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Articles from 2012 In May

Opinion: EPA Continues To Grow More Orwellian

Opinion: EPA Continues To Grow More Orwellian

Recent comments from Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials talking about “crucifying” business owners as a way of sending a message, as well as the news that EPA has been performing flyovers over feedlots, doesn’t come as any surprise to anyone who’s dealt with the agency in recent years. After all, EPA views business in the same light that the U.S. Department of Justice’s Drug Enforcement Administration sees drug smugglers. As a result, EPA seems to believe its use of the same types of tactics is more than justified.

We haven’t gotten to the point where cattlemen are holding their meetings at night in the middle of cornfields, hoping to have frank conversations free from government eavesdropping. Nor have we seen feedlots begin to cover their operations in camouflage to avoid the spying eyes of satellites and planes.

But it’s sad that the fact that we have nothing to hide and are obeying the laws of the land doesn’t mean that the next time we see a plane or unmanned drone fly overhead, that it could be our own government spying on us. I remember years ago reading George Orwell’s “1984” and Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” and thinking how scary it would be to live in such societies. I was convinced back then that it could never happen here. Today, however, we all should reread those books just to gain a better understanding of the world in which we now live.

Solutions Begin With Asking The Right Question

Solutions Begin With Asking The Right Question

One of the books that changed the way I look at the world was “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell, which examines the factors that create success. One of his points was that to become truly proficient at a skill, you need 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. I believe this to be the case, but that level of commitment also means that only a select few will ever become excellent at even one thing.

So, what does that mean for people in businesses like ranching, where folks are expected to have expertise in as many as 10 fields? It means we will have to rely heavily on outside experts, and hone our ability to ask the right question.

Albert Einstein once said that if he had an hour to solve a problem and his life depended on the solution, he’d spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask. “For once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes,” he explained.

If I’m to be honest with myself, I’d have to say that, as a manager, I’ve often spent too much time coming up with solutions to problems, and too little time analyzing the problem and framing it in a way that ensures that I’m focused on finding the solution to the right problem.

As Partisanship Grows, Ag Will Lose Clout

As Partisanship Grows, Ag Will Lose Clout

Agriculture has always taken pride in the fact that it was one area that experienced very little partisan wrangling. Everyone needs to eat; everyone benefits from a safe, wholesome and vibrant agricultural economy; and domestic food production is a national security issue, as well.

However, that non-partisan atmosphere has been quickly eroding, as election maps show rural America becoming more red, and urban America becoming more blue. That isn’t to say that there’s necessarily a conflict between urban and rural America when it comes to good farm policy, but rather that there is more opportunity for political opportunism as a result.

This may be especially acute this year. Not only is it an election year, but we increasingly are being forced to face economic reality. This country simply can’t continue to spend far more than we take in. We must dramatically reduce spending, and that means new alignments based on priorities.

It’s important to remember that the biggest line items in USDA’s budget have little to do with production, but rather fund programs like food stamps/welfare and conservation. Throw in the fact that the ag sector has been doing much better than the general economy (which might be a long-term trend), and ag policy and budgeting have the potential to become as partisan and politically driven as any issue.

What does that mean for producers? It’s simple; our voice in ag policy formation will continue to be minimized, and whenever we fail to speak with one voice, we are at the risk of seeing significant policy changes. Nobody expects this to be the year for major changes in the areas of livestock marketing, ethanol production, producer payment programs, or even welfare and conservation programs. Rather, we can expect more subtle changes in priorities and at least a reduction in the growth of spending.

Ag interests are at the table and are still being listened to, but if ag policy continues to become more partisan, we can expect these debates to heat up and our influence on ag policy to continue to wane. With a growing world population to feed, and with American producers expected to lead the way in accomplishing that task, one would expect it would be difficult to muster support for serious changes.

It can be argued that American ag subsidizes every other U.S. industry by increasing the amount of income available to spend on other necessities and elective products. But unless the day comes when people can’t take the success of American agriculture for granted, we’ll continue to be a minor concern in the context of the broader political debate.

With $16 trillion in federal debt and climbing, the bottom line is that we can’t keep robbing Peter to pay Paul; eventually Peter will run out of money. Don’t let the quietness of this year’s farm bill lull us into a false sense of security. Ag policy has always been rooted in what is becoming the largest debate our country faces, and that is whether government should control production practices, the market and, ultimately, prices; or should we let the free market, capitalism, and the entrepreneurial spirit be the drivers?

As this clash in world views grows, ag policy will move more and more to the front lines. With it will come an increase in political maneuvering and posturing.

Know Your People; Know Yourself

Know Your People; Know Yourself

“It’s not about the doin’; it’s about the communication of what needs done.”

That’s how Chris Reinhardt, Kansas State University Extension feedlot specialist, boils down the role of a manager or supervisor. While that’s intrinsically obvious, he says your efforts at employee communication are just words if you don’t motivate employees to be better tomorrow than they were today.

To do that, he says, you have to cut the “noise” that surrounds what you say and how you say it – noise that creates a language barrier between you and your people. “This isn’t about Spanish vs. English,” Reinhardt says. “This is about the language that person wants to hear in terms of speaking to who they are.”

There are two critical steps in damping the noise that surrounds your communication. “In order to understand this language barrier, who this other person might be, you’ve got to understand who you are first. You’ve got to define who you are, what your hot buttons are, what drives you to get out of bed on Monday morning.”

Then, you have to listen to your employees, so you can understand who they are. “You can’t know your people if you don’t listen. And the only way to listen to them is to spend time with them.”

As you’re doing that, try to listen between the words to determine what type of person each employee is. Reinhardt says an easy way to look at that is to think about four major personality types defined by the acronym DISC.

  • D is for someone whose primary driver is dominance. This person is assertive about their opinions and their ideas.
  • The high I person prefers to be an influencer. They like to be part of the team, and are very social people.
  • S is for steadiness. High S people tend to be patient, predictable, thoughtful and deliberate.
  • The high C person thrives on compliance and prefers structure and organization. They’re accurate, exacting and precise.

Most managers are D-type people – no nonsense, get it done types. And a high D person tends to be very low in S-type characteristics. Likewise, a high S person tends to be low on D-type traits. Here’s how that comes into play in a feedyard:

A high S maintenance manager has a high D person for a boss. A feed truck has been broken down for a week. The high D boss comes in and says “I need that feed truck rolling at 5 a.m. tomorrow. I don’t care what you have to do, we need that truck.”

“The high D boss didn’t do anything wrong,” Reinhardt says. “He did what comes naturally to him. He genuinely needs the truck ready at 5 a.m., and he was clear about that.”

But what high S heard is “you don’t know anything about my job or my life. You don’t care about how I work.” That’s the noise Reinhardt talks about. “High S will bust his tail and be there until 2 a.m. to get the thing running,” Reinhardt says, even if he has to miss his son’s ball game that evening.

“But in the process, if the high D boss didn’t know what he did, he created a wedge between him and the high S guy. He might have gotten his outcome, but if I’m a high S guy and you’re driving me nuts, I’m updating my resume,” Reinhardt says.

There are ways a high D boss can motivate employees to get the job done without alienating them, but the boss has to be flexible and versatile and couch his words in less-demanding tones. People are different, Reinhardt says, and the only way you’re going to know that is to care enough to know. By knowing who you are and knowing who your employees are, you can structure your approach so employees hear the intended message and don’t hear the unintended message, he adds.

That means you have to cross the bridge to your employees. “If we’re burning them up, if we’re not hearing the language they want to communicate in, we’re going to lose good people,” Reinhardt says.

For more on DISC personality types, visit For more on the Myers & Briggs, visit

Food Animal Veterinarians Dwindling, Report Says

Food Animal Veterinarians Dwindling, Report Says

The veterinary profession is losing its presence in food animal production and care. That’s one of five conclusions that a committee empanelled in 2007 to assess the current and future workforce needs in veterinary medicine reached as it investigated the changing dynamics of the veterinary profession.

According to the report, the American Veterinary Medical Association reported that 531 graduates of the class of 1989 entered food animal practice. In 2009, that number was 209 – a 62% drop. The decline was attributed to the economy and a decrease in the availability of jobs in food animal practice.

“There is great pressure to increase the number of graduates going into food animal practice,” the report says, “but the profession may first need to consider the nature of the opportunities that are available and the education needed by food animal veterinarians.”

According to Alan Kelly, committee chair and University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine professor emeritus, food animal veterinary medicine is shifting to mixed animal practices. That can have consequences, he says, not the least of which is less understanding of the complexities of food animal health and public health. “For the profession, this is an unacceptable risk,” he says.

Using figures that show a decline in membership in organizations like the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, Kelly says, “This raises the question of whether mixed food animal clinicians are able to keep abreast of the technical advances and needs of a consolidated livestock industry.”

Kelly says that, as the size of livestock operations increases, producers are shifting more animal health care to lay practitioners who have become familiar with routine animal healthcare needs. “However, this system carries the danger that uncommon symptoms of disease may be missed, leading to delays in reporting (a disease outbreak) and initiation of control measures. This can have national repercussions,” he says.

To make food animal veterinary care relevant and useful to producers, the committee recommends that the education of food animal practitioners should be reoriented toward production medicine, herd health and welfare, and interventions aimed at improving the financial health of the farming operation.

“Veterinary schools and colleges should work together to achieve this goal by creating a portfolio of online courses in all aspects of food animal veterinary medicine,” Kelly says. “No one school can accomplish this alone. By forming centers of emphasis in food animal veterinary medicine, these initiatives should prepare graduates to fully and successfully serve the dynamic and changing food animal industries in the country and beyond.”

In addition, the committee recommends that the veterinary profession formulate new ways of delivering cost-effective services to rural Americans using veterinary technicians to extend animal health services and increased health surveillance in remote areas, much like nurse practitioners in human medicine. That approach, given digital technology, is increasingly feasible, Kelly says.

To read the report, click here.

Protect Horses From Increasing Fly Problem

Protect Horses From Increasing Fly Problem

If you are around horses or a stable lately, you may notice an increase in flies such as stable flies, house flies, horn flies, and horse flies.

Dr. Leslie Easterwood, clinical assistant professor for the large animal clinical sciences department at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, said flies are worse in the summertime and this year they are particularly bad.

“Last year it was dry and hot so it didn’t seem quite as bad, but this year we’ve had rain and the temperatures haven’t been as high so there seems to be an increase,” Easterwood said.

Flies can be a nuisance to a horse because the horse tries to swat and get away from them.  Other than annoying the horse, the biting flies can cause physical irritations.  Often, the flies congregate around the horse’s face trying drink the fluid at the corner of the horse’s eyes.  Since flies carry bacteria on their feet, when they are looking for moisture they deposit bacteria, larvae, and parasites on the horse’s face and around the eyes.

“The biggest thing is the transfer [of bacteria] and all flies can be bothersome,” Easterwood said.

 Flies often deposit Habronema larvae on open wounds and the horse’s eyes.

“As the larvae migrate through the tissue, they cause open sores and that is very common in horses this time of year,” Easterwood said.

Horse flies are even worse than normal house and stable flies.  Easterwood said these flies are at least 10 times the size of a house fly, have big mouths, and transfer more diseases than a house or stable fly.

“They can transfer diseases such Equine Infectious Anemia, a very fatal disease that we don’t have a cure for,” she said.

Easterwood said these irritations, sores, diseases, and transfer of bacteria are the main reason it is important to have proper fly control.

“Good fly control extends to the face, not just spraying the body, but using stuff safe to use by their eyes,” she said.

Easterwood recommended using sprays and ointments to repel flies.  Ointment can be applied to a cloth and used to wipe the horse’s eyes.  The repellent can be bought over the counter or through a veterinarian.  Different environmental factors determine which product should be used for individual needs.

“If there is a bad fly problem, you would be better off to use a product every day that you can reapply frequently to keep the population down.  As opposed to if you have a very good environmental program, you can apply the longer lasting product,” Easterwood said.  She added that most people reapply fly products daily.

She warned, however, that many products claim the repellent lasts longer than others.

“We have found that very few [products] last as long as they say they will,” Easterwood said.

She explained that all fly repellent works on the various types of flies.

“It repels all of [the flies] and mosquitoes,” Easterwood said.

She also suggested covering the horse with fly sheets for their bodies and fly masks for their faces.

Other options include an automatic fly spray system in barns, moving manure and trash piles away from the horses, drying out the manure pile, or the use of fly predators.

Tom Noffsinger On Low-Stress Cattle Handling

Tom Noffsinger, Benkelman, NE, is a consulting feedyard veterinarian best known for his passion and enthusiasm for working with feedyards and ranches on low-stress cattle handling. More and more feedyards and ranches are incorporating this philosophy and production practice into their daily operations, to the benefit of both the cattle and the cowboys. Here, Noffsinger talks about the idea behind low stress cattle handling and what the handler is trying to accomplish.

Red Angus Adds Allied Access Tag Program For Crossbreeding Systems

The Red Angus Association of America (RAAA) released the new Allied Access marketing program to assist producers utilizing Red Angus in their crossbreeding systems. The new tag program will offer them another option for age and source verification. This is a second-tier to RAAA’s successful Feeder Calf Certification Program (FCCP) that already accommodates USDA age, source and genetic verification for cattle wearing the Red Angus “Yellow Tag.”
The Red Angus marketing team created Allied Access to complement FCCP by assisting commercial ranches that capitalize on heterosis in their respective crossbreeding programs. Allied Access presents the same simple approach to age and source verification as FCCP but without the genetic restrictions. Either of these tag options – Allied Access or FCCP – are the most economical choices in the industry with no enrollment fees and a cost of only 99 cents per panel tag.
Will Bledsoe, a sixth generation rancher from Hugo, Colo., has been enrolling cattle in FCCP over the years, but a slight change in their breeding program restricted their enrollment. “We were distraught that all of our calves wouldn’t qualify for FCCP,” said Bledsoe. “But our spirits lifted when we learned about the new “Green Tag” Allied Access program.”
The Bledsoe Ranch was the first to enroll in the new program and they plan to use both FCCP and Allied Access tags. They market their calves on Western Video Auction for September or October delivery and they have been pleased with the increased profit margin on their calves wearing the Red Angus tags.
“We are always seeking to increase our profit margin and stay ahead of the curve. The Red Angus tags are a good investment,” said Bledsoe. “We go through the work to raise good, quality cattle and we can add even more value to them with the Red Angus tags without adding a lot of labor. It’s money and time well spent.”
Since 1994, RAAA has offered programs for commercial ranches to add value to cattle as they navigate the supply chain. The evolution of FCCP consistently acknowledges those marketing opportunities and administers solutions in a cost-effective and user-friendly manner.
The FCCP will continue to provide age, source and genetic verification for cattle that are traceable to at least 50 percent Red Angus genetics with the industry-recognized “Yellow Tag.” The Allied Access “Green Tag” will also provide age and source verification, but will be available to those producers whose calves may be less than half Red Angus.
“The scope of possibility is broadened for commercial ranches that choose to add value to cattle with age and source verification,” says Myron Edelman, RAAA director of added value programs. “Both ranches that have cattle that are traceable to 50 percent Red Angus genetics as well as producers that choose to cross breed their Red Angus-based cowherds now have accessibility to Red Angus process verified programs.”   
Both FCCP and Allied Access are backed by Red Angus marketing programs. Cattle enrolled in either program may be marketed on the Red Angus Stockyards website listing as well as the popular FeederFax – both free services to commercial Red Angus customers.
The success of the FCCP is quantified by another record-setting year in which ranchers have enrolled more than 130,000 head – directly traceable to Red Angus bloodlines. “The Allied Access program will increase the marketing options for our Red Angus stakeholders,” said Edelman, “while keeping the same, simple enrollment process with no enrollment fees.”     
“In our complicated world, the Red Angus marketing programs are simple, fast and easy,” concluded Bledsoe. “I only have to fill out one sheet of paper and verify the start of my calving season to gain a marketing advantage on my calves.”
To learn more about Red Angus marketing programs, visit or call the Marketing Department at (940) 320-8316.

Novartis Introduces Cattle Vaccine Literature Library App For iPads

Novartis Animal Health announces the release of a new app designed specifically for U.S. cattle veterinarians and producers. The Novartis Cattle Vaccine Literature Library app provides fast and convenient access to over 50 product brochures, technical bulletins, journal articles and other reference tools that focus on cattle health management. The Novartis app is free and available for download at the iTunes® App store.
“Many of our customers have begun using iPads® as a business management tool for their veterinary practice or livestock operation,” said Scott Morey, senior marketing manager with the Farm Animal Business of Novartis Animal Health. “Creating an app that puts a complete reference library of information about Novartis products at their fingertips just makes sense. It’s a good example of how we’re constantly adapting to meet the needs of our customers.”

Morey said the Novartis Cattle Vaccine Literature Library is very easy to use and will be a helpful tool for veterinarians and their staffs, as well as beef and dairy producers.

In addition to product brochures, journal articles and technical bulletins, the Novartis Cattle Vaccine Literature Library includes special “Catalog Sheets” for vaccines that feature product indications, directions for use, administration instructions, efficacy data and a technical review on each of the diseases a vaccine is labeled to control.
The app includes information on several Novartis cattle vaccines including BRD Shield™, Clostri Shield®, Fusogard®, NUPLURA® PH, Pinkeye Shield®, Scour Bos® and Vira Shield®. To download the app, click the iTunes App Store button on your iPad and type Novartis Cattle Literature Library in the search field. Once the Novartis icon appears, simply click "install".

About Novartis
Headquartered in Greensboro, NC, Novartis Animal Health US, Inc. researches, develops and commercializes leading animal treatments that meet the needs of pet owners, farmers and veterinarians. Part of the Basel, Switzerland-based Novartis Animal Health global organization, the US business is the largest of the 40 countries where Novartis Animal Health operates. For more information about Novartis Animal Health US, Inc., please consult
Novartis Animal Health US, Inc. is an affiliate of Novartis AG, which provides healthcare solutions that address the evolving needs of patients and societies. Focused solely on healthcare, Novartis offers a diversified portfolio to best meet these needs: innovative medicines, eye care, cost-saving generic pharmaceuticals, consumer health products, preventive vaccines and diagnostic tools. Novartis is the only company with leading positions in these areas. In 2010, the Group’s continuing operations achieved net sales of USD 50.6 billion, while approximately USD 9.1 billion (USD 8.1 billion excluding impairment and amortization charges) was invested in R&D throughout the Group. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis Group companies employ approximately 121,000 full-time-equivalent associates and operate in more than 140 countries around the world. For more information, please visit

Novartis is on Twitter. Sign up to follow @Novartis at

NEW Video, Photo Gallery: My Role As A Cattle Rancher

NEW Video, Photo Gallery: My Role As A Cattle Rancher

It’s hard to believe it’s the last day of May. At our ranch, we’ve been incredibly busy, and the days are just flying by! It seems we just got done calving and planting, only to start artificially inseminating cows and cutting hay. With summer grazing and haying season getting started, I bet many of you, like my family, are spending long days outside -- eating meals out of a cooler in the tractor, hauling pairs to pasture, running to town for parts, fixing fence, spraying for weeds, mixing creep feed, and the list goes on and on.

The role of a cattle rancher is ever-changing. No two days are exactly alike. Over Memorial Day weekend, we bred some cows and replacement heifers that we had synchronized, and we got our first cutting of hay down. We rounded out the long holiday weekend with Beef Night at the Races, a promotional event held at Huset’s Speedway in Brandon, SD, put on by the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Auxiliary. I shot a quick video at the event to explain what it’s all about.

Like my t-shirt? You can order yours through Beef Bucks. I’ve got all the details here.

No matter where I go or what I’m doing, at the end of a long day, my favorite thing to do is take a pasture tour and look over the calf crop. I snapped a few pictures to share in a photo gallery, and I hope you will help me add to it. To get the ball rolling, Senior Editor Jamie Purfeerst has added photos from her family's operation.

Check out the 2012 Pasture Tour Photo Gallery here.

Simply send photos of your calves out in the pasture to me by June 6 at [email protected], and I’ll add your shots to the gallery.

How’s your calf crop looking this year? Which sires worked well for you? Have you turned the cows out to pasture? Have you started creep feeding? When do you turn out the bulls?