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Articles from 2020 In March


MIDDAY Midwest Digest, March 31, 2020

A distance of 6 feet apart might not be enough, says one researcher of exhilations.

USDA reports will be overshadowed by COVID-19 and economic recovery, says one analyst.

A son of the son of the Great Depression, Max offers his perspective as he watches what's happening in our nation. 

Scenes from the ranch offer calm amidst the coronavirus chaos

Tatum Chase PC-2020-Happy-Hour-by-Tatum-Chase.JPG

I have no doubt that many cuss words have been applied to 2020.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the health and finances of American citizens and people around the world — it’s been tough out there, to say the least.

There’s the fear of the coronavirus itself. There’s the anxiety about job security. There’s the uncertainty of the future for small businesses. There is the devastating losses, beef producers have sustained in recent weeks, following a series of morale-crushing blows we have experienced over the last couple of years.

WE'VE PICKED OUR 15 FINALISTS. VOTE HERE!

There’s homeschooling, social distancing and no gatherings of 10 people or more. Slowly but surely, our personal liberties are being infringed upon, and our worries about this novel virus are escalating as we are left to wonder: How long can this last?

As we deal with our new realities, the BEEF team wanted to offer some levity in a time of crisis. That’s why we teamed up with Boehringer Ingelheim Synchsure+Cystorelin to offer a new photo contest, “Peaceful Ranch Scenes.”

Because while things may look grim right now, at least the views are pretty on the ranch, right?

Check out this gallery of reader-submitted photos, and you can almost feel the peace and quiet, the fresh air, the birds chirping, the cattle mooing, the kids laughing and the hills and fields extending as far as the eye can see.

There is much to be grateful for if you live and work in agriculture, and even in the hard times, I never take scenes like this for granted.

Your entries were inspiring, relatable and calming, and I thank you for sharing the views out your farmhouse windows. We narrowed down the entries to 15 finalists, who are eligible to win $50 VISA gift cards from Boehringer Ingelheim Synchsure+Cystorelin.

Congratulations to our finalists, including:

  1. “A Summer Day” by Stephanie Genereux
  2. “Social Distancing In Montana” by Rett Papez
  3. “Cross Before Me, World Behind Me” by Shari Wagoner
  4. “When It Rains” by Sandi Wilkie
  5. “Peace in the Storm” by Rebecca Skow
  6. “Smoky Hill Sunset” by Marisa Betts
  7. “Lunch in Sun Creek” by Ryan Shane
  8. “Sunrise Morning Check” by Lindsey Zimmerman
  9. “Good Morning Sunshine” by Laurel Egbert
  10. “The Cross” By Katie Greenwood
  11. “Fixing Fence” by Jacy Rose
  12. “Happy Hour” by Tatum Chase
  13. “Baby Slumber” by Gary Betzner
  14. “Resting at the Reservoir” by Ashley Buckingham
  15. “A Bright Beef Future” by Britney Creamer

Now we need your help choosing our winners. View the finalists’ photos here and vote for your favorites daily from now until April 7. Four champions will be named; plus, two random voters will be selected to receive copies of my children’s books, “Levi’s Lost Calf” and “Can-Do Cowkids.”

VOTE HERE!

Thanks for your participation in this photography contest. We appreciate you being part of this community! Stay safe, healthy and strong out there, everybody!

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

Fed Cattle Recap | Cash market takes giant leap forward

Fed Cattle Recap

Packers paid up the week ending March 28 and narrowed the spread between wholesale and live prices. Was it a one-week wonder or a new and sustainable market move? Time will tell.  

Looking first at volume, the Five Area formula sales volume totaled 237,453 head compared with about 235,000 the previous week. The Five Area total cash steer and heifer volume was 89,505 head compared with about 131,000 head the previous week. 

Nationally reported forward contract cattle harvest was about 40,000 head for the week. The packers have 235,000 head lined up for April. National cash sales for the week included 30,998 head of 15- to 30-day delivery along with 58,755 from the previous week, so the packers have about 90,000 head to use soon. 

Weekly weighted cash fed steer prices

Now looking at prices, the Five Area weekly weighted average cash steer price for the week ending March 28 was $119.31 per cwt, which was $9.42 higher compared with the previous week. Last year the same week it was $126.34 which was about $2 lower than the week prior.

The weighted average cash dressed steer price was $188.88 per cwt, which was $15.75 higher. The Five Area weighted average formula price was $177.87, which was 91 cents lower.

The estimated weekly total federally inspected cattle harvest for the week ending March 28 was 676,000 head, which compares with 619,000 head the same week last year. During the last 11 weeks this year, harvest is about 313,000 head higher than the same 11 weeks last year.

The latest average national steer carcass weight for the week ending March 14 was 901 pounds, which was 2 pounds lower than the previous week. That compares with 865 pounds the same week last year, which was 6 pounds lower than the previous week. 

The Choice-Select spread was $10.46 on Friday, March 27, compared with $13.58 the previous week and a $7.15 spread last year. 

 

Coronavirus

COVID-19 crisis forces partial closure of JBS Souderton plant

asikkk/Getty Images Cattle cuts hang from hooks in a slaughterhouse
CATTLE CRISIS: With the partial closure of JBS Souderton, many beef producers in the Northeast with finished cattle will have to either keep their cattle or have them shipped out of the region, increasing shipment costs.

Beef producers in the Northeast are without a market for their finished cattle now that JBS Souderton has been partially shut down until mid-April, a result of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

“The JBS Souderton, Pa., beef production facility has temporarily reduced production because several senior management team members have displayed flu-like symptoms,” according to an email from company spokesman Cameron Bruett. "Out of an abundance of caution, these team members have been sent home to self-monitor their health in light of the continued spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). We anticipate the facility will return to normal operations on April 14, 2020.”

Brands produced at the Souderton plant include Moyer Angus Beef, Moyer Beef, 5 Star Beef, 1855 Black Angus Beef, Certified Angus Beef and others.

JBS Souderton is a big player in the Eastern beef market. The company claims that it is the largest beef facility east of Chicago. More than 75% of the plant’s production is finished cattle; the remaining being cull cows and bulls.

According to Mike Baker, Cornell University Extension beef specialist, the plant kills 2,500 head of cattle a day and it recently added a “Saturday kill,” something that it rarely does but has been forced to do because of big demand in ground beef sales, in part because of panic buying by nervous consumers in grocery stores.

Another plant, Cargill Meat Solutions in Wyalusing, Pa., has shifted to just cull cows and bull production for the time being.

Paul Slayton, spokesman for Cargill, says the plant is not processing fattened cattle this week; only contracted cattle and cattle for Pineland Natural Meats and Myers, which market high-end “natural meats.”

Baker says that leaves Nicholas Meats in Loganton, Pa., as the only other option, but that plant only has the capacity to process 600 head of cattle per day.

“There are some larger processing plants in Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia. Whether these plants will send buyers to purchase cattle is unknown at this time,” Baker says. “If they do, the cost of freight and predicted shrink will increase.”

Bruett says the company will move cattle “as much as possible to other plants.”

Options for producers

Smaller animal production facilities dot much of the landscape in the Northeast, but Baker notes that these facilities, some with or without USDA certification, are likely already booked solid and most are not equipped to take multiple head of cattle.

If you need to unload some cull cows or bulls, Baker says that you might be better off keeping them if there is room on the farm.

The average price of boner and lean cows are between $51 and $60 per cwt, but Baker expects those prices to decrease $5 to $10 per cwt as demand is now tapering and could go lower. He was part of a study that looked into the benefits of feeding dry cows a supplemented diet for an additional 70 days, leading to better carcass quality and higher prices.

Keeping finished cattle longer is a bigger challenge.

“The obvious first challenge to the producers will be the expense to keep those animals,” says Tara Felix, Penn State Extension beef specialist. “Cattle may get too fat if producers don’t adjust rations, and then when they do go, this could show up in the checks as a price hit from too many yield Grade 4+ calves.”

“This is going to be an even more challenging time for our beef producers all up and down the East Coast,” she says.

“I wish I had better advice. This is a rapidly moving and ever-changing environment, nothing like we have ever experienced before,” Baker adds.

Learn more by visiting Cornell’s beef cattle management page. There are also links to managing financial and emotional stress, provided by NY FarmNet.

MORNING Midwest Digest, March 31, 2020

A higher percentage of Americans could end up out of work than during the Great Depression.

The planting intentions report comes out today.

There's a joint funeral service today for the first married couple to die from the pandemic.

Ford Motor Company went from manufacturing automobiles on lines to making facemasks assembled by hand in a matter of days.

the EPA is warning Americans to NOT flush anything but toilet paper.

Farm Progress America, March 31, 2020

Max Armstrong shares insight on the work of USDA during the coronavirus crisis. The agency announced that has accepted 3.4 million acres into the Conservation Reserve Program. Max shares details of how the program works and what it means to farmers and ranchers who participate. The program has been in place for 35 years.

Farm Progress America is a daily look at key issues in agriculture. It is produced and presented by Max Armstrong, veteran farm broadcaster and host of This Week in Agribusiness.

Photo: simonmayer/iStock/Getty Images Plus

7 ways to increase cash flow during hard times

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Last year was a tough one. I think there were a lot of us who couldn’t wait to move on from 2019 and begin looking ahead to a brighter 2020. Little did we know that 2020 would be marked with a growing pandemic, a crashing economy, a crippling work force, and the never-ending isolation from our social circles, our schools, our churches and our communities.

Combine all that with the fact that it’s been a really challenging couple of years for beef producers, and the COVID-19 crisis is the perfect storm to wreak havoc on agricultural businesses, our family relationships, our physical health and our emotional wellness.

Yet, cattlemen and women are a resilient bunch. We’ll fight for our liberties, our freedoms, our land, our livestock, our fellow Americans and this beautiful way of life.

Despite our determined attitudes and our desire to fight tooth and nail to protect ourselves from outside forces crushing our livelihoods, the fact of the matter is, our very survival relies upon how well we can cash flow through an emergency — in this case a global pandemic of an unpredictable novel virus.

Now the mainstream media may be blowing things out of proportion or we may have no idea how bad it could really get — either way, we can’t lose sight of what’s happening at home if we are to thrive when the dust settles on this crazy situation we are all facing together.

In future blog posts, I’ll address coping mechanisms for handling stress, but today, I wanted to share this article by Jack Davis, South Dakota State University Extension crops business management field specialist.

In this article titled, “Cash flow is critical,” Davis lays out seven ways we can increase our cash flow and weather these difficult storms.

While it might be hard for some to turn things around in this case, you can bet we will all become sharper with the pen and calculator when this deal is over!

Davis writes, “Cash flow budget accuracy is critical in developing and controlling the business. A four-year study of borrower’s on average over estimated revenues by 15% and underestimated expenses by 17% resulting in a 300% error in net cash flow. In order to increase this accuracy, businesses need to regularly monitor cash flow and use it to control cost and set selling targets.

"A strong practice is to keep a rolling 18-month cash flow and use this to control and adjust operations as needed. One method is to do this by quarter. Quarterly compare budget to actual, using the variances to make adjustments in forecasting and/or controlling of expenses, buying opportunities, selling targets, and then adding on the new quarter to keep the 18-month cash flow in place. This may have to be done monthly under increased uncertainty and as situations or information changes.”

His business management checklist, for operating in both strong and volatile economic conditions includes the following:

1. Know your numbers

Davis says, “Understand what is making you money and what is not. Compare your financial ratios and expenses.”

2. Price risk protection

“Market on your margins, locking in profits when available,” he advises.

3. Adapt conservation practices

Davis writes, “Check on conservation programs through NRCS.”

4. Reduce direct costs

Davis suggests we more time evaluating our top direct costs such as fertilizer and seed.

5. Cash rent

“It may not be prudent to continue sustaining losses on high cash rent farms,” he says.

6. Capital purchases

“Invest in operational efficiency and excellency,” he writes. “You may need to reduce capital purchases.”

7. Non-farm cash flows

“Manage time resourcefully,” he adds. To read the entire article, click here.

For you seasoned producers who have seen the highs and lows of this business over the years, what is the best advice you would offer to get through these tough times? How do you prepare for the inevitable pitfalls? Share in the comments section below. I’m sure I’m not the only one who could use a pep talk and a little sage wisdom for the future.

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

Coronavirus

No evidence that livestock can transmit COVID-19 to humans

Modfos/iStock/Thinkstock cattle farm biosecurity_Modfos_iStock_Thinkstock-531973270.jpg

A growing chorus of veterinary experts is pointing out that while multiple species-specific coronaviruses affect livestock and poultry, there is no evidence that the currently circulating novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, causes disease in livestock and poultry.

“Producers are well aware that there is a (different strain of) coronavirus that is associated with neo-natal diarrhea, and there’s another one that we think is now associated with cattle respiratory disease,” said Gregg Hanzlicek, director of the production animal field investigations unit in the Kansas State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

“I want to make it perfectly clear that our cattle coronavirus has no relationship to the coronavirus that is currently circulating in humans. These coronaviruses are very species-specific. There is absolutely no indication that livestock can be carriers of COVID-19 and be a source of infection to humans, either through carrying it on their skin or their hair or anywhere else,” Hanzlicek said.

“Milk, eggs, beef, pork ... whatever proteins that are produced by livestock are absolutely safe to eat. People do not have to worry about those products carrying COVID-19 to the population,” he added.

Coronavirus infections are nothing new to the poultry industry. For as long as anyone can remember, infectious bronchitis (IB) viruses have caused widespread losses in poultry flocks worldwide.

Dr. Mark Jackwood, a molecular virologist and infectious bronchitis specialist who works at the University of Georgia’s Poultry Diagnostic & Research Center and heads the department of population health in the university's College of Veterinary Medicine, explained that the coronavirus that affects poultry and causes respiratory disease in chickens is in the avian gammacoronavirus group, which does not infect or cause disease in people.

Jackwood noted that the virus that causes COVID-19 is in the betacoronavirus group along with SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV.

“It was previously shown that SARS-CoV does not infect or cause disease in poultry,” Jackwood said in a statement jointly issued by the University of Georgia and the American Association of Avian Pathologists.

Because the COVID-19 virus belongs to the same group as SARS-CoV and uses the same ACE-2 host cell receptor, he said it was “highly unlikely” that the COVID-19 virus would infect or cause disease in poultry.

Scott Kenney, a coronavirus researcher at The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural & Environmental Sciences, noted that “viruses are constantly sampling and evolving, trying to find other hosts.”

When viruses infect an animal, they produce billions of copies of themselves, Kenney said, adding that some of the copies tend to be slightly changed from the original virus. While most of these irregular copies die, occasionally one has a change that is beneficial for the virus, such as altering its ability to infect a different species, Kenney said.

“If the new species is exposed to this altered virus, it can now make many more copies of itself and potentially infect a whole new species,” he said.

So far, the only research on COVID-19 and animals involves studies in China that showed two dogs tested positive for COVID-19, but neither of the infected dogs had symptoms of the virus, and researchers in those studies do not believe they transmitted the disease to any other animals or people, Kenney said.

Among farm animals, pigs seem to be the most susceptible to coronaviruses, able to contract up to six different pig-specific coronaviruses, Kenney said.

“I’m not sure anyone really knows why,” he said. “Outside of bats, pigs and humans seem to be infected by the largest numbers of different coronaviruses.”