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Articles from 2016 In April

Harlan Ritchie passes

Harlan Ritchie, widely regarded as the man who led beef's transformation in composition, size and growth potential, died April 27. His 47-year career at Michigan State University (MSU) was marked, friends and colleagues say, by his big vision and his remarkable ability to teach both students and beef producers about the changes he saw were necessary for the beef business to be successful.

"In the last 50 years, Harlan probably had as much impact on Michigan animal agriculture as anyone," said his colleague David Hawkins. "He was a visionary who tried to anticipate trends in the livestock industry and consumer habits. He was certainly ahead of the curve, and he brought Michigan to the forefront of national recognition with his activities nationally and worldwide."

Ritchie came to MSU in 1957 as an instructor as he pursued his doctorate. He never left MSU and reached the title of Distinguished Professor of Animal Science, reports Michigan Farm News.

"Harlan was a phenomenal educator," said his friend and business partner Ken Geuns, who worked with Ritchie at MSU and later in partnership on a beef cow-calf operation. "He had an incredible ability not only to have a thorough grasp of basic science, but to translate that into production-oriented information to students, Extension, and industry. He was highly sought after as an educator and to do programs and workshops throughout the state and the world."

Click here to read more about Ritchie’s life and contributions to the beef business. 

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FFA students challenged to step up with wildfire relief

Any wildfire is devastating, but the Anderson Creek and related fires along the Kansas-Oklahoma border torched hundreds of thousands of acres of range and hundreds and hundreds of miles of fence.

"Our hearts go out to those affected by these fires, and we are eager to do what we can to assist in the recovery," stated Darren Markey, Executive Director of Wire Products at Keystone Steel & Wire, manufacturer of Red Brand agricultural fence. "The news we are getting out of Oklahoma and Kansas is that this devastating fire has caused millions of dollars in lost property, including hundreds of miles of fence line throughout both states.

“Fortunately, Red Brand is poised to assist in the enormous rebuilding efforts. We already have a substantial amount of product on the ground at local dealers and we're ready to ship more where needed. That's one of the benefits of being American-made; we can respond quickly and efficiently," Markey explained.

'We want to help get the farmers and ranchers affected by these fires back to normal as soon as possible," said Markey.  To assist with the recovery, Red Brand has implemented a service project challenge called 'The Red Brand Wildfire Relief Program' to mobilize volunteers. By partnering with local FFA chapters, Red Brand is encouraging those chapters to seek out neighbors that need help with fence rebuilding. In return, Red Brand will donate up to $1,000 to the local FFA chapters that coordinate these efforts.

In addition to the free installation services provided by teams of FFA volunteers, consumers and contractors can take advantage of various rebate programs available at participating dealers. These programs will provide a cost savings on qualifying fence products. More information can be found at

For information and details on how to get involved with the Red Brand Wildfire Relief Program, contact Dain Rakestraw, Red Brand Marketing Manager, at or 309.697.7063. Follow Red Brand updates at




  • Properties directly affected by the Anderson Creek Fire in Oklahoma and Kansas
  • Location must be confirmed by FFA Advisor

Red Brand Contribution:

  • Up to $1,000 donated to organizing FFA chapter (amount to be determined by Red Brand, based on the scope of the project)
  • FFA Chapters must submit photos of the installation project along with details of the project like a list of Red Brand materials used, number of volunteers and length of project, along with their chapter name, advisor name, and contact information.

Rebates on fence:

  • Available through Home Grown, Red Brand's Certified Fence Installer program and NTRA Membership.


Are you ready for an Anaplasmosis outbreak?

It’s a bad dude, as kids now-a-days might say. And while it’s difficult to quantify the risk of anaplasmosis in any given herd in any given time of year, when an outbreak occurs, it can result in devastating consequences for a cow/calf herd.

Anaplasmosis is most commonly caused by Anaplasma marginale, a microorganism that invades red blood cells and causes severe anemia. Transmitted through the blood, the main culprits in spreading the disease include biting flies or ticks or infected blood transferred on contaminated needles or other equipment. The disease can result in death, aborted calves, bull infertility, weight loss and diminished milk production as well as additional treatment expenses. The risk for disease increases when mixing noninfected cattle with those that carry the disease or when environmental conditions favor increased activity of biting flies or ticks.

“Anaplasmosis is sporadic, not all factors that cause outbreaks in a herd are known but when they occur, consequences can be significant,” said Daniel Scruggs, DVM, managing veterinarian with Zoetis.

Anaplasmosis causes special concern for cow/calf producers since mature animals have higher susceptibility to the disease than younger animals. Cows in the late stage of pregnancy and those nursing calves have particularly high death loss. 

Signs of anaplasmosis can include:

  • Orange-yellow coloration of the mucous membranes
  • Thin, watery blood
  • Slow, reluctant to move or short of breath cattle
  • Aggressive behavior shortly before death
  • Sudden, unexplained death of adult cattle
  • Abortions

One of the most commonly used and predictable methods of controlling anaplasmosis includes incorporating a feed-grade chlortetracycline, such as AUREOMYCIN®, in the animal’s feed or mineral supplements. In endemic regions where ticks and flies remain active all year, AUREOMYCIN administration can occur year-round in feed or minerals. In other areas, producers often focus on late spring through fall, the time of highest transmission. 

“It’s really a factor of diligence in making sure cattle are protected,” Dr. Scruggs said. “With spring-calving herds, the bulls are out during the spring and summer vector season. When bulls are experiencing an acute infection of anaplasmosis, and they become anemic or dead, they’re not good at settling cows. Whether a producer is running a spring-calving or fall-calving herd, there’s never a good time to go to sleep on anaplasmosis control.” 

Producers should consult with their feed or mineral supplier to ensure their mineral mix containing AUREOMYCIN delivers adequate levels for their herds’ needs.

Adding AUREOMYCIN offers one of several measures producers can take. Preventive measures include:

  • Implementing fly and tick control to help reduce transmission
  • Changing needles and disinfecting instruments between cattle when working cows and bulls
  • Consulting your veterinarian early for diagnostics on unexplained death seen in adult cows or bulls 

“If you believe you can control anaplasmosis by just controlling flies, ticks and horseflies, you probably believe in the Easter Bunny, too,” Dr. Scruggs said. “It’s important to keep anaplasmosis control top of mind to help avoid unnecessary surprises and run a healthy, profitable cattle operation.”

For more information on controlling anaplasmosis, contact your veterinarian, feed company nutritionist or Zoetis representative. To learn more about AUREOMYCIN, visit

Do not use AUREOMYCIN in calves to be processed for veal.



Establish and maintain good fly control for pasture cattle

By Cliff Willms, Ph.D., Beef Nutritionist

Good fly control is an essential element of good animal husbandry.  In an era where humane treatment of farm animals and their well-being is on the public conscience, one cannot ignore fly control.  Attitudes suggesting, “That’s what tails are for” are not appropriate in today’s culture.  

But flies are much more than a nuisance!  We don’t realize the economic impact that the lack of fly control has on cattle performance.

It is estimated by experts that the economic losses from inadequate fly control for cattle are greater than respiratory disease and coccidiosis losses combined.  That seems hard to believe until one considers that flies can affect cattle over an entire summer and early fall.  Then it makes sense.  When we think of health issues with cattle, we often think about the acute symptoms of respiratory disease or coccidiosis and treat the cattle immediately.  The loss of performance is often short term.  However, with flies it is the long term exposure that causes the larger performance losses, even though the cattle may appear healthy, and makes flies the larger economic loss.

For pasture cattle, the horn fly, Haematobia irritans, is the most economically important fly.  Both the male and female horn flies are blood suckers.  They have a very efficient cutting and digging mechanism that delivers painful bites.  Imagine a chewing syringe needle or turning a needle with a burr on it.  I can’t stand just a few mosquito bites – imagine what a cow puts up with!

This biting action and blood sucking causes all sorts of negative behaviors.  You see kicking, stomping, head slinging, tail swishing, and cattle grouping up rather than spreading out and grazing.   When cows do what they were created to do, they spread out and graze grass primarily in the morning and evening.  In the middle of the day, they lie down in the shade when content from eating their fill and chew their cud.  Full of forage and relaxed, they produce milk and their calves grow optimally.  They can’t do that when fighting flies.   

The issue is maintaining good fly control.  The means used should be effective, economical, environmentally friendly, safe, and fit one’s management scheme.  How one gets the job done is personal preference.  Discussing every option in an integrated pest management program is beyond the scope of this article.  The remainder of this article will focus on feed through products and management for pasture cattle.

As a nutritionist, the “corner post” of building a sound nutritional program starts with being rigorous about using an excellent mineral all year long and managing the intake to target levels.  Naturally, it seems that a feed through fly control product fits nicely with a cattleman committed to good mineral nutrition for his/her cows.     

Cattlemen have options when choosing a feed through fly control product:

  • Altosid® or methoprene is also known as an IGR (Insect Growth Regulator).  It is a growth hormone specific to flies that prevents the development of pupae into harmful adult horn flies.  There is no known resistance, it is not toxic to mammals, will not wash out of manure, and there is no withdrawal for meat or milk. 
  • Rabon® is an older product (organophosphate) that was used heavily several years ago and still used today.  It is effective on face flies, horn flies, stable flies and house flies.
  • ClariFly® is a newer product available for pasture cattle.  It is usually used more in confinement situations rather than pasture cattle.  ClariFly® prevents house, stable, face, and horn flies from developing in and emerging from manure by disrupting the development of the exoskeleton of insects.  Hence, it is not toxic to mammals.  

The key to the success of all feed through fly control products is to manage mineral intake.  If the cattle eat the mineral, the fly control product will be in the manure and you will see good control.  Managing mineral intake is something you want to do anyway to get the most effective nutrition from your mineral purchases.

Here are some tips on management of granular or loose minerals containing a fly control product:

  • Location and number of feeding stations must be adjusted to control intake.  Placement of mineral feeders relative to water, cow paths, shade, and loafing areas is critical.  Moving a mineral feeder 50 yards can make a big difference.  When mineral is close to water, a cow can wash her palate and make multiple trips to the mineral feeder and consumption will be higher.  Move the feeder farther from the water and intake will decrease.
  • To decrease intake, add additional salt.  Most granular minerals include a nutritional level of salt, but added salt may be needed to regulate intake.  If you add salt, always mix the salt with the mineral containing the fly control product.  Offering salt and mineral side by side may give the overall average intake desired, but during fly season, one will quickly figure out that some cows eat only salt some days and not the mineral, hence fly control is compromised.  This is a huge issue that is the cause of many producers being dissatisfied with results.
  • Placing mineral in a mineral feeder that is on the ground will encourage intake and placing mineral in a bunk up off the ground will decrease intake. 
  • With pastures with running creeks and streams where there are multiple watering stations, make sure to have multiple mineral feeding stations to insure adequate intake.  
  • Make sure all minerals and supplements contain the fly control product of choice.  A few years ago, a cowman lost fly control and couldn’t figure out what the problem was.  He was offering protein blocks without fly control as well as a mineral with fly control.  The cows did not need the protein with the quality of grass they had and I asked him to remove the protein blocks and in 2 weeks, the fly population was under control. 

Since intake management is the biggest issue with getting optimal fly control from a feed through product, I prefer to use CRYSTALYX® IGR MAX™.  Research has shown that cows frequent a low moisture molasses based mineral block more often and consume it more consistently than a granular mineral.  One can put out several CRYSTALYX® barrels at a time and spread them throughout the pasture.  The CRYSTALYX® Low Moisture Blocks are weather resistant and purchasing a mineral feeder is not necessary. 

Another huge key to satisfaction with using a feed through fly control product is feeding it long enough into the fall.  Be sure to feed past a hard freeze!  This will reduce the carryover of eggs and you will be happier with the results next year than you were with the first year.  In fact, I am more concerned about a producer feeding the fly control product long enough into the fall than I am with how soon they get started in the spring.

The biggest objection many producers have to using a feed through fly control product is concern that since their neighbor does not use it, they fear that they will not have good fly control.  However, that is not a concern.  The horn fly, the fly of primary concern in pasture cattle, is a small fly and does not travel far.  In fact, the horn fly lives its entire life on the host animal.  It jumps off to lay its eggs in fresh manure and jumps back on the host animal.  I have witnessed this phenomenon myself when collecting fecal samples.  I have further witnessed several situations where cattle in the neighboring pasture were not on a fly control product and we had excellent control.

If you have not used a feed through fly control product, I encourage you to do so.  It is a good management practice in an integrated pest management program that has proven to produce a good return on investment.

Cattle photo contest now underway

Springtime is a great time for photography, and particularly if you’re in the barn our out in the pasture with your cattle. ABS® Global, Inc., the world’s leading provider of genetic improvement solutions and reproduction services, announces its annual dairy and beef photo contest.

ABS Global, Inc. is searching for outstanding photos to use in both dairy and beef promotional materials, including, but not limited to the yearly calendars, posters, brochures and company website. All photos must be submitted through the online entry form and must be received by May 31st, 2016. Entries will be judged and some preference will be given to photos that include ABS-sired cattle and products.  Photo submission deadline: May 31st, 2016.

For more information, please go to to view the submission form.

Meat Market Update | Rib and loin stifle grilling season rally

Ed Czerwien, USDA Market News reporter in Amarillo, TX, provides us with the latest outlook on boxed beef prices and the weekly cattle trade.

The Daily Choice Cutout dropped over $4.00 but the Comprehensive or Weekly Average Choice cutout only dropped 45 cents. The fact that the formulas represent about half of the total sales means that they have more impact on the average price than the Daily Spot Cutout, which was only about 12% of the total sales. Formulas normally moderate the wider swings in the Daily Spot Cutout because they move more slowly both up and down.

The main driver of the cutout during the grilling season rally is the Choice rib and loin but these two primals have had a tough time the last few weeks and have declined in prices which is contrac seasonal this time of the year.

Find more cattle price news here or bookmark our commodity price page for the minute-by-minute updates.

Go big, then go small when planning your ranch’s future

Sustainability on the ranch

I love reading management books. It has always fascinated me why some businesses are hugely successful and others are failures in similar markets with similar products. Is that because management from a small business perspective has and always will be a much bigger challenge? A business with limited employees simply doesn’t have the specialization and focus of larger businesses.

A ranch owner may be the CEO and be responsible for direction, vision, big strategic decisions and building the right culture to succeed, but he is probably also the CFO, human resource manager, truck driver, veterinarian, geneticist, marketing expert and a whole host of other job titles. While many ranchers have put in the effort to write job descriptions for themselves and their team, in the end it boils down to doing everything that needs to be done. 

I have had jobs with mid-size businesses, where I had a defined job description, clear metrics to measure your success, management dedicated to helping me succeed, established budgets and well qualified support people. However, that is not the environment that I find myself now operating in. 

I still learn a great deal from reading these management books, even if most of what they talk about doesn’t directly apply to a family ranching operation. One of the concepts that does apply amazingly well, however, is worded in a lot of different ways. In essence, it is to set big goals (go big). Set goals that are beyond your current reach, that go beyond stretching your operation, that require entirely new skills, models, etc. 

Once that is done, then you have to transition from going big to going small. It is called focus—look for the one thing that will help you move toward that goal and focus on that. The more narrowly you can define your focus, the more quickly you move toward your goal. 

Because the day-to-day management has to get done, that one priority per day is probably all a small business can muster. Success is the only option for most small businesses, yet success in a small business tends to be sequential; small businesses just don’t have the structural advantages of larger businesses, so success tends to happen at a much slower pace. 

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Whether it’s a large enterprise or a small enterprise, we all still have the same challenges—align purpose and vision with priorities and execution to create results. For small business managers, however, it’s simply a more difficult challenge. What we need to do, what we can do and what we should do creates a to-do list that can never be fully marked off. But one focused task to help reach the bigger task every single day, that is something that can be scratched off. 

All these management books have a way of making small business managers feel inadequate, but we have one major advantage—big businesses spend a lot of time trying to build passion and ensure that the team is bought into the vision – that is almost a given. Our teams are smaller, but they tend to be made up of family who are passionate about businesses success and the long-term, which is exactly why small businesses are the ones that change the world.

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3 considerations for creep feeding your calves this summer

3 considerations for creep feeding your calves this summer

You’ve got calves on the ground, things are greening up, and you’re itching to get pairs moved to summer pastures. It’s not only time to start thinking about fixing fence, checking waterers, testing herd bulls, branding, and making breeding decisions — it’s also time to consider whether or not you’ll creep feed calves this summer.

Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension animal scientist, says that feed conversions of calves fed creep feed are quite variable and can range from the optimal 5:1 (5 pounds of grain consumed to 1 extra pound of calf weight) to the very poor 15:1 (or worse).

He offers three things to consider before filling the creep feeders this summer.

1. Lactation

​Selk writes, “Cows that give large amounts of milk to their calves will provide enough protein and energy to meet the growth potential of their calves. In that scenario, it is reasonable to assume that the feed conversion from creep feeding could be quite poor (10:1 or worse). If, however, the milk production of the cows is limited for any reason, then the added energy and protein from the creep feed provides needed nutrients to allow calves to reach closer to their genetic maximum capability for growth. Calves from poor milking cows may convert the creep feed at a rate of about 7 pounds of feed for each pound of additional calf weight.”

2. Drought

“Nutritional restriction due to drought situations often adversely affects milk production and therefore calf weaning weights,” says Selk. “Shortened hay supplies and reduced standing forage due to drought or severe winter weather often set the stage for the best results from creep feeding.”

3. Cost of gain

“As you are calculating the cost of creep feeds, remember to include the depreciation cost of the feeders and the delivery of the feed,” advises Selk. “Then of course, it is important to compare that cost of creep feeding to the realistic value of added gain. Although 500 pound steer calves may bring $1.80 per pound at the market, the value of added gain is currently about 80 cents per pound. Therefore, the estimated creep feeding cost per pound of added gain must be less than 80 cents for the practice to be projected to be profitable.”

Selk adds that creep feeding may be beneficial to calves from thin, young and less efficient cows rather than calves raised by mature, better conditioned cows producing more milk. Therefore, ranchers may conclude that some pastures will need creep feed and others might not.

Punch the numbers, be realistic in expected calf gains and weigh the pros and cons before filling the creep feeder this summer. With the uncertainty of the cattle markets, this decision could be more important this year than ever before.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or Penton Agriculture.


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Missouri beef producers shoot down state checkoff

Beef consumer
<p>The beef checkoff program helps assure consumers that beef is safe and wholesome.</p>

Earlier this week, Missouri beef producers defeated, by a substantial 75% no vote, a state beef checkoff. An effort has been underway in the state since December to establish a $1-per-head state checkoff in addition to the national $1-per-head assessment.

That result is both discouraging and unfortunate. That’s because the purchasing power of the $1 checkoff, established 30 years ago, has shrunk considerably and, in my opinion, the beef checkoff has produced incredible benefits for our business.

Do you remember where you were when you learned about the “cow that stole Christmas?” I do, vividly. I was communications director for the Texas Cattle Feeders Association and we were back home in Colorado for Christmas.  I first learned about it when a reporter called my cell phone as I was attempting to not get killed on I-25 driving through Denver.

We pulled over, my wife called her sister to come pick her up and I spent the rest of the day in the parking lot of a Safeway store alternately answering media questions and participating in conference calls as NCBA worked feverishly to provide its state affiliates with up-to-the-minute information.

That issues management and crisis management effort was very successful in assuring consumers that the beef supply in the U.S. was safe, and it was paid for with checkoff dollars.

That’s just one of many, many instances where the beef checkoff has been successful in making your life a lot better. So for checkoff detractors to say that the program has been a failure is, in my opinion, flat out untruthful.

Contrary to the Missouri vote, producers nationwide strongly support the beef checkoff by the same margin. In our weekly poll question on, we ask whether or not you support the beef checkoff. As of yesterday, when this was written, 72% say yes, 25% say no and 3% don’t know. The number of votes is small—312—so our poll is not scientific. But it’s instructive that it closely mirrors the results of the most recent national survey, which is.

Fourteen states have adopted a state-level checkoff program to supplement and enhance the national $1-per-head checkoff. It’s unfortunate that folks in Missouri chose not to join a growing number of their fellow beef producers in helping to ensure the future of the beef business.

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