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Articles from 2015 In March


Meat's color shouldn't be deal-breaker, video explains

The North American Meat Institute and American Meat Science Association have released the newest video in the Meat Mythcrusher series. This newest installment addresses myths about meat color and safety, particularly the common misconception that beef has spoiled once it turns brown.

The video features Brad Kim, Purdue University assistant professor of animal sciences. He explains the science of meat color and the many factors contributing to the color of meat, particularly the role of oxygen and myoglobin which can turn meat from a purple color to bright red to brown depending on oxygen exposure.

"Color change in meat is similar to what you'd see in an apple," Kim says. "When it turns brown, it is still wholesome and safe, but means it has been exposed to oxygen."

To watch the video, click here.

 

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Merck scholarship program recognizes 34 vet students

Thirty-four veterinary students from not just the U.S. but around the world now have the resources to enter the veterinary profession with a little less debt. Merck Animal Health announces the recipients of the Merck Animal Health Veterinary Student Scholarship Program, awarding $170,000 in scholarships through a partnership with the American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF). The program recognizes outstanding second- and third-year students who are pursuing careers in large animal and companion animal medicine.

“These students are our future visionaries and will become the leaders of the veterinary profession,” said Norman Stewart, DVM, livestock technical services manager for Merck Animal Health. “Through this program, we are reinforcing our long-standing commitment to education, personal development and the science of healthier animals. It also allows us to help support the cost of veterinary education, as well as recognize and celebrate the next generation of leaders.”

Every year, Merck Animal Health collaborates with numerous educational and veterinary organizations to ensure the advancement of animal health. This scholarship program is part of a broader commitment to education, students and the future of the industry. AVMF, the charitable arm of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), has a 50-year history of providing opportunities that foster the academic success of veterinary students.

"The AVMF is committed to ensuring the future of veterinary medicine, so we are pleased to partner with Merck Animal Health to provide veterinary student scholarships to students in the United States and international veterinary colleges,” says Dr. Cheryl Eia, interim executive director, AVMF. “Providing support to these outstanding students will greatly impact and improve the future of veterinary medicine for years to come." 

More than 1,000 students from U.S. and international veterinary schools accredited through the AVMA applied for the scholarships. Award recipients were selected based on academic excellence, financial need, leadership and area of interest within the profession. The following students have been awarded the 2015 Merck Animal Health Veterinary Student Scholarships.

  •    Rahmat Al-Amin, Chittagong Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, SE Asia
  •    Laurence Arpin, University of Montreal, Canada
  •    Kaitlyn Briggs, Cornell University, U.S.
  •    Daniel Carreño, North Carolina State University, U.S.
  •    Serena Caunce, University of Saskatchewan, Canada
  •    Tereza Chylkova, University of California-Davis, U.S.
  •    Brillarch Amante M. Dayag II, University of the Philippines Los Banos, SE Asia
  •    Jona del Mundo, University of the Philippines Los Banos, SE Asia
  •    Stephanie Delorme, University of Guelph, Canada
  •    Kelly Flynn, University of Wisconsin, U.S.
  •    Kelly Hurley, University of Florida, U.S.
  •    Samantha Huston, The Ohio State University, U.S.
  •    Ariful Islam, Bangladesh Agricultural University, SE Asia
  •    Rachael Ramsey Kearns, North Carolina State University, U.S.
  •    Kamraitip Lokham, Chiang Mai University-Thailand, SE Asia
  •    Rebecca Lulay, Oregon State University, U.S.
  •    June Marlo M. Matundan, University of the Philippines Los Banos, SE Asia
  •    Ericka Meyers, Colorado State University, U.S.
  •    Nicole Mikoni, University of California – Davis, U.S.
  •    Chandan Nath, Chittagong Veterinary and Animal Sciences  University, SE Asia
  •    Halcyon Dawn G. Nicolas, University of the Philippines Los Banos, SE Asia
  •    Shirley Nigaglioni Roig, St. George’s University, Caribbean
  •    Megan Marie Orloski, North Carolina State University, U.S.
  •    Susanna Perenboom, Washington State University, U.S.
  •    Md. Tazinur Rahman, Bangladesh Agricultural University, SE Asia
  •    Dipto Kumar Roy, Bangladesh Agricultural University, SE Asia
  •    Md. Nur A Alam Sidique, Bangladesh Agricultural University, SE Asia
  •    Kristin Maicah Soriano, University of the Philippines Los Banos, SE Asia
  •    Emily Spulak, Colorado State University, U.S.
  •    Sakhawat Hossain Tareq, Bangladesh Agricultural University, SE Asia
  •    Jessica M. Urban, St. George’s University, Caribbean
  •    Rachel Wanty, Colorado State University, U.S.
  •    Cheryl Yashar, University of California – Davis, U.S.
  •    Moonkiratul Zannat, Chittagong Veterinary and Animal Sciences University-Bangladesh, SE Asia

Merck Animal Health invests in the future of the veterinary profession by supporting research, education and specialized skills training so veterinarians have the resources they need to provide the best care possible. The scholarship program with AVMF supports the next generation of veterinarians and expands the future careers of students who are committed to veterinary and animal sciences.

 

Last day to vote for the best “Bellied up to the feedbunk” photo; PLUS: 5 cattle nutrition resources

Last day to vote for the best “Bellied up to the feedbunk” photo; PLUS: 5 cattle nutrition resources

When it comes to producing great-tasting, high-quality beef, ranchers know one key is good nutrition. In March, we focused on cattle nutrition with the BEEF Daily and Greeley Hat Works “Bellied up to the feedbunk” photo contest. Readers from across the country shared their best photos featuring cattle grazing in pastures, munching on hay, or lined up waiting for the feed truck.

In case you missed it, check out the 70+ photographs showcasing cattle nutrition here.

We narrowed the field to 15 finalists and enlisted readers’ help in selecting our champions. The two photographers who receive the most votes will receive a Greeley Hat Works Hat, valued at $300.

 

Subscribe now to Cow-Calf Weekly to get the latest industry research and information in your inbox every Friday!

 

Check out the 15 finalists and vote for your favorite photo by listing the name or number of your pick in the comments section of the photo gallery.

VOTE HERE!

There’s still time to vote! Voting will remain open until noon today! Be sure to share this contest with your friends and encourage them to vote, as well! Thank you for your participation and for helping make this contest fun!

 

Because cattle nutrition is a top priority for beef producers, I’ve rounded up five of our best articles, blogs and resources related to this topic. Browse through the archives of some of our most recent coverage on this important topic by clicking on the links below:

1. Feed Composition Tables: Discover the nutritional values of 280 commonly used cattle

2. 6 factors to evaluate the nutrition in your forage supply 

3. Balancing cattle nutrition with genetics key to ranch success 

4. Veterinarian tips for cattle nutrition and health 

5. Don’t short cow nutrition and top 10 management tips 

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of Beefmagazine.com or the Penton Farm Progress Group.

 

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Beef producers, consumers must find common ground on production ethics

Beef producers, consumers must find common ground on production ethics

“We say that we’re growing food, that it’s a noble cause, and that it should take precedence over everything else,” said Dave Daley, who is the fifth generation operating his family’s California ranch.

“If it’s truly a noble cause that takes precedence over everything else, then a lot of people are going to be interested in what we do. So, you can’t say: ‘Growing food is a noble cause, but it’s none of your business how we do it.’ ”

Daley is also interim dean of the College of Agriculture at California State University-Chico. Speaking at February’s Cattlemen’s College in San Antonio, which was sponsored by Zoetis, his charge was to discuss whether livestock agriculture had already lost the debate with consumers about animal welfare.

“I don’t think we’ve lost the battle because I don’t even know if there is a battle,” Daley said. “I don’t think we’re doing badly with animal welfare as an industry.”

Daley detailed the results of a survey of 200 large-scale, progressive cattle producers.

catte nutrition gallery

70+ photos showcasing all types of cattle nutrition
Readers share their favorite photos of cattle grazing or steers bellied up to the feedbunk. See reader favorite nutrition photos here.

 

Unsurprisingly, all said animals should be raised and treated humanely. If there was a reasonable and economic alternative to castration, only 11% said they wouldn’t consider it. Meanwhile, only 15% would ignore a reasonable and economic alternative to branding, and only 2% said cattle producers should not work with animal rights groups to establish mutual understanding.

On the other side of the debate, Daley said, “There is a changing social ethic about animals in this country. You may want to go back in time. You may want to say it doesn’t exist. But you can’t deny it.”

Daley said confinement is the major quibble consumers have with livestock ag. That means beef cattle remain further off their radar, but that doesn’t mean producers should leave the debate to others.

“I think we do a lousy job of communicating. We want to talk, but we don’t want to listen; it’s human nature,” Daley said. He believes those in the cattle business rely too much on science and economics to defend practices, when neither can answer questions of ethics. Plus, he said, we tend to spend the most resources refuting the claims of groups that the general public doesn’t take seriously.

“Give the general public some credit; they know nut cases when they see them. Just because someone disagrees with you, it doesn’t mean they’re stupid, evil or both. Good people can see things differently,” Daley said.

The same goes for producers. “Rather than criticize or mock non-conventional production systems, let the market decide their value,” Daley suggested. And vice versa.

Instead of spending resources to battle extremists, Daley said to focus on maintaining and building trust with the mass majority of consumers whose expectations of animal welfare are reasonable once they understand how much producers care about their stock and why they utilize various practices.

“I don’t think we have to make a lot of change. I think we need to make slow, incremental improvement,” Daley said. “We’ve got time to do what we think is right, rather than wait for someone else to tell us what is right.”

Another, more urgent clock is ticking, though. The horrific reality is an estimated 6 million children in the world will die from malnourishment this year. Yet, up to 2.5 billion more people are projected to join the global population in the next 35 years. Feeding them will require a 60% to 70% increase in food production. Most of that must come from producers with the most production capacity, like those in the U.S.

Producers are up to the challenge, so long as societies and governments let producers use old and emerging technology, in tandem with evolving genetic selection and management.

Unfortunately, such production freedom is not guaranteed, even in the U.S. That’s why finding common ground with consumers matters more than ever.

Cattlemen’s College presentations are available online.

 

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Don’t bid away future profits by overpaying for cows

Don’t bid away future profits by overpaying for cows

Last month’s focus was on projecting the economic value of a preg-checked crossbred heifer entered into my eastern Wyoming and western Nebraska study herd. That analysis projected the economic value of a crossbred heifer that produces her first calf in 2015 to be $2,925.

For a crossbred female that has nine consecutive live calves, her economic value was projected to be $3,234. This is a discounted valued based on the present value of all future incomes brought back to today’s dollars.

However, we know that not all females will produce nine consecutive calves, so a second phase of last month’s study looked at the economics of the “herd effect.” This utilized a typical lifetime annual culling rate by starting out with 100 crossbred heifers and running that herd for nine consecutive calf crops. At the end of the ninth year, the remaining females were sold as cull cows.

By the end of the ninth year, this herd still had 66 of the original 100 females in the herd, implying that 34 were culled or died in that time period. After adjusting for the annual sale of culled females, the projected average economic value of these 100 crossbred heifers was reduced to $2,925 per head. This “herd effect” was about a 10% adjustment in the economic value of these bred heifers due to annual culling during the nine years of calving this herd of females.

The data suggest that crossbred females tend to have a longer productive life, so I used a lifetime number of nine calves. The data also suggest that crossbreds tend to wean heavier calves, so I added 6% to gross calf sales for those crossbred calves.

This month, I’ll project the economic value of a straight-bred, preg-checked heifer that also has her first calf in spring 2015, but I’ll run this analysis based on a lifetime of seven calves. I’ll also reduce the annual production by 6% from that used for the crossbred study.

catte nutrition gallery

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I typically run these analyses with two possible calving percentage tables, relating percent calf crop to female age. One is a “high percentage set” and the other is what I call “average percentage set.” Both analyses — last month’s and this month’s — are run with the high-percentage calf crop set.

Figure 1 presents the high-percentage calf crop set used in both analyses. The concept employed here is that, as you cull out opens in the early years, you tend to end up with more of the remaining females that calve every year. Then, as they approach the end of their productive life, percent calf crop moves slightly downward.

calving percentage

Last month’s planning prices were again used in this month’s analysis. Figure 2 presents the economic projection for a straight-bred heifer born in 2013, bred in 2014 and having her first calf in 2015. She produces seven consecutive calves and is culled.

The first column is the calf number; the second column is the year of the calf; and the third column is the average annual net cash incomes from the herd, based on the planning prices used. The fourth column is this female’s net income adjusted for the age of the female; the fifth column is the age adjustment factors used; the six column is the discount factor for each year; and the final column is the discounted net cash income value for each year.

The bottom left-hand number is the accumulated net cash income for the seven calves sold, plus the cull cow income in nominal dollars. The right-hand bottom number is the discounted value for this female. This discounted $3,121 is the projected economic value of this preg-checked heifer having her first calf in 2015.

projected income of straight bred heifers

 

But not all heifers produce seven consecutive calves. Figure 3 presents detailed projections for a heifer that is culled after producing just one calf. Her economic value is projected at $2,001. A heifer that produces two calves and is culled is projected at $2,319, etc., on up to a heifer that produces seven consecutive calves ($3,121 per head). Columns 11 and 12 are not used in this straight-bred heifer analysis.

Sometimes, 3-year-olds are hard to get bred back. Column 13 is a special case designed to value a heifer that has her first calf, then is open for one year and then has five more consecutive calves. The projected economic value of this heifer that misses her second calf and has five more consecutive calves is $2,245. This is $876 less than a heifer that has seven consecutive calves.

economic value of bred heifers

But once again, we know not all heifers produce a calf each and every year. There is an annual “herd effect” of some open females. Let’s bring in the pregnancy percentages discussed in Figure 1.

The best way to illustrate this is to assume that a rancher has 100 head of preg-checked heifers. In year 1, 90% of those 100 heifers wean a live calf. That suggests 10 heifers were open, or the calf was born dead or died. In year two, 92% of the remaining heifers weaned a live calf, which means seven remaining females were either open or lost their calves before weaning.

This continues each year until the seventh consecutive calf is weaned and all the remaining females are sold as culls.

The seven-year accumulated net income from these 100 heifers is projected to total $285,956. This averages as $2,860 for each of the original 100 heifers. This “herd effect” figures out to be about an 8% reduction in the projected economic value of a preg-checked, straight-bred heifer that has her first calf in 2015.

projected annual income

As a follow-up to this analysis, I looked at the USDA Marketing Service’s sale barn report for La Junta, Colo., for the current week of Feb. 17. All breeding females sold averaged $2,645; the range was from $3,060 for some 3- and 4-year-olds to $1,950 for a set of older cows. The average of all breeding females sold was $2,645 per head. 

Clearly, the market price of breeding females is responding to last fall’s high calf prices. I sincerely hope ranchers don’t bid away all the future profit in their added beef cows.

Harlan Hughes is a North Dakota State University professor emeritus. He lives in Kuna, Idaho. Reach him at 701-238-9607 or [email protected]

 

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A pickup in the ditch says everything about the rural lifestyle

A pickup in the ditch says everything about the rural lifestyle

This column differs from what I typically write, and it’s taken about two years for me to get to where I could write it. It’s a personal story about the kind of people we live among out here in Kansas where we raise cattle and our families.

On Jan. 13, 2012, I was returning home from working with some cattle when my wife called and said our youngest son, Kyle, was injured and she was calling 911. Thinking it was something that looked serious but would be quickly remedied, I goosed the old Cummins and got home as quickly as possible. 

It turned out the injury involved Kyle’s femoral artery, and his older brother, Douglas, had already performed the first lifesaving act of applying a tourniquet. Injuring a femoral artery is a very serious injury, threatening both life and limb. Not knowing who was where, I decided to start the 20-mile journey to the hospital with Kyle and not wait for the ambulance. We headed out of the driveway, calling 911 to let them know we were on our way. 

The first help showed up in the form of a sheriff’s deputy who met us about a mile down the road, and encouraged us to wait for the ambulance coming out of Westmoreland. He said the ambulance was just a couple of minutes behind him.

catte nutrition gallery

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Readers share their favorite photos of cattle grazing or steers bellied up to the feedbunk. See reader favorite nutrition photos here.

 

Also coming up behind us were the two first responders out of Olsburg. They arrived at our house not long after we left, saw the dust and came after us. So we waited, and a paramedic was soon putting in multiple catheters, starting fluids and applying a new tourniquet. 

We moved to the hospital in Manhattan, after which Kyle got a helicopter ride to Topeka and a vascular surgeon. Shortly after midnight, synthetic grafts were in place, pulses returned in his leg, and Kyle went on to recover and have a great senior year in basketball.

That last sentence glosses over months of uncertainty about how things would come out and a lot of ups and downs. Anyone who has experienced serious injury or illness in a loved one can appreciate the highs and lows, and how dark things can be in the middle of it all.

The community of neighbors, other people we know locally, and people from throughout the veterinary profession and the cattle industry showed up either in person or by contacting us. Offers to take care of the stock were frequent. Kyle was added to more prayer lists than I can recall. And we all know the reason food is brought over is to get an eye on us and see how we’re doing.

I will always remember the response of a neighbor who didn’t get in the loop for a few days. She was distraught that “a neighbor was in need and she didn’t know.” To her, that was the ultimate failure as a neighbor.

We met many amazing people during this challenge, and they have my everlasting gratitude. But through it all, there is one image of our community that will always stick with me about that day.

rural neighbors
Photo Credit: Bilderbuch / Design Pics / ThinkStock

As the ambulance began to move, I glanced out the window. There in the ditch sat the private pickup that the Olsburg first responders drove to our farm. They left it behind in order to ride with us to the hospital and do what they could to help save Kyle.

I drive by that spot almost every day. It reminds me of all the good in the world, and the treasure we have in the friends we live among. It also reminds me of the examples set by those who give their time to help others in our communities, even if it means leaving their families on a Sunday afternoon, chasing down those who need their help and leaving a pickup in the ditch.

Mike Apley, DVM, Ph.D., is a professor in clinical sciences at Kansas State University in Manhattan. 

Ideology is at the center of the fight over federal nutrition guidelines

dietary guidelines are political

“The U.S. population should be encouraged and guided to consume dietary patterns that are rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, seafood, legumes and nuts; moderate in low- and nonfat dairy products and alcohol (among adults); lower in red and processed meat; and low in sugar-sweetened foods and beverages, and refined grains.”

Those words demoting the role of red meat in the U.S. diet are extraordinary — not only in their counsel, but also their source lends them considerable weight. They are the centerpiece of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) report delivered to the secretaries of USDA, and Health and Human Services (HHS) in February. As such, DGAC recommendations will be considered in the 2015 update of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans that will be released later this year.

If the recommendations are adopted by the secretaries, as they have been in the past, the effects will be far-reaching. They will influence not only dietary advice, but also educational programs, school lunch programs and government food assistance programs.

What’s interesting is that the committee’s rationale regarding a reduced role in the American diet for red and processed meat is based on its presumed environmental impact. That is not only an area of much debate, but also a criterion that is outside the purview of the government-appointed panel and a departure from previous deliberations going back to before 1985.

catte nutrition gallery

70+ photos showcasing all types of cattle nutrition
Readers share their favorite photos of cattle grazing or steers bellied up to the feedbunk. See reader favorite nutrition photos here.

 

Shalene McNeill, a registered dietitian and nutrition scientist with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said DGAC’s exclusion of lean meat from a healthy diet is a historic move that ignores decades of nutrition science and all previous editions of the Dietary Guidelines.

“Despite being charged with examining new evidence, the committee based its conclusions on outdated, weak evidence from stereotypical dietary patterns,” McNeill told a Washington, D.C., listening session in March.

“Advising people to cut back on their red meat intake has had harmful consequences. As red meat intake has declined, we are consuming more empty calories, and obesity rates have steadily increased. History has shown us that sweeping recommendations often get lost in translation and exacerbate obesity and nutrient shortfalls,” she said.

Betsy Booren, the North American Meat Institute’s (NAMI) vice president of scientific affairs, told the same gathering that red and processed meats “provide Americans a simple, direct and balanced dietary source of all essential amino acids and are rich sources of micronutrients, such as iron, selenium, vitamins A, B12 and folic acid.”

Comments on the report will be accepted until May 8. In addition, NAMI has launched a petition on change.org urging USDA and HHS to “inject common sense into the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.” There’s still time to voice your concern.

 

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Our “little herders” cost $30 for a lifetime

Our “little herders” cost $30 for a lifetime

Picture yourself with a white sheet of paper on a table, some iron shavings and a magnet. If you place the negative side of the magnet on the paper and move it in a sweeping motion across the page, the shavings will be pushed ahead of the magnet. That side-to-side sweeping motion with a magnet is similar to the sweeping motion of a cattle handler using cattle’s flight zone to move them from pasture to pasture.

Now, if you place the iron shavings back in the center of the page, and turn the magnet around to use the positive side, moving the magnet will attract the cattle to it. Watch how the shavings adhere to the magnet and move in a compact tail-like shape behind the magnet. This is the stress-free way to move cattle.

ranchers user mr. slow sign to herd cattle
The Bergins have placed one of their “Mister Slow” herders at an open gate. The child safety sign with the fluttering flag guides the calmly moving cattle away from the opening.

Reverse the polarity

Here is how to reverse the polarity of your herding practices to make the movement of cattle from pasture to pasture stress-free.

  • At the same time of the day you plan to move cattle, feed the cattle for at least two days near the gate you plan to exit. We roll out big round bales of hay to entice cattle.
     
  • Immediately before moving the cattle, preview the route you plan to take. Look for problem areas or “snags” in your route, such as an entryway to a ranch, a gate you can’t close, any fence that is down, an intersection in a county road or a highway to cross.
     
  • Place a child safety sign at every snag. These are the 32-inch-high, green plastic figures of a child wearing a red baseball cap with the orange flag that flaps in the wind (called a “Step2 Kid Alert”). Place one at each open single gate and each spot where a fence is down. Place them at a slight diagonal to the passing cattle so the cattle can see his eye and his flag.
     
  • Also, place a sign every 10 feet in a wide spot you don’t want the cattle to cross, but allows cars and feed trucks to pass through your setup prior to your herd’s movement. These traffic figures also warn others that something is about to happen on the roadway, thus creating a safer situation for everyone.
     
  • After the route is set up, open your gate and guide the cattle out as you would usually with your hay-feeding truck. We honk the horn when we feed, and this adds to the eating stimulus. Like Pavlov’s dog, the cattle come running.
     
  • Using their natural instinct to stay with the herd and their eagerness to eat, your magnet of feed will pull the herd down the road. One or two people following behind with rattle paddles can watch for problems.
     
  • Don’t allow others to put pressure on the cattle from the sides of your route. Keep your dogs with you, and cars or other negative polarity pushers back.
     
  • Maintain a steady pace while moving the cattle. Some cows will stop to snatch a bite to eat but will want to keep up with the group.
     
  • Don’t apply a lot of pressure from the back of the herd, just enough to keep any cattle from returning to the original pasture. Just like the magnet’s pull on iron shavings, a positive force will pull better than a negative force can push. Plus, there is less stress on everyone involved.

Using this system, two of us have moved 300 head down a country road, turned at an intersection, crossed over a one-lane bridge and avoided a 100-foot entrance to our ranch to turn into a winter pasture close to the house.

Always ready for work

We’ve affectionately named our child safety signs “Mister Slow.” The signs are inexpensive ($15 to $36 each), easy to place, easy to transport, don’t require workers’ comp insurance and stay where they’re told to stay. You can find them online by doing an Internet search for “Step2 Kid Alert.” If you live in a windy climate, their bases can be filled with sand. We retrieve the “herders” after the cattle are safely in their new pasture and store them in the garage.

It’s important to not leave the signs out where pastured cattle can view them, as cattle will acclimate to them. The novelty of the figures to the cattle is one of their strengths.

Bill and Joanie Bergin stress that the signs must remain a novelty to cattle in order to function properly, so they store them away in a shed when not in use.

We began using the signs to warn people when we were moving cattle across roads. We had a gate that we couldn’t close, so I put Mister Slow in front of it and cattle walked right past him. My husband has since set up four of them on a 100-foot-wide gate that feed trucks can use, while cattle calmly pass by with no problems.

Preplanning is paramount. Before moving cattle, we go through the route to place the Mister Slows. We operate 80 miles northeast of Billings, Mont., and move cattle four times annually. We use two Mister Slows for a road that is 30 to 35 feet wide, and one for a 20-foot-wide gate.

We’ve successfully used this system for two years. One final tip: when you purchase the child signs, the little red flags are wound around the tip of their flag pole. It’s very important that the flag be able to flap in the breeze, so I attach a clothespin to the end of the flag to straighten it out before use.

Hired help is expensive today, and with truck drivers being paid $30 per hour in the nearby oil fields, they’re also tough to find. Mister Slow fits the bill for us, and he’s always available.

Joanie Bergin ranches with her husband, Bill, near Melstone, Mont.

 

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Pyrethrins safe for use in breeding bulls

Pyrethrins safe for use in breeding bulls

“The use of insecticides containing pyrethrin and cyfluthrin (a pyrethroid), regardless of application, did not alter reproductive parameters in beef bulls when administered over 18 weeks,” says Jamie Stewart, DVM, veterinary intern at the University of Illinois (UI)Agricultural Animal Care and Use Program.

Stewart is referring to the most recent UI research aimed at examining whether pyrethrins or their synthetic cousins — pyrethroids — used for fly control negatively impact bull fertility. That question gained steam a couple of years ago based on an observational study at the University of Missouri.

Stewart says controlled research studies have shown using insecticides with these ingredients on mammals can impair semen quality and inhibit testosterone production. But she emphasizes that dosage levels used in those studies are extremely high and oral administration is often used, which dramatically increases absorption rate.

Conversely, Stewart says the label recommendations for products containing pyrethrins and pyrethroids, approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in controlling flies in cattle, are for much lower dosage rates, and the route of administration is never oral. Thus, there is less that can be absorbed, as well as significantly less opportunity for absorption, she adds.

seedstock 100

BEEF Seedstock 100
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“Previous UI experiments demonstrated pour-on, ear tag, and spray applications of pyrethrin and pyrethroid insecticides had no effects on bull semen quality in the short term [zero to nine weeks],” Stewart says. “However, spray applications of these insecticides decreased serum testosterone concentrations at nine weeks, suggesting potential detrimental effects on reproductive parameters if used long term.”

Since testosterone levels vary widely in bulls day to day, researchers were unsure whether the decrease noted at nine weeks was due to treatment. So, they repeated the study. The objective was to determine the effects on bull reproductive parameters of pyrethrin and beta-cyfluthrin spray applications used at labeled dosages over 18 weeks (two spermatogenic cycles), in combination with cyfluthrin pour-on and ear tags.

With the first study in mind, Stewart notes, “Our hypothesis was that the addition of spray applications would negatively impact reproductive parameters in bulls after nine weeks.”

Instead, she says, “Despite using the same treatments as in our previous study, we were not able to repeat the dip in testosterone seen previously in the ninth week. And there were no negative effects observed on sperm motility and morphology, or testosterone, in bulls receiving insecticides alone as pour-ons or fly tags, or those applications in combination with premises spraying or fogging.”

She said a comparison was made to a control group of bulls receiving no individual or premises treatment of the insecticides. Angus, Simmental and Sim-Angus bulls were randomly assigned to one of three treatment groups:

  • no exposure to pyrethrins or pyrethroids
  • fly tags and pour-on
  • fly tags, pour-on, premise spray and fog spray

The active insecticide ingredients included pyrethrins and the pyrethroids, cyfluthrin and beta-cyfluthrin.

Body weight, body condition score and scrotal circumference were assessed on weeks zero, nine and 18. Semen was collected every three weeks via electro ejaculation and assessed — using computer-assisted semen analysis — for overall and progressive sperm motility and morphology. Serum testosterone concentration was also measured each of the weeks.

“There were some changes that occurred over time, but they occurred synchronously in all groups,” Stewart explains. “The changes were not due to differences in group treatments, and can be attributed to weather and photoperiod fluctuations.”

Stewart’s bottom line recommendation: “As long as producers stick to the label recommendations for these products, there should be no risk of any adverse effects on semen quality or testosterone levels.” 

 

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