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Articles from 2009 In March


Beef

LeBeau Named CHB LLC Chief Operating Officer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Tom LeBeau has been selected as the new Certified Hereford Beef (CHB) LLC chief operating officer. A 28-year veteran in the meat industry, Tom brings a wealth of beef marketing and retail experience to the CHB LLC team.

Tom has worked for many leading companies in the meat industry including Monfort/ConAgra Beef Co., and Swift and Co. After leaving Swift and Co., he served as vice president of value added sales for American Food Group. Recently he worked in a partnership brokerage business servicing SuperValu, one of the largest supermarket distributors in the country.

“We are extremely excited about having Tom join our CHB team,” says Craig Huffhines, American Hereford Association executive vice president. “He brings a wealth of industry experience to our organization. He will help us continue to grow the Certified Hereford Beef® brand.”

During his diverse and successful career, Tom has acquired experience in corporate image and brand management, sales and marketing, production and operations, new business development, product development, packaging innovations and strategic planning.

“It is humbling to accept this position after being in the meat industry for 28 years,” Tom says. “I’m excited about this unique opportunity to help expand a successful branded beef program. My goal is to strategically position Certified Hereford Beef LLC in order to increase carcass utilization, drive the volume of sales of premium-priced Hereford beef products and thereby double the demand for Hereford-specification cattle.”

Tom and his wife, Doris, will be relocating to the Kansas City area in April. Tom has three grown children — Matthew, Jonathan and Kristina.

CHB LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of the AHA. Its threefold mission is: to provide consumers with consistently tender, juicy and flavorful beef products; to enhance the marketing opportunities of food industry distributors, retailers and restaurateurs; and to increase the demand for commercial Hereford-influenced cattle. For more information, call (816) 842-3758 or visit www.herefordbeef.net.

Beef

Partnership Donates Nearly $500,000 to Local FFA Chapters

NEW YORK (March 27, 2009) - Through a collaboration of 830 veterinarians, animal health suppliers and Pfizer Animal Health, nearly $500,000 has been donated to local FFA chapters across the country. Through purchases of Pfizer Animal Health's vaccines, veterinarians and animal health suppliers were able to donate to a local FFA chapter of their choice.

"The FFA is a grassroots organization that makes its best impact at the local level," said Will Fett, regional director of the National FFA Foundation. "These donations strengthen local chapters and provide the opportunity for FFA members to interact with local animal health professionals. For example, one chapter was able to purchase a new horse trailer and others will have the funds for leadership training, community service projects and agricultural education."

"We are incredibly proud of our customers and their total contribution," said Julian Garcia, group director of U.S. cattle marketing at Pfizer Animal Health. "Not only are we excited about the good work this money will go towards in helping local agriculture communities, but we are going to continue to expand opportunities to support important agriculture organizations, like the FFA."

In addition to the local donation program, which Pfizer Animal Health also executed this spring and plans to continue in the fall, the company is supporting the FFA at the national level. A National FFA Convention teacher classroom workshop will be sponsored by Pfizer Animal Health this year and will include cutting-edge veterinary sciences curriculum focusing on livestock health issues and production management.

"Pfizer Animal Health recognizes the classroom will not only provide valuable information to agricultural educators, but also drive important education at the local level," explained Fett. "Because of its national and local approach to supporting our chapters, Pfizer Animal Health and its customers have established a very powerful program and become a great FFA partner."

Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE), the world's largest research-based pharmaceutical company, is a world leader in discovering and developing innovative animal vaccines and prescription medicines. Pfizer Animal Health is dedicated to improving the safety, quality and productivity of the world's food supply by enhancing the health of livestock and poultry; and in helping companion animals live longer and healthier lives. For additional information on Pfizer's portfolio of animal products, visit www.PfizerAH.com.

The National FFA Organization, formerly known as the Future Farmers of America, is a national youth organization of 507,763 student members - all preparing for leadership and careers in the science, business and technology of agriculture - as part of 7,439 local FFA chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The National FFA Organization changed to its present name in 1988, in recognition of the growth and diversity of agriculture and agricultural education. The FFA mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. Visit www.ffa.org for more information.

Cargill implements plant auditing system

Cargill Beef has implemented a third-party video-auditing system that will operate 24 hours a day at its U.S. beef harvesting plants, the company announced this week. The goal, Cargill says, is to enhance the company’s animal welfare protection systems. All of Cargill’s U.S. plants are expected to have the program in place by the end of 2009.

The program is designed to help plant operators teach and monitor performance in animal handling. It was designed by Arrowsight, a Web-based applications service provider that also will be managing the program. Cargill also has created a humane animal-handling training and certification program for employees.

Cargill Beef is headquartered in Wichita and operates five processing plants across the United States and Canada, including one in Dodge City.

To read more from the Wichita Business Journal, link to their website.

CME predicts prospective plantings of corn and soybeans

The upcoming USDA ‘Prospective Plantings’ report (Tuesday, March 31, 8:30AM EST) is expected to show further declines in the number of acres planted with corn. According to a Dow Jones survey, analysts on average expect that US farmers will plant 84.5 million acres with corn this spring, down about 1.5 million acres from a year ago. There is a very wide range in analyst estimates with regard to this number. In general, however, the market expects corn acres to decline compared to last year, the big question is by how much.

On many acres, the decision whether to plant corn was made last year, at a time when fertilizer costs were still very high but the price of corn had declined sharply. That made soybeans comparatively much more attractive vs. corn. It is anyone’s guess as to how many acres were still open in January and February. Fertilizer prices are currently down significantly and that has changed that economics of planting corn vs.beans. On the other hand, soybean prices seem to have held up better in recent months, providing an incentive to shift more acres in that direction. The ratio of soybeans to corn was above long run averages in Dec - Feb period, in part due to the crop scare in S. America.

Crop insurance rates also will play a role as some indicate they favor beans at this point. The expected decline in corn acres has refocused the market’s attention on the potential for tight ending stocks in the 2009-10 marketing year. The USDA estimates presented at the end of February pegged corn plantings at 86 million acres and 2009-10 ending stocks at a little over 1.7 billion bushels, which would be more than adequate levels, representing about 14% of total use. A reduction in acres combined with the potential for poor weather (remember last year), could quickly cause the stocks/use ratio in future looking S&D tables to fall below 10%. This would be the lowest since 2003 and provide support for corn values this spring.

You can subscribe to the CME Daily Livestock report for free here! This report is compiled by Steve Meyer and Len Steiner and distributed by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

Increasing your calf crop by management, pregnancy testing, and breeding soundness examination of bulls

IMPORTANCE OF HIGH-PERCENT CALF CROP

Percent calf crop weaned is influenced more by management decisions than by any other single factor in a cow herd, and therefore can be a very important factor in annual returns for a cow-calf operation. Percent calf crop weaned is calculated by dividing the number of calves weaned by the total number of females exposed during the breeding season. As percent calf crop weaned increases, pounds of calf weaned per cow exposed increases and production cost per hundred pounds of calf produced decreases. Increasing weaning weights approximately 50 pounds is equal to an increase of 10% in calf crop weaned.

CAUSES OF A REDUCED CALF CROP

The greatest single loss in potential calf crop is in the failure of cows to become pregnant during the breeding season (Wiltbank et al. 1961). There are four main factors during the postpartum to rebreeding period that contribute to infertility in beef cows: 1) a general infertility, 2) short estrous cycles, 3) uterine involution, and 4) anestrous (Short et al. 1990). A general infertility related to the breeding of a cow at any time exists (Short et al. 1990). Short estrous cycles occur in approximately 80% of all cows following the first ovulation after calving (Yavas and Walton 2000). Short estrous cycles occur when the cow cycles

Proper nutrition for a cow plays a major role in her ability to reproduce. Body condition scores are a subjective but effective way for ranchers to evaluate the nutritional status of their herd. To maintain a 12 month calving interval, cows must be bred within 80 days of calving. Body condition scores allow a producer to determine if cows are losing weight during the postpartum period. A body condition score of ¡Ý5 has been determined to be the minimum score at calving that allows for adequate postpartum reproductive performance. Cows having a body condition score ¡Ý5 at calving return to estrus sooner and rebreed more quickly than cows with body condition scores ¡Ü4 at calving (Richards et al. 1986; see Table 2). In addition, cows that have inadequate energy intake during the late precalving and postcalving periods have lower pregnancy rates when compared to cows receiving adequate energy intake during the late precalving and postcalving periods (Randel 1990).

B. Herd health

Herd health can be divided into two categories:

1) Diseases that affect the reproductive performance of the cows.

2) Diseases that cause calf loss from birth to weaning.

CONTROL OF DISEASES THAT AFFECT REPRODUCTIVE PERFORMANCE

The goal of a good herd vaccination program is not necessarily to render each individual animal immune to a disease, but rather to stimulate a sufficient immunity in a sufficient number of animals in the herd so that an epidemic, or widespread outbreak, does not occur. Therefore, it is important to vaccinate all animals in the herd. For maximum protection during the breeding season, cattle should be vaccinated 30 to 45 days before the breeding season. This gives sufficient time for animals to build immunity and for antibody levels to remain elevated during the breeding season. All animals in the breeding herd¡ªcows, heifers, and bulls¡ªshould be vaccinated annually for reproductive diseases such as Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus (BVDV), Leptospirosis, Vibriosis, and Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR).

Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus is a virus that is widespread throughout the world. Reproductive signs of BVDV in a cow herd depend on the stage of gestation in which cows or heifers were infected. BVDV infections during early gestation result in low conception rates, due to early embryonic death. If cattle are infected during mid-gestation, BVDV may result in persistently infected calves; this occurs when animals are infected during the specific period of fetal development when the fetus is differentiating its own cells from foreign materials (roughly, between 40 and 120 days of gestation); this results in a calf that has incorporated BVDV into its own body and that will shed high levels of virus persistently throughout the calf¡¯s life. Late-gestation BVDV infections may result in congenital defects, late-term abortions, or the birth of congenitally infected calves, which are weaker and more prone to illness than normal calves.

Leptospirosis has long been recognized as a cause of infertility in cattle. Symptoms of

Vibriosis is a bacterial disease that affects the reproductive tract of male and female cattle. Symptoms of vibriosis manifest themselves as infertility (decreased pregnancy

CONTROL OF DISEASES THAT CAUSE CALF LOSS FROM BIRTH TO WEANING

Neonatal diarrhea

Because most diarrhea-causing organisms are common in cattle herds, steps should be taken to reduce the exposure of calves to high levels of these agents. Ideally, calves should not spend their first hours of life in a dirty, contaminated environment. Paying attention to calving area sanitation and calving cows and heifers on clean lots will drastically reduce calf exposure to these pathogens. An adequate amount of high-quality colostrum consumed within the first 12 hours of life will provide the calf with some passive resistance against common pathogens. The quality of this colostrum may be enhanced by vaccinating pregnant cows in late gestation with appropriate vaccines (i.e., "scour shots").

Following the neonatal period, illnesses that may result in death losses include blackleg and pneumonia, among others. Depending on pasture location and disease history, a vaccination program should be implemented¡ªwith close consultation with a veterinarian for calves being turned out to pasture. Typically, vaccination programs include a 7-way clostridial vaccine and possibly vaccines against viral (IBR, BVDV, Bovine Respiratory Syncytial Virus (BRSV) and Parainfluenza (PI-3) and bacterial (Pasteurella and Mannheimia) pneumonia pathogens.

C. Defined breeding and calving seasons

Many advantages can be gained from defined breeding and calving seasons. Defined breeding and calving seasons can both match the time of year most suitable for each and limit the time required to accomplish each. And defined breeding and calving seasons focus the labor required for each to a limited length of time. And defined breeding and calving seasons also allow for easier management of the herd.

BREEDING AND CALVING SEASON

There are tremendous benefits to a short, defined breeding season. A short breeding season results in a longer interval from calving to the start of the breeding season, which allows cows to recover from calving and initiate estrous cycles before the start of the breeding season. A short breeding season also results in a shorter calving season, which focuses the labor of calving into a shorter period of time and produces a more uniform calf crop. Health benefits are also realized when calf ages do not vary greatly. Calves born late are more likely to become exposed to the diarrhea-causing organisms that have been building up from the beginning of the calving season.

To read the entire study and view corresponding tables and charts, link to SDSU Extension Extra, Increasing your calf crop by management, pregnancy testing and breeding soundness examinations.

WAYS TO INCREASE CALF CROP

A. Nutrition

HSUS pushing McDonald's for cage-free eggs, PETA's euthanasia policy

mama-cow.JPGIt's not a secret that PETA and HSUS are no friends to farmers and ranchers. Instead of supporting food producers that dedicate their lives to feeding the world, they are driven to make our jobs as difficult as possible in order to eventually push us all out of business. While they continue to make gains in their efforts, I feel there are ways we can slow them down. By keeping in close communication with our representatives and senators, educating the media and keeping in close contact with our consumers, we can work together to tell our side of the story. However, we first have to know what these animal rights activists are up to. I have included a few articles today worth discussing, and I'm anxious to hear your thoughts on our best course of action.

The first article is from writer Barry Estabrook at Gourmet. His column is titled, "Politics of the Plate: McDonald's eggs to go cage-free?" It seems McDonald's is getting pressured to change its food purchasing policies. The Humane Society plans to put the squeeze on the fast-food giant over its use of eggs from caged chickens. The HSUS announced last week that it would introduce a resolution at a McDonald’s shareholder meeting in May requesting that the fast-food chain use only cage-free eggs. Quizno's has already changed their policy to purchase cage-free eggs, and I'm concerned about the implications of food production if McDonald's follows suit. What do you think about this issue? How should food producers respond?

The second article of the day deals with PETA. While I have heard talks about PETA's euthanasia policy for years, I'm excited to see its traction once again on the internet. Media outlets and bloggers are outraged to hear that in 2008, PETA euthanized 95% of the animals in their care. You can check out the full press release at The Center for Consumer Freedom. The press releasereveals the facts about this hypocritical animal rights group’s 2008 pet death toll of 21,339 animals. Despite having a $32 million budget, PETA does not operate an adoption shelter. PETA employees make no discernible effort to find homes for the thousands of pets they kill every year. Last year, the Center for Consumer Freedom petitioned Virginia’s State Veterinarian to reclassify PETA as a slaughterhouse.

Let's work together to stay informed and be proactive on some of these issues. Now is the time to start connecting with those in politics, the media and at the grocery store. We need to work to secure the future of food production, and it's time to team together with all sectors of the industry to get the job done. Let's start the discussion today!

Senate bill seeks to ban transportation of horses

Two U.S. Senators have introduced legislation to prohibit the transport of horses for slaughter in Mexico and Canada. Senators Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and John Ensign (R-Nev.) introduced S727, the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act into the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 26.

S727 would prohibit the transport, sale, delivery, or export of horses for slaughter for human consumption. It also criminalizes the purchase, sale, delivery, or export of horsemeat intended for human consumption.

Violators would face criminal and civil penalties, including being fined or imprisoned.

The bill is the senate's version of HR503 the Conyers-Burton Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act, introduced into the U.S. House Judiciary Committee in January. Since then, HR503 has gathered 112 co-sponsors. It was referred to the Judiciary's Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security on March 16.

To read related horses on the equine industry, link to theHorse.com

First Graduating Class of Beef Advocates

It’s a fact of life that the connection between city-dwelling consumers and the farm grows ever more distant. There are those who are simply unaware and there are activist groups who are constantly working to cast doubt and suspicion on beef production practices, as well as the safety and nutritional profile of our products. The activist groups are intense, vocal and very well-funded. But the beef checkoff continues to share the positive beef story and the truth about how beef is raised, its health benefits and nutrition facts.

If you meet an anti-beef militant who insists that beef production is the major source of global methane emissions, what would you say? If a neighbor or friend or a consumer you happened to talk to at the grocery store told you he or she doesn’t eat much beef because of its fat content, could you share a few basic beef nutrition facts that could persuade this person otherwise? The good news is – there are answers you can give these people if you yourself are armed with the facts and the beef checkoff is giving you those facts. Beef producers need to be as passionate, confident and vocal in telling their stories as the activists are. Part of doing this will be easy. For example, if you’re intensely proud of your operation, or it’s been in your family for generations, there’s sure to be passion in your voice when you talk about the beef business. Now, to back that passion with some simple yet powerful details about beef safety, nutrition, animal care and more, the beef checkoff has just launched the new Masters of Beef Advocacy (MBA) program. The MBA program is a free, self-directed online training program designed to equip producers and industry allies with information they need to be everyday advocates for the beef industry. After completing six courses, graduates will be invited to attend a full day final exam/graduation ceremony focusing on public speaking and working with the media. After completing the program, participants will be ready to become everyday beef advocates and to get out and meet consumers where they live. This may be as simple as talking to friends, family and neighbors, or going out to broader audiences, such as schools, businesses and civic groups to tell the beef story. To date, the MBA program has enrolled more than 300 participants. Producers can take the courses on their own, or participate in a class, like the one organized in Kansas which will graduate about 35 students today. While the Kansas Beef Council and the Kansas CattleWomen already have a volunteer advocacy called the Beef Action Network (BAN), Kansas Beef Council Executive Director Todd Johnson likes the MBA for its formalized curriculum. “The checkoff-funded MBA courses complement our program, since we’re less formal in training our volunteer advocates,” Johnson explains. “Everyone who goes through the MBA program learns consistent messages so we can speak with one voice on behalf of the industry, no matter where we are or who we’re talking to.” Johnson says he’s naturally confident talking to producers but is taking the MBA course so he can explain the industry more succinctly to consumers. “I’d like to be able to answer consumer questions with some simple, direct facts that will help them better understand our industry, because they’re viewing it from quite a distance. “ Kansas State University Beef Cattle Institute (BCI) graduate assistant Chelsea Good helped organize the "Kansas class," which includes students from K-State's College of Agriculture and College of Veterinary Medicine. “Students need to be involved in beef advocacy because they are the future of the industry,” she explains. Good adds that a younger generation of beef advocates can share positive beef facts with their peers, while these young consumers are still forming lifestyle habits. “People tend to make long-term eating choices before they’re 30, particularly if they’re considering becoming a vegetarian,” Good explains. Additionally, these younger beef advocates are comfortable with and well-versed in using the multitude of communication channels young people rely on these days. “There are huge opportunities to reach young consumers who grew up with the Internet by getting the beef message out online. People are posting negative and often misleading information about beef production online every day. We need to make sure our side of the story is there as well.” The MBA program will ensure that producers and industry allies are using pages from the same book and are prepared to talk beef with whomever they feel most comfortable with, whether it’s a neighbor at the feed store, a newspaper reporter or an Internet blogger. The bottom line is – the beef checkoff implements programs like the MBA because if we aren’t prepared to be the most passionate and informed advocates for our way of life and our products, who will be? For more information, check out My Beef Checkoff.

BeefTalk: Horses and beef, they still go together

The other day was difficult. The discussion centered on the horse industry as the Dickinson Research Extension Center was reviewing program costs. As the horse program was discussed, the updated costs were noted. Based on a five-year average, the annual cost (direct and overhead expenses) for maintaining a producing mare and nursing foal was $764.68 per year, with $570.16 attributed to direct costs (feed, breeding fees, veterinary, livestock supplies, marketing, equipment repairs and fuel, etc.). The remaining $194.52 was overhead costs that are calculated and allocated based on a typical percentage of use for each enterprise within the ranch.

The same five-year average was used to calculate raising a young horse. The annual cost averaged $893.75 per horse. The annual direct costs for the growing young horse averaged $745.92 and the overhead costs were $147.83. These horses are weaned colts all the way up to those in the early training phase. For the horses that remain in service to the ranch (working ranch horse), the annual costs have averaged $829.43, with the direct expenses averaging $681.42 per year and the overhead expenses averaging $148.01 per year. So what was difficult about the discussion?

In a nutshell, the costs are very typical and certainly could be noted as a function of the times. Inputs are expensive, but most people understand that. The difficulty rests in the value of the horse compared with the maintenance cost. Ranch costs do keep going up. The cost of raising beef cattle continues to go up, as does the cost of maintaining a working ranch horse, which affects the bottom line of the beef business. That simply means producers need beef prices to keep pace with increased costs. Keep the working horses and look for better beef markets.

The question about brood mares is much more difficult because these costs need to be covered by the value of their offspring. The value of a young colt not only carries with it the cost of production for the mare, but also for the production costs of the young horse until the time of sale. Right now, the market is not supporting those costs. For the Dickinson Research Extension Center, that means fewer horses, particularly the stud. However, the real answer is in finding and maintaining better markets, more opportunities and competition for each year’s foal crop. Unfortunately, not unlike the center, many producers also are faced with short-term decisions that affect cash flow. Many producers have indicated they have and will breed fewer mares and that the increasing costs and low values of the foals was the deciding factor.

Ultimately, supply and demand will catch up. However, as one producer said, “What may happen as a result of this current market is the number of foals/horses hitting the sales market. Sales should be down as many informed people will breed fewer mares. However, there doesn’t seem to be any decrease in the number of beginner and novice breeders! They see all of these cheap horses, such as bred mares and studs, that they can pick up and add to their herds. Many of these herds are ‘grade horses’ (meaning cute or had neat color) and may be crossbred to create more grade horses.”

That certainly is a challenge given the current limitations on marketing horses for slaughter. There are limited outlets to allow the industry to control excess inventory effectively and allow demand and supply to match up. More and stronger markets are needed. In the meantime, as many producers noted, breeding horses should be for those who have a history and desire to execute a well-written business plan that justifies breeding a mare

May you find all your ear tags.

Comments are welcome at BeefTalk.