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Articles from 2006 In April

Animal ID Education

If you're wondering how and when to get your arms wrapped around animal ID of the electronic kind, Kansas State University (KSU) may have the solution for you. The university will host two Electronic Beef ID Crash Courses this summer.

The programs will be held at the KSU Stocker Unit outside of Manhattan and will include live-animal demonstrations, hands-on use of animal ID equipment, a review of available technologies, and how to budget a system.

KSU Extension beef specialist Dale Blasi, says this summer's programs, each aimed at different audiences, are a follow-up to the KSU Beef ID Academy programs of summer 2004.

The June 21-22 program is aimed at operators of feedyards, sale barns and stocker-grower operations. The July 19-20 program is aimed specifically at cow-calf producers and veterinarians. Space is limited to 100 attendees in each session.

For more info, contact Lois Schreiner at 785/532-1267 or -- Wes Ishmael, BEEF Stocker Trends newsletter

Producers Asked To Get On Their Phones May 9

A vote on repeal of the Death Tax is scheduled in the Senate before its Memorial Day recess. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) has designated Tuesday, May 9, as "National Cattle Call to Kill the Death Tax" Day.

NCBA is coordinating the national call-in day for cattle producers to call Senators to urge support for full and permanent repeal of the Death Tax. Any Senator can be reached via the Capitol Hill switchboard at 202-224-3121, or individual office numbers can be found at For more info, contact Jenni Beck at or 202-347-0228.

But, producers can send send letters to Senators today by clicking on And, NCBA's new "HOT Issue" Death Tax Web site is up and running at Included is detailed info on the Death Tax issue, and a sampling of ranchers' personal stories from across the U.S. -- NCBA Capitol Concerns

Increased Energy Costs

The high cost of gasoline is getting a great deal of attention in Congress and by the White House. President Bush in a speech to the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) praised the importance of ethanol and biodiesel. He announced a number of steps the administration is taking to try and provide some short-term relief.

They include: 1) halting the purchase of crude oil for the government's Strategic Petroleum Reserve program for the summer; 2) federal tax credits for hybrid and clean-diesel vehicles sold in 2006; 3) Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether there has been manipulation of gasoline prices; 4) ask EPA to use its authority to ease environmental regulations that require the use of cleaner-burning fuel additives for the summer; and 5) ask Congress to approve incentives for research and development to advance more alternative fuels, such as ethanol, biodiesel, and hydrogen. -- P. Scott Shearer, Washington, D.C., correspondent

USDA Studies BSE Prevalence In U.S.

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns today released USDA's estimate of the prevalence of BSE in U.S. cattle herds.

The estimate of BSE prevalence is based on data gathered from enhanced surveillance since June 2004 and surveillance data from the five years prior to the first case of BSE. Two methods were used -- the BSurvE Prevalence B method and Bayesian birth-cohort method -- and the findings of the methods were similar. They indicate that the most likely number of cases in the U.S. is between four and seven animals. USDA concluded, from that data, that the prevalence in the U.S. is less than 1 case/million adult cattle. The adult cattle population in the U.S. is about 42 million head.

"We can now say, based on science, that the prevalence of BSE in the U.S. is extraordinarily low," Johanns says. "The testing and analysis reinforce our confidence in the health of the U.S. cattle herd, while our interlocking safeguards -- including the removal of specified risk materials and the feed ban -- protect animal and human health."

USDA says it will use the prevalence analysis to design an ongoing BSE surveillance program for the U.S., after it is peer reviewed. -- Stephanie Veldman

Record Prices Send Oil Company Profits Surging

ExxonMobil registered a net income of $8.4 billion in the first quarter of 2006, Reuters reports. That's up from $7.86 billion in the same quarter 2005. Meanwhile, revenue rose to $88.98 billion, up from $82.05 billion in 2005.

LandLine magazine reports ConocoPhillips' net income rose to $3.29 billion for the first quarter, up from $2.91 billion in 2005. That was on revenues of $47.9 billion, compared to $38.9 billion in 2005.

One company, however, BP Amoco PLC, said its first-quarter net income fell from $6.6 billion in 2005 to $5.6 billion in 2006. The company cited rising taxes and a drop in production in the Gulf of Mexico following last fall's hurricanes as the reasons for the drop in profits, according to a press release.

Meanwhile, President Bush this week announced a plan to help ameliorate the effects of rising fuel prices. He plans to defer deposits during the summer to the Strategic Oil Reserve, thus putting more oil into the market. In addition, he plans moves to promote fuel efficiency, boost the U.S. fuel supply, and invest in alternative fuels, CNN reports. He also asked the departments of Energy and Justice to open inquiries into possible cheating in the gasoline markets. -- Joe Roybal

Cattle On Feed Estimates Higher Than Expected

Market bears had an extra reason to roar with the Cattle On Feed Report released last Friday. The inventory is reported at 9% ahead of last year, and 10% higher than April 1, 2004. In fact, it's the largest April 1 inventory since the series began 10 years ago.

Likewise, cattle placement in feedlots for March was 5% ahead of last year, while marketings were down slightly.

Moreover, the Livestock Slaughter report issued by USDA last week pegs beef production and total red meat production at record high levels.

Beef production for March (2.21 billion lbs.) is 8% higher than a year ago on 5% more cattle being slaughtered. Average carcass weights (average 1,273 lbs.) are 36 lbs. heavier than a year ago.

As for total red meat production (4.11 billion lbs.), it's 6% more than a year earlier.

Since the beginning of the year, accumulated beef production is running 6% more than last year; pork is 4% higher. -- Wes Ishmael, BEEF Stocker Trends newsletter

Retail Demand For Choice Continues To Weaken

Continuing a trend that began in 2005, U.S. consumers' demand for Choice beef at retail declined again in the first quarter of 2006, says Jim Mintert, Kansas State University ag economist. Mintert says per-capita beef consumption at retail reached 15.8 lbs. (preliminary estimate) during the January-March quarter, which was a 1.4% increase compared to a year earlier. But the modest domestic supply increase was associated with a 5.75% decline in the inflation-adjusted Choice retail beef price, compared to January-March 2005.

Mintert says the combination of a relatively sharp decline in inflation-adjusted Choice beef prices at retail and a small domestic beef supply increase means domestic consumer demand for beef declined again. Preliminary beef demand index calculations (using 1980 as a base) reveal the index value for the first quarter of 2006 was 55.76, down 4.5% compared to the year ago index value of 58.39.

Primarily because of strong demand gains that occurred during 2003 and 2004, beef demand this winter was still 4.6% higher than the first quarter of 2003, and 16.5% higher than the first quarter of 1998, when the beef demand rebound was just getting underway. Still, the recent ongoing slide in domestic beef demand is troubling, he says.

Looking ahead, data from this winter confirm that turning around the recent decline in domestic beef demand won't be easy. He says the beef industry benefited from consumer interest in low-carb diets from the late 1990s through 2004. Consumer interest in those diets has waned, however, and the industry will have to focus its attention on product attributes such as quality, convenience, and nutrition. And it will have to do so in a time frame when domestic beef production is increasing cyclically and competing meat supplies are large.

Last week was another down week for slaughter cattle prices. Slaughter cattle prices declined $2/cwt. (live weight) in Kansas, while dressed weight prices in Nebraska declined $0.64/cwt. Slaughter cattle prices haven't been this low since late August 2005, Mintert reports.

Thus far in 2006, Kansas slaughter cattle prices have averaged $88.69/cwt., which is still 4.2% higher than the year ago average of $85.11/cwt. Similarly, dressed weight slaughter cattle prices in Nebraska have averaged $140.62/cwt. so far in 2006, 3.4% higher than the year ago average of $136.04/cwt.

Feeder cattle prices in Kansas last week were steady to slightly stronger, whereas prices in Nebraska weakened somewhat. A 750-lb. steer placed on feed at last week's Kansas average price of $106.64/cwt. would likely require a sale price near $86/cwt. in mid-September to break even. In contrast, the April 24, 2006, settlement price for October live cattle futures implies a Kansas cash slaughter cattle price of about $79/cwt. in mid-September. Mintert says feeder cattle buyers continue to be very optimistic compared to live cattle futures market traders. -- In the Cattle Markets newsletter

Predicting The Future Of Animal Production

"To create the feed industry of the future, we have to use the latest technologies and do so quickly," according to T. Pearse Lyons, founder and president of Alltech, Inc., Nicholasville, KY. To do this, costs must be lowered through use of alternative materials such as fiber and existing raw materials, Lyons said as he welcomed more than 1,580 attendees to a two-day research symposium.

"Delivering on the nutrigenomics promise," the concept behind the 22nd Annual Alltech Symposium, held April 24-26, introduced researchers and producers from 71 countries to the science of how diet and genetics can influence health and disease. Alltech's focus is to supply nutrients that result in better health for animals.

The goal of nutrigenomics -- short for nutritional genomics -- is to develop foods and feeds that can be matched to genotypes of animals to benefit health and enhance normal physiological processes. Using gene chips that contain the genetic code of an animal, researchers can measure the effects of certain nutritional supplements, and how they alter the gene's instruction of the body. This has global implications, as more people are increasing their meat consumption -- for example, in the next 15 years, the demand for beef is expected to increase by 80%, Mingan Choct, an animal scientist from Australia, told Lexington's Herald-Leader.

But, there is still much to learn about how nutrigenomics will help enhance animal health. In an effort to expand its research and product development, Alltech announced it is building a Center for Animal Nutrigenomics and Applied Animal Nutrition. To assist in funding the $11-million center, during the symposium, the state of Kentucky presented Alltech with a $1-million grant. The nutrigenomics center, opening in 2007 or '08, will add 20,000 sq. ft. to Alltech's campus and is expected to create 40 additional research-and-development positions. -- Stephanie Veldman

Foodborne Illness Rates Decline

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the incidence of bacteria on meat and poultry products decreased significantly. The incidence of E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef samples tested by USDA declined 80% since 1999 and the incidence of Salmonella in ground beef declined 75% since 1998. The incidence of Listeria monocytogenes on ready-to-eat meat and poultry has declined from 4.5% in 1990 to 0.55% in 2004. -- P. Scott Shearer, Washington, D.C., correspondent