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Articles from 2016 In March

Consumers—not science—are driving demand for antibiotic-free meat

Feedlot cattle eating

For decades, farmers and ranchers have used antibiotics to prevent and treat infections in farm animals as well as for growth promotion. And animal health and welfare has benefited. Administered in the animal’s feed or drinking water at sub-therapeutic levels, animals raised in this manner experience lower mortality rates, are in general healthier and weigh more.

While the mechanism for this is not completely understood, it is believed that a constant low dosage of antibiotics allows for better nutrient absorption by the animals. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has strict guidelines for the withdrawal times for antibiotics used in the rearing of food animals in order to assure the U.S. consumer that all meat purchased is free from antibiotic residue. Notwithstanding, the clamor from consumers for antibiotic-free meat continues.

In an effort to determine consumers’ preferences for meat and their general knowledge about livestock production practices, including the use of antibiotics, I undertook a market survey. What I found underscores the huge gap between livestock producers and consumers regarding antibiotic use in animal care and welfare.

We surveyed 76 consumers to gain a perspective about their preferences for meat and their knowledge about livestock rearing practices, including what they knew or had read or heard about antibiotic residues in meat and antibiotic resistant bacteria. The sample represented several ethnic backgrounds including White, Hispanic and African-American. Students, housewives and professionals were among the people surveyed.

Table 1

Ages ranged from 21 to 71-years old with a median age of 45.5, comprising a population of 26% millennials, 29% Gen-X, 38% baby boomers, 2% silent and 5% who didn’t report their age.

Sixty-seven percent reported they were married, 63% that they were solely responsible for the grocery shopping in their household and 80% said they purchased their meat at a grocery store as opposed to a butcher shop. Meat preferences included chicken, beef, pork, combinations of the three and several respondents wrote in veal, fish and seafood.

Table 1 shows a clear preference for chicken alone, (50%) which increased to 58% in combination with beef and to 70% with beef and pork. Only 17% of the respondents preferred beef alone. None chose pork as a sole preference.

Table 2 shows the results of questionnaire consisting of 22 questions concerning respondent’s perceptions of livestock production practices

TABLE 2 KEY Questions 1-17: 1 - I strongly agree, 2 - I agree, 3 - I have no opinion, 4 - I disagree and 5 - I strongly disagree Questions 18-22 were yes-no responses and are reported as percent answering yes.

I love meat and eat it regularly.


Livestock deserves to be raised in as disease-free an environment as possible.


I buy whatever meat is on sale.


When livestock becomes sick it should be treated with medicine.


The price of meat I buy for my family is important to me.


Antibiotics should be used to cure and prevent the spread of infection in a flock or herd.


I always look for sales on meat in the paper before shopping.


I would purchase ABF meat instead of the meat I currently purchase.


When I find meat on sale I buy extra and freeze it.


I would purchase ABF meat instead of the meat I currently purchase even if I had to pay more.


I don’t pay attention to meat prices.  Whatever I need at the time I purchase.


I would purchase ABF meat instead of the meat I currently purchase even if I had to pay twice as much.


When we eat out, we order meat dishes.


I have read/heard there are antibiotic residues in meat


I order organic or “grass fed” beef.


I have read/heard that the FDA long ago banned the sale of meat, milk or dairy products containing antibiotic residues.


I have heard livestock is routinely fed antibiotics in feed and drinking water and I’m OK with that.


I have read/heard there are super bugs that have become resistant to antibiotics due to their use in livestock.


I have heard that livestock is raised in tight quarters and I’m OK with that. 


I have read/heard that these super bugs can infect humans and pose a serious health risk.


Livestock deserves to be treated humanely.


I have read/heard that these super bugs are species specific and there is no evidence that they can jump to humans and pose a serious health risk.


The 17 questions graded 1 to 5 dealt with meat buying and dining preferences (questions 1-8) and what the respondents understood or had read or heard about livestock rearing practices (questions 9-17). The first eight questions revealed agreement among the respondents that they love to eat meat and eat it regularly, (2.3) and that the price they pay is important to them, (2.2). Notwithstanding, there was a bias towards disagreement that they purchased meat on sale, (3.6) and bought extra to freeze for a future meal, (3.3). There was agreement that when they eat out, they order meat, (2.5) but a bias towards disagreement about ordering grass-fed beef, (3.3).

Respondents showed their strongest disagreement toward livestock being routinely fed antibiotics (3.7) and that livestock are often raised in tight quarters (3.9). They were in strong agreement that livestock should be treated humanely (1.8) and in even stronger agreement that livestock should be raised in as disease-free environment as possible (1.3). When livestock become sick there was agreement that medicine should be administered (2.1), and specifically antibiotics when there is the risk of the spread of infection in a flock or a herd (2.3).

There was agreement that respondents would purchase antibiotic-free meat instead of the meat they were currently purchasing (2.2), even if they had to pay more for it (2.5), but not if they had to pay twice as much (3.3).

Responses to the five yes or no questions were especially revealing. Seventy-one percent said they had read or heard there are antibiotic residues in meat while only 20% said they had read or heard that the FDA had long ago banned the sale of meat, milk and dairy products containing antibiotic residues. Forty-six percent said they had read or heard about antibiotic-resistant superbugs as a result of current livestock rearing practices using antibiotics and almost the same amount (47%) said they had read or heard that these bugs can infect humans and pose a serious health risk. But only 13% said that they had read or heard that there is no evidence for this.

Our survey revealed that a large majority of consumers (71%) believe that their meat contains antibiotic residues and are willing to pay more for antibiotic-free meat despite the fact that all meat sold in the U.S. is already antibiotic-free by law, whether labeled natural, organic or antibiotic-free. Additionally, only 20% said they had heard that the FDA banned the sale of meat containing antibiotic residues. Fewer still (13%) said they knew there was no evidence to support the theory that antibiotic resistance in bacteria in livestock poses a threat to humans.    

Rick DeLuca, president of Merck Animal Health, recently spoke at the First European Animal Health Investment Forum held in London in February 2016 saying, “The lack of scientific data and pressure from consumers is being directly felt by farmers. Social media means small groups now have big voices and there is a lot of conjecture… There are consumer pressures on the antibiotics space and in animal welfare.” Joachim Hasenmaier, member of Boehringer Ingelheim’s corporate board for animal health, also spoke, saying, “There is a clear stand on antibiotics – consumers and politicians have decided. If we don’t convince consumers there are no residues in animal meat, meat consumption will decline.”

Consumers must be educated about the science behind the necessity for the judicious use of antimicrobials, including antibiotics in the rearing of livestock for human consumption. They also need to be made aware of the industry safeguards, which along with strict government oversight have been in place for decades, protecting them from antibiotic residues in the meat they currently purchase.

This is largely the responsibility of the meat producers. They should be leading the way in assuring the U.S. consumer that their meat is safe, healthy and antibiotic-free despite the use of antibiotics in livestock rearing. Instead of playing on the unfounded fears of ill-informed consumers, meat producers, through a variety of media, both traditional—a national marketing campaign perhaps—and social, should be at the forefront of this campaign, assuring consumers they have nothing to worry about.   

Greg Rummo is CEO of New Chemic, Inc., a company that imports various animal health products. Click here to download a .pdf copy of the paper and references.  

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Calving accident begets reflection

Cow Calf Pair

Late last week I noticed an article about a rancher in northeast Oklahoma dragged to death by a cow he was trying to help calve.

As you might guess, he was entrapped in the obstetrical chains and dragged to death when the cow bolted. Whether he was experienced or novice, old or young; whether he looped the chain over his own wrist or truly became tangled, I do not know.

I have several times prayed for his family since then, but on reflection it seems his misfortune could serve as a warning to everyone in calving season: Cattle are powerful animals, and no matter how docile we think them, they can hurt us badly.

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We all know this, of course: Hence the cowboy penchant for telling stories about "wrecks."

But this rancher’s misfortune really drives home that point. It says be careful. Never think that cow or heifer can’t get up and run away. Never tie the calf or the cow to something you can’t get loose from, like your body.

Obviously we need to care for our animals, but our own safety should always be placed above theirs.

I think there is a less-obvious lesson, too, but one that may be very important in the long run.

Our industry has come to think the way we do things is the only logical pathway, and one of those orthodoxies has been our unabated drive since the 1960s to produce bigger and bigger calves. It has not necessarily produced more profit, and it has brought about a host of problems. One of those was the much higher dystocia rates in those early years from Continental crossbreeding on much smaller English cows. I contend we are still seeing higher rates, although they have abated a great deal as cows have gotten much larger incidental to big-calf selection.

The data from USDA's National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) and from numerous university studies clearly shows losses from dystocia are highest in first-calf heifers (20% average) and as the cow ages, she moves toward lower levels of dystocia (1.5%).

NAHMS data also warns us 30% or more of all calf losses still are tied to dystocia, and that delayed estrus is the probable outcome of dystocia. Considering the most important economic function of a cow is to produce and raise a live calf every year, all this is problematic.

I have been unable to find studies showing dystocia rates of 50 years or more ago, although they may exist. Therefore I have nothing historical with which to compare. Yet one thing appears crystal clear, and researchers all over the country state it again and again: Dystocia is caused primarily by relative oversize of the fetus to the size of the dam. From this I reason we have caused ourselves and our animals a lot of undue grief; maybe we continue.

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Considering the need to select more grass-efficient cows, and the trend toward downsized cattle that portends, all the parts of this puzzle fit together for me.

If we have fewer calves to pull, which would arguably increase profitability, and if we increased safety for ourselves alongside that, I can't see anything but gain.

Click here to view NAHMS data on cow dystocia and calf mortality. 

Read this paper for information on reducing calf mortality from dystocia. 

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10 photo finalists celebrating spring

At BEEF, readers are celebrating spring with a photo contest!

Congratulations to our 10 “Celebrate Spring” photography finalists including: Tammy English, Doug Hoort, Kellee Whitehurst, Alissa Sanders, Lacee Sims, Lauren Neale, Blake Reynolds, Mitchell Schmidt, Amy Jo Beckstrand, and Tonea Scarbrough.


View the gallery of finalists and vote for your favorite below.

View the complete gallery of photo entries here.


Voting will run from April 4 until noon on April 11. We will announce the winners on April 12. The grand champion photographer will receive a $100 VISA gift card, and the reserve champion photographer will receive a $50 VISA gift card, respectively. Plus, the remaining eight finalists will receive a BEEF art print, as well as three randomly selected voters.

Congratulations to our finalists and good luck!

Can genomics data be your ticket to better returns on value-added feeder cattle?

All it takes is a glance at the feeder cattle market report to see the advantage of producing and marketing value-added calves. While making the jump into the value-added world may mean a change in your approach to management and marketing, the rewards can make it well worthwhile.

Throw genomics into the mix and things can really begin to work in your favor. Now, beef producers participating in Verified Beef’s Reputation Feeder Cattle® (RFC) program can now use GeneMax® Advantage, PredicGEN and i50K genomic test results from Zoetis to help predict performance potential. These test results have been added to the RFC Genetic Merit Scorecard® to help verify genetic merit of feeder cattle enrolled in the program.  

“Our Genetic Merit Scorecard® helps producers document the genetic potential of their calves and gives cattle feeders an accurate prediction of how calves will perform,” says Duane Gangwish, chief operations officer at Verified Beef. “Adding in the genomic tests from Zoetis helps bridge the gap when historical records are not available on the long-term bull battery and provides a more accurate solution for predicting future performance.”

The RFC program is a marketing program for ranchers and cattle feeders that helps with feeder cattle value discovery by verifying genetic merit and management practices. The program offers three value-added services to participants:

  • Evaluation of calf-crop genetic performance for feed lot and carcass merit
  • Documentation of calf-crop management history with regard to health, nutrition and handling
  • Promotion of calves available for sale to hundreds of feedlots to attract more informed bidders.

For a given calf crop, dependable predictions of genetic potential for performance can be made by using the latest EPD/GE-EPD bull battery information from the past 10 years (option 1 below). Alternatively, if EPD/GE-EPD information is only available for the current active bull battery, it may be combined with GeneMax Advantage or PredicGEN results from tested replacement heifer candidates or cows to also inform the Genetic Merit Scorecard (option 2 below). In either option, calf crop genetic potential is best evaluated through higher accuracy, including complete sets of bull battery GE-EPDs powered by HD 50K or i50K—especially for difficult-to-measure traits such as feed efficiency and carcass merit.

“The Reputation Feeder Cattle program provides producers with an opportunity to acquire premium value for their animals,” says Dr. Paulo Moraes, Zoetis senior marketing manager, beef genomics and reproductives. “We are happy to partner with Verified Beef to provide component genetic information that makes validation of genetic information easier by cow-calf producers and cattle feeders.”

For more information on the Reputation Feeder Cattle program, please visit To learn more about the genomic testing offerings from Zoetis, please contact your Zoetis representative or visit or

Material on BEEF Briefing Room comes directly from company news releases. Source: Zoetis

Know your inoculant to ensure quality silage

Come silage-cutting time, you make sure the cutter bar is ready to go, grease the machine and head to the field to start chopping and packing. And along the way, you buy some inoculant to make sure everything works the way it should. But do you know the whats and whys of that inoculant?

When producers use a quality, research-proven forage inoculant, they are loading up with billions of elite, scientifically selected bacteria. Using the inoculant at the correct level is key to ensuring you get the performance you paid for.

“We are looking at a war  at a microscopic level between ‘good’ bacteria that can ensure maximum quality silage, and ‘bad’ bacteria that cause nutrient and energy losses and may cause severe spoilage,” says Bob Charley, Ph.D., Forage Products Manager, Lallemand Animal Nutrition. “To make sure we have enough ‘good’ bacteria to prevail, we need to look at the colony forming units on the inoculant label.”

It is generally accepted that fermentation aids — which are designed to dominate the initial fermentation and increase the speed of pH drop — should be applied at a minimum of 100,000 CFUs per gram of fresh forage.

CFUs are a measurement producers may be unfamiliar with, Dr. Charley notes. Microbes are very small and difficult to count directly, so CFUs are used as the method of enumeration.

CFUs are determined by making a microbial suspension, then making a series of 10-fold dilutions of this suspension and spreading a small amount of each dilution on petri dishes containing a layer of nutrient agar (“jelly”). These are then incubated for 24 to 48 hours at a temperature ideal for the microbe(s) under test (generally around body temperature). After incubation, the agar plates are covered in spots, which are individual microbial colonies, which are counted.

“This is the ‘C’ in CFU,” Dr. Charley explains. “Since we do not know if the colony was formed by one single organism or a cluster of bacteria, the spots are referred to as ‘colony-forming units.’”

While 100,000 CFUs of elite, selected bacteria per gram of fresh forage is the accepted minimum standard for driving a rapid pH drop, to reliably produce silage with good aerobic stability, inoculation with a significantly higher dose rate of Lactobacillus buchneri 40788 has been proven in independent trials to be the most effective option. L. buchneri 40788 applied at a rate of 400,000 CFU per gram of forage (600,000 for HMC) has been reviewed by the FDA and allowed to claim improved aerobic stability of silages and HMC.

The number of CFUs should be clearly listed on the silage inoculant product label.

In addition to ensuring a minimum level of CFUs, producers should always ask to see independent data to support claims made for any inoculant. Dr. Charley recommends producers check what level the product was used at in these studies and ensure it matches what they’re being sold.

“CFUs alone will not guarantee the desired results,” he notes. “Be sure to look for specific strains that are proven in independent research to meet specific silage goals. Then, make sure you apply inoculants at the correct viable level with proper handling practices to help ensure your inoculant works as expected — and results in stable, high quality silage.”

Material on BEEF Briefing Room comes directly from company news releases. Source: Lallemand Animal Nutrition


Beef demand vs. beef consumption: What’s the difference?

Beef demand vs. beef consumption: What’s the difference?

Industry At A Glance recently highlighted annual per-capita protein spending trends from 1990 through 2015. What that analysis showed is that beef spending was flat between 1990 and 1998 (when beef demand bottomed out). However, since that time, the beef industry has captured new spending at a faster clip than pork or poultry. Beef spending in 2015 eclipsed a new record at $340 per person – an increase of $155 per capita since 1998 and up nearly $80 in the past five years.   

The discussion also revolved around market share, noting that beef’s market share is approximately 48% of total dollars spent on protein – up from 44% back in ’98. However, some might argue that number isn’t fully representative. That is, from a volume perspective, beef’s market share is actually declining – pork and poultry have been able to increase sales volume versus beef during those 10 years. 

This week’s illustration provides some context around the focus on market share from the volume standpoint. Indeed, beef consumption (reflective of disappearance) has steadily declined since 2005 and conventional wisdom often attributes higher prices, and consequently greater spending, to declining supply.   

However, consumption (sales volume or tonnage – not dollars) doesn’t reflect consumer perception of beef or beef products in the market place. It is a function of production and disappearance. As such, sales volume doesn’t account for decision-making about the price-value relationship when consumers make comparisons between beef, pork and poultry.  

The most accurate measure of beef competitiveness is reflected by the beef demand index. Demand reflects both supply and price. Stated another way, even with low supply, if consumers don’t perceive beef as a favorable product, there’s little pricing power to clear the market of existing supply.  

This week’s graph illustrates the difference between consumption and demand – they reflect two very different things. Most importantly, declining consumption does not reflect declining demand. In fact, consumption has declined during the past several years while demand has improved. 

comsumption vs. demand

Stated another way, supply has helped stretch the market to a series of new record highs in recent years. However, higher prices can’t be passed on if consumers favor the competitors – pork and poultry. Beef’s pricing power has been formidable during the past several years – the direct result of better demand. That all translates into real expenditures.

How do you perceive the importance of beef demand on for the beef industry during the past 10 years? What’s your assessment of potential for demand growth in coming years? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below. 

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Santa Gertrudis association cooperates with Mexican breeders on genetic evaluation

Two neighboring Santa Gertrudis associations will cooperate to enhance the genetic improvement of the iconic breed. U.S.-based Santa Gertrudis Breeders International (SGBI) and Mexico Santa Gertrudis Association have agreed to implement a common genetic evaluation allowing producers of Santa Gertrudis cattle on both sides of the border to evaluate cattle utilizing the same genetic selection tools.

SGBI Executive Director John Ford and Mexico Association President Carlos Sellers announced the agreement at a genetic planning meeting March 4 during the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Livestock Genetic Services of Woodville, Va. will provide the services needed for the two-association evaluation.

“This is a great opportunity for Santa Gertrudis breeders in the United States and Mexico," Ford said, following the announcement. "The ability to evaluate genetics and make sound selection and breeding decisions opens the door for breed growth, not just in the two countries but across North, Central and South America. I look forward to working with the Mexico Santa Gertrudis Association validating animal performance and strengthening the breed’s presence in the commercial sector.”

Sellers echoed Ford’s sentiment. “Providing Mexican cattlemen with identical genetic evaluation tools will allow for the constant measurement of our cattle’s genetic progress with their American counterparts and identify profitable genetics regardless of country. This joint effort will certainly benefit breeders on both sides of the border.”

The Santa Gertrudis Breeders International genetic evaluation is one of the most comprehensive among Bos indicus-influenced breeds. The evaluation has been reviewed by leading animal geneticists and utilizes genotypes collected from the breed’s leading sires and validated on 10K, 20K, 30K and 50K SNP chips. Thousands of ranch phenotypes and scan records collected over a 25-year period serve as the foundation of the genetic evaluation. SGBI is a leader in the adoption and implementation of genetic technology and the association’s database contains more than 4,000 DNA samples genotyped with the GeneSeek Genomic Profiler. The first joint association Santa Gertrudis genetic evaluation is scheduled for release in early July, 2016.

Material on BEEF Briefing Room comes directly from company news releases. Source: Santa Gertrudis Breeders International

Meat Market Update | Early grilling season rally tops out

Ed Czerwien, USDA Market News reporter in Amarillo, TX, provides us with the latest outlook on boxed beef prices and the weekly cattle trade.

The early grilling season rally has topped out, but that is not totally unusual. The same thing happened in 2014 when we had a very large early rally, but it rebounded partially later in the spring. The Choice Rib and Loin continue with the seasonal rally but the Round and Chuck have been dropping much lower and faster than previous years. They also represent a larger portion of the carcass than the Rib and Loin so they have had a much more negative impact on the cutout.

Find more cattle price news here or bookmark our commodity price page for the minute-by-minute updates.

NCBA should take heed from the political parties

NCBA should take heed from the political parties

The two political parties are being sent a pretty loud message from their bases. People are fed up, disappointed and want change. The Democrats, to their credit, are still focused solely on winning the election. They made sure there were no serious challengers to Hillary in the primaries, and even though Bernie has won more states than Hillary at this point, they had the foresight with their super delegate system to make sure that even if the unthinkable happened and Bernie won more delegates or received more votes than Hillary, she would still easily win the nomination. 

The Republican establishment might be focused on winning the general election as well, but they got caught by surprise with the anti-establishment movement and are finding themselves with two options that they despise and a front-runner who is universally considered to be unelectable in a general election. 

Both parties were fooled by their success. Obama won election and re-election easily after declaring that he wanted to fundamentally change America. He delivered on his promise, and despite the resounding defeat in the 2010 and 2012 elections that gave Republican majorities in both houses of Congress and overwhelming disapproval of the direction of the country, prospects for the Democrats look good for 2016. 

The political environment of today is a contrarian’s utopia. Nothing makes sense. Clinton is essentially running to continue the Obama agenda that is widely viewed as a failure on the domestic, economic and foreign policy front. The Republicans either won or increased their majorities in Congress, as the electorate revolted against the Obama agenda and the direction of the country. Yet, they didn’t deliver on their promises and actually enjoy lower ratings than Obama. 

Their policies, too, are viewed as failures or Republicans are viewed as failures for their inability to get those policies implemented. The Republican establishment missed the populist movement and discontent among their base and now are finding themselves in danger of losing the control they enjoyed over the party. What should have been a slam-dunk election is now looking like an uphill battle.

What does this have to do with NCBA? Nothing directly, but NCBA, in my opinion, is a little like the Democrat and Republican parties; they believe in what they are doing, they see their successes and yet they are missing that all-important frustration in the country, that undertone that should be raising red flags. 

Parties and trade associations are similar in that they must be seen as representing the ideals and views of their base, and be seen as fighting for them on a daily basis. The Republican Party became beholding to the big donors and neglected the heart and soul of the party; the blue collar worker who was struggling. The workers who didn’t believe free trade was making their lives better, and who see illegal immigration as a societal, economic, and security threat. Donald Trump sensed these openings and discontent and is now poised to change the party forever as a result. 

NCBA may not have big-money donors per se, but the cattle feeding segment pays a tremendous amount of dues and wields considerable influence, and producers are well aware of the shift that has created. Trade associations and parties are driven by two thing—the passion, excitement and commitment of their members, and dollars.  

The latter—money—is so vital that it has a way of becoming a priority over the agenda of the base. From my perspective, I believe the leadership (establishment) understands and believes in what NCBA is doing, but that the rank-and-file member (base) does not feel like NCBA is really responsive to their needs or fighting as hard for them as they would like.  

I’ve always been an establishment guy. They are the ones who tend to get things done, and revolutions are far rarer than incremental, slow, grinding change when it comes to politics. Revolutionaries occasionally become heroes but more often than not they are labeled as traitors or terrorists and are defeated and discarded. 

But when the establishment loses the support of its base, they find, to their disbelief, that their ability to effect change quickly disappears. The Republican Party has the support of their donor class but is losing its members. In a similar fashion, NCBA, in order to be effective, must have the passion and commitment from its core constituency—the cow-calf producer. 

The saying goes, “follow the money.” We all see that in politics with the celebrity dinners, the Super Pacs, the labor unions, Wall Street, et al. Whether it be political parties or trade associations, money is always number two on the priority list but often number one on the to-do list. And that is a recipe for disaster. 


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Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have proven that by saying what a lot of people think, but were afraid to say in our politically-correct world. 

I’d rather just end this commentary here and go back to work. I get uneasy saying what some people whisper among themselves but are afraid to utter in public, but here goes. While nobody believes the firewall between the policy side and checkoff side has ever been breached, many feel there is little doubt that the checkoff side has consumed a high percentage of the time and focus and limits the effectiveness of the policy side of NCBA. 

The checkoff enjoys incredibly high and widespread support, but it has increasingly become a government program and not an industry program and its effectiveness diminishes in accordance with government intrusion into the program. NCBA is no different from the political parties; money is critical to success, but fighting for its base must always be the priority, and if the money gets in the way of preventing one to fight for its membership, maybe it is time to wean oneself from the money. 

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Innovative rainwater harvesting in Texas gets well-deserved praise

Innovative rainwater harvesting in Texas gets well-deserved praise

At a time when making every drop of water count is critical, innovation coupled with conservation can make a big difference. In recognition of that concept, a Texas rancher and a county livestock facility have won awards in Texas for their rainwater capture systems.

Bob Durham, who has a small beef cattle operation near Plainview, in the Texas Panhandle, worked with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to develop a rainwater capture and storage system that can provide part of his needs for livestock water. Durham and the NRCS were jointly recognized by the Texas Rain Catcher Award and were the first agricultural operation to win the award since the awards were begun in 2007.

Durham has two barns, each with roofs about 100 feet by 100 feet. The rainfall is captured via gutters and channeled into six 5,000-gallon water storage tanks. Durham’s system has a first-flush diverter to make sure only clean water is captured in the tanks. The water is then delivered to cattle troughs in nearby pastures through gravity-fed pipes.

NRCS designed the system with Durham, who says 2 inches of rain on his barns would yield just over 12,000 gallons, enough water for 25 cows for one month. The area gets annual average rainfall of 20 inches per year, which would yield about 120,000 storable gallons of livestock water.

The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) sponsors the Texas Rain Catcher Award to encourage rainwater harvesting systems in Texas, promote rainwater harvesting technology and educate the public on rain catchment and storage.

Bob Durham
Bob Durham

The Hill Country Youth Event Center Complex in Kerrville sponsors many agricultural events, and was another agriculture-related facility honored by TWDB for its rain-capture and storage system.

The center harvests rainwater from the roof of a 72,000-square-foot building and from an adjacent indoor arena. The rainwater is collected in two 65,000-gallon storage tanks. It then provides water for 45 indoor and 18 outdoor livestock wash bays and all of the toilets in the exhibit hall. The water is also used for dust control in the indoor arena and to irrigate the event center’s native-Texas landscaping.

Planners say harvesting rainwater from the facility roofs reduces localized flooding, erosion, and runoff into the Guadalupe River.

rain water catchTexas has devoted attention to rainwater harvesting and enacted several laws regulating the practice of collecting rainwater. Those include a state sales tax exemption on rainwater harvesting equipment, a code preventing homeowners associations from banning rainwater harvesting installations, and a bill requiring incorporation of rainwater harvesting technology into new state buildings.

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