Beef Magazine is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

California cattle producers beef up state’s cattle business

adamkaz / Getty Images Grass-fed beef cattle roaming on a large ranch in the Central Valley, California
Grass-fed beef cattle roaming on a large ranch in the Central Valley, California.

By Markie Hageman

March 22 is a date that California beef producers will long remember. That’s the day beef producers from across the state voted to pass Bill 965 to implement the California Cattle Council.

With the support of the California Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), the California Cattle Council Referendum passed with a 68% approval. The Cattle Council Referendum was a vote to determine if an additional mandatory $1.00 on the sale of live cattle should be assessed.

This dollar-per-head will help fund the Council, which was created as a way to help protect and defend producers in the state. As of April 5, 2019, the Secretary of Food and Agriculture declared the council as fully operative.

Butte County, California rancher, and past California Cattlemen’s Association President, Dave Daley was the chair of the Cattle Council Outreach Committee and said the CCA has been working to get this council up and running for the past three to four years. It all began with CCA members seeing a need to focus on issues producers face in the state.

With the help and support of Western United Dairymen and county cattlemen’s groups all over the state, the Cattle Council was created. Members from both associations were asked what they wanted the Council to focus on. From their responses, the priorities for the new Cattle Council will include: live cattle issues, refund provisions for those who don’t wish to support the Cattle Council, and other issues besides beef.

However, from the initial spark of the idea to getting it passed was no easy task. “We had to go through twice to get it (the referendum) done; we had to educate legislators. It took about two to two and a half years to get it signed by Governor Jerry Brown” Daley said.

“Animal rights groups tried to stop the bill from going through and there was opposition from legislators on both sides who didn’t want anything to do with promoting the cattle business.”

To get the referendum to a vote, CCA and Western United Dairymen educated legislators on the benefits of the council. But Daley stated that the ranchers had the ultimate decision. “We just set up a framework for producers to vote on the referendum if they wanted it.”

The ranchers didn’t disappoint, either. Four hundred ranchers and 30 county associations sent in letters of support for the referendum and multiple ranchers showed up on the hill to convince legislators to pass the bill.

Unlike the California Beef Council, which focuses on marketing and promotion of beef, the California Cattle Council is a separate entity that will focus on the live cattle issues important to California cattle producers. With its implementation, the Cattle Council will be able to use resources to promote and protect cattle production, as well as focus on production issues common to the state.

This includes hot-button issues such as fire, water and air quality. The council will also be able to fund research regarding these issues to educate regulators and legislators about the benefits of cattle production. Neither legal defense nor lobbying are allowed through the funding of the Council.

The mandatory $1.00 assessment will be required for all cattle sold in the state, both beef and dairy, but will exclude calves that are smaller than 250 pounds. This assessment will be collected at the time of sale by the brand inspector or at the sale barn. The key factor in this assessment is that producers who do not want to participate can ask for a full refund of the fees by submitting a claim to the council.

The council will have a board of directors to direct the group’s activities and select funding priorities. The board will be made up of 11 board seats and 11 alternates. These seats will be taken by producers from the state; any and all producers are eligible to serve.

These non-paid appointments to the Board will be made by the California Secretary of Agriculture and will come from all segments of the California cattle industry: 3 range cattle producers, 3 cattle feeders, 3 dairy producers, 1 processor/packer and 1 public member. Nominations are being accepted until May 22, 2019. Forms can be found on Once the board convenes, producers will send proposals for funding, and the board will vote to determine where their funding priorities will go.

The Cattle Council expects to bring in about $3 million per year and will put a significant amount of that money back into the cattle industry in California.

Hageman is a senior agribusiness student at Fort Hays State University with a special interest in the beef industry. 

Long-term impact of a few days

tntemerson/Getty Images cow and calf
REPRODUCE WELL: A well-defined breeding and calving season provides a better opportunity to survive the volatility of cattle prices and input costs.

By John F. Grimes

For spring-calving beef herds, the breeding season is underway, or soon will be. Many decisions have been made in terms of the genetic makeup of the 2020 calf crop. Natural herd sires or sires to be used through artificial insemination have been selected. Mature cows have been retained, and replacement heifers have been introduced to the breeding herd. Hopefully, the genetic decisions that have been made will prove profitable when next year’s calf crop is sold.

Reproduction is the most economically important trait in beef cattle for the cow-calf producer. Numerous studies have shown that reproduction is several times more important than growth or carcass traits. Simply put, genetic superiority in any trait does not matter if the beef female is not bred and does not deliver a live calf for the producer.

Regardless of the size and scope of your operation, or your preferred time of year to calve, there is little economic justification for a lengthy calving season. The arrival of breeding season for many herds seems like an appropriate time to revisit this issue. A 60-day breeding season is an ideal goal to shoot for, and I would recommend nothing longer than 90 days. If you are currently involved in a longer breeding season, there are valid economic and management reasons to make a change. It requires a little discipline, some rigid culling and a willingness to use technology and other resources available.

A joint study between Oklahoma State University and Texas A&M University found a positive relationship between number of days of the breeding season and the production cost per hundredweight of calf weaned. In addition, the study found a negative relationship between number of days of the breeding season and pounds of calf weaned per cow per year. The data suggested that for each day the breeding season was lengthened, the annual cost of producing 100 pounds of weaned calf increased by 4.7 cents, and pounds of calf weaned per cow per year decreased by 0.158 pounds.

The range of breeding seasons in the data set was from extremely short (less than one month) time periods to 365 days, or continuous presence of the bull. The trend lines that resulted from the analysis of the data give us an opportunity to evaluate the economic importance of a defined breeding season. The producer that leaves the bull out year-round (365 days) would sell 45.82 fewer pounds of calf per cow per year on the average than producers with a 75-day breeding season. That same producer would have $13.63 greater costs per hundredweight of weaned calf than the producer that used a 75-day breeding season. In this era of cost and price squeezes, a well-defined breeding and calving season provides a better opportunity to survive the volatility of cattle prices and input costs.

Consider fescue effect

Fescue is a common component of many Ohio pastures and those in surrounding states. While this cool-season grass has several beneficial production traits, endophyte is present in much of the fescue, and it that can result in reduced animal performance. The timing of the breeding season combined with endophyte-infected fescue pastures can have a huge impact on conception rates.

Research at the University of Kentucky demonstrated the impact of breeding dates on conception rates. Similar cows were separated into three breeding periods of 45 days each on high-endophyte fescue. Cows were exposed to bulls from April 21 to June 5, May 21 to July 6, and June 19 to Aug. 4. Conception rates were the highest in the early breeding group at 89%. The middle group achieved 78%, and the latest group had a pregnancy rate of only 59%. Rising temperatures as summer progresses, coupled with the endophyte that is present in most fescue pastures, likely contributed to that decreased performance.

The results of these two studies challenge traditional management decisions that I believe have been counterproductive for cow-calf production. Extending the breeding season to get more females bred is simply not practical or reasonable. The reality is that not all females are fertile, and some females may eventually be bred outside a targeted window or never become pregnant. Each scenario is very costly.

I have seen several beef and farm management specialists encourage cow-calf producers to match their calving season with the onset of pasture forage growth. On the surface, this concept may seem appealing. In Ohio, this would target a calving season in April and May, when temperatures are warming, moisture is typically plentiful and cool-season grass growth is at its highest level. If your pastures are comprised primarily of fescue, I would caution on adopting this strategy. The negative effects of endophyte-infected fescue are a large obstacle to achieving satisfactory reproduction rates when targeting later spring calving dates. 

A shorter calving season will eventually lead to greater efficiencies in reproduction rates. Palpate shortly after the conclusion of the breeding season, cull heifers and cows that do not conceive within your given calving season, and do not look back. Keep daughters of the cows that are bred early each calving season. If necessary, buy bred females that calve within your desired window to replace the open females. Implementation of these practices will certainly improve your herd’s reproductive performance over time.

Grimes is the Ohio State University Extension beef coordinator and a member of the OSU Extension Beef Team. The Beef Team publishes the weekly Ohio BEEF Cattle letter. See the letter at

The taxman cometh, but with a smaller bite

Jirapong Manustrong / Getty Images Taxes for ranchers

Not all provisions of the revised federal income tax code will benefit crop and livestock producers. But with changes to the “death tax,” most ranches will be protected from the old inheritance-robbing law that often forced families to sell part of their land just to satisfy Uncle Sam.

The death tax, or Estate Tax in true IRS terms, has long been a negative factor when a ranch owner dies. But in the Tax Cut and Jobs Act (TCJA), the Estate Tax exemption was doubled to $11 million per person, or $22 million per couple, said Paul Neiffer, a principal in the CliftonLarsonAllen accounting firm in Yakima, Wash. He addressed tax reform during a learning session at the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association convention in Fort Worth earlier this month.

The amount is indexed to rise with inflation over the next eight years. At the end of 2025, the provision expires and the law reverts back to the previous Estate Tax law. USDA indicates that after accounting for adjustments, deductions and exemptions, only 0.11% of farm estates would have had a tax liability under TCJA.

“If you’re a ranch family, you can easily get out of paying any estate tax,” Neiffer said. “This is a great opportunity to transfer assets to the next generation.”

TSCRA, NCBA and other state and regional cattle associations and farm groups have fought for years to obtain changes to the Death Tax law. They are pleased with changes seen in the TCJA. However, Farm Bureau notes, “if the exemption is allowed to revert back, more farms and ranches will be subject to estate taxes.

“And, as long as the exemption level is temporary, money must be spent on estate tax planning rather than on growing farm and ranch businesses.”

Permanent tax changes 

TCJA contains many permanent provisions that help farmers and ranchers. They include:

  • Section 179 Small Business Expensing increased to $1 million.
  • Indefinite carry forward of deductions indexed for inflation.
  • Depreciation for farm equipment shortened from seven to five years.
  • Corporate tax rate is now a flat 21%.

Neiffer said changes to Bonus Depreciation provisions should also benefit producers. “This will include 100% depreciation of everything purchased other than farmland,” he said, citing this example: “A rancher purchases $500,000 of used equipment, $350,000 of tiling (to facilitate drainage) and buys land with a machine shed worth $500,000. Under the old tax law, the rancher could only deduct $175,000 on the new tiling using 50% bonus depreciation.

“Under the new law, the rancher could fully depreciate all $1.35 million using 100% bonus depreciation, or he could elect out of bonus on any of the assets on an asset by asset basis.”

Neiffer said bonus depreciation will be phased out at 20% per year beginning in 2023, dropping to zero depreciation from 2027 and beyond.

For those ranch families that do not have large deduction amounts, the increase in the standard deduction from $12,000 to $24,000 for a married couple filing jointly should help ease the tax burden.

No matter what, the use of a trusted CPA, tax attorney and/or family planner will likely be essential, Neiffer said.

What will fake meat companies do next?

Link - memphis meats chicken_0_0.jpg

This week, I have been busy preparing my presentation for the “ONE19: The Alltech Ideas Conference,” which is scheduled for May 19-21 in Lexington, Ky.

I was invited to speak at the event on the topic of emerging alternative protein products. My speech is titled, “Alternative Meats vs. All Beef: Who’s Really More Environmentally Friendly?”

A synopsis of my presentation reads: “Consumers are growing more and more environmentally conscious, and many have started to experiment with meat-free options. From the plant-based Impossible Burger to burgers made entirely of tissue-cultured meat, are these really the ‘alternative meats of the future?’ What does this mean for the beef industry, and which option is actually better for the environment?”

I have followed this closely over the years, but it’s really become a hot topic in the last year. I often stress that beef producers aren’t afraid to handle a little competition in the meat case.

What we don’t want to see is outright lies being spread about our industry (clean meat anyone?). Nor do we want these products to be labeled, inspected, stamped and treated the same as traditionally-raised meat.

Yet, it’s hard to deny that more Americans want to give meatless diets a try, for one reason or another. And cell-cultured protein companies are creating a product that makes consumers feel like they are doing something beneficial for animals and the environment.

In my speech, I hope to flip the coin on these discussions and showcase why today’s beef producers are doing a tremendous job of efficiently producing more beef while also using fewer natural resources when compared to production levels from the 1970s.

More than that, these cell-cultured protein companies, in their efforts to appeal to the eco-conscious, downplay the massive use of natural resources and energy in their own production models.

All that aside, I’m keeping a close eye on these companies and what moves they are making as they work to enter the marketplace.

As I prepare slides for my upcoming presentation, I stumbled upon a few recent headlines that are worth sharing on today’s blog. Here is what’s up in fake meat news:

1. “Del Taco’s newest “meat” taco is 100% meatless” by Sigal Samuel for Vox

Samuel writes, “Just two weeks after Burger King announced it was partnering with Impossible Foods to offer a new meatless burger, Del Taco has announced it’s partnering with Beyond Meat to offer new meatless tacos.

“The partnership is further evidence that plant-based meat is going mainstream, and fast. Startups like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are racing to team up with traditionally meat-focused restaurant chains that can introduce plant-based meat to a wide consumer base.”

2. “Virgin Atlantic removes beef and palm oil from flight menus” by Kat Smith for Live Kindly

Smith writes, “Sir Richard Branson’s international airline Virgin Atlantic, with flights from the UK, North America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, has been removing ingredients deemed unsustainable such as beef, unsustainable palm oil, and soy from in-flight menus. The initiative is part of the company’s ongoing partnership with the non-profit organization the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA).

“The billionaire Branson believes that animal agriculture will soon be a thing of the past and has blogged about how the Netflix movie ‘Okja’ led to his decision to give up beef. He is also an investor in clean meat startup, Memphis Meats.”

3. “The coming obsolescence of animal meat” by Olga Khazan for The Atlantic

Khazan says, “Animal meat is a habit that many young Americans are ready to abandon. A quarter of 25-to-34-year-old Americans now say they are vegans or vegetarians, prompting The Economist to proclaim 2019 ‘the year of the vegan.’ Burger King this month introduced a Whopper made with a plant-based Impossible patty. True, chicken grown in a bioreactor like Just’s is still animal, not vegetable; but without the factory-farming component, some vegetarians and vegans might be inclined to love their chickens and eat them too.”

Have you seen any recent headlines on this topic to share? Email me at [email protected] Also, if you happen to be in Kentucky next month, consider adding ONE19: The Alltech Ideas Conference to your schedule. I would love to have some BEEF readers in the audience.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or Farm Progress.

Meat Market Update | Grilling demand fires up prices

The weekly average Choice cutout -- which includes all types of sales, including the daily Choice cutout -- was $226.19, $0.96 higher. The Choice cutout is following the daily cutout, but at a much slower pace, which is normal because of the moderating effect of the formula sales. The weekly average Choice cutout now is almost $14 higher than last year and is being helped by the increasing prices for Choice rib and loin products for the grilling season. 

The weekly average Choice rib primal and Choice loin primal were $5-6 higher. They are starting a turnaround for grilling now and well above the last couple of years.     

MORNING Midwest Digest, April 17, 2019

Max is in the heartland reporting on flood damage.

In South Bend, Ind., bells at the Basilica of Sacred Heart of Notre Dame church rang out in support of the Notre Dame in Paris.

Twice in two days people have been killed at railroad crossings in Iowa.

The Missouri state attorney general would like to hear from you if you're an opioid user.

Granger is a big name across the Midwest. And will now be on a building at University of Illinois.

A Wisconsin man bet $85,000 on Tiger Woods to win, and won $1.2 million.


Photo: Pamela Wolff/Getty Images

Farm Progress America, April 17, 2019

Max Armstrong shares insight on African Swine Fever, a disease that only affects animals, but the illness is devastating to swine herds. Max offers a look at the impact of the disease on Chinese pork production, which may take out more than 20% of the country’s herd. The disease has spread to Vietnam, and in Europe there’s a problem with wild pigs (but not commercial herds).

Farm Progress America is a daily look at key issues in agriculture. It is produced and presented by Max Armstrong, veteran farm broadcaster and host of This Week in Agribusiness.

Photo: deyanarobova/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Fed Cattle Recap | And the beat goes on


Now that we’re well into April, will typical seasonal patterns hold for the rest of spring and summer? That’s an important question since this year has thrown some mighty nasty sinkers and sliders as beef producers try to bat cleanup. 

So far, packers have been able to hold their leverage and have plenty of cattle around them. Whether or not the after-effects of an incredibly nasty winter kick in to shift market leverage still remains to be seen.

Looking at volume, the Five Area formula sales volume totaled 231,157 head for the week ending April 13, compared with about 231,955 the previous week. The Five Area total cash steer and heifer volume was slightly higher at 68,097 head, compared with about 69,406 head the previous week. 

Nationally reported forward contract cattle harvest was about 54,000 head for the week. The packers have 305,000 head for April and have used a little over 100,000 head the first two weeks, so they have almost 100,000 head per week to work through for the last two weeks of April. Also keep in mind that most weeks have included 6,000-8,000 head of imported live fed cattle from Canada compared with 3,000-5,000 head per week earlier last year.

National cash sales included 11,783 head of 15- to 30-day delivery and about 15,855 head the previous week. 

April 16 price graph.png

Now looking at prices, the weekly weighted average cash steer price for the week ending April 13 for the Five Area region was $126.19 per cwt, compared with $125.30 the previous week, 89 cents higher for the week.  

The weighted average cash dressed steer price for the Five Area region was $204.91 per cwt, compared with $204.41 the previous week, which was 50 cents higher.

The Five Area weighted average formula price was $202.33 per cwt, compared with $204.90 the previous week, making it $2.57 lower.

The estimated weekly total federally inspected cattle harvest was 638,000 head and that compares with 611,000 head the same week last year. During the last four weeks, it has been 77,000 head higher than last year.

The latest average national steer carcass weight for the week ending March 30 was 865 pounds, 1 pound lower than the previous week and compared to 872 pounds the same week last year.                         

The Choice-Select spread was $7.73 on Friday, compared with $6.65 the previous week and a $12.70 spread last year.  


Cattlemen's Beef Board names Hanes as new CEO

johnrandallalves/iStock/Getty Images cattle drive in western U.S.

The Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion & Research Board (CBB) has named Gregory Hanes of Colorado as its new chief executive officer, effective June 17, 2019.

“Knowledge of beef producers and the overall beef industry is a must in this role,” noted Chuck Coffey, CBB chairman from Davis, Okla. “Greg is well regarded – both here in the U.S. and abroad – for his background and understanding of promoting beef and building industry relationships.”

CBB is the body that oversees the beef checkoff and works very closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, state beef councils, contractors, beef industry leaders and cattle producers. As a result, the person who serves as the board’s operational leader needs to function in many different roles and in many environments. According to Coffey, Hanes fits that description very well.

“Greg is extremely talented, with a diversified skill set,” Coffey said. “He already has knowledge of the beef checkoff, and he’s an outstanding public speaker who clearly articulates his message, has a great work ethic and is a team builder at all levels. Most importantly, he is passionate about the beef industry. The Cattlemen’s Beef Board is elated to have him as part of the team.”

Hanes comes to CBB from the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) in Denver, Colo., where he most recently was vice president of international marketing programs and led the marketing team through global strategic planning processes. Hanes also served as USMEF's liaison to the beef industry and worked closed with a variety of national and state beef organizations. From 2006 to 2009, he was director of the USMEF office based in Tokyo, Japan, where he was responsible for all activities occurring in Japan. During his time in that role, Hanes lived in Japan for nearly 11 years. Throughout his time overseas, he was the only foreigner in a Japanese company and he held an additional position with responsibilities across Asia.

Hanes currently serves as chair of the U.S. Agricultural Export Development Council, a group comprised of 80 U.S. commodity trade associations, farmer cooperatives and state regional trade groups from around the country that represents the interests of growers and processors of U.S. agricultural products.

In addition to a master’s degree in international management with an emphasis in marketing from the Thunderbird School of Management at Arizona State University in Phoenix, Ariz., Hanes also holds a bachelor's degree in economics from Colorado College. Hanes was born and raised in Cheyenne, Wyo.

Let branding season begin

Cathy Wright 56877148_2288547894525454_285220849617731584_n.jpg

Every ranch has a story. Every piece of land has a history. Every barn holds a memory. Every family member involved enriches the stories, history and memories of the ranch. Every cow has an impact on the sustainability of the multi-generation business.

And every brand placed on the hide of an animal represents the reputation and legacy of the ranching outfit.

It’s branding season, especially in Western states as well as across the country, where friends and families gather together on the ranch to brand and work calves before the summer grazing season begins.

At Van Newkirk Herefords in Oshkosh, Neb., it’s an annual event that everyone looks forward to.

“This year, God blessed us with beautiful weather, great help and lots of fun for branding day,” said Cyndi Van Newkirk, who prepared enough food to accommodate the 65+ guests who visited the ranch that day. “There’s just something wonderful about gathering together, working hard, and then taking part of an afternoon to totally enjoy fellowship with friends and neighbors. For many it was their ‘first day off’ since Christmas.”

With all the fun and fellowship of a traditional branding day, there are also unwritten rules for who is in charge of what.

Naomi Loomis, of the Circle L Ranch in Alliance, Neb., recently tackled this subject in a blog post titled, “Branding etiquette.”

Loomis writes, “There is an etiquette in every culture and the branding corral is without exception. Some rules are spoken, some unspoken.

“I will never forget my first Nebraska branding. I was amazed how well people respected each other, the traditions that had been passed on and just the amazing feeling of being there.”

Based on her experiences, Loomis lists the unwritten branding rules, which may differ from ranch to ranch:

1. The owner brands the calves.

“It’s the top job,” she says. “The owner is the boss. They also delegate who should rope and for how long. They also delegate who should cut and give shots. Always wait to be asked to do your job.”

2. It’s an honor to be asked to rope at a branding.

“You should respect the other ropers,” she advises. “Help them out. Dragging one calf with two roped back feet is better than dragging five with one back leg. Take your time. If you can, pull your calf to the wrestlers closest to the branding pot, so branders don’t have to walk so far. If you high hock a calf, try to get the rope down.”

3. The brander gets first dibs on a calf.

“They have the hot iron which cools quickly. Shots and cutting can wait,” she says.

4. You are expected to wrestle at branding if you can.

“You should not ever let your calf up until he is done,” she writes. “Watch for the ropers, don’t stand in their way.”

5. Leave your colts and dogs at home.

6. Bring something to share at lunch.

She says, “It is a nice gesture to bring something to the branding for lunch — usually a salad or dessert. Remember that the men and women who helped in the branding corral eat first. And make sure you thank the lady of the house for lunch.”

7. Your kids are your responsibility.

Loomis says, “You are in charge of your own kids at branding. If you want to rope or help out, then make sure you have someone to watch them if they are not old enough to help themselves. It would be disrespectful to expect, or even ask the ladies preparing lunch, to watch them.

What else would you add to this list? What do you love most about branding season? What does your brand mean to you? What are some of your best branding day memories? And if you’re like my outfit and don’t have a brand, you can also share what your ranch name or breed registration prefix represents? I would love to learn more about your operations!

Share your stories with me on BEEF’s Facebook page or by emailing me at [email protected]

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or Farm Progress.