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Articles from 2010 In April


Angus Breeder Nominated For “Mom Of The Year”

Farm mothers have to be versatile – they must be nurturing, smart, hardworking and tough. Central Illinois Angus breeder Cheryl Day is all these and then some – at least according to her 12-year-old daughter Sierra.

Sierra nominated her mother for Monsanto’s “2010 America’s Farmers Mom of the Year” contest. The annual contest honors selected farm moms for their contributions to their families, farms and ranches, and to their communities.

Cheryl is among five regional finalists selected by a panel and vying for the national title to be determined by online votes at www.monsanto.com/americasfarmers/moms. Voting ends May 3, and the winner will be announced May 4.

“I am just one member of a farming team,” says Cheryl, a ninth-generation farmer who spends half her time doing chores in mud-caked jeans and the other half in a business suit lobbying at the state capital for ag interests. “I want my children to learn about agriculture the same way I did – by getting dirty and taking risks.”

Cheryl works with her husband Mike, Sierra, and six-year-old son Chayton, raising corn, soybeans and purebred Angus near Cerro Gordo. She’s especially partial to the cattle.

Growing up on a cow-calf operation, she participated in 4-H and FFA and used her heifer projects to help pay for college. She says she wants to teach her children and others a similar work ethic and love for life on the farm.

“Farming is a rollercoaster, but agriculture has always been my passion. I truly want to empower others to pursue their agricultural dreams and protect the right to farm for the next generation,” Cheryl says.

That last part is especially important to her – she works as a freelance ag communicator and promotes landowner water rights as the executive director for the Illinois Association of Drainage Districts. She also volunteers with various ag organizations, serves as a 4-H leader, is a CropLife ambassador, and speaks regularly at schools and community events.

And she never misses an opportunity to serve as an advocate for agriculture, her daughter says.

“She accepts any invitation to tell the truth about ag,” Sierra wrote in her nomination essay. “I understand her commitment that speaking out for ag is necessary to ensure that my generation will be able to farm.”

Cheryl says that’s her motivating factor. “It’s important that we as producers be the face of ag. We’re having so many negative attacks in the media; we must speak out and show the true face of ag,” she says. “If we do that, consumers can better understand our livelihood and we’ll hopefully prevent unnecessary regulations on the next generation. That’s why I try to share ag’s story.”
-- American Angus Association release

Distillers Grains Offer Winter Options In The Corn Belt

The old maxim of “location, location, location” not only holds true in real estate, it’s become a factor when considering whether distillers grain (DG) can help you cut winter feed bills.

While ethanol’s effect on the cattle industry continues to be a matter of debate, cattlemen who grow corn and live close to an ethanol plant are finding they can have the best of both worlds, says Gregg Carlson, a South Dakota State University agronomist. All it takes is looking at what once was considered low-value crop residue in a different light.

In the past, some producers considered corn stover – the stalks and leaves left behind after the grain is harvested – to have limited value, Carlson says. The stalk fields may have been grazed, or the stalks baled and used as bedding.

However, by baling the stalks, then combining the stover and DG in a grinder-mixer, Midwest producers who have a diversified corn-cattle operation have significantly lowered their winter feed bills and increased profitability.

A cattle-corn-ethanol system has become common in the Midwest, where producers have long grown corn and raised cattle in a diversified operation. With the recent advent of ethanol, and its associated DG byproduct, producers located near ethanol plants quickly learned they could profit from the increased price of corn as well as benefit from feeding the DG byproduct.

Just how profitable? In a paper looking at the profitability of a cattle-corn-ethanol production system, Carlson and others at SDSU looked at backgrounding calves with a ration of 33% corn stover, 22% hay, 15% shelled corn, 30% DG and an ionophore. This system produced an estimated crop-livestock profit of $278/acre. A non-integrated corn farm selling its harvest for ethanol production and plowing down all the stover returned $139/acre in estimated profit. Economics related to competition between ethanol and cattle feeding for corn as a resource were not considered in the calculations, Carlson says.

While the above calculation looked at dried DG plus solubles in the ration, Carlson says wet DG seems to work better when mixed with stalks in a grinder-mixer. Combining stalks and DG works because DG is around 30% protein and can be purchased for 75% to 90% of the price of corn. Corn stalks are an inexpensive source of fodder high in total digestible nutrients but low in protein, so combining the two in a mixed ration provides a low-cost winter feed.

In his budgets, Carlson values stalks at the cost of harvesting. He recommends that no more than 60% of the stalks be harvested. This leaves enough organic matter behind to maintain soil organic carbon levels, which is important in long-term sustainability.

His budgets also call for the manure to be returned to the field. “If you return the manure from an acre’s worth of corn stalks with the DG along with it, you could be putting $30-$60 worth of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus back on the field, over and above what you took off in the corn stalks.”

Carlson says that for a cattle producer who doesn’t grow corn or some other form of low-cost fodder that can be mixed with DG, such as wheat or oat straw, and doesn’t have a nearby source of DG, the economics aren’t quite as favorable. But for many Corn Belt producers, a cattle-corn-ethanol production system has helped lower feed costs and improve profits.

Grain, Dairy & Credit Make For Murky Ag Future

Predicting the future of the ag sector is chancy business at best, particularly when grain markets have been strong and cattle markets are seeing some upside. But, according to Danny Klinefelter, Texas AgriLife Extension ag economist, there are some looming factors ag producers need to keep in mind.

One is the ongoing troubles in the dairy sector. “We’re going to see some major defaults on the dairy side,” he predicts. “There’s a significant part of the dairy industry that’s literally upside down. Somebody is going to have to pull the plug.”

The other is in grain production. “We had a run from 2002 to 2008 in corn, soybeans and wheat where you didn’t have to be a good farmer to make money,” he says.

As a result, some grain farms were able to stave off potential problems. “We have had a period of time where there has been almost no voluntary exit from agriculture. We have a backlog of people who stayed in the business, particularly on the grain side and some on the dairy and hog sides, who are about to have a day of reckoning,” he says. “When you don’t have any regular exits for a few years, when the shoe falls, there’s a fairly major exit. And I think we’re going to see that.”

Then there are dynamics at the lender level that will affect ag producers. “One of them is lenders have less appetite for risk. You’re seeing more and better documentation requirements.”

It isn’t that the money isn’t there, he says, it’s what it takes to qualify for it. “You’re seeing increased emphasis on repayment capacity. Part of that is using accrual-adjusted net income instead of cash basis. Accrual-adjusted net income tends to lead cash basis by at least two years in terms of what’s happening at the farm level.”

And lenders are putting more emphasis on working capital and increased risk management at the producer level, he says. “What that means is the producer is going to have to be a better risk manager than in the past. That’s going to be one of the major things in the next five years to determine who is still in the game and who has to exit.”

SDSU Research Explores “Fetal Programming”

A team of South Dakota State University (SDSU) researchers who hope to use “fetal programming” to produce better beef has been awarded a $320,000 grant from USDA.

Amanda Weaver, SDSU meat scientist and project leader, says the idea is that the cow’s diet – perhaps during the crucial second trimester of pregnancy, in particular – sends signals to the fetus that affect how efficiently that calf will use nutrients. The possibilities for managing those signals are what tantalize her.

“We would like the animals to use those nutrients to build muscle and to deposit what we call marbling, which is the intramuscular fat, that gives beef flavor and juiciness and aids in tenderness somewhat,” she says. “We would like them to not deposit a lot of external fat because that would be waste or trim, and that is going to decrease the value of the animal.”

Weaver developed the idea for the beef study while pondering existing research on human health and diet. In particular, she investigated studies that looked at the effects of famine, such as in the Netherlands near the end of World War II.

Human nutrition research has shown that when a mother is either in a starvation state or possibly obese during pregnancy, her nutritional state during gestation affects the development of the fetus, Weaver says.

“For example, researchers showed that during the Dutch famine, some women who were pregnant were getting only 500-600 calories/day. A study of the offspring found problems with metabolic syndrome, diabetes, obesity. Their thought was that during gestation, the mother’s signal to the fetus was, you need to prepare for a situation with low food availability. The offspring therefore were very, very efficient, and when they came into the world and there was enough food, then they had problems with diabetes and obesity,” she says.

With Weaver’s current research in fetal programming in beef cattle, the idea is to explore how different genes are signaled – turned on, turned off – during fetal development to create the phenotype of the offspring.

One of Weaver’s co-investigators on the project, James Reecy, director of Iowa State University’s Office of Biotechnology, says it’s an exciting and practical area of research. “Through a better understanding of the effect of prenatal nutrition on subsequent post-natal growth, we facilitate the development of strategies designed to enhance production efficiency.”

In addition to the USDA grant, the South Dakota Beef Industry Council (SDBIC) is also supporting the project with $30,000, bringing the total for the project to $350,000. SDBIC had supported Weaver’s earlier preliminary work with a $100,000 grant, which allowed Weaver and her colleagues to gather the necessary data to receive the USDA grant.

The researchers in that first stage of the research divided a group of bred heifers into three groups during gestation. One group was on a high level of nutrition, one was on an intermediate level of nutrition, and one was on a low level of nutrition. Researchers removed the fetuses by Cesarean sections at 188 days of gestation and sampled muscle tissue and fat, and gathered weights and measurements. The preliminary work proved researchers’ hypothesis right in another way – nature looks after the next generation, even when resources are scarce.

“Even those cows that were on a lower plane of nutrition, their fetuses were not any smaller than the ones that were on an intermediate or higher plane of nutrition. The heifer was giving the fetus what it needed to grow. However, there were differences in how much fat and muscle was there. It was, for us, very strong preliminary data that you can affect composition of the fetus based on a cow’s nutrition,” Weaver says.

It was on the strength of those findings that USDA awarded its $320,000 grant to fund the next step of the research, one of only 13 projects funded out of more than 80 proposals.

Weaver is the principal investigator. Her co-principal investigators are SDSU Extension meats specialist Keith Underwood, SDSU assistant professor Aimee Wertz-Lutz, and SDSU distinguished professor Robbi Pritchard, all of SDSU’s Department of Animal and Range Sciences; as well as Reecy.

“We designed this large study to look at cattle on a normal plane of nutrition through gestation vs. a low plane of nutrition. So we’re trying to mimic common practice in South Dakota and the surrounding states while that cow is gestating,” Weaver says. “We’re particularly interested in the second trimester. From some investigations, we feel that’s the key point for development of a lot of these tissues. If there are going to be changes, we feel like it’s going to occur in the second trimester. The third trimester is where we tend to see a lot of body growth.”

Weaver says animals will be split into two groups, one fed to maintain body condition, while the other will be fed to lose some body condition, in the second trimester. In the third trimester, during calving and through weaning, the cows will be treated as they normally would. After weaning, calves from the two groups will be fed at the SDSU feedlot, and monitored to see whether weaning weights, post-weaning efficiency and health were altered by gestation diets.

“We want to see how the altered plane of nutrition during the second trimester affected them all the way through growth. We’ll follow them through harvest, collect the carcass data used to determine yield and quality grade, and tenderness, and do a lot of meat quality work on those carcasses,” she says.

Weaver says whatever the outcome, more information on whether curtailed nutrition in the second trimester affects meat quality or whether it doesn’t – will be positive for the producer.

“Either way, we’re going to get information to the producers that they can use,” Weaver says. “With this project, I feel that we’ll be able to give something back to the producers very quickly.”
-- Lance Nixon, SDSU news release

Is It Time To Bone Up On Chinese Culture?

While this isn’t an article about the fall of America, it would be foolhardy not to recognize the ascendancy of China and how it’s reshaping the world we live in.

While they don’t directly relate to beef trade or ag, recent events on the Korean Peninsula and with Iran and its nuclear ambitions illustrate not only how powerful China has become but how important it will be on the global stage moving forward. Fortunately, the U.S. and China share similar interests and our fortunes are somewhat tied to each other economically. But, while we aren’t likely to see our two powers engage in a Cold War-style battle, we also must realize our national interests aren’t exactly the same and there will continue to be tensions as spheres of influence and goals collide.

Nobody wants to see war on the Korean Peninsula, but an unstable and desperate dictator ruling over such extreme poverty next to the abundance of South Korea isn’t a very good recipe for stability. The recent torpedeoing of a South Korean naval vessel by North Korea illustrates just how fragile things are.

While no one would deny it as a blatant act of war, cooler heads have prevailed, primarily because there’s no consensus on an appropriate response. Sanctions haven’t proven overly effective to this point, and exerting more pressure on an increasingly desperate regime may be counterproductive. Any response is dependent on China and it seemingly prefers the status quo; one act of war may be ignored, but what happens if the second act occurs?

Then, of course, we have Iran and its nuclear ambitions, and China with its need to continue to fuel its growing economy. The result is that China isn’t pushing any meaningful actions.

But, the U.S. no longer can afford to act independently of China on the foreign stage, as we need them to finance our exploding deficits. We may be the world’s sole military superpower, but we don’t have the cash to act unilaterally; even if we did, any use of military power is restricted to China’s direct or tacit approval.

From an agricultural standpoint, especially beef, China represents a great opportunity; as its middle class continues to grow, so will the demand for beef. But market access or opportunities will increasingly be less about demand and more and more about how economic and national interests intersect.
-- Troy Marshall

Meet Madison Dobbins, A Teenage Champion For Animal Agriculture

n451618565050_3801.jpg Today, I would like to introduce all of you to a very inspirational young lady. Her name is Madison Dobbins, a 16-year-old ball of fire who is passionate about animal agriculture and standing up to the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS). Dobbins has spoken to groups across Indiana, and her message was recently shared via YouTube through the Indiana Farm Bureau.

This inspirational young woman also started her own Facebook group called "Farmers with Pitchforks," an interesting name for a pro-agriculture group, but once you have read about her cause, it all comes together.

Dobbins describes her online efforts: "On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Indepence signed, and on Oct. 19 , 1781, the British surrendered at Yorktown. Have you ever wondered how so few colonists defeated the world's most powerful empire? Determination? Ambition? Independence? Fear of defeat? Intelligence? Strategy? SOMETIMES THE FARMERS WITH PITCHFORKS DO WIN. HSUS has a yearly budget of $120 million and growing. Only 3.64% of that budget goes to help animals across the country . The HSUS does not own one animal shelter, the money they raise goes to lobbying politicians, and advertisements."

To follow Dobbins and her Facebook group, link here. Click below to watch her latest YouTube feature on standing up for what you believe in and being a champion for animal agriculture. Madison Dobbins is certainly a dynamic youth agriculture leader we can all be proud of! Thanks for all you do!

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Don't forget to vote for your favorite baby calf photo! I have extended the deadline to Sunday, May 2, 2010. Don't miss your chance to participate!

Trend Toward More Northern Plains Feeding Continues


March placements were the most anticipated number in last Friday's cattle-on-feed report, with pre-release estimates ranging from an increase of 4.3% to 11%. But, with 1.857 million head, gross placements were up only 2.7% from March 2009.

Writing in “In The Livestock Markets,” Darrell R. Mark, University of Nebraska-Lincoln ag economist, says that, of the major cattle feeding states, Kansas and Colorado led in percentage increases in March placements relative to last year (each up about 12%). However, the general trend toward more cattle on feed in the Northern Plains vs. the Southern Plains, due to cost-of-gain differences, is still evident in the placements and on-feed data, he says.

The combined placements of cattle in Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota from October through June (measuring the placement of the calf crop that is typically weaned in October/November then placed on feed sometime during the next nine months) has steadily been increasing for the last 10 years. For the current year (October 2009 through March 2010), 30% of the calf crop was placed in feedyards in these northern states during one of the worst winters in history. This was up from 27.7% the previous year and 23.5% in October 2000 to June 2001.

The combined total of cattle placed in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas from October through June fell below 50% in the current year (at 49.7%) for the first time in at least 10 years. With this being the trend for the past several months, the cattle-on-feed number in Iowa has grown substantially (up 13.2% over April 1, 2009). South Dakota also has an on-feed inventory 4.4% higher than last year and Nebraska's declined only 1%. While Oklahoma saw 3% growth in on-feed numbers and Kansas declined less than 2%, Texas, the largest cattle-feeding state, saw a 6% drop in total on-feed numbers.

At 10.769 million head on feed on April 1, total inventory in feedyards of 1,000 head or more was down 3.5% from last year and 5.8% lower than the previous five-year average. Still, the April cattle-on-feed inventory shrank as a result of both steady marketings and lower placements.

March marketings were 1.902 million head, 4.3% higher than March 2009, but since March 2010 had one additional marketing day, average daily marketings were nearly steady last month. The marketing pace relative to the size of the on-feed inventory continues to be relatively good and suggests the fed-cattle market is relatively current.

Marketings as a percentage of the on-feed inventory was 17.5% in March – the highest since September 2009 and 1.3 percentage points above March 2009. Relative currentness of the cattle-on-feed inventory is also noted by a 6.3% drop in the number of cattle on feed for more than 120 days on April 1, 2010, compared to last year. While the trend toward placing heavier yearlings on feed has necessarily dropped the size of that category, it has been evident in the data for more than a year, making the year-to-year comparison relevant.

Net placements (gross placements less other disappearance) were up only 2.2% due to a 10,000-head increase in other disappearance in March 2010 relative to last year (note, however, it was the second lowest other disappearance in the current series that began in 1996). Unlike the trend in recent months, the increase in placements was driven by larger-than-year-ago placements of lightweight calves and a decrease in heavier placements.

Placements of calves less than 600 lbs. were up 29.5%; 600- to 699-lb. placements were up 10.3%; and 700- to 799-lb. placements were up 1.5%. Placements of cattle weighing more than 800 lbs. were down 14.9%. This placement pattern suggests the fed-cattle market should stay relatively current in the near-term due to the drop in yearling placements, while the lower-than-expected increase in placements should lend support to the third-quarter, fed-cattle market.
Beef

Butler Machinery Company announces Hoople, N.D. location

Hoople, N.D. (April 27, 2010) – Butler Machinery Company is pleased to announce the addition of a twelfth location effective July 1st.

Located in Hoople, N.D., Hurtt Equipment, Inc. will be joining the Butler Machinery family while continuing to serve the agricultural industry in North Dakota’s northeastern territory.

“We are pleased to add Hurtt Equipment to our Butler Machinery family. As a family-owned business, Tom Hurtt and his brothers understand the value of taking care of their customer base. We are extremely excited to be adding this location to further our market impact in the northern valley, providing service, parts and sales not only to Tom’s existing lines, but also to the Challenger and Lexion lines we represent.” – Dan Butler, President, Butler Machinery

Customers will continue to receive the same great service and products available, with the addition of new products and services.

Hurtt Equipment, founded in 1964, is a family owned AGCO and Gleaner dealer. Hurtt Equipment has a top-of-the-line service department, winning numerous regional AGCO tractor awards, including a 2001 First Place in North America. Hurtt Equipment recently expanded their service facilities and has a local, national and international customer base.

Butler Machinery Company is a third generation family-owned Caterpillar Dealer for North and South Dakota, and Clay County, Minnesota. Butler has been serving both the Agriculture and Construction industries for 55 years. Butler Machinery provides sales, rental, parts and service for many different industries and represents many industry-leading manufactures including: Caterpillar, Challenger, Horsch Anderson, Ag Chem, Spra-Coupe, Sunflower and White Planter products.

Beef

Illinois Breeder Nominated for Monsanto’s ‘Mom of the Year’

Farm mothers have to be versatile. They have to be nurturing, smart, hard-working and tough. Central Illinois Angus breeder Cheryl Day is all of these and then some — at least according to her 12-year-old daughter, Sierra.

Sierra nominated her mother for Monsanto’s “2010 America’s Farmers Mom of the Year” contest. The annual contest honors selected farm moms for their contributions to their families, farms and ranches, and to their communities.

Cheryl is among five regional finalists selected by a panel and vying for the national title, to be determined by online votes at www.monsanto.com/americasfarmers/moms. Voting ends May 3, and the winner will be announced May 4.

“I am just one member of a farming team,” says Cheryl, a ninth-generation farmer who spends half her time doing chores in mud-caked jeans and the other half in a business suit lobbying at the state capital for agricultural interests. “I want my children to learn about agriculture the same way I did — by getting dirty and taking risks.”

Cheryl works with her husband, Mike, Sierra, and six-year-old son, Chayton, raising corn, soybeans and purebred Angus cattle near Cerro Gordo.

She’s especially partial to the cattle.

“When I was my daughter’s age my father thought I was way too small to show cattle, but I convinced him and the more I did it the more I wanted to really get into Angus and start raising my own herd,” Cheryl says.

Growing up on a cow-calf operation, she participated in 4-H and FFA and used her heifer projects to help pay for college. She says she wants to teach her children and others a similar work ethic and love for life on the farm.

“Farming is a rollercoaster, but agriculture has always been my passion. I truly want to empower others to pursue their agricultural dreams and protect the right to farm for the next generation,” Cheryl says.

That last part is especially important to her — she works as a freelance agriculture communicator and promotes landowner water rights as the executive director for the Illinois Association of Drainage Districts.

She also volunteers countless hours to various agriculture organizations, serves as a 4-H leader, is a CropLife ambassador, and speaks regularly at schools and community events.

And she never misses an opportunity to serve as an advocate for agriculture, her daughter says.

“She accepts any invitation to tell the truth about agriculture,” Sierra wrote in her nomination essay. “I understand her commitment that speaking out for agriculture is necessary to ensure that my generation will be able to farm.”

Cheryl says that is her motivating factor.

“It’s important that we as producers be the face of agriculture. We are having so many negative attacks in the media; we must speak out and show the true face of agriculture,” she says. “If we do that, consumers can better understand our livelihood and we’ll hopefully prevent unnecessary regulations on the next generation. That’s why I try to share ag’s story.”

Visit www.monsanto.com/americasfarmers/moms to cast your vote for Farm Mom of the Year.