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Articles from 2010 In May

Never Forget

memorial_day_comment_graphic_08.gif Today is a day of remembrance. Four years ago on this day, I spent Memorial Day at a parade in Washington, D.C., a city bursting with patriotism and pride. Each Memorial Day since, I always reflect upon that day, when we honor veterans of war, the heroes who have served our country. And, while we can't all be sitting on the streets of D.C. watching a Memorial Day parade, we can each spend the day praying for and thanking the brave men and women who have served our country. Today, forget the cattle markets, don't worry about that extra fence that needs fixing and simply remember those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. Happy Memorial Day to all. Let us never forget...

Memorial Day Poem by Michelle Keim

As we stand here looking

At the flags upon these graves

Know these flags represent

A few of the true American brave

They fought for their Country

As man has through all of time

Except that these soldiers lying here

Fought for your country and mine

As we all are gathered here

To pay them our respect

Let's pass this word to others

It's what they would expect

I'm sure that they would do it

If it were me or you

To show we did not die in vain

But for the red, white and blue.

Read the entire poem, link here.

Are you a patriotic cattle producer wanting to promote the beef cattle industry and thank the troops? Check out the good work the All-American Beef Battalion has been doing to give a steak to a soldier for their service to our country.

Selecting Summer Annual Forage Grasses

Are you planning to plant a summer annual grass, maybe to boost cattle numbers or to build hay supply? Which one will you plant? It can be confusing because there are six different types of major summer annual forage grasses, sudangrass, sorghum-sudan hybrids, forage sorghum (which we often call cane or sorgo), foxtail millet, pearl millet, and teff. Each one has its own strengths and weaknesses. So base your choice primarily on how you plan to use it.

For example, do you want pasture? Then use sudangrass or pearl millet. Both are leafy, they regrow rapidly, and they contain less danger from prussic acid poisoning than other annual grasses.

To read the entire article, link here.

Yellowstone Proposes Shooting Bison With Vaccine

Yellowstone National Park officials have proposed using air rifles to vaccinate bison to try to reduce the chance the animals could spread a disease to cattle.

The disease is brucellosis, which causes infected wildlife and cattle to abort their young. Bison and elk in the Yellowstone region both carry brucellosis, and about half of the bison in Yellowstone are believed to have been exposed to it.

Yellowstone is seeking public comments over the next two months on a plan to use air rifles to shoot bison with projectiles carrying brucellosis vaccine.

To read the entire article, link here.

Cattle Producers Best People on Earth

Bruce Berven is retiring as executive vice president of the Iowa Cattlemen's Association at a time when things are looking up for the beef industry.

The deep recession of the past few years hurt beef demand, which was reflected in cattle prices. This resulted in negative returns in the cattle feeding sector for a couple of years.

Recently cattle prices have improved, and consumer demand is growing.

"I think people are saying, 'We like beef and we're going to consume the product we like," Berven said.

To read the entire article, link here.

Meat Matters

Walmart Raises The Bar On Food Safety

The E. coli “season” is upon the industry again; it rolls around each summer when shedding spikes for still unknown scientific reasons. Many are holding their breath there won’t be a corresponding spike in positives in meat samples and resulting recalls, as was seen the past two years.

Food safety and demand are the beef industry’s biggest issues. The two are strongly linked, as the 1993 Jack-in-the-Box E. coli O157:H7 tragedy showed.

Beef recalls in the following decade cost the industry $1.6 billion in lost demand, according to Kansas State University agricultural economist Ted Schroeder. An even larger amount was likely lost in the past seven years due to E. coli recalls and concerns about BSE.

The demand impact is the biggest financial cost to the industry. But other costs have arguably impacted the industry more. The Jack-in-the-Box tragedy set off a series of regulatory and other actions that cost beef packers and further processors huge amounts of money.

These included the introduction of hazard analysis critical control points (HACCP) regulations for all plants. These additional food safety costs have been the main reason for packer consolidation since the early 1990s. And, as beef end users continue to require more food safety assurances from their suppliers, there will be even more consolidation.

The added costs have been extensive. The top 10 packers from 1993 to 2003 spent $400 million introducing pathogen-intervention systems in their plants. They spent another $250 million in increased operating costs. Added spending by the next 20 packers was another $100 million. Recall costs in the decade added another $100 million to packers’ costs. That’s $850 million in just a decade. These numbers come from a special study of the cost of E. coli that I conducted in late 2002. BSE since 2004 has also cost beef packers an additional $100 million annually in removal of additional specified risk materials.

Not included in my E. coli analysis was the cost – either on live-cattle prices or on local communities – of plant closures. My research reveals that at least 18 fed-cattle plants and 23 cow-slaughter plants closed from 1995 to the end of 2009. They represented 37,700 head of daily slaughter capacity. Then there are the closures of dozens of small further processing plants. Food safety costs were a common factor.

That’s why an announcement last month by Wal-Mart Stores, the largest beef seller in the U.S., is so important. The giant retailer says it will implement additional safety measures to further protect its customers against foodborne illnesses.

The measures will require its beef suppliers to implement validated food safety interventions that result in reductions in E. coli O157:H7, other E. coli strains and Salmonella. Beef slaughter suppliers will have to implement interventions that eventually result in a 5-log reduction in pathogens. Processing suppliers must implement interventions that result in a 2-log reduction.

Many of Wal-Mart’s beef suppliers already do what Wal-Mart is asking. But a few smaller suppliers will likely have to improve their food safety interventions and/or their validation processes. The real impact of Wal-Mart’s action is that it will raise the food safety bar for everyone who buys and sells beef in the U.S. There will likely be similar measures quietly introduced by other major retailers, who won’t want to be seen as having inferior food safety standards to Wal-Mart’s.

On top of this move are legislative and other efforts to expand food safety requirements that appear laudable in intent but would add costs. For example, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) wants six additional strains of E. coli, known as non-O157 STECs, to be included as hazardous adulterants. These would require testing by packers and USDA.

All these developments will continue to impact small beef processors’ ability to stay in business. So the industry will likely see another round of plant closures. That’s the real cost of food safety.
-- Steve Kay (

I'm From The Government And I'm Here To Help

“I'm from the government and I'm here to help.” Sadly everyone instantly understands the irony in this statement. It’s a classic oxymoron. Today, this statement is far more than a punch line; it represents the two world views that increasingly define nearly every political debate we are having.

Those who don't believe governmental control and regulation are the answer to every problem should be in crisis mode. They simply don't know how to deal with the situation effectively. Proponents of statism – the concentration of economic controls and planning in the hands of a highly centralized government often extending to government ownership of industry – not only understand this but are actively creating these crises in order to advance their agenda.

The credit crisis, housing crisis, global warming, Wall Street, Greece, and the list goes on and on, are all crises that must be dealt with. Once a crisis occurs, whether real or perceived, then government has carte blanche to act.

The worst oil catastrophe in the history of the U.S. certainly qualifies as a real crisis. And, it’s understandable that we need to take action to try and prevent it from happening again. Still, we all know how this will play out.

First, the government will have to assign blame. Every bureaucrat with a big enough title to serve as a fall person is running for cover. Once blame is assigned, government will then act, which translates to addressing far more than the actual problem.

Interestingly, the industry being put under more regulation often will be supportive because it understands that change is inevitable. In the process, it will win concessions that, in effect, raise barriers to entry, thus making the additional costs bearable.

The result is that government gains power and the consumer will end up paying greatly for what amounts to being a negligible reduction in risk.

Building Wildlife-Friendly Fences

Every year, thousands of big game animals and birds die of injuries caused by fences. However, as a new Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) publication explains, it’s possible to build effective fences that meet the needs of landowners and minimize harm to wildlife.

The new publication, "Fencing with Wildlife in Mind," explains how to build a variety of wildlife-friendly fences, and includes instructions on how to construct enclosures around areas to exclude wildlife. When properly built, fences can allow wildlife to move through an area, both in their normal daily movements and in seasonal migration patterns.

The best fences for wildlife are highly visible to large animals and birds; allow wildlife to jump over or crawl under them; and do not block access to important habitats and travel corridors.

Primary recommendations for wildlife-friendly fencing are:

  • The top wire or rail should be smooth and 42 in. or less from the ground.
  • At least 12 in. should be left between the two top wires.
  • The bottom post or wire should be smooth and at least 16 in. off the ground.
  • Fence design should be varied, with some lower sections included to allow for easy crossings at some areas.
  • A high-visibility wire or flagging should be used to provide visual markers for animals.
"Many landowners provided us with their innovative designs for use in the publication," said Ken Morgan, private lands coordinator for the DOW. "Their suggestions help to show other landowners that these designs work in the real world. “

“Fencing with Wildlife in Mind" can be found
Editor’s note: For grazing guru Jim Gerrish’s thoughts on wildlife fencing, see “Wildlife-Friendly Fencing” at
-- Colorado DOW release

Some Ins & Outs On Mob Grazing

Ultra-high stock density grazing, also called mob grazing, is a practice where a large concentration of animals are restricted to graze a small area, usually for a very short period of time. While there’s no strict definition on the size of herd or smallness of the area, some folks suggest at least 300,000 lbs. of animals/acre, or about 200 cow-calf pairs/acre, 1,000 pairs on five acres, or 50 pairs on a quarter acre. A few mob grazing experts have gone more than three times higher, to more than 1 million lbs. of animal/acre, says Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska Extension forage specialist.

“Obviously, this mob of animals usually will finish grazing all the available forage in just a few hours. So it’s not unusual to move them to a fresh area to graze several times a day. Or even eight or more times per day if you’re pushing 1 million lbs./acre,” he says.

What also happens is that nearly everything in that small area is either eaten or trampled, including weeds and less palatable grasses. So more of the total biomass grown gets used as feed or is recycled back into the soil litter, Anderson says. Plus, manure gets distributed very evenly and is trampled into the soil, improving soil fertility.

“Last year was the first time I tried mob grazing for a lengthy time. I started again this year a couple weeks ago. Both times I received a relatively heavy rain within a couple days of starting. The looks and the response of the pasture to mob grazing is quite different under wet compared to under dry conditions,” Anderson says.

He adds that he hasn’t advanced to the 1 million lbs. of animal/acre level yet, but he is pushing 500,000 lbs., for which he moves the herd 2-4 times/day.

“I learned quickly that it’s easy to move the animals. Cows aren’t dumb. When they’re out of grass and they see someone coming, they know they’re going to get some fresh pasture and they better come quick or the other cows will have it gone before they get there.”

However, Anderson says he doesn’t like what he sees of mob grazing under wet conditions.

“With ultra-high stock density grazing on clay loam soils like I have, pasture quickly becomes a muddy mess. Mud gets on what once was good grass and animals refuse to eat it. After a couple hours the whole area looks like a mud hole,” he says.

His pasture is mostly brome, bluegrass, orchardgrass, alfalfa, and clover. He says he noticed last year that badly muddied areas recovered much slower than nearby drier spots.

“Interestingly, alfalfa was the fastest to recover. We worry about damage to alfalfa when grazing on soft, wet soil but maybe damage was minimal because animals were there only a few hours,” Anderson says.

He also reports his surprise that brome seems to be hurt the most by grazing in such conditions. “It took over 90 days for brome to look ready to graze again last year, and this year I see that the brome stand is thinner in those same areas,” Anderson says.
-- Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska Extension forage specialist

Trichomoniasis Causing Concern In Oklahoma

Several generations of Oklahoma cattlemen grew up with the reality of required Bangs testing of their breeding stock at change of ownership. In 2009, however, required brucellosis testing at sale barns ended.

But, Oklahoma cattlemen are now faced with an emerging reproductive disease in cattle that may once again require testing of breeding stock at change of ownership – trichomoniasis (commonly called trich), says Dave Sparks, Oklahoma State University Extension food animal quality and health specialist.

Trich is a protozoal disease spread among cowherds by venereal contact. It shows up as various infertility problems including open cows, late calves, abortions and uterine infections. In time, infected cows often develop sufficient immunity to conceive and carry a calf to term, but the immunity is short-lived and, if exposed to an infected bull again next year, the problem repeats itself.

One bull can infect a few cows, which infect several bulls, which infect many more cows, Sparks says. If undetected, the problem is usually much worse in the second year. Bulls are carriers of the disease and most bulls, especially those over 2-3 years of age, are carriers for life. Slaughter of infected bulls is the only way to prevent the spread of the disease.

Sparks says trich isn’t a new disease, but it’s becoming much more common, thanks to easier movement of bulls, leasing bulls, and purchasing non-virgin bulls.

“Oklahoma currently has regulations for bulls being brought in from out of state,” Sparks says. “The legislature is also considering new regulations that would require testing whenever Oklahoma bulls change hands.”

Sparks says the extent of trich infection in Oklahoma isn’t known, but when Texas started mandatory testing of bulls at change of ownership, it found about a 3% rate of positive tests. Most authorities expect the numbers to be similar in Oklahoma.

“This is a disease we will be hearing much more about in the months to come, so take advantage of opportunities to educate yourself,” he adds. “If your herd’s number comes up in the disease lottery, it will be a very big problem for you.”

Editor’s note: For more on trichomoniasis, see “Tracking Trich” at Or, read what the Noble Foundation has to say on the topic at
-- OSU Cow-Calf Corner


Press Release - CCG & EBS Working Together

Camp Cooley Genetics and Elgin Breeding Service have had a close working relationship for years. We are proud to announce the expansion of that relationship. Effective immediately EBS will be responsible for the semen collection from all of our bulls. After serious consideration and reviewing all of the opportunities, we came to the decision which will offer us and our customers numerous benefits of working with the established and professional team at EBS. We urge all of our customers to join us in this very beneficial relationship and move all your custom semen collection to EBS.

Elgin Breeding Service was founded by Dr. WH Cardwell in 1954. Since that time, EBS has grown into one of the largest and most experienced custom semen collection companies in the world. EBS is a CSS certified facility that is family owned and managed. Three generations, with Hillary Voelker as manager of EBS/WEST, are involved with the company.

Elgin Breeding Service is dedicated to semen collection and storage. One of the many benefits of bulls collected by EBS is their commitment to year-around collection. EBS/WEST is situated at a cool, dry 7,000 foot altitude giving bulls an ideal environment for summertime semen collection. This location is also CSS certified to allow for collection of semen for sale in the international markets.

When you need to collect bulls, purchase or market semen, nothing has changed. Camp Cooley Genetics will organize for our customers the bull collection and semen storage at EBS. We will continue to market both our Camp Cooley Genetics' semen and that of our customers.