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Fencing Products 2001

Solar Energizer

Tru-Test's Speedrite solar energizer Model S250 combines a 2.6 watt solar panel with a 12 volt rechargeable battery to produce 0.25 joules of output power. Battery management system monitors energy coming in through solar panel, amount of loading on the fence, charge status of the battery and voltage output level. Control panel can be set to full or half power, fast or slow pulse speed or night mode.
(Circle Reply Card No. 110)

Gate Closer

The Gate Closer for barbed wire gates from E-Z Products has a handle on both sides of the gate and an easy-to-operate ratchet holding mechanism. Can be padlocked.
(Circle Reply Card No. 112)

Hi-Tensile Fencing

Stay-Tite fencing is made from 12.5 gauge, hi-tensile, class 3, galvanized wire that won't stretch. This, combined with a deep crimp allows the fence to be put up, tightened and it will remain tight for the life of the fence.
(Circle Reply Card No. 113)

Post Hole Digger

The versatile Worksaver 924H skid-steer post hole digger mounts directly to skid-steer loaders equipped with universal quick attach. It provides better reach over fence lines, shrubs and other obstructions.
(Circle Reply Card No. 111)

Smart Fence Fix

Electric fence users can easily find electric faults with the SMARTFIX from Gallagher Power Fence. The hand-held digital Fault Finder has a large display panel that indicates direction of the fault and measures voltage, current and direction of the current flow.
(Circle Reply Card No. 114)

Post Hole Digger

From Triple C, the Hydra Bed system offeras an optional hydraulically powered post hole digger, the Hydra PHD. Capable of digging holes up to 14-in. in diameter in nearly all conditions, it can be used on any tractor, skid-steer loader or machine that produces 2500 psi and 4-15 gpm of hydraulic output. Protection provided by the hydraulic drive eliminates shear bolt breakage. Power reversibility feature allows backing the auger out of problem holes.
(Circle Reply Card No. 115)

Fence Step Over

Cross T-post fences with ease using the cast aluminum alloy Hi-Stepper from Modern Farm. It slips over T-post lugs and locks in place, giving you a 4-in. wide step on each side of the fence. Weighs 8 oz.
(Circle Reply Card No. 116)

Gate Latch

The Latch LLC gate latch now comes with a channel back plate for welding to pipe posts. To operate, pull up on pin on latch and the gate is free to swing either way. To close, just give the gate a push and it latches automatically.
(Circle Reply Card No. 117)

Fence Line Tightner

Cameo Fencing's Ezy-Way fence line tightner works on all sizes of polywire including Maxi Grunt and 14- and 16-gauge steel wire.
(Circle Reply Card No. 118)

Wire Winder

Pro-Tatch's 3-pt. hydraulic wire winder is now being manufactured to work on other applications such as the Dew Eze hydraulic bed. The units holds up to ½ mile of barbed wire or smooth wire. Comes complete with ball valve, hoses and TRW hydraulic motor.
(Circle Reply Card No. 119)

T-Post Driver

The air-powered T-post driver from Rohrer Manufacturing features durable steel construction and has an operating speed of 80-85 strokes/minute. It runs off any small air compressor that delivers at least 2.2 cu. ft. of air at 70-90 psi. Its compact size makes remote locations and tight spots accessible.
(Circle Reply Card No. 120)

Fence Post Caps

Bright yellow Re-Flex fence post caps from CPC make fence posts more visible to humans and animals. The soft rubber caps are available in four sizes for both the “T” and “U” pole.
(Circle Reply Card No. 121)

Corner Post

The Mule corner post and anchor system from Geotek features all-fiberglass post construction with a protective UV coating for strength and durability. Screw-in steel anchors are easy to install and hold in any terrain.
(Circle Reply Card No. 122)

Energizers

Twin Mountain Fence Co. offers six energizer units including electric, battery and solar. Electric models range from the E150, a 110 volt, 15 mile, 1.5 joule unit to the E1200, a 110 volt, 120 mile, 12 joule unit. The B100 and B500 battery-powered units are offered in 1 joule, 10 miles or 5 joule, 50 miles. Solar unit is 12-volt, 0.20 joule, 2 miles.
(Circle Reply Card No. 123)

Out Of The Drought

Grazing alternatives to help pastures recover from last year's drought.

Despite being classified as a weed, crabgrass (above) offers high quality forage in the summer.

A drought can be excruciating, but the year after can be just as bad for a cattle producer. Already short of feed, you don't know what the next season will bring.

That's the situation ranchers in many regions find themselves in this year. And, they're looking everywhere for advice and ideas on how to get through another year.

Bruce Anderson's first concern is that ranchers will be tempted this spring to turn cattle out onto pastures not yet recovered from drought stress. Grazing such pastures, even though they look good, can carry long-term negative implications, says the University of Nebraska forage Extension specialist.

“We can be fairly certain some of those heavily grazed drought-stressed pastures have suffered damage, especially to the root systems,” he says. “It takes time for those pastures to recover. The more conservative ranchers can be with their grazing decisions, the better. It helps if they have some alternative forages.”

When making recommendations for grazing options, Anderson first likes to look at what might already be available — such as a stand of winter wheat, winter triticale or winter rye.

“You might be able to devote some or all of these acres to grazing into late spring or early summer, depending on where you live,” he adds. “This can be a reasonable option especially when cattle prices are high and grain prices are low.”

Oats are a second relatively easy and inexpensive forage option for “farmable land” that might be available to a rancher.

“The problem is you're looking at several weeks before a crop can be grazed,” he admits. “But, oats might provide an extended recovery period for drought-stressed pastures.” Anderson says that, in most cases, with some planning and a germination check, ranchers can get by with “bin run” oats as seed.

Anderson also likes to consider the summer annual grasses that can be used for summer pasture, green chop, hay, silage and even winter pasture.

“They're often used as sources of emergency forage,” he says. “In addition, residues of summer annuals make an excellent seedbed mulch for new stands of perennial grass, particularly on sandy soils.”

Early Grazing Options

The summer annual grasses most often used for grazing in Nebraska are sudangrass, or pearl millet, which has become increasingly popular for grazing in recent years. While sudangrass might be available for earlier grazing than pearl millet, there is a risk of prussic acid poisoning with sudangrass.

Sorghum-sudangrass hybrids produce about the same amount of feed as sudangrass when used for pasture. When used for green chopped forage, yields of sorghum-sudangrass hybrids usually exceed sudangrass or forage sorghum.

Forage sorghums are usually best for silage. Making sorghum-sudangrass into hay can be difficult because drying is slow.

Blake Curtis, Clovis, NM, says anyone in a combined farming and ranching situation certainly has a leg up when looking at drought relief over those who might be in a total rangeland grazing operation.

As owner of Curtis and Curtis Inc., a seed distribution company, he gets questions from producers spread over a large area of New Mexico and Texas. Curtis says that much of New Mexico didn't have enough rain last fall for ranchers to get their cool-season forages planted.

“It sure depends on the individual, but for the spring we're looking at some of the ryegrasses, oats, barley, spring wheat and triticale for fast-growing forages,” says Curtis. “Triticale is a forage that jumps out quick.”

He adds that while triticale may typically cost a bit more to seed, in the long run its ease of establishment and production potential outweigh the initial cost.

“Agronomically it's similar to wheat or barley, and it's adapted to a wide geographical range,” Curtis explains. “We like it because of it's a great forage crop. But, like any crop, its use depends on how comfortable a producer is with growing it.”

The Crabgrass Approach

R.L. Dalrymple, Ardmore, OK, rancher and forage agronomist for the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, likes crabgrass in rotational stocking systems. The characteristics that make crabgrass a pest in some situations make it an excellent forage plant in other situations.

“Crabgrass is a relatively high quality forage in the summer when most forages are low quality,” says Dalrymple. “One pasture here has been double cropped with winter pasture rye and crabgrass for 26 years without failure of either crop.”

His primary approach has been to minimum-till farm pastures for cereal rye and volunteer crabgrass. The cereal rye is used for fall and spring pasture.

“The crabgrass is used for summer pasture and/or hay,” says Dalrymple. “Initially, we used the ‘weedy’ crabgrass ecotype. Since 1990 we have used the Red River variety.”

Because crabgrass is of such high quality, the higher value weight gains of stocker cattle are probably the best way to market the forage.

“The production is about three times what we would expect from fertilized introduced grass in this region,” adds Dalrymple. “We've found double cropping with crabgrass produces about 60% more forage than single cropping either rye or crabgrass.”

He emphasizes that use of rotational stocking allows various forage mixtures to perform well within a given season. The short grazing periods, relatively uniform grazing and adequate recovery periods are all responsible for this success.

Examples include bermudagrass-crabgrass mixtures, crabgrass-lespedeza mixtures and rye-wheat-ryegrass-vetch mixtures.

“Rotational stocking allows, and makes successful, several multiple forage cropping and double cropping mixtures,” explains Dalrymple. “Multiple paddocks allow the practice of integrated forage management. It's possible to have a different forage, or forage use, within each paddock.”

High On Hay Barley

In many areas, this year may not be the best time to establish grass or alfalfa stands on dryland pastures, says Dennis Cash, Bozeman, MT, Extension crops specialist for Montana State University. This includes costly activities like renovating hay fields or fertilizing dryland pastures.

“With dry subsoil, these may be risky for the short term, and new seedings would not be productive until 2002.” Risk of another dry year and lower first-year yields of perennials are two good reasons for ranchers to look at growing annual forages on available farm ground.

For those who irrigate in the northern Great Plains and Intermountain regions, Cash's advice is to seed the alfalfa stands, especially if farmers and ranchers can get into their fields early.

“The value of 2001 hay could more than offset normal first-year production costs of alfalfa,” he says. “Winter feed is the largest cost to ranching operations in this area and any small improvement in your forage base can improve your bottom line.”

Cash is high on hay barley as annual forage. In 2000, “Haybet” was the second-leading barley variety in Montana at approximately 80,000 acres.

“Several producers are backgrounding calves on hay barley and barley grain with excellent results,” Cash adds. “We all know how to grow small grains, so there is no learning curve.”

Other options suggested by Cash are oats, triticale, corn, sorghum, sorghum/sudangrass and millet where environmental conditions allow.

“These annual crops could quickly overcome a forage deficit and help get you out of the bucket this year,” explains Cash.

He says to be sure and compare seed costs.

Finally, Cash says if a producer has experience with “alternate” crops for forages, they should “go for it.” Otherwise, 2001 may not be the best year to experiment. “Use the standbys,” he concludes.

And then pray for rain.

Quick Contacts

For more information on “quick” forages:

Free market environmentalism

It's time for a new approach toward environmental cooperation.

The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed changes in confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) regulations promise to affect virtually every person in the cattle industry (see page 28).

Let's face it, the dust will never settle on this issue — livestock operations will continue to be scrutinized, regulated and controlled for as long as there is one single steer left to go to the feedbunk.

The problem stems not as much from people who hate cows, but from the values people place on clean water, air and open space. With the exit of an administration that was largely anti-agriculture, perhaps it's time for a new environmental ideology.

For the past decade or so, the concept of “free market environmentalism” has been sifting through the fabric of the country. It's a concept that values economic incentive over brute regulatory force as a primary tool in promoting environmental responsibility among citizens and property owners.

The idea is that when private property rights are well defined and protected, support for environmentalism from property owners will follow. Skeptics are quick to call the concept an oxymoron, but we've seen that when government and lawmakers stand clear, free market solutions can be long lasting and very environmentally friendly.

Even the most radical, well-funded environmental groups are finding that lawsuits make slow and expensive progress. The more reasonable groups are looking for innovative ways to channel their money toward solutions.

Free market environmentalism isn't perfect. The Defenders of Wildlife in the northern Rockies, which created a private fund to compensate ranchers for wolf-killed livestock, offer a good example. The program has shown limited success due to logistics — it's hard to prove what's a wolf kill and what isn't.

A success story, however, is the Delta Waterfowl project. While it deals with a much more benign class of wildlife, the program provides landowners an economic incentive to preserve waterfowl nesting areas in Prairie Pothole regions.

And in New York, calcium-rich industrial sludge from an IBM plant is being recycled for use in local cement kilns. This is a case where economics and practicalities overcame government regulation of hazardous waste — recapturing raw materials and saving valuable landfill space.

In many parts of the nation, public-private lands trusts, conservation easements and land swaps are providing a balance between private property rights and a universal need to preserve open space.

One of the leaders in promoting free market environmentalism is the Political Economy Research Center (PERC). The ripples caused by what began as a small cadre of Bozeman, MT-based agricultural and political economists has helped foster this concept worldwide.

There may be ways to use this free market approach to address real and perceived agricultural water quality issues — a subject that's got as much to do with the future of cattle production as any other single factor.

The costs of implementing the new EPA regulations covering CAFOs will be monumental — to both government and business. No matter how conservative or liberal the final CAFO rules are, few feedyard owners, ranchers or feed suppliers will be able to stand the costs alone.

Granted, the track record for free market progress on the pollution front has not been good to date. The EPA's penchant for using deadly force to protect our water has imprisoned innovation and experimentation.

But we have to start someplace, sometime.

Terry Anderson of PERC gives a great example. It involves public and private entities that discharge waste into the Tar-Pamlico Sound in North Carolina.

There, a non-profit river organization funds efforts by farmers to reduce non-point source pollution. It's faster, cheaper and involves far fewer headaches than fighting in court or going to the government for help.

Take a look around your operation and area for ways to partner with individuals and organizations that have reasonable interests and aspirations. They might be looking for environmental cooperation — at a lower cost.

Alfalfa's Finest

New alfalfa varieties for 2001 continue the trend toward more planting flexibility. Some have more dormancy than their ratings would indicate. A fall dormancy 4 variety, for example, may possibly be grown in a fall dormancy 2 region — without additional stand loss, companies say.

The following varieties all have strong disease resistance. Expect them to produce high yields and high-quality forage, companies add. To decide which ones are best for your operation, read over this list, then check yield results from field trials in your region and test a few yourself.

To find additional varietal information, visit the Alfalfa Council's Web site www.alfalfa.org. It offers an alfalfa variety leaflet listing fall dormancy and pest resistance ratings. Or, call 816/891-0579 and order a copy for 50¢.

For variety trial information by state, log on to the Web site HayAnd Forage.com and then click on the 2001 Varieties logo. Or, click onto the North American Alfalfa Improvement Conference's Web site www.naaic.org and link into its alfalfa variety field trial results link.

The following varieties are organized by fall dormancy rating.

Fall Dormancy 3

It's all in this multifoliate's name, according to Croplan Genetics, St. Paul, MN. LegenDairy YPQ provides yield, persistence and quality. It has a winterhardiness rating of 1.7, and its Wisconsin Disease Rating Index (WDRI) score is 29 out of 30.

It has excellent resistance to five of the six major alfalfa diseases: phytophthora root rot (PRR), aphanomyces, anthracnose and bacterial and fusarium wilts, plus good resistance to verticillium wilt.

Forecast 3001 is a late-maturity alfalfa with terrific yields and top-end quality, according to Dairyland Seed Co., West Bend, WI. It has shown excellent persistence and strong disease resistance in company testing.

The variety flowers four to six days after medium alfalfas and is recommended for a three-cut harvest system.

FFR Cooperative, West Lafayette, IN, introduces the multifoliate Reliance, which has the ability to maintain a high level of forage quality over extended cutting intervals. It rates 29 out of 30 on the WDRI, and its superior winterhardiness has been exhibited in Upper Midwestern test plots.

Seed is available through Agway in New York and Pennsylvania, and through Growmark-FS in Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin.

Goldleaf, a high-performance variety from Gold Country Seed, Hutchinson, MN, is an exceptionally high-yielding, persistent alfalfa offering peak winterhardiness for tough Northern climates. It's highly resistant to PRR and bacterial and fusarium wilts. The variety also offers high resistance to anthracnose, verticillium wilt, pea aphid and aphanomyces.

It grows well in either poorly or well-drained soils.

AgVenture, Kentland, IN, introduces AV 3420, a late fall dormancy, high-quality forage with very fast recovery after cutting. More winterhardy than other varieties of this dormancy, say company officials, the alfalfa also has exceptional forage yield potential.

It's highly resistant to five of the six major alfalfa diseases and is resistant to verticillium wilt and pea aphid. It should adapt well to all areas where fall dormancy 3 and 4 varieties are planted.

Fall Dormancy 4

AmeriStand 403T received a 2.1 winterhardiness rating from Minnesota and Wisconsin universities — better than any other fall dormancy 4 variety ever tested in their winter survival trials.

The high-yielding alfalfa can be grown in fall dormancy 2-4 adaptation areas without increasing winter stand loss, according to America's Alfalfa, Shawnee Mission, KS. Highly resistant to all major alfalfa diseases, it's resistant to aphanomyces race 2 and has early season resistance to wet soil diseases. It was the top variety in its dormancy in Wisconsin yield testing under wheel traffic.

Forecast 1001 from Dairyland Seed Co. is an early maturity alfalfa with excellent top-end tonnage, according to company tests. It also features an excellent disease package with a WDRI score of 26/30. It has shown some tendencies toward branch rooting in high water table environments.

GH700 from Golden Harvest provides high resistance to anthracnose; aphanomyces race 1; PRR; bacterial, verticillium and fusarium wilts; and pea aphid. Its WDRI score: 30/30.

A management friendly variety, it can maintain high quality under a wide range of cutting schemes. The alfalfa also gives superior persistence, with a winterhardiness rating of 1.5.

Mountaineer from Croplan Genetics, is highly resistant to stem nematode, giving growers wide adaptability. A multifoliate, the variety provides good yield and quality. It has a 29/30 WDRI score, making it suitable for higher elevations.

It's highly resistant to five of the six major alfalfa diseases and resistant to verticillium wilt.

From Geertson Seed Farms, Adrian, OR, Trophy combines resistance to all major diseases with excellent yield performance and superior winterhardiness. It recovers fast after cutting and shows impressive fall growth.

The alfalfa has produced impressive yields in many university tests throughout the U.S.

New from W-L Research, Madison, WI, WL 342 has produced exceptionally high yields across a wide range of harvest managements and soil types. It also displays unsurpassed persistence and productivity for a fall dormancy 4 alfalfa.

The variety recovers very quickly after harvest and has a dramatically improved stand life. It's highly resistant to all six of the major alfalfa diseases and produced a WDRI score of 30/30.

Fall Dormancy 5

Croplan Genetics' 5-Star, a multifoliate alfalfa, offers aggressive regrowth and a winterhardiness rating of 2. It scored 28 out of 30 on the WDRI. Highly resistant to PRR, bacterial wilt, anthracnose and fusarium wilt, it's resistant to aphanomyces and verticillium wilt.

Commercial hay growers in Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas should look at the variety, Croplan officials say.

Fall Dormancy 6

TruTest, a new alfalfa from RS Seeds, Shafter, CA, is semi-dormant with high resistance to fusarium wilt, PRR, blue and spotted alfalfa aphids, pea aphid and anthracnose. It's also resistant to both bacterial and verticillium wilts, stem nematode and both Northern and Southern root knot nematode.

Testing in Woodland, Kingsburg and Holtville, CA, showed the variety's adaptability and forage yield potential.

Fall Dormancy 8

The only fall dormancy 8 with patented salt tolerance genetics, AmeriStand 801S (America's Alfalfa) improves stand establishment and yield persistence. It has seedling resistance to wet soil diseases, resists all major alfalfa diseases and is highly resistant to aphids and Southern root knot nematode.

In 28 head-to-head yield comparisons, AmeriStand 801S produced $23.73/acre more profit/year than competing varieties and demonstrated greater digestibility and protein production than WL 525 HQ.

AmeriStand 802, also from America's Alfalfa, has high resistance to blue, spotted and pea aphids and to Southern root knot nematode. This variety tests high in TDN and outprofited the competition by $33/acre/year in yield comparisons. It offers protection from Southwestern crown rot caused by fusarium wilt, rhizoctonia and stagnospora.

CutMor alfalfa, available from RS Seeds, Shafter, CA, is a strong-performing, non-dormancy 8 variety with outstanding persistence and excellent forage yield. It has very high resistance to fusarium wilt, PRR and blue alfalfa aphid. It's also resistant to verticillium wilt, anthracnose and stem nematode.

Fall Dormancy 9

SW 9628, with its 9.4 fall dormancy rating, is available at SW Seed Co., Five Points, CA. It's adapted to very hot temperatures from central California to desert areas of California and Arizona.

It was the highest-yielding variety in three years of University of California trials. The alfalfa is resistant to fusarium wilt; PRR; spotted, pea and blue aphids; and Southern root knot nematode.

The newest from W-L's HQ (high quality) program, WL 625 HQ combines outstanding yield and feed value characteristics. The alfalfa offers superior crude protein, a higher TDN percentage and greater digestibility. It's highly resistant to all major aphid, disease and nematode problems that attack non-dormant alfalfas.

A dark-green, leafy and fine-stemmed variety, it's tolerant to most major leaf diseases.

Managing scours via the cow

Calf scours is a management disease. After all, proper management will keep the incidence of scours at a minimum, although it may be impossible to completely avoid the problem.

Nutrition, stress and infection influence the development of scours. However, a balanced ration, stress reducing management practices and a planned vaccination program can control scour development.

The most important practice to minimize scour problems in calves is providing adequate nutrition to the cow. This helps ensure a strong, live, healthy calf and allows her to produce high-quality colostrum to nourish and protect the calf.

Colostrum varies in nutrient quality and antibody levels due to a number of factors. The antibody levels generally increase as the cow ages to about 7 years and gradually declines. First-calf heifers usually have both lesser quantity and lesser quality of colostrum.

The antibody level in the first milking after calving is higher than in subsequent milkings. Nutrient quality also declines after the first milking. The nutritive value of colostrum is often overlooked as an important factor in calf survival.

Solids and fat levels are twice as high in colostrum compared to regular milk. Total protein is more than four times as high with most of that due to the 65-fold increase in immunoglobulins, which are proteins. Many trace minerals and vitamins also are more concentrated in colostrum.

Nutrients provided by colostrum also stimulate activity and growth of the digestive tract. Consumption of colostrum causes an increase in the secretion of hormones in the gut. These hormones influence growth, secretion and motility of the developing intestinal tract.

One concept that's not stressed enough is the effect of calving difficulty or dystocia on the newborn. This is especially important in first-calf heifers in which a majority of births may be difficult.

Calves from cows born after dystocia often suffer from respiratory acidosis and oxygen deprivation. These acidotic calves are less efficient at absorbing colostral antibodies.

Coupled with a longer lag time before the dystocia calf gets up and nurses, thus delaying colostrum intake, dystocia is a major reason for high mortality rates of calves from first-calf heifers.

Brown Adipose Tissue

In the newborn calf there are two types of adipose tissue — white and brown. The primary purpose of white adipose tissue is to be used as energy storage and the release of fatty acids for use as an energy source. However, brown adipose tissue (BAT) is used exclusively for the generation of heat through non-shivering thermogenesis.

Though BAT accounts for just 1.5-2% of body weight in the newborn, it can account for 40-50% of thermogenesis in the newborn while the balance is due to shivering thermogenesis.

The amount of BAT produced in the fetus may be influenced by feeding the cow supplemental fat. Research by Bob Bellows, Miles City, MT, indicates calves from cows receiving supplemental fat in late gestation had a higher body temperature in response to cold weather.

These calves from cows fed supplemental fat also were able to maintain that temperature longer than calves from cows on a low-fat diet. The reason is that these calves had more glucose available for metabolism and heat production and possibly more BAT.

Interestingly, pregnancy rates were greater for cows receiving fat supplementation, even though the supplementation stopped at calving. This indicates a carry-over effect from the supplementation.

In Wyoming research with pregnant cows fed 50-65% of recommended energy levels, 90% of the calves survived birth and only 71% survived to weaning. Calves from cows fed recommended energy levels had 100% calf survival at birth and to weaning.

Calving is the most critical time and the most complex time in a calf's life.

Achieving early and adequate intake of high-quality colostrum in the calf is the single most important management factor in determining calf health and survival. We must be prepared long before calving to ensure that we have a live, healthy calf that will survive beyond weaning.

David Wieland is a nutrition consultant specializing in cow/calf, feedlot and horses. Based in Shepherd, MT, he also publishes a subscription newsletter. For more information, contact him at 406/373-5512 or e-mail at [email protected].

Made To Order

If a rancher ran a restaurant, it might look eerily similar to The Machine Shed, a growing chain of Midwestern casual, home-style restaurants where there's no such thing as wannabe mashed potatoes or make-believe whipped cream.

Instead, the food here is 100% genuine. It's tasty enough to make Grandma smile and abundant enough to pop Goliath's buttons. All served at bargain prices by folks who seem like family.

"We're convinced everyone wins when we provide the customer with a better product," says Carmen Darland, vice president of marketing for Heart of America Restaurants and Inns (HOARI). HOARI owns The Machine Shed, other restaurants and hotels; 22 properties in all that serve 12,000 dining customers each day.

A commitment to giving customers quality has helped The Machine Shed grow from a 100-seat coffee shop in Davenport, IA, to a string of six restaurants - and more on the way. Moreover, the restaurant boasts an unheard of 90% repeat customer rate.

Plus, this chain has always focused on forging a strong tie between its customers and the producers who engineer the raw material for their fare.

"We've always been dedicated to the American farmer. That's what we're all about," explains Tony Shepard, chief operating executive of The Machine Shed in Des Moines. It's the largest volume restaurant in the HOARI chain and in Iowa - serving about 2,500 people every day.

That's not lip service, either. They wear their hearts on their promotional sleeve with, "A Restaurant Honoring the American Farmer," as part of their logo.

Actually, Darland explains the restaurant's producer focus has always been as much about the business plan as promotion. She says, "The original idea was to showcase the Iowa farmer, then it grew into honoring the American farmer. It was an opportunity to showcase what's here."

The Producer Connection
Early on, The Machine Shed carved out a niche with pork - including the Iowa chop, which looks more like a small roast and eats like butter - and still relies on it as a drawing card. Nonetheless, HOARI wanted to develop a direct relationship with beef producers with the intention of making their steaks a one-of-a-kind eating experience.

Beef is always the top seller in our restaurants, Shepard explains. He adds, beef is a way restaurants can define themselves and differentiate their product from the competition.

But moving away from standard supply channels for a more consistent product is a spooky proposition.

"You're going after the highest quality but you have to make sure the supply of product and the producer will be there," says Kevin Rinehart, executive chef at The Machine Shed in Des Moines.

Enter Dave Nichols and Nichols Farms of Bridgewater, IA, with a branded beef product crafted from his own genetics and a cooperative game plan to benefit everyone involved, from the producer to the consumer.

"This is a total quality management system where everybody is held accountable," says Nichols, explaining the supply partnership that began between The Machine Shed and Nichols' customers last fall.

Throwing a broad loop, the program works like this:

  • To be eligible for the branded beef program, cattle must be at least half Angus and either sired by Nichols bulls or out of Nichols females; a growing number of calves are entering the system via two Nichols genetic source feeder calf sales held each year. All qualifying cattle are calf-feds serving up at least a Choice Yield Grade 3.5 carcass weighing 750-800 lbs.
  • IBP harvests the cattle, then markets qualified carcasses to a distributor, which sells directly to HOARI.
  • Cattle feeders receive $2.50/cwt. premium for carcasses, plus the premiums of IBP's real-time value grid at the time. In turn, cattle feeders procuring calves for the program have been paying more than the average market to get them. Carcasses that don't qualify for the brand still get the IBP premiums. Nichols handles all of the procurement and scheduling.
  • All product entering the Nichols brand is aged a minimum of 21 days. All told, there are about six weeks between cattle procurement and restaurant availability. Every step of the way, these cattle are tracked with electronic (EID) or hanging (visual) tags.
  • "We're setting up a system so that it really is farm to fork," says Nichols. But, he points out, "Our goal is to work within the existing infrastructure and systems to be as efficient as we can to develop the product for the lowest cost possible."

    Consumers Like The Taste
    "We had always used a Choice product off the shelf, but it was amazing the difference," says Shepard. "There's no doubt that consumer response has been favorable. They talk about the flavor and the tenderness and tell us it's the best steak they ever had."

    "We'd been looking for a way we could guarantee the quality of our beef product and know how it was raised," says Shepard. It's not like they were getting complaints about the Choice product they served, but inconsistencies in areas like plate yield and seam fat were frustrating to an organization aiming to serve nothing but the best.

    Of course, Nichols recognizes that consumer satisfaction has to do with preparation and service, too.

    "It's not one thing that makes it better," he explains. "It's all of those little 5% things stacked on top of each other, from the waiter carrying the steak out to the table, to the guy making the breeding decision."

    And, that translates into more sales, while fine-tuning this select-supplier relationship over time should also drive down unit cost.

    "We've been able to provide a better product, but it has to be economic and it has to make economic sense for us to do it," says Darland.

    So far, Nichols Beef is exclusive at The Machine Sheds in Davenport and Des Moines. But Darland says, "Our current strategic plan is for Nichols Beef to evolve into all of our restaurants." That would mean more than a load of cattle every week of the year.

    "We hope we can get their cost per serving to or close to commodity price," explains Nichols. "We're not trying to figure out a way for them to charge $30 per plate." Or a need to.

    After all, Shepard says, "Our goal is to have the same price as the guy down the street but to have twice the quality of the product."

    "This is a dream come true from the standpoint that we are giving cattle producers, regardless of size, the chance to be part of a value-added system. If a guy does things right, he's entitled to a higher price for the cattle, and we're proving he can get it," says Nichols.

    Since the program began, Nichols explains, average per-head premiums have ranged between $20 and $70. And, producers like Bruce Steele of Fontanelle, IA, appreciate it.

    "It's a little closer to the consumer than the grocery store, and we're being rewarded for it," says Steele. He grows calves, buys calves and feeds cattle for the program. Steele estimates cattle he sends from the feedlot to the Machine Shed are chalking up $30-$35/head premium on the average.

    Plus, Steele likes the notion of being tied closer to consumer likes and dislikes. He explains, "It's a good way to get a quality product out to the dinner table, and this is a way of showing the public what we have to offer."

    Incidentally, Nichols says, "Lots of producers are focusing on retail markets today, but the fastest growing segment of the market is foodservice." Estimates peg foodservice sales of beef as half of all beef sales in short order.

    "I think it's just an example of what can happen, what good people can do when they have a goal and decide up front they don't want to rip each other off," says Nichols.

    Really, as complicated as such an enterprise's logistics may be, the idea behind it is as simple and appealing as real apple pie. Shepard explains, "There's room for everyone to make more money along the way when we can give consumers a value-added product without charging them more money."

    For more information, visit www.mddc.com/nicholsfarms, call 515/369-2829 or e-mail [email protected].

Audit finds beef quality improves

U.S. beef producers have improved the quality of beef and reduced the frequency of producer-caused quality problems since the mid 1990s. As a result, the 2000 National Beef Quality Audit (NBQA) found that the industry had reduced the costs due to quality defects in fed cattle by 15%.

Much of that improvement resulted from producers doing a better job in diminishing damage from injection-site lesions, bruises, dark cutting carcasses and horns, researchers found. The results of the checkoff-funded study came on the heels of the National Beef Tenderness Survey, which found that beef tenderness has improved by 20% since 1990.

The NBQA listed 10 areas of beef quality that need more improvement. These include:

  • Low overall uniformity and consistency of cattle, carcasses and cuts.

  • Carcasses more than 950 lbs. in weight.

  • Inadequate tenderness in beef.

  • Insufficient marbling.

  • Reduced quality grade and beef tenderness caused by overaggressive implanting, poor animal health and inappropriate weight loss.

  • Excess external fat cover.

  • Inappropriate USDA quality grade mix.

  • Hide damage due to brands.

  • Too frequent and severe bruises.

  • Too frequent liver condemnations.

The next NBQA will be in 2005.


Need the lowdown on Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE)? Check out the Web site www.BSEinfo.org. There you'll find information on BSE, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) and variant CJD. The site contains information reviewed by experts in veterinary medicine, prion/protein studies, neuropathology and disease surveillance, as well as links to other BSE-related sites worldwide.


The movement of people, animals and animal products for trade is leading to increased spread of animal diseases worldwide. Numerous examples of livestock diseases diagnosed for the first time outside their “normal” areas of origin were cited in a recent United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report.

The cross-border transmissions might be the source of some deadly human health consequences in the Third World, the group says. FAO says no country, however, is safe and urges support for veterinary surveillance systems and services for early disease detection and the preparation of contingency plans to contain outbreaks. Check out: www.fao.org/waicent/faoinfo/agricult/aga/agah/empres/empres.htm


Ken Monfort, the beef industry innovator who pioneered boxed beef, passed away Feb. 2. The former CEO of Monfort of Colorado, Inc., was 72. Monfort succeeded his father Warren as CEO in 1970 and developed the business into a Fortune 500 company.


Nearly two-thirds of beef producers support the checkoff, according to the semi-annual Producer Attitude Survey. Conducted for the Beef Board by Aspen Research, Boulder, CO, the research found that 65% approve of the checkoff, while 21% disapprove. That's a support level basically unchanged from January 2000.

Nearly 60% of producers believe the beef industry is headed in the right direction, while 31% believe the industry is headed in the wrong direction.

When asked why they support the checkoff, the majority of producers cited the benefits of advertising, consumer education and research programs. Completed in January 2001, the research has a margin of error of ±2.6%.


Europe's BSE problems could mean 200,000 metric tons of beef sales opportunity for the U.S., in both Europe and the markets traditionally supplied by Europe. Phil Seng, president and CEO of the U.S. Meat Export Federation, says the BSE crisis in Europe is raising interest in U.S. beef “because they trust the safety of our product.” He admits, however, that realizing that level of EU market access will be difficult unless the EU relaxes its ban on growth promotants.


The Certified Angus Beef (CAB) program moved 555 million lbs. of product in 2000. That volume was moved by 8,000 licensed restaurants and retail stores in the U.S. and 52 export markets, says Jim Riemann, CAB president. He says CAB accounted for more than 75% of the beef tonnage sold through 49 USDA-certified programs in 2000.

This monthly column is compiled by Joe Roybal, 952/851-4669 or e-mail [email protected].

NCBA Convention News

Beef eater and figure skating star Sasha Cohen (16) will help reach youth about the benefits of eating beef. She'll be front and center in a cooperative program between the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) and the U.S. Figure Skating Association designed to promote the importance of a healthy diet and the role beef plays in the development of girls ages eight to 12. The checkoff-funded public relations campaign will tap magazines and other information sources used by girls.


Lynn Cornwell, Glasgow, MT, is the new president of NCBA. President-elect is Wythe Willey, Cedar Rapids, IA. Eric Davis, Bruneau, ID, is vice president.

Dan Hammond, American Falls, ID, is chairman of the Cattlemen's Beef Board, the body charged with overseeing checkoff funds. Dee Lacey, Paso Robles, CA, is vice chairman, while G. Andrew (Andy) Tucker, Jr., Rockledge, FL, is secretary/treasurer.

Susan Hammons, Romance, AR, is the American National CattleWomen's (ANCW) “Outstanding CattleWoman of the Year.” The award is given to a member who has excelled at continued beef promotion while contributing support to the ANCW.


Jim Coelho, Fremont, CA, is president of Cattle-Fax, the Denver-based market information, analysis, research and educational service. Jim McAdams, Lubbock, TX, is president-elect; and Ken Stielow, Paradise, KS, is finance director.

Randy Blach, chief operating officer for Cattle-Fax, was named executive vice president (EVP). A native of Yuma, CO, and a 20-year Cattle-Fax veteran, Blach follows Topper Thorpe, who resigned as CEO and EVP after a 32-year tenure.


James Herring, Amarillo, TX, is the national winner of the 2001 Vision Award: Beef Innovator of the Year by the National Cattlemen's Foundation Inc. Sponsored by Bayer and Intervet Inc., the award recognizes beef industry leaders who have made their operation more profitable and efficient. Herring is the president and chief executive officer of Friona Industries.


Walt Rowden, Morrilton, AR, is the recipient of the 2000 Integrated Resource Management (IRM) Achievement Award. The award recognizes a producer or industry leader with long-term commitment to advancing IRM principles.

Father-son team, Lawrason and Ned Sayre, Waffle Hill Farm, Churchville, MD, won the $3,500 first prize in the first-ever IRM “Tips for Profit” contest. Sponsored by Pennington Seed, the award recognizes ingenious cattle producers for innovative, home-grown inventions. The $1,500, second-place award went to Pattie Farm, Harrison, AR. Lindsey Angus, Jayton, TX, claimed third place and $1,000. (See IRM Newsletter in Februray 2001 BEEF.)


The Triple U Ranch, Correctionville, IA, is the national winner of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association's Environmental Stewardship Award. Craig, Elaine, Brad, Karen, Kirk and Barbara Utesch and their children own and run the operation, which demonstrates innovative and sound practices that protect and improve natural resources.

First nationwide calf health program

Merial introduces SureHealth, the first nationwide, veterinarian-certified, calf health management program.

SureHealth is designed to help producers capture the added value from the animal health practices and dollars they invest in their calves, Merial says.

Meanwhile, purchasers of those calves are assured that calves have received the proper parasite control, immunizations and preconditioning steps.

Designed to be compatible with all state and regional alliance preconditioning programs, the SureHealth program will be available from participating veterinarians. The calves can be marketed through traditional livestock markets, order buyers and in private sales of breeding and commercial livestock.

The program will also be available through AgSpan, the Internet-based cattle market that connects feeder calf buyers and sellers and offers a similar veterinary health assurance service.

SureHealth protocols detail 10 best management practices for preconditioned and backgrounded beef calves. Programs for replacement heifers, cows and bulls will follow.

The calf program calls for a 45-day minimum preconditioning period as well as treatments for internal and external parasites, and immunizations for respiratory and clostridial diseases. Calves must also be dehorned, castrated, bunk broke and able to drink from a trough.

Under the program, the producer accomplishes the health requirements while a participating veterinarian documents them. Merial then issues a certificate to the producer who can use it to certify to buyers that the procedures were followed.

The health protocol for calves requires treatment of internal and external parasites with Ivomec products to improve the calves' immune response to vaccination, says Merial's Jay Brown, DVM. The vaccine protocol requires the use of Merial vaccines for IBR, BVD, PI3 and BRSV.

Also required are a pasteurella leukotoxoid and 7-way clostridial. H. somnus vaccination is optional.

Brown says the source and process verification afforded by the SureHealth program is important to not only buyers and sellers but the entire industry.

“With SureHealth calves, we'll be able to trace ranch of origin, genetic base and feeding background, as well as the type and serial number, lot number and expiration date of the products used on that calf,” he says.

Besides promotion through the AgSpan network, SureHealth calves will be promoted by Merial's network of salespeople, Brown says. “We'll promote the demand for these calves in feedlots. We'll have a lot of our cow/calf reps talking directly to our feedlot reps to locate those cattle.”

Contact: Merial Ltd., 2100 Ronson Road, Iselin, NJ 08830-3077, 732/729-5012.

Grasshopper Control

Get rainfast control of grasshoppers and Mormon crickets on range grass, rangeland and non-crop areas with Uniroyal Chemical's Dimilin®2L. Dimilin®2L is an insect growth regulator that controls grasshopper populations by disrupting the molting process of immature grasshoppers. Applied at rates of 0.75 to 1 oz./acre, Dimilin provides 70-90% control of young grasshoppers at an average cost of $1.85/acre of rangeland. Dimilin is safe for humans and livestock, is non-toxic to birds, fish and earthworms and won't harm beneficial and non-target insects.

Contact: The Duff Co., 11125 N. Ambassador Drive, Suite 200, Kansas City, MO 64153, 816/891-8845.

Equine Ration

Enhance equine performance ration from Arkat Mills contains nutrients for equine health and performance. Just mix in a basic grain and feed. For horses at any stage of growth.

Contact: Arkat Mills, PO Box 669, Dumas, AR 71639, 888/412-7528.

Coated Eartags

Farnam Livestock Products introduces its Z® eartag with DuraMark printing. A no-stick coating helps shed dirt, and an ultraviolet shield prevents fading. Available in eight colors.

Contact: Farnam Companies Inc., 301 W. Osborn, Phoenix, AZ 85013-3997, 602/207-2168.

Round Baler

New Holland's Model 658 all-purpose silage special round baler produces dense, uniform bales from dry hay and corn stalks to silage. A heavy-duty pickup frame provides longer life in heavy crops.

Contact: New Holland North America Inc., PO Box 1895, New Holland, PA 17557-0903, 717/355-1371.

Electronic Tags

The Temple electronic tag contains a preprogrammed microchip molded inside the eartag. It uses the Destron-Fearing e.tag technology. Available in either a standard-open or tamper-evident configuration and permanently marked with the visual ISO ID number.

Contact: Temple Tag Ltd., PO Box 369, Temple, TX 76503, 800/433-3112.

Manure Spreader

Knight Manufacturing Corp. introduces the 4,000 gallon Model 8040 ProTwin Slinger. This side-discharge manure spreader features the free-swinging hammer discharge and twin-auger design.

The Model 8040 can spread pen pack, semi-solid, semi-liquid and liquid manure or composted manure, sand, sawdust, chopped straw or woodchips.

Contact: Knight Manufacturing, 1501 W. 7th Street, Brodhead, WI 53520-0167, 608/897-2131.

Birthing a new economy

As calves drop on the ground this spring and next, chances are they'll face better-than-a-buck cash markets come fall. But what comes after that?

Depending on whose timepiece you consult, it's about 12:05 a.m. at the dawning of a brand new beef economy.

Call them alliances, strategic partnerships, systems, networks or whatever else you will. Sooner than later, every cattle producer in America is going to have to learn how to contend with vertically coordinated beef production and marketing systems.

Already, the number of fed cattle trading away from the cash markets is approaching 50%. And, the largest coordinated production and marketing systems haven't even begun to stretch their wings.

It could be that newcomers like Consolidated Beef Producers (2.1 million head committed this year) and Future Beef (presumably more than 100,000 head targeted/plant) and even U.S. Premium Beef (about 2 million head during the past three years) will appear elf-like compared to other systems the industry has yet to see. Some predict more than 80% of feds will trade away from cash by the end of this decade.

With that in mind, a rational assumption is that cattle feeders will continue to look for more history and documentation of the feeder calves and cattle they buy. Why? So they can manage risk of the unknown and boost profit potential by targeting specific cattle toward specific markets.

Even now, as cattle numbers begin their cyclical evaporation and excess feeding capacity accelerates the competition for shorter supplies, a robust cash market on feeders is spreading the value of cattle type and potential. That's likely chicken feed compared to the future.

At this year's National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) meeting, Randy Blach, Cattle-Fax executive vice president, explained to a group of cattle producers that, ultimately, week-in and week-out, Cattle-Fax expects to see $150/head separating the highest value feds from the lowest. Back that into a 5-weight calf and you're talking $30/cwt. that buyers have to play with in spreading the market of what they want and what they don't.

Blach also pointed out that over the last two decades cow/calf producers have on average realized about $2 profit/cow, the very definition of a break-even commodity business. However, year in and year out, the top third of cow/calf producers reporting to Cattle-Fax make $110/head more than those in the bottom third. So, even when the market is sinking through the trough, some folks are making cattle pay worthy jingle.

Information Makes The Difference

While every one of the 850,000 or so cow/calf operations in this country is different, odds are those making a profit are using more than blind luck and a trusty rabbit's foot. Trite as it sounds, the common thread woven between profitable operations is information. Not reams of data and bar charts, but data transformed into useful information that can be used to control costs and maximize returns.

Knowing how your cattle perform in the feedlot and on the rail may well be the key to survival in an industry quickly moving away from commodity averages toward consumer-defined, value-added eating experiences.

The math is pretty simple: A calf's value heading into the feedlot is worth whatever the breakeven says its worth. Figure the cost of gain and estimate the market that particular critter can sell in or the board potential that is available, and you back into the buying price.

If a documented health program can reduce the cost of gain compared to the average, and if the calf in question can sell into a value-added market that's $5/cwt. more than the anticipated average live market, guess what? The calf is worth more money.

None of this discussion takes into account such things as USDA-approved, augmented instrument yield grading that will peg carcasses to the nearest 1/10 of a grade or the case-ready revolution silhouetted on the horizon. Both will provide more opportunity to document and spread value differences even further.

Thanks to improved beef demand and shorter cattle supplies, producers have purchased more time. Today, they don't even have to participate in the coordinated systems that are transforming the way beef does business, the very systems that exploit the spread in cattle potential.

But, when the worm turns and the cowherd expands again, or beef production/cow increases again — it always does — logic says the serious-minded cattle producer had better be prepared to participate.

It's 12:05 a.m. Do you know where your cattle are?

Judge Rules For Ranchers' Privacy

Cattle producers recently won a landmark legal battle that challenged a radical group's mission to end livestock grazing on federal lands.

Federal District Judge Edwin L. Mechem strongly criticized the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) in a decision issued on Jan. 15 for providing private financial information to an environmental group, says Jimmy Bason, Hillsboro, NM, president of the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association (NMCGA).

The case that generated the ruling was filed in June 1999 by the Santa Fe-based Forest Guardians against the USFS. The group had sued the USFS to obtain private financial information about livestock producers.

The USFS attempted to settle the Forest Guardians' suit by granting access to ranchers' escrow waivers — forms used by the USFS that allow a bank to control a grazing permit if the bank forecloses on a rancher's loan.

Mechem ruled that the USFS “didn't consider all it should have” in regard to ranchers' privacy. He further said the USFS should have regarded the escrow waivers as “confidential commercial” information.

Because of these violations of the Privacy Act, permittees from across the Western U.S have filed a class action suit against the USFS that is pending in a Washington, D.C. Federal District Court. If successful, each permittee whose personal identity was given to the Forest Guardians could recover up to $1,000 from the USFS.