond? Is it the route of private property rights, sustainability, the need to feed a growing planet or a combination of all three?

3. Couple adopts pet pig from animal shelter only to kill and eat her

The gist of this story goes like this — Canadian couple adopts a pig from a shelter. They decide the pig takes too much maintenance. They eat the pig. Shelter is mortified. Read the dramatic details here.

Is a pig pet or food? Does the definition change whether you bought the pig from a shelter or from a hog farm? Did the couple adopt this pig under false pretenses? And should it be against the law to eat an animal intended for a pet? Or is the animal considered personal property, and because it’s made of bacon, nobody should think twice about it?

READ: Activist faces jail time for offering water to pigs in trailer

Mull over these questions and try to think about the answers from not only a rancher’s perspective but a consumer’s, too. By understanding both sides of the discussion, we can better formulate talking points to the hot button issues that come up about the agricultural industry.

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


Steve Alexander fills in Max Armstrong, who is in California attending Commodity Classic today.

I bet there was a lot of discussion at Commodity Classic about Sen. Ted Cruz releasing his hold on Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey’s nomination for a post at USDA. Northey has been Iowa Agriculture Secretary for 11 years.

In Indiana, Gov. Eric Holcomb signed bill ending state’s decades-old ban on carryout sale of alcohol.

The Grain Belt Express Clean Power Line would run from Missouri through eastern states.

There is a gun show this weekend in Wheaton, Ill. They won’t be raffling off any AR-15 weapons. Sales of these weapons is also prohibited at the show.

Jan Morgan, who declared her shooting range a Muslim-free zone in 2014, will run for Arkansas governor. Also on the ballot in Arkansas,  Elvis D. Presley, who is running for Congress as a Libertarian.

Patented vaccine technology offers options for cattle care

Kansas State University Kansas State University veterinary researchers have earned a divisional patent for their work on a new treatment for liver abscesses in cattle that does not use antibiotics.
Kansas State University veterinary researchers have earned a divisional patent for their work on a new treatment for liver abscesses in cattle that does not use antibiotics.

A new divisional patent issued to researchers at Kansas State University's College of Veterinary Medicine could help cattle producers by providing a non-antibiotic treatment option for beef cattle liver infections.

The latest work -- "Composition & Methods for Detecting, Treating & Protecting Against Fusobacterium Infection," by the university's T.G. Nagaraja and M.M. Chengappa and former College of Veterinary Medicine researchers Sanjeev Narayanan and Amit Kumar -- uses vaccine-based technology that circumvents antibiotic use when treating cattle and sheep for liver abscesses caused by Fusobacterium, according to the announcement. The liver infections are a significant economic concern to the feedlot industry.

The researchers' work improves a previous patent they earned for their novel approach to preventing fusobacterial infections, said Nagaraja, university distinguished professor of microbiology in the diagnostic medicine and pathobiology department of the College of Veterinary Medicine.

"We have identified a protein and learned the mechanisms of how the protein attaches to cells, so we created compositions and methods to use the protein to prevent the attachment of Fusobacterium to the cells in the rumen — the first compartment of a cow stomach — and liver," Nagaraja said. "If bacteria do not attach to cells, they are highly unlikely to cause infection."

Chengappa, also a university distinguished professor of microbiology in the diagnostic medicine and pathobiology department, said the original patent covers the use of the researchers' invention within expression systems, adjuvants, injectable solutions, oral compounds and vaccines.

"The new patent broadens the scope of how the invention can be utilized," Chengappa said.

Kansas State noted that a recent study by West Texas A&M University for a major animal health company found that liver abscesses cost the beef industry $56 million annually. Options for treating cattle with such infections and other diseases have been affected by new regulations on antibiotic use in livestock called the Veterinary Feed Directive, which the Food & Drug Administration enacted in January 2017.

"Alternative methods to antibiotics for prevention, control and treatment of disease in animals are of great value as we move into a time of increased focus on antibiotic stewardship," said Mike Apley, the Frick professor of clinical sciences at Kansas State University. "This focus is apparent in regulatory, legislative and consumer attention given to antibiotic use in food animals. Effective vaccines for common diseases are especially valuable in our prevention and control protocols."

While the timing of the newly patented methods is convenient for producers, the research evolved over a much longer period of time.

"Understanding the pathogenesis and factors contributing to the liver abscessation in feedlot cattle was a novel scientific field discovery 30 years ago," said Kelly Lechtenberg, a former doctoral student under Nagaraja who currently leads Midwest Veterinary Services in Oakland, Neb., and the Veterinary & Biomedical Research Center in Manhattan, Kan.

"The work of Drs. Nagaraja and Chengappa is instrumental in understanding the liver abscess disease process, identifying optimal points of intervention and providing the insight necessary to develop effective vaccines," Lechtenberg said.

The new patent is effective for 20 years and is administered through the Kansas State University Research Foundation.


Steve Alexander fills in for Max Armstrong who is in California attending Commodity Classic today.

In Indiana, Gov. Eric Holcomb is signing a bill that legalizes the carryout sale of alcohol on Sundays. Indiana residents will be able to buy carryout alcohol between noon and 8 p.m. Sundays. It had been banned for decades.

Look no further than Sen. Ted Cruz to see why some people don’t like politicians. Cruz had put a hold on the nomination of Spirit Lake, Iowa, farmer Bill Northey for a post at USDA since September.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed into law bill designed to stabilize insurance market in that state.

Wisconsin Attorney General joined with 19 other state Attorneys General claiming that ObamaCare is unconstitutional.

A national gang has defrauded WalMart out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In Indiana, it’s legal to get your eyeballs tattooed.

Farm Progress America, February 28, 2018

Max Armstrong talks about the weather in 2012 and the drought then including the rise in food prices. But these days food cost is no longer the No. 1 cost. Max reports on a consultant report that looks at the key costs for the restaurant industry – and food isn't the No. 1 cost these days.

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: Drew Angerer

Catching up on a hay innovation

Vermeer ZR5 Self-Propelled Round baler
COMING TO MARKET: Vermeer is moving ahead with manufacture of the ZR5 Self-Propelled Round Baler, with plans to have a limited number in time for cornstalk harvest in fall 2018.

Farm machinery shows are often a chance to catch up with key players in the industry. During the National Farm Machinery Show, Farm Progress connected with Mark Core, Vermeer Corp. executive vice president, Vermeer and Kent Thompson, Vermeer research and development director. The hot topic was the ZR5 Self-Propelled Round Baler sitting on the show stand, and there was news on the more traditional baler front, too.

First up, what's happening with the ZR5? Farm Progress was the first company to offer in-depth information on this new baler in a special report released the week the machine was unveiled at Husker Harvest Days.

The machine drew a large crowd and plenty of interest, but at the time it was still a prototype. During a conversation at NFMS, Core explained that the company is moving ahead with the manufacture of the machine. “We’re looking to have a few machines ready for the market in time for the fall cornstalk season,” said Core. “And we’re hoping to have them in full production in time for the 2019 season.”

Thompson focuses on working on products that “might be” from Vermeer, and then Core’s team works to validate the market. However, when the ZR5 was made public, Core got a surprise. “The response was insane,” he said.

Essentially, the market is intrigued by the concept, and Vermeer has fielded inquiries from a range of producers. As for those first units headed to the field this fall? Core admitted there may be some competition from dealers for those initial units.

Thompson noted that production units will feature a 200-hp engine, up from the original 173 hp in the prototype. “We wanted to have a machine that would operate smoothly in the field and on the road, and that meant raising the horsepower,” he said. “We’re still using Cummins engines for this machine.” Power comes from a 4.5-liter Cummins four-cylinder engine.

The final production machine has a range of refinements. That zero-turn system has been enhanced with improved control. Core acknowledged that a first-timer in the prototype might need some adjustment time to get comfortable with the machine’s operation — but with the near-to-market version, steering is much smoother. “I struggled when I first drove the prototype,” Core said. “Today, it’s easier to drive, even for a first-time user.”

The machine uses a “drive-by-wire” system, and some software adjustments made all the difference.

Vermeer will have a limited number of machines in the market this fall. While pricing is not locked in, look for these machines to start in the low $200,000 range, though that figure has yet to be confirmed.

3 BALERS, 3 LEVELS: In the 504 Series, you can now choose the model that’s just right for your operation — from the Classic to the Signature to the top-of-the-line Premium.

New balers for 2018
The 504 baler has been a solid performer for Vermeer, but for 2018 there are more choices. Josh Vrieze, product manager, Vermeer, shared that the company will have three models of the 504R — the Classic, the Signature and the Premium. All three produce 60-inch round bales that are 47 inches wide, and each features Vermeer’s cam-less pickup design, which has fewer moving parts. All three can also use the Atlas Control System, which features an in-cab display that provides the operator key information during baling.

The 504R Classic replaces the Rebel baler in the Vermeer line. These three balers share common parts, with the same shafts, rollers and other key parts of the business end of the baler. “That means dealers can support the three machines, but need less parts on hand,” Vrieze said.

The 504R Classic is an entry-point machine, but it still has a full-width pickup and can be optioned with a twine/netwrap system. The recommended PTO horsepower for this baler is 50 hp.

The 504R Signature adds a few features, including a second door on the side and the ability to add an optional silage system — which is not available on the Classic. In addition, the Signature comes standard with the real-time moisture system.

The 504R Premium adds premium belts and even bigger tires, and comes standard with the silage baling package.

Vrieze explained that the 504R Series will offer buyers the features they want based on their farm needs. The three levels offer farmers and ranchers a range of choices, all in the same family.

The three balers — when set up with the twine/netwrap system (optional on the Classic, standard on the Signature and Premium) — are priced as follows. The Classic is about $32,000, the Signature is $38,000 and the Premium comes in at $42,000.

Learn more about the new 504R balers as well as the ZR5 at