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Articles from 2013 In April

Ranch-Based Biodiesel Production Might Pay Off

An Arkansas professor has been experimenting with a farm-sized biodiesel plant that can use animal fat, waste oil or oilseeds. Kevin Humphrey's system is not elaborate and he says it has a reasonably short payoff. The Arkansas State University researcher sees real potential for ranchers with oil seed crops, waste oil or tallow to produce their own biodiesel. They could do it individually or as a group, pooling their resources to create a small biodiesel system, he says.

"If all you want to do is extract oil and meal, you can do that. If you want to extract and produce meal and then also produce biodiesel, you can do that," he says.

Humphrey is using waste oil and oil seed crops -- soybeans, canola, and camelina -- to make biodiesel. He adds he hasn't used animal fats but that is a viable option.

The equipment Humphrey is using produces about 32,000 gals. of biodiesel/year. Biopro processors from Springboard Biodiesel in Chico, CA, makes Humphrey's biodiesel. The Biopro processors come in three different sizes, 40-, 50- and 100-gal. processors. They range in price from $7,350 to $19,995.

To read the entire article, click here.


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What The Industry Learned From Being “Pink Slimed”

lean finely textured beef
<p> Most industry watchers predict that LFTB will make a recovery in time. After all, how can a hungry planet turn its nose up at the recovery of up to 15 lbs. of lean beef per carcass that the LFTB process allows?</p>

It was a little over a year ago that the issue of “pink slime” exploded into the national consciousness. One of the U.S. beef industry’s shining success stories in carcass utilization quickly became a huge industry black eye in terms of consumer perception following a relentless social media attack regarding lean finely textured beef (LFTB).

The furor was precipitated by a series of sensational reports by ABC News, which ultimately drew a defamation lawsuit brought by BPI, the dominant maker of LFTB. In the interim, a boycott of LFTB by major retailers forced the closure of three of four BPI processing plants and the layoff of 700 workers.

But the tentacles of that media furor reached farther than that. When Cargill closed its Plainview, TX, processing plant in January 2013, the culprit most cited was drought-induced cattle liquidation that had exacerbated the effects of an existing overcapacity in the packing business. But in an interview with FoodNavigator-USA in early April, Michael Martin, Cargill director of communications, said a contributing factor to the plant idling that laid off 2,000 workers was the reduced production of LFTB at the plant.

Most industry watchers predict that LFTB will make a recovery in time. After all, how can a hungry planet turn its nose up at the recovery of up to 15 lbs. of lean beef per carcass that the LFTB process allows?

Following the media fury, a lot of folks opined that the industry’s failing had been a lack of transparency about the process. However, that was never the intent, says Russell Cross, head of Texas A&M University’s Animal Science Department. What changed was the consumer, he says.

As head of USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) from 1992-1994, Cross approved the use of LFTB in 1993. That approval defined LFTB as meat, which allowed its use in ground beef without being labeled, he says. It was in 2001, after Cross had left FSIS, that the use of ammonium hydroxide in BPI’s production process was approved as a pH control agent.

Cross says LFTB was, and still is, a process based on good science. “I’m not sure how much more BPI could have done back then; the consumer wasn’t calling for the type of transparency that today’s consumer is. The ball just moved on them.”

James Dickson, Iowa State University professor of meat science, concurs. “I’m not sure what else BPI could have done, and that’s onething that has puzzled a lot of folks. BPI was very open for a food company as far as visitors and plant tours. They were much more open than most food companies in general, and an awful lot of meat companies, in terms of what they were doing. It doesn’t seem that they were trying to conceal that from the public.

“Eldon Roth (BPI CEO) is pretty proud of his operation and he wanted people to see it. I can tell you that as an academic trying to take students on plant tours, there aren’t many places that will let you in. BPI didn’t quite have an open-door, take-all-comers approach, but it was pretty close. Just about anybody who asked for a tour or visit was let in,” Dickson says.  

Millennial generation seeks more food information

Surveys show that at least a third of U.S. consumers today say they want to know more about how their food is produced, Cross says. A significant contributor to that sentiment, he believes, is the millennial generation. It’s a population segment that numbers about 80 million, stretches from birthdates in the late 1970s to early 2000s, and tends to rely on social media for news and communication.

“Consumers are telling us they want to know more about how we produce our food; they want more transparency. It’s up to us to inform them about what and how we use technology to produce their food, and we must use the communication vehicles they use to conduct that outreach,” Cross says.

As an example of the proactive stance the industry must take, Cross points to Farmers Fight, a TAMU student-led effort to reachout to the millennial generation via social media tools. Planning is underway for the first National Agriculture Advocacy Conference, set for Oct. 4-6 on the TAMU campus. Invited are100 student leaders from across the nation to discuss agriculture advocacy.

“Our goal is to share what works and what doesn’t work in order to more effectively tell our positive story of agriculture,” says Victoria Pilger, a TAMU junior animal science major. She’s a founding member of Farmers Fight and its incoming executive director.

She says the effort is designed to mobilize the thousands of students across the nation who are actively engaged and passionate about agriculture. “Farmers Fight believes it’s our turn to stand up and share our story. Our advocate conference will be a meeting to engage student leaders and prepare us all to advocate for agriculture on our respective campuses,” Pilger says.

A Farmers Fight website is expected to debut in June, and the group utilizes a Facebook page on which it regularly posts announcements and discussion.

The bottom line, Cross says is that the industry must get ahead of these issues before it’s too late. Dickson agrees, but says that can be a tough challenge in today’s environment.

As an example, he points to how the Associated Press Twitter account was hacked last week and a message disseminated about a bombing at the White House that had injured President Obama.

“The stock market fell 150 points in just a few minutes,” he says. “That’s an example of what can happen on social media. And the same can be done to any food product.”

Dickson says that potential of a recurrence of another “pink slime” issue is so chilling to food manufacturers and processors that he’s concerned it is stifling innovation in the sector.

“I think, to a degree, the BPI experience has kind of put a damper on some of the approaches to making new, innovative or alternative processes. I have heard some folks in the food industry in general, not just the meat industry, say that after witnessing what happened to BPI with what was a pretty novel process, and how it was misrepresented in the media, they are a lot more cautious about moving forward with real new or innovative technologies than they were a year ago. And that is unfortunate,” Dickson says.

Cross adds that with a growing world population and the resulting need for more food – a doubling of food production by 2050, by some estimates – technology will have to be part of the answer.

“There has to be outreach and we have to communicate with the consumers using the tools they are communicating with. And that’s going to be the social media and things of that nature,” Cross says.

Dickson says he’s confident LFTB will be back. “At the end of the day, it’s still a good product. It’s still lean muscle tissue, and it’s subjected to a process that makes it as safe, or safer, than anything else on the market. So I think it will come back, but it’s going to take time. And that’s unfortunate because BPI now has to go back and basically rebuild a business that there really wasn’t anything wrong with. It will come back, perhaps in a different form, or different usages, but it will come back, and market forces will drive it,” he says.


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Industry At A Glance: The Trends In Beef Quality Grade

steer heifer harvest mix for choice  prime

Last week’s “Industry At A Glance” discussion focused on the dramatic growth of certified programs in the past decade. That growth likely has influenced the beef industry’s ability to produce more highly marbled product over time.

Despite lots of rhetoric about value-based marketing as a means to induce quality and consistency, market structure still hadn’t sufficiently evolved to facilitate that occurrence in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Even with the advent of grid-pricing, weight remained the primary market signal and overwhelming driver of revenue. However, in recent years, beef producers have been increasingly incentivized to utilize genetics, establish breeding systems, and implement management strategies to ensure cattle hit higher USDA Quality Grade (QG) targets.

That reality is best reflected by QG results cited by the National Beef Quality Audits: percent Prime and Choice had bottomed out around 50% of the harvest mix between 1995 and 2000. Since that time, there’s been a 10% increase in the percentage of Choice and Prime product in the sales cooler. That’s an important development, especially when considering the significance of QG to overall eating quality (more on that next week).

cattle that graded prime or choice

What influence has this growing trend in QG had on the beef industry? Where do see the industry’s QG trend headed in the future? Have we hit a plateau with the current cattle mix, or can this number go higher yet? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.


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May 2013 Cattlemen's Calendar


16-17  California & Arizona Cattle Feeders Annual Meeting, Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa, La Jolla, CA; 916-444-0845 or

18  American Akaushi Association Approved Field Day, Matador Cattle Co., (Spring Creek Ranch), Eureka, KS; 830-540-3912 or

19-22  Alltech 29th Annual International Symposium, Lexington, KY;

21  Ranching 101: Resource Management, Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association Headquarters, Fort Worth, TX; 800-242-7820 or

22-24  American Forage & Grassland Council National Tour, Graves Mountain Lodge, Syria, VA; 800-944-2342 or


3-4  Cattlemen’s Boot Camp, Clemson University, Poole Ag Center, Clemson, SC; 816-383-5100 or

7-8  Montana Stockgrowers Association Mid-Year Meeting, Hilton Garden Inn, Missoula;

7-9  American Shorthorn Association (ASA) summer tour and Shorthorn University, ASA Office, Omaha, NE;
402-393-7200 or

9-14  New Mexico Youth Ranch Management Camp, Valles Caldera National Preserve; 505-471-4711 or

12-15  Beef Improvement Federation Annual Research Symposium and Convention, Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center, Oklahoma City, OK;

13-14  California Cattlemen’s Association & California CattleWomen Inc. Mid-Year Meeting, Thunder Valley Casino Resort, Lincoln; 916-444-0845 or

17-21  Florida Cattlemen’s Association Annual Convention, Marco Island Marriott, Marco Island; 407-846-6221 or www.

18  Ranching 101: Risk Management, Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association Headquarters, Fort Worth, TX; 800-242-7820 or

18-20  FarmTek’s Controlled Environment Agriculture School, FarmTek, Dyersville, IA;

Ellen DeGeneres Hosts Wayne Pacelle On Show, Donates $25K to HSUS

ellen degeneres joins forces with HSUS
<p> <strong>&nbsp;Jaguar PS / </strong></p>

It’s no secret that daytime talk show host, Ellen DeGeneres, is a vegetarian and outspoken animal lover. I have a hard time swallowing her messages sometimes, because she often equates abstaining from meat as the only logical way to care for animals. As a rancher, I understand the clear difference between animal welfare and animal rights; unfortunately, many folks, like Ellen, feel they have to team up with animal rights extremist groups like the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) in order to make a difference.

Last week, I wrote about how Carrie Underwood is speaking out against a Tennessee bill, the Livestock Cruelty Prevention Act, which would protect family farmers from being victimized on their personal property by undercover activists. The bill would require any abuse caught on film to be turned into the authorities within 48 hours.

If abuse is occurring, this measure would help expedite the charges and stop any abuse from continuing. Currently, many activists spend months editing the footage, manipulating the scenarios, and leaking it to the media, instead of just simply reporting the incident. To me, it makes sense that both animals and farmers should be protected against such actions.

DeGeneres recently hosted HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle on her television show, allowing him a few minutes to talk about this bill in Tennessee and urging folks to lobby against it because it prohibits his minions from capturing footage needed to lock up these abusive farmers. He spoke as if such abuse is common practice, and DeGeneres responded by saying how important this message was to get out, and asked, “How will we know if these farmers are abusing their animals then?”

Well, Ellen, how do I know if parents are abusing their children if I’m not allowed to peek in their windows and tape what they’re doing? Surely, if I can videotape a mother having a bad day and spanking her children, I should be able to keep that video until I see fit to release it to whomever can give it the most play. I should be able to take that video home and manipulate it, so that video doesn’t just look like a spanking anymore -- instead I could darken the video, so it makes the room like forbidding and dangerous. I could crank up the noise, so the child’s wails sound much more pained and dramatic. I could zoom in on the “love pat” and put it on repeat, so you couldn’t tell whether it was a quick swat on the butt or a repeated beating. I can do that, right? That’s okay isn’t it?

Obviously, I would never do such a thing, nor do I think a spanking is child abuse. I should clarify for those who might take me literally that the above paragraph is tongue-in-cheek. Obviously, a real child abuse case should be taken seriously, just as the abuse of animals should be prosecuted.


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However, in America, we can either trust in the laws we already have in place and honor citizens’ privacy, or we can start playing Big Brother. And, if we’re going to play Big Brother, how far do we go?

Do we allow drones to fly over our homes to peek in our backyards, or take photographs of our feedlots? Do we send undercover investigators to apply for nanny jobs, so they can spy on parents, as activists have done to ranchers for so many years? Put yourself in that situation, and suddenly it gets pretty uncomfortable.

Perhaps I’m taking the comparison too far, or perhaps this is a foreshadowing of what’s to come. All I know is that when DeGeneres hosted Pacelle on her show and promised to donate $25,000 to HSUS to halt this bill in its tracks, she didn’t allow the other side to give its perspective. May I suggest someone like Temple Grandin or, better yet, one of the individuals who introduced the bill to come in and talk about their rationale.

The video of Pacelle on “Ellen” has exceeded 210,000 views on YouTube, and those viewers are only hearing one side of the story -- that “factory farmers” can’t be trusted, and they need to be monitored. Is that the only story we want our consumers to hear? It’s time to engage, folks. Check out the video and add your two cents in the comments section on this blog post, as well as on YouTube.

What do you think about Ellen’s $25,000 pledge? What are your thoughts on the bill? Share your opinions with us today.

By the way, today is the final day to nominate your beef industry heroes for the BEEF 50! To commemorate the start of BEEF magazine’s 50th year of publication in September, we are honoring the best of the best -- the top 50 individuals who have helped to shape our industry and make it great. Whether it’s a seedstock breeder, a professor, a speaker you heard at a conference, a mentor, or yourself, your nominations are welcome! Don’t wait! Nominate that special individual today before the deadline closes.


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Mizzou Collegiate CattleWomen Announces 4th Annual Meet Your Meat

Mizzou Collegiate CattleWomen at the University of Missouri is pleased to announce its 4th Annual Meet Your Meat, a program focused on promoting the beef industry to Mizzou students. Meet Your Meat will provide beef industry educational resources to the Columbia community on May 1.

Many people want to know where their food comes from, so this is an excellent opportunity to talk to beef producers firsthand. Collegiate CattleWomen will have Meet Your Meat from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on May 1. A live cow will be located in Lowry Mall on the University of Missouri campus. The group will also be selling ribeye steak sandwiches to raise money for their organization.

For more information call 816-719-4475 or check out Mizzou Collegiate CattleWomen’s Facebook page.

“Farm families have known the joys of raising cattle, but people across the nation are moving farther from the family farm and want to know how their food is raised and would like to meet the people putting food on their plates,” said Kelsey Cornell, Mizzou Collegiate CattleWomen president. “There is nothing as gratifying as the ability to participate in the production of food.”

Throughout the day, Collegiate CattleWomen members will be available to answer questions about farming, beef production practices, nutrition and more. There will also be educational materials on hand, including beef recipes, nutrition facts, and pamphlets that explain the pasture-to-plate process.

“Cattle owners know they are providing a wholesome, safe product to the nation’s food supply,” Cornell says. “Meet Your Meat is designed to show people how farmers truly care for their livestock. American farmers have a great passion and love for the cattle industry. It is not just a job; it is a passion and way of life.”


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Photo Caption Winners Plus A New Online Poll On Herd Expansion

This time of year is when we plan the genetic pairings for our herd. We consult the semen catalog and make our lists for genetic pairings, figuring out which cows will go to which pasture, double-checking calving records, and drawing up a cull list, if necessary. With May just around the corner, we're gearing up to artificially inseminate cattle, move pairs to pasture, and ready the planter, hay bind and baler for the season ahead. Whatever the list might be, ranchers use lists to keep track of their livestock and make educated management decisions.

This photo taken by Lauren Chase captures exactly that, and with more than 70 entries to caption this photo, we have selected three champions to win a copy of “Cowboy Wisdom -- What The World Can Learn From The Wit And Wisdom Of The West,” by David Stevenson and photography by David Stoecklein.



Congratulations to our winners!

Jeff Madison -- “A real cowboy's I-pad (batteries not required)”

Smawil78 -- “Tag I.D. and registration, please. Do you know how fast you were grazing?”

Richard Bretz -- “Ma'am, would you like timothy hay or alfalfa as your salad?”

Thanks to all who participated! Look for updates on our May photography contest, with the theme and prizes to be announced soon!

By the way, as we make our lists, often we have to evaluate our keep and cull list based on the performance of the cow and if she fits within our breeding program goals.

In this week’s online poll we ask, “What are your cowherd plans for 2013?” With 111 votes in so far, 40% of you plan to expand your herd; 38% plan to remain the same; 13% will contract their herds; 5% aren’t sure; and, the remaining 5% plan to get out, but not retire. Vote in the poll here, and be sure to explain your plans in the comments section below.


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8 FMD Prevention Tips For Your Ranch

The U.S. has robust safeguards against the incursion of foreign animal diseases and they have been very effective. Quietly and effectively, these firewalls have kept U.S. beef producers in the clear. However, the threat never goes away; if anything, it continues to grow. Annette Jones, California state veterinarian, explains some simple biosecurity measures cattlemen can take to ensure their animals remain healthy.

Watch What You Need To Know About Foot & Mouth Disease for more biosecurity information.


What You Need To Know About Foot & Mouth Disease

The U.S. has robust safeguards against the incursion of foreign animal diseases and they have been very effective. Quietly and effectively, these firewalls have kept U.S. beef producers in the clear. However, the threat never goes away; if anything, it continues to grow. Annette Jones, California state veterinarian, explains why foot and mouth disease needs to be on your radar.

Watch 8 FMD Prevention Tips for more herd protection tips.

Horse lineages traced

THE analysis of DNA inherited from a single parent has provided valuable insights into the history of human and animal populations. However, until recently, there was insufficient information to be able to investigate the paternal lines of the domesticated horse.

Now, Barbara Wallner and colleagues at the University of Veterinary Medicine-Vienna (Vetmeduni-Vienna) in Austria have published information on the genetic variability in the Y chromosome of the horse and show how various breeds of the modern horse are interrelated.

In mammals, sex is determined by the chromosomes an individual inherits from its parents. Two X chromosomes create a female, whereas one X and one Y create a male. Y chromosomes are only passed from fathers to sons, so each Y chromosome represents the male genealogy of the animal in question, an announcement from Vetmeduni-Vienna explained. In contrast, mothers pass on mitochondria to all their offspring. This means that an analysis of the genetic material or DNA of mitochondria can provide information on the female ancestry.

For the modern horse, it is known that mitochondrial DNA is extremely diverse, and this has been interpreted to mean that many ancestral female horses have passed their DNA on to modern horse breeds.

Until recently, though, essentially no sequence diversity had been detected on the Y chromosome of the domesticated horse. Not only does the lack of sequence markers on the Y chromosome make it difficult to trace male lineages with confidence, but it also represents a scientific paradox. How can a species with so many female lines have so few male lines?

Wallner and colleagues at the Vetmeduni-Vienna Institute of Animal Breeding & Genetics initially selected 17 horses from a range of European breeds, pooled their DNA and used modern sequencing technology to examine the level of diversity on a 200-kilobase portion of the Y chromosome Wallner had previously sequenced. The Y chromosomes were found to be highly similar: Only five positions turned out to be variable.

"The results confirmed what we had previously suspected: that the Y chromosomes of modern breeds of horses show far less variability than those of other (domesticated) animals," Wallner said.

The five variable positions, or polymorphisms, nevertheless were sufficient to enable the researchers to derive a type of "family tree" for the various breeds of modern horses that then could be investigated.

The announcement reported that an examination of more than 600 stallions from 58 (largely European) breeds showed that the animals could be grouped into six basic lines, or haplotypes, including:

* The ancestral haplotype that is distributed across almost all breeds and geographical regions;

* A second haplotype that occurs at high frequencies across a broad range of breeds, although not in Northern European breeds or in horses from the Iberian Peninsula;

* A third haplotype that is present in almost all English Thoroughbreds and in many warm-blooded breeds, and

* Three haplotypes that are found only in local Northern European breeds: one in Icelandic horses, one in Norwegian Fjord horses and one in Shetland ponies.

The pedigree of horses is very tightly controlled, with studbooks, in many cases, going as far back as the 18th century. Combining the results of the genetic analysis with pedigree data enabled the scientists to trace the paternal roots of many of the current male lines.

"The results were intriguing, for example, in the way the distribution of one haplotype reflects the widespread movement of stallions from the Middle East to Central and Western Europe in the past 200 years," Wallner noted. "Another haplotype results from a mutation that occurred in the famous English Thoroughbred stallion 'Eclipse' or in his son or grandson. It is amazing to see how much influence this line has had on modern sport horses: Almost all English Thoroughbreds and nearly half the modern sport horse breeds carry the Eclipse haplotype."

The Vetmeduni-Vienna researchers confirmed the low diversity of the horse's Y chromosome, which contrasts sharply with range of mitochondrial DNA haplotypes observed in modern horses, the announcement said. The difference is presumably due to the strong variation in male reproductive success. Wild horses have a polygynous breeding pattern (one stallion with multiple mares), while the intensive breeding practices used in domesticated horses mean that single stallions can effectively pass on their DNA to entire generations.

The senior author on the paper, Gottfried Brem, said, "Most modern breeds were established in the last two centuries, during which time the horse has undergone a transition from working and military use towards leisure and sports. This has largely been achieved through the use, in breeding, of a few selected males. The restricted genetic diversity of the modern horse Y chromosome is a reflection of what has survived the species' dynamic history."

The paper, "Identification of Genetic Variation on the Horse Y Chromosome & the Tracing of Male Founder Lineages in Modern Breeds," by Wallner, Claus Vogl, Priyank Shukla, Joerg P. Burgstaller, Thomas Druml and Brem, was recently published in the online PLOS ONE.

Volume:85 Issue:17