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Articles from 2011 In April


Beef Magazine May 2011 Issue

Beef

Pfizer Animal Health Launches Online Portal for U.S. Veterinarian Community

New website showcases up-to-date veterinary practice news, interactive blog feature and comprehensive product and animal health information

MADISON, N.J. — April 29, 2011 — Pfizer Animal Health today announced its new U.S. web portal to better engage and connect with its customers and to create an interactive community for practicing and student veterinarians.

The enhanced web presence, www.PfizerAH.com, will serve as a single destination to all users of Pfizer Animal Health products in the United States -- including veterinarians, producers and pet owners.

“The new online platform offers new features and will ultimately contain a robust collection of information for the veterinary community,” said Michael McFarland, DVM, Dipl. ABVP, Group Director Veterinary Medical Services at Pfizer Animal Health. “We are committed to informing and supporting veterinarians as well as those involved in health decisions for livestock and pets.”

As the U.S. entry point for the online global veterinary community, PfizerAH.com offers:

• A single point of entry for all animal health web assets

• Up-to-date product and disease condition information segmented by species

• Breaking news articles and announcements

Additionally, the website includes an Online Town Center for veterinarians that features a blog community and is dedicated to the continuation of Pfizer’s support to the veterinary community under the banner “Commitment to Veterinarians.” This section of the platform is focused on four key areas of Pfizer’s support: training and continuing education, research and development, investing in the future of the profession, and philanthropy.

“This launch is just the beginning of many new capabilities to come. Throughout 2011, we’re planning several enhancements that offer greater capabilities for us to connect with our customers,” McFarland said. “Our next release will allow veterinarians to register for the portal and gain access to scientific information, programs, promotions and solutions through a single destination.”

The Pfizer Animal Health U.S. web portal is accessible via www.pfizerah.com, and visitors also can directly access the Commitment to Veterinarians Town Center at www.Vets.PfizerAH.com.

Pfizer Inc: Working together for a healthier world™

At Pfizer, we apply science and our global resources to improve health and well-being at every stage of life. We strive to set the standard for quality, safety and value in the discovery, development and manufacturing of medicines for people and animals. Our diversified global health care portfolio includes human and animal biologic and small molecule medicines and vaccines, as well as nutritional products and many of the world's best-known consumer products. Every day, Pfizer colleagues work across developed and emerging markets to advance wellness, prevention, treatments and cures that challenge the most feared diseases of our time. Consistent with our responsibility as the world's leading biopharmaceutical company, we also collaborate with health care providers, governments and local communities to support and expand access to reliable, affordable health care around the world. For more than 150 years, Pfizer has worked to make a difference for all who rely on us. To learn more about our commitments to animal health, please visit us at www.PfizerAH.com.

Retained Ownership Can Maximize Peaks, Avoid Valleys

In raising cattle, as in poker, it’s sometimes difficult to know when to cash in the chips, take the money and run. But smart players know it can sometimes pay bigger dividends to hold onto their cards for the last play.

At a Profit Discovery Seminar held in conjunction with the March 26 Leachman Cattle of Colorado bull sale, Warren Weibert, general manager of Decatur County Feed Yards (DCFY), Oberlin, KS, presented data that suggests it’s been profitable over the last couple of decades for cow-calf producers to hold onto their cattle for bigger paydays. By retaining ownership and selling finished cattle, he says, cow-calf producers have made more money, more often.

In fact, he says sending cattle to the feedlot as yearlings and retaining ownership returned an average of $53 in profits on those cattle in 17 of the last 23 years. Meanwhile, if cow-calf operators had sent calves directly to the feedlot, they would have been profitable in 18 of the 23 years and logged an average of $85/head profit on the animals.

By retaining ownership today, Weibert says, cattlemen can maximize the peaks and avoid the valleys of typical seasonal cattle prices. He says fed-steer prices are highest in April (44% of the time) and in May (19% of the time). The lowest prices are earned in October.

With corn prices skyrocketing, however, can it really be a good time to be in the feeding business? Speakers at the seminar admitted that proper research, good management and smart decision-making will be necessary to overcome increasing challenges in the feeding sector.

“Feed efficiency is going to become more and more important as feed costs remain high,” Weibert says. And, feeders and cattlemen will need to continually strive for improvement, comparing cattle with contemporaries and analyzing the data.

Jason Ahola, Colorado State University associate professor of beef production systems, told the group that feed costs are double their historical values. Partly as a result of that, the industry has migrated from being supply-driven to being cost-driven.

Unlike traditional cattle cycles, profits have dropped at the same time as the cattle supply. “We’re in a situation where cost is driving profitability,” Ahola says; surviving in the industry will require managing those costs.

He and Wiebert agree that feed efficiency will be key to the ability to improve. In fact, Ahola notes research shows a 5% improvement in feed efficiency translates to a 20% improvement in rate of gain.

Dan Dorn, DCFY supply development manager, says that with corn over $6/bu., feed conversion is one of the most important aspects of feedyard success. For a 585-lb. calf, a ½-lb. difference in dry-matter conversion translates to $103 in additional profits, he explains. In addition to feed conversion and efficiency, carcass weights and traits are other factors in feedyard profitability, he adds.

During these challenging times establishing a baseline for cattle is essential, Dorn says, adding “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.”

Genetics a plus

Knowing how genetics are involved in the equation is also critical, says Lee Leachman, manager of Leachman Cattle of Colorado. For his company, getting the benefit of the genetics means “having our eye on the right traits,” he says.

One of the most important traits today is certainly feed efficiency, he says, and the ability to know how well an animal’s offspring will perform on feed. “Feed efficiency EPDs work,” he says. “The differences are huge, and heritable.”

Based on feeding research Leachman conducted in conjunction with DCFY, feed-per-gain EPDs and actual feed-to-gain results were well correlated and showed a huge value difference in cost of feed. In fact, feeding a 600-lb. steer to a 1,250-lb. harvest weight, and assuming a $315/ton dry matter ration cost, created a $164/head difference between the most efficient and least efficient sire groups.

Overall, he says, there’s a huge variation in the amount of feed needed – as much as $350 to $650 worth – to raise an animal from 650 lbs. to 1,200 lbs. “The value difference based on real costs is enormous,” he says.

While feed efficiency is certainly important, Leachman says his company’s breeding focus isn’t solely on this trait; they seek to breed for the highest overall value. Cattlemen should be focused on what works best for them. “The only thing you should be selecting for is dollar profit,” he says.

Leachman says that, in the future, feeders and packers will be able to value calves based on their DNA. Until then, he says cattlemen should strive to know as much as possible about their calves via benchmarking to learn their true value.

“There are huge differences in the value at harvest” based on the grid, he says – as much as $200 between the best and the worst calves. “Don’t hide behind a sea of commodity cattle,” he says.

Breeders join feeders

Sandwiched between breeders they buy from and feeders they sometimes sell to, cow-calf producers can learn from both, thanks to a new alliance formed between Leachman Cattle of Colorado and DCFY. The two have joined in a partnership that will provide information for those looking to maximize performance of the animals they raise.

DCFY, a 40,000-head commercial feeding operation, began its retained ownership program in 1980. It started feeding cattle with Leachman genetics in 1995; today, all Leachman progeny test are fed at DCFY.

Leachman says the DCFY feeding program helps producers benchmark their herd, and is competitive on cost of gain, while able to generate “the best and most comprehensive individual animal data available.”

Meanwhile, DCFY’s Weibert says “we’re very excited about our new partnership… and all the positive benefits we believe our joint customers will receive by our relationship.”

Currently ranchers from more than 30 states, ranging from Hawaii to Virginia, participate in the Decatur Beef Alliance, which Weibert says “is widely recognized as being the most sophisticated, experienced marketing and data retrieval program in the industry today.” Among aspects of the DCFY program are sorting calves to feed each animal to its genetic potential and a pricing system that pays based on what each animal is worth to capture the value of genetic investments. Learn more at www.decaturfeedyard or www.leachman.com.

New Poll: Should USDA Drop Brands As Official ID?

BEEF magazine has posted a new online reader poll at beefmagazine.com. You’ll find it in the center column under “BEEF Poll.” This week’s question is: USDA is considering dropping the hot-iron brand as an official animal ID method for traceback purposes. Is this a:

  • Good idea
  • Bad idea
  • Don’t know
  • Don’t care
For more on this topic, read “USDA Brand Decision Burns Ranchers.”

Last week’s online poll question was: Can the U.S. livestock industry self regulate when it comes to animal treatment? At 86%, respondents overwhelmingly voted in support of the industry’s ability to police itself. However, a majority of those believe the industry could do more, with BQA certification for every producer being a start. Here are the results:
  • Yes, the few sensational cases of abuse are very isolated incidents that no system would catch: 40%
  • Yes, but the industry could do more. BQA certification for every producer is a start: 46%
  • No, some third-party oversight is needed: 11%
  • Don’t know: 1%
Good idea
  • Bad idea
  • Don’t know
  • Don’t care
For more on this topic, read “USDA Brand Decision Burns Ranchers.”

Last week’s online poll question was: Can the U.S. livestock industry self regulate when it comes to animal treatment? At 86%, respondents overwhelmingly voted in support of the industry’s ability to police itself. However, a majority of those believe the industry could do more, with BQA certification for every producer being a start. Here are the results:
  • Yes, the few sensational cases of abuse are very isolated incidents that no system would catch: 40%
  • Yes, but the industry could do more. BQA certification for every producer is a start: 46%
  • No, some third-party oversight is needed: 11%
  • Don’t know: 1%

Cattlemen's Beef Board Director Offers Checkoff Commentary Perspective

As a veteran Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) director and leader, I have read Troy Marshall’s recent commentary on the beef checkoff with great interest and want to comment on some of the recent controversy. While the path we have traveled to get to this point has been rough, I believe we are now positioned to have a constructive industry-wide debate on the future of the beef checkoff and what roles and responsibilities the CBB, the Policy and Federation divisions of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), the state beef councils, other contractors and industry organizations, and individual cattlemen should have in that future.

I hope all stakeholders will become well informed and I encourage everyone to make their wishes known to their CBB directors either individually or through organizations that represent them. I also hope that everyone – cattlemen, organizations and media – keeps the discourse civil and focused on the important issues.

I appreciate the concerns of those who have called for negotiations and/or mediation between the CBB and NCBA leaders. I know they have good intentions and that some of the minor differences might be resolved. However, I believe the major underlying issues will only be resolved once consensus within the entire industry on these roles and responsibilities is reached through public debate.

I also want to reassure everyone that as a member of the Beef Promotion Operating Committee (BPOC) and vice-chairman of a program committee I have seen little if any evidence that the conflicts over governance roles and responsibilities have spread to checkoff programs. They are still hard at work building demand for beef. That is possible because of the dedication and professionalism of the staff and volunteer leaders working on our behalf.

John Schafer
Buffalo Lake, MN
CBB director
BPOC member
Vice-chairman, Joint Product Enhancement Committee
NCBA & American Farm Bureau Federation member

Trying To Understand The Beef Checkoff Situation

I’ve received hundreds of emails recently regarding the checkoff situation. It’s an issue that is both important and confusing and I hope the following article can provide some context missing from the previous discussion.

First off, there are quite a few issues that exist here. The first issue really has nothing to do with the checkoff per se; it’s a personnel issue in which bad judgment was practiced, and the situation must be dealt with to restore trust in the checkoff process and personnel. Still, this personnel issue was the wakeup call to many folks that illustrated just how rotten the political infighting and the power struggle has become.

The remaining issues are more difficult to address, but let’s begin by stating what the issues are not. Certainly some people would argue that dollars be devoted to certain research, promotion and education projects over others. Such discussions are healthy and will always occur; no one is smart enough to know what the right answer is.

But the issue isn’t whether the money is being spent on the right projects or spent effectively. Nor is it a question of the checkoff’s contractors not doing a good job, or whether the industry’s long-range plan (which was designed to get everyone working in one strategic direction) has increased the effectiveness and efficiency of the checkoff.

The issue isn’t even whether the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) – as a major contractor – has received too high of a percentage of checkoff dollars. The truth is that, regardless of the structure, NCBA will do the bulk of the contract work because NCBA has the infrastructure and the capabilities to work on building beef demand.

The issue is also not the industry merger and effort to increase effectiveness. Yes, the merger caused heartburn among some people, but most would agree that the merger led to more effective spending of checkoff dollars.

The issue is also not whether checkoff dollars have been used for political purposes. While there has been the need for occasional accounting clarifications, everyone involved knows and appreciates how important it is to protect the firewall between policy and promotion, and thus protect the integrity of the checkoff.

There is also no real debate about the value of the checkoff; everyone pretty much agrees we need the checkoff.

Also there is little real debate about whether NCBA has been a good partner throughout the years. NCBA was integral in defending the checkoff when it was challenged in the courts, and it does tremendous work in building beef demand through the issue management and political sides. Examples are the job it did in responding to BSE and the way it continues to confront the animal welfare, environmental, food safety/nutrition attacks; politically NCBA plays an extremely crucial role in building beef demand. Ultimately, one can’t be effective without the other.

So what is the issue? Actually there are many facets but it basically comes down to one of structure – most of which can be corrected.

The real issue is that personalities, agendas and the like have moved ahead of the checkoff’s goals of building beef demand to create an atmosphere that has become extremely toxic. The trouble is that some believe they have the leverage to win and they are committed to driving their agenda at all costs, and the consequences could be as severe as the survival or effectiveness of the checkoff. That agenda is a reshaping of the beef industry’s organizational structure to advance the political and personal goals of the few while ignoring the ideas and desires of the many.

The frustration is that cattlemen as a group want one thing – that is for the leadership to act like adults, pull together, knock off the foolishness and get back to building demand. That’s reflected in the recent letters from state organizations calling for an end to the political partisanship. This week, Wisconsin added its call to those of Alabama, Kentucky, Iowa, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas and others (you can read the Alabama, Kentucky and Wisconsin letters here). Numerous state cattlemen’s groups are passing similar resolutions and are beginning to look at grassroots approaches to send a loud and clear message that they want the train put back on the track.

The bottom line is that there are issues that can be addressed, and there are structures and processes that need to be adjusted and tweaked. But the industry will not tolerate this continued infighting. The checkoff was meant to be non-political and it is being pushed by political forces as a result of the checkoff lawsuits, GIPSA, mandatory country of origin labeling, ethanol subsidies and the like; and the result isn’t good for the industry.

The question is this: with no accountability to producers, can a politically nominated entity that answers to a politically motivated USDA be held accountable to producer wishes? I believe it can, but it will require producers to stand up and make it happen.

The path we’ve been heading down – in a worst-case scenario – puts the entire checkoff program in jeopardy. At the very least, it reduces the program’s effectiveness. Let’s get the petty nonsense and hurt feelings taken care of and let’s address the real issues, find consensus and move forward. We’ll never be 100% in agreement but we can all agree to abide by the majority interests, and I think there are very few exceptions where people don’t have the industry’s best interest at heart.

Editor’s note: For related input, see “CBB Director Offers Checkoff Commentary Perspective.

Selecting For Docility In Beef Cattle Pays

There are a lot of reasons to select for docile cattle, and they don’t all have to do with keeping repair and vet costs down after the wild ones have torn up your working facilities.

That’s not to say that both animal and handler safety aren’t important, says Bob Weaber, University of Missouri Extension genetics specialist. “The motivation for producers to think about selecting for disposition is based on a number of criteria,” he explains. “One is animal well being; usually animals that have a better temperament have fewer injuries,” he says.

“And obviously, the people who work the livestock have a more enjoyable experience working the gentle, more easy-going animals.” That’s important not only because as ranchers get older, the safety factor becomes more important, but because working cattle is often a multi-generational event. “Certainly, families that have younger children are concerned about safety, so animals that have better docility and temperament are viewed more favorably.”

But there are some bottom-line considerations as well, Weaber says. “Calves at weaning time that are more docile have heavier weaning weights than calves that are more aggressive,” he says. “If we look at a post-weaning period – 55 days in one of the studies we did – the animals that were more desirable in terms of docility gained 0.8 lb./day more than the less docile animals.” In the feedyard, the more docile animals had better feed intakes and better average daily gain than animals with a more sour outlook on life. “So there’s an economic incentive to select for animals that are better behaved,” he says.

And selection pressure can yield results. Weaber’s studies indicate that docility is a relatively heritable trait. “The heritability estimates range from 25% to 40%, so it has similar heritability as weaning weight, yearling weight or some of our carcass traits.”

One question yet to be answered is whether or not cattle can be too docile? “Obviously we want to select against the ones that are really bad, but can we overdo it?” he asks. There are reasons for concern, particularly on the cow side of the equation. Cows that may not respond adequately to predation of their calves or may not have good maternal bonding instincts are not desirable, either. Weaber says there’s not much research to support those assumptions, but it’s a question worth investigating.

Japan Exports Are On A Fast Track

While the earthquake, tsunami and radiation leaking from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear reactor are “still a tragedy that unfolds with new chapters every day,” Japan continues to be a growing market for U.S. beef, says Phil Seng, president and CEO of the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

“Through April 14, we were up 93% over 2010,” Seng says. In the first two months of 2011, U.S. beef exports were up 75% over the same period in 2010. USMEF projects U.S. beef exports to Japan will total 153,000 metric tons, up 25% over last year.

Seng says there are several reasons for the surge in beef exports to Japan. One is simply a growing demand for high-quality beef. The other is a response by the Japanese trade to rising costs globally, particularly transportation costs. “So they have an interest in buying product now because they think it’s going to be cheaper than (a few) months from now.”

The human tragedy in Japan can’t be overstated and continues to affect the island nation both economically and psychologically. But Japan was turning the corner in terms of U.S. beef even prior to the disaster in March. If anything, Seng predicts it will spur even more interest in U.S. beef.

About 12% of Japan’s beef production came from the region affected by the earthquake, tsunami and radiation leakage, he says, along with 16% of the pork, 20% of the poultry and 17% of the dairy production. Most of that production went to the greater Tokyo region, which accounts for about 40% of Japan’s GDP.

“So this product not flowing into the greater Tokyo area leaves two choices,” Seng says. “Make it up with increased production in Japan, which seems quite unlikely, or compensate with increased imports. We see imports being a much stronger possibility.”

That opens the possibility that Japan may budge on its insistence that beef imported from the U.S. comes from cattle 20 months of age or less. Seng says the nuclear reactor is Japan’s most clear and present danger. Once that’s taken care of, he fully expects the U.S. to engage Japan in talks about beef. He thinks those discussions could begin as early as late June.

U.S. relief efforts, both through the military, which Seng described as “unbelievable,” and the work USMEF has done to provide food for those displaced from the region as well as those still there, are deeply appreciated. Seng is hopeful the goodwill those efforts engendered will weigh on the discussions, both in terms of easing the 20-month rule and the 38.5% duty currently applied to U.S. beef entering Japan.

However, the radiation leakage will only spur Japanese consumers’ already-heightened concern about food safety, which may have long-term implications for U.S. cattlemen. Seng says the traceability factor has become a much more urgent concern in Japan.

“Japanese consumers really do want to know where their food is produced,” he says. “And I think this is going to play more so as far as product coming in. That’s going to be an increasing, rather than a decreasing, trend,” he predicts.

But overall, he’s bullish on the Japanese economy and the prospects for increased beef exports, not only to Japan but throughout Asia. “I’m very bullish as far as the outlook in Asia. Should we have some meaningful access as far as these negotiations (with the Japanese), it could be very exciting for beef producers.”

EPA Flexes Water Muscle; Cattle Groups On Offensive

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the Florida Cattlemen’s Association (FCA) went on the counterattack Thursday, filing a lawsuit challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) determination letter and final rule establishing numeric nutrient criteria (NNC) for Florida’s lakes, rivers, streams and springs. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida in Tallahassee (see the documents here, here and here). According to Tamara Thies, NCBA chief environmental counsel, the groups are asking the court to do two things.

“First, we ask the court to set aside and hold unlawful the letter and rule because they are arbitrary, capricious, go beyond EPA’s statutory authority and are in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act,” Thies says. “Secondly, we ask the court to set aside the letter and rule and stop EPA from further action on both due to the irreparable harm Florida agricultural producers will suffer if the agency’s actions are not stopped.”

Under the Clean Water Act (CWA), each state must develop water quality standards that relate to the designated uses the state chooses for its waters. In a review of its water quality standards, Florida determined on its own that numeric criteria would be appropriate. On Sept. 28, 2007, EPA approved Florida’s revised Numeric Nutrient Criteria Development Plan.

However, environmentalists then sued EPA for failure to develop new water quality standards for Florida. EPA initially contested the argument. But, in a December 2008 memo, EPA staff caved to the environmentalists, laying the foundation for EPA to establish numeric nutrient criteria in Florida, NCBA says. According to Jim Strickland, FCA president and a cattle rancher from Myakka, FL, EPA’s plan will likely serve as a model for other water basins across the country.

“There is no reason to believe that this is only a Florida or Florida agriculture issue. It touches every homeowner in the state. EPA has indicated that this rule in Florida will be a template for the rest of the country,” Strickland says. “I believe if this rule isn't stopped dead in its track, it will be a model for every water basin in the country, including the Mississippi River Basin, which is the lifeblood of rural America.”

EPA estimates that the cost to Florida we will be about $113 million in implementation costs and roughly $35 million annually. However, a study conducted by the Florida Department of Ag and Consumer Services, University of Florida and Soil and Water Engineering Technology, Inc., concluded the economic impact could easily reach $3.1 billion in implementation costs, while annual costs could top $974 million. The study also predicts 15,000 agricultural jobs will be lost.

Both Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam have filed suit on behalf of the state of Florida against the rule, Strickland says. “Our elected leaders have been outspoken against this rule. Furthermore, just last week our own Department of Environmental Protection asked EPA to rescind this rule,” Strickland says.

Also this week, EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) released a draft guidance document on April 27 to agency field staff instructing them on how to determine whether a water body falls under the federal CWA’s regulatory jurisdiction. NCBA says it strongly opposes the draft guidance because it would harm private property rights and give EPA and ACE more authority than did Congress in the CWA or the Supreme Court when deciding caselaw on the issue.

The draft guidance isn’t a rule, isn’t binding and lacks the force of law. But such documents are frequently used by federal agencies to explain and clarify their understandings of existing requirements.

“The guidance would greatly expand the number of waters that would be found ‘jurisdictional,’ potentially costing cattle producers millions of dollars in permitting costs and regulatory restraints,” NCBA says. See the draft guidance at water.epa.gov/lawsregs/guidance/wetlands/upload/wous_guidance_4-2011.pdf.

Beef

Auxiliary Heifer Auction to Benefit Youth

An American Angus Auxiliary fundraising tradition will return this summer after a nearly 15-year hiatus. The Auxiliary’s heifer auction at the All-American Angus Breeers’ Futurity June 19 in Louisville, Ky., will raise money toward the organization’s youth scholarship fund.

Heifer donors Jim and Ardyce O’Neill of O’Neill Angus Farm, Logan, Iowa, said it was time to reinstate the auction tradition that first began in 1958.

“Our children went through the junior Angus program and received scholarships, and since we’ve been members both within the Association and the Auxiliary for many years, we decided it was time to donate the heifer,” Ardyce said.

That top-quality heifer, O’Neill’s Eraline 259 (reg. no. 16717542), is sired by SAV Final Answer 0035. Both the heifer and her dam combine two noted O’Neill cow families — the Delias and the Eralines — which were purchased in 1951 when O’Neill Angus Farm was founded.

The heifer auction provides added meaning for the O’Neills. The Iowa couple is donating the heifer in honor of their daughter, Debra Ellen O’Neill, a former scholarship recipient and showman prior to her death in 2003.

“The American Angus Auxiliary appreciates the O’Neills’ heartfelt contribution and continuous support of Auxiliary activities,” said Barbara Ettredge, Auxiliary president. “These scholarships help maintain interest and commitment to agriculture among junior Angus members.”

Proceeds from the sale of this heifer will go toward the Auxiliary Scholarship Fund, which is administered through the Angus Foundation.

For more information about the heifer, contact O’Neill Angus Farm at 712-644-2062 or go online at onlangus@longlines.com.

Visit www.angusauxiliary.com to learn more about the American Angus Auxiliary.