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New BEEF Daily Photo Contest, With Plenty Of Prizes Up For Grabs

My family celebrated Mother’s Day over the weekend with church and brunch. My sisters and I bought Mom flowers for her flower boxes, and the sunny weather was the perfect finishing touch for a pleasant Sunday spent with loved ones. Even though this time of year has us running from sunrise to sundown – planting, getting ready to move pairs to pasture, AIing cows, and getting the garden ready – we still can make time to show the people we care about that we love them.

With Mother’s Day behind us and Father’s Day around the corner, now is the perfect time to pay tribute to the people who have raised us, who have helped shape us into strong individuals, and made our lives so fulfilling. So, whether that’s a mom or dad, a brother or sister, a best friend or a beloved cattle dog or horse, this month’s contest is called, “Ranch Sweethearts.”

To enter the BEEF Daily Ranch Sweethearts Photo Contest, simply send me your best photo with the name of the individual in the image, along with your name and mailing address. Only one entry/person will be eligible to win prizes, but feel free to send several my way to include in the gallery. Email your entries to [email protected].

The contest will be open until May 24. After that, our editors will narrow the photographs down to the 10 finalists who will be announced on May 27. Voting will run until May 31, and the winners will be named on June 3.

This month’s contest has some great prizes. The grand champion photographer will receive a voucher for a free pair of boots from Roper, while the reserve champion honoree will win a $75 gift certificate from my sister’s business, Cowgirl Crush. Voters also have the chance to take home fun prizes, as three voters will be selected at random to receive a copy of my children’s book, “Levi’s Lost Calf.”

All the entries will be compiled into a gallery to posted on as I receive them, so be sure to check back frequently to view all of the reader’s entries.

Good luck and thanks for your participation!

View the reader-submitted photos here.


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Cover Crop Haying, Grazing Extended In Some States

USDA's Risk Management Agency announced May 8 it will allow approved crop insurance providers in certain states to extend the deadline date for haying and grazing of cover crops. If the farmers' insurance company chooses, the farmer may be allowed to graze or hay cover crops until May 22, 2013, in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan. Farmers need to check with their local crop insurance agent for approval.

USDA's Risk Management Agency is allowing this extension because of continued wet weather in these states this spring. The previous deadline was May 10.

The RMA memo issued May 8 says in these states cover crops may continue to be hayed or grazed until May 22, without affecting the eligibility of the following crop for multiple peril crop insurance coverage if the producer's approved insurance provider (i.e., the crop insurance company) approves. This is a one-year exception due to 2013's wet spring weather. The memo also says cover crops still must be terminated before planting, and producers should contact their crop insurance agent to request permission to extend grazing or haying.

USDA's Risk Management Agency is allowing insurance providers to extend the deadline for haying and grazing cover crops until May 22. This is only for certain states and farmers must check with local agent for permission. Previous deadline was May 10.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey is encouraging farmers with cover crops to contact their insurance provider if they are interested in haying or grazing after May 10.

To read the entire article, click here.


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Superior Livestock Auction Purchased By National Livestock

National Livestock Credit announced its purchase today of Superior Livestock Auction, Inc. National Livestock and cattlemen from several states have formed a limited partnership to acquire Superior.

National Livestock Credit is part of a family of livestock service companies formed in 1932 to improve the ability of producers to market and finance livestock. When livestock producers were seeking more competitive options, the National Livestock companies were formed to improve the potential for profitability for those producers.  The corporate headquarters of National Livestock Credit is located in the Oklahoma National Stockyards in Oklahoma City, OK.

Superior Livestock Auction, Inc. was founded in 1987 and introduced satellite video marketing to the nation’s cattle industry. Superior has grown to become the largest livestock auction in the United States, marketing well over one million head of cattle annually.  Superior Livestock Auction, Inc. has offices located in Brush, CO, and Fort Worth, TX, with its auction facilities and Superior Productions’ offices located in The Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District.

Jim Odle, co-founder and General Manager of Superior Livestock Auction, commented, “I have had the privilege of meeting and getting to know Robert York and Danny Jones from National, and I truly believe that National is the ideal ownership group for Superior Livestock Auction.  We share common goals and values and we look forward to working with them as we move forward to continue our legacy in the livestock marketing industry.”

Joe Lichtie, vice president of Superior Livestock Auction, noted, “This is a perfect alliance of two industry leaders coming together. Superior Livestock is thankful for the successful transition led by National and Farm Credit West throughout the acquisition of Superior.  We couldn’t have asked for a better outcome for Superior Livestock, our representatives, employees and most importantly our loyal customers. This venture has been a long time coming, and we look forward to remaining the Nation’s leader in livestock marketing.”

Danny Jones, president of Superior Livestock Auction, commented, “The two companies share a common bond, a commitment to serve the United States cattle industry with the best products and services available. We believe that by joining forces, we can further serve the industry. Superior Livestock Auction has become the industry leader in helping both sellers and buyers of cattle reach their desired goals. Superior’s innovative marketing system provides tremendous value to both sellers and buyers, not only through access to the nationwide market, but also through efficiencies gained in reduced shipping costs, lower animal stress, and better animal health.”

Robert York, president and CEO of National, added, “We have admired the business model of Superior for many years. We have often had the opportunity to work with many of the representatives and employees of Superior since we share many mutual customer relationships. We have always viewed Superior as a company comprised of hard working people with the strongest integrity and we believe they work every day to achieve higher profits for their buyers and sellers.  We couldn’t be more pleased to join forces.”

First DIGI‐STAR Facebook Sweepstakes Winner

Charlie Jones of Richfield, Wisconsin is the proud owner of a new EZ 3600 indicator. Jones was randomly chosen from the Digi‐Star facebook sweepstakes, "Why I Need a New Indicator".

Qualified entries had to "Like" Digi‐Star's facebook page and post a picture of their current indicator with a caption explaining why they needed a new indicator. The contest drew applicants from around the country with a variety of interesting stories. Jones learned about the contest at the WPS show in Oshkosh and entered just a few short hours before the contest closed March 31st. His name was randomly drawn winning an indicator of choice valued up to $2,500.

Jones has been farming for two years on his own with 90 cows and plans to grow his business. He bought a mixer with a used scale display. Jones said, "The scale always (and still does) work really well. Unfortunately, when the display and the side of the barn met, the display casing shattered." He had resorted to tying it to the old backing with baler twine. In addition to no longer worrying about it falling off the mixer, the new EZ 3600 allows you to batch recipes on the indicator itself and more importantly is easily upgradeable to TMR Trackersoftware which allows the user to move away from manually entry of ingredients and recipes.

Digi‐Star's Software Sales Manager, Carol Coulombe said, "Digi‐Star is excited to “grow” with this young entrepreneur as his operation expands." Jones added, "It's nice to be able to see and read this new scale in all light and weather conditions!"

Like Digi‐Star on facebook to learn about the latest events and innovative products being released. Digi‐Star LLC is a leading manufacturer of electronic weighing systems, providing measuring solutions to optimize agricultural performance. This is done through precision load cells, sensors, indicators and feed management software packages.

Colorado Ag Faces Devastating Energy Cost Hike

crop irrigation in danger in Colorado

This spring, state legislatures around the country have demonstrated just how important it is for cattlemen to be involved and support their state associations. I can’t highlight all the potentially devastating pieces of legislation that have been proposed, defeated or, unfortunately in a few cases, passed in legislatures across the country. I’ll use just one example here in Colorado.

It was one of those high-minded bills intended to encourage renewable energy. The particulars aren’t important, but the measure essentially called for more than doubling over the next 20 years the percentage of energy that Colorado rural cooperatives would have to acquire from renewable sources.

According to the experts, such a law will raise the cost of electricity by 25% for rural Colorado, and will devastate agriculture, which relies heavily on energy for crop irrigation. However, the bill passed and we’re now waiting to see if the governor will sign it.

California and a few other states have long had to deal with the fact that rural interests have very little say politically, but it’s a new phenomenon in Colorado. We’ve been forced to learn quickly how to deal with this new reality, and function in this altered environment.

The important thing to realize here is that this was the only devastating bill that appears like it might pass in its entirety here in Colorado. Many more were introduced, but our ag-lobbying groups were able to amend, stop, or at least mitigate, a lot of the damage of other measures.  

There’s a tendency in our industry to focus on the potentially damaging effects of federal legislation and regulation, and that’s justified. But with the federal government seemingly unable to do much of anything (let’s all be a little thankful for the gridlock everyone seems to decry), the state legislatures have taken upon themselves to put forth their own bonehead legislation. Often times, the intentions are noble; they simply have no concept of the consequences. We have our state lobbying groups because they are very much needed, and we need to support them to protect our interests.


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Thank You, Moms Everywhere!

Mother’s Day is Sunday. I’d love to write a fitting tribute to my mom, my wife, and all moms in general, but I don’t think I’m up to the task. How can you put such an appreciation into words?

Motherhood is the backbone of our families and life. I can’t begin to express how important my mom has been to our family, or how much my wife has influenced the lives of our kids. After all, moms take on so much of the responsibility of raising the kids and making the family thrive.

In defense of all us dads, I truly believe it’s not because we’re particularly lazy. To be truthful, I don’t think fathers enjoy that somehow mom is the one who always knows what’s really going on in the family, she provides the bulk of the nurturing of the children, or that she does more than her share of the work required to keep a household together. It’s simply that men are pragmatic. Moms are so much better at all that, that it’s simply impractical not to utilize that level of talent and commitment.

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If someone had surveilled my house this week, they might question how mom helped edit the essay, played baseball with the kids, made student council election posters, ordered the phones, went to the track meet, ironed the FFA clothes, cooked the meals, worked full time, and helped get a couple hundred head of cows bred on the side. All I could tell such people is that: “Because no one but a mom could do it.”

For example, I’d gladly have helped make the posters, but I would have needed to know my daughter was running for office in the first place. Plus, my daughter never would have allowed my penmanship or artistic ability anywhere near her posters.

I know moms must get tired. They have one of the toughest and most important jobs in the world; they work incredible hours and get very little recognition for it. Yet, most of us have learned the meanings of love and sacrifice from our moms. I truly believe that my mom’s love helped create anything good I’ve ever done, and even enabled me to love my spouse, and my Savior. Perhaps we don’t thank the moms in our lives enough because it reminds us of a standard that we so often fail to meet.

I’m sure I can speak for a lot of guys who will celebrate this Mother’s Day thanking God for providing us with such a great mother, and such a great mother for our kids. On my desk is a notation I read every day; it says: “The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.”

I won’t speak for others, but while I’ve always loved my kids’ mother, I know I’ve often failed to treat her with the type of love she deserves. Hopefully, by Sunday, I’ll come up with a way to say thank you that truly reflects how thankful we all are for her.

Forgive me if I rely on Hallmark, bring breakfast in bed, try harder to be the one that gets the kids ready for church, and takes everyone out for lunch afterwards. Those little things seem so shallow in comparison to what moms do on a daily basis. But can one truly express their thankfulness for the second greatest gift that God ever gave us – a mom? To all those mothers out there, thanks for all you do!


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Man, You Just Have To Love Spring!

springtime on the ranch

Spring is the season of hope. The grass greens – most of the time – and we all hope it stays that way. And there’s something special about watching young calves frolic on green grass close, but not too close, to their moms. Of course, it’s also artificial insemination/breeding season for the herd, and one looks forward to, and plans for, the next generation. There is nothing more hopeful than that.

This time of year creates an extra bounce in everyone’s step. In part, that’s due to school being out for the summer. For our family, summer is a time when we spend a lot of time together, working, and showing horses and cattle.

It’s a huge deal for me when we change to Daylight Saving time. It means there’s actually daylight when the kids get off the bus at the end of the school day, and we can start to do some outdoor activities again as a family. April offered us some bitter cold spells in Colorado this year, but the fire pit has already been used a couple of times.

If winter is a grind, spring is an amusement park. Feeding and calving somehow always becomes work by the end of winter, but spring activities tend to come in short, but important, bursts – get the cows bred, brand/work the calves, get around the fences, go to grass (or hope to go to grass), plant corn, etc.

The cattle markets usually even give us an optimistic view of the business. We typically have our spring highs, grass fever in the feeder market, and the beginning of forward pricing on calves. Even the markets use the spring as a time to look forward.

Someone recently asked me what my favorite time of the year was. I have a lot of fond memories about fair week, both as a kid and a parent; I absolutely love eating a funnel cake under some shade on a hot August day. But I’d have to say I never feel closer to God than on a cool, spring morning. What’s better than throwing your leg over a horse that is feeling a little fresh and excited to get to work? And with a full season of promise ahead of you? You have to love spring.


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Industry At A Glance: The Importance Of USDA Quality Grade

quality grade trends in beef industry

Last week’s “Industry At A Glance” chart focused on USDA Quality Grade trends over time. That’s inherently an important metric with respect to overall consumer satisfaction.  

One of the major criticisms of the current system is the relative inconsistency among the various grades – the variability resulting from human error by USDA graders. However, new camera technology removes subjectivity, and minimizes the potential for variability across USDA Quality Grades.

To validate that perspective, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association recently commissioned a checkoff-funded study to investigate the relationships between consumer perception and marbling scores as determined by a camera-based system. The research was led by Daryl Tatum, Colorado State University professor of animal science. The graph below details the relationship between camera-based marbling scores and relative consumer perception.

quality grade score beef industry

Tatum explains that, “Results of this recent study suggest that camera-based marbling scores very effectively categorize A-maturity beef carcasses according to differences in strip loin tenderness, flavor and juiciness, and provide strong support for USDA’s recent implementation of camera-assisted quality grading. The transition to camera-assisted quality grading modernizes the 85-year-old beef grading system and improves the consistency and accuracy of quality grade determination.”

The implication is that improved quality grade scores really do matter when it comes to general consumer perception of the beef industry by consumers. Moreover, the current marketing system appears to be fairly effective in segregating that value – as long as the segregation occurs in an objective manner.

How do you perceive the importance of this technology and USDA Quality Grade influencing the business in the future? Will it play a bigger role in genetic and management decisions? Will consumers become even more aware of these potential differentiations going forward? Leave your thoughts below.


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COOL Deadline Looms: What’s Next?

MCOOL COOL law needs to be finalized

Like most fights, this one never should have gotten started in the first place. But if politics creates strange bedfellows, it can sometimes create even stranger laws. And once political turf gets staked out, pride and prejudice make it hard to retreat.

Whether or not that situation is at play in the current dispute over the U.S. mandatory country-of-origin (MCOOL) law, however, is a discussion for the political scientists. In the rough and tumble world of international trade, the situation is this: the U.S. instituted its law several years ago, which mandated that all beef, pork and certain other products be labeled as to its origins. Canada and Mexico sued the U.S. and the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled against the U.S. twice – first in the initial suit and again when the U.S. appealed.

WTO gave the U.S. until May 23 to come into compliance with international trade laws. Earlier this year, USDA released revised MCOOL regulations that both Canada and Mexico say not only don’t meet WTO expectations, but make the situation even worse.

And that, says Andres Piedra, chief economist with Confederacion Nacional Ganadera (CNG), the national cattlemen’s association in Mexico, leaves them only one alternative – institute retaliatory tariffs as allowed under WTO.

“In our talks with our Minister of Economy, it looks like the measures are going to be very similar to those imposed by the trucking litigation,” Piedra says, referring to a dispute several years ago where the U.S. banned Mexican trucks from crossing the border. “We will consider a wide range of products and those products will vary with time. But they will no doubt include beef,” he says.


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“Our feeling is the diminishing exports of (U.S.) beef to Mexico will continue to go down with the imposition of compensatory tariffs. It will make (U.S. beef) less competitive with beef coming from Canada and other countries.” Piedra estimates Mexico will begin imposing retaliatory tariffs within the next six months.

Mexico and Canada have to present a justification of how much damage they suffered as a result of the loss in value of their products because of the MCOOL law. “What I heard from the Canadians is they want to apply damages on their cattle of $500 million,” Piedra says. “In Mexico, we are still working on it, but we have a preliminary figure that will probably go between $500 million and $800 million per year. That figure would be the amount that our country would have the right to apply on compensatory targets of U.S. products.”

According to the U.S. Meat Export Federation, Canada recently took over the number-one spot as a destination for U.S. beef exports, outflanking Mexico to gain the top spot in the first quarter of 2013. Mexico currently ranks second in export volume, and third behind Canada and Japan in the value of the beef it buys from the U.S.


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Drought Strategies For The Ranch; Round 3

drought management plan

It is, it seems, a bad dream that never comes to an end. You want to wake up to the sound of raindrops hitting the roof. But your eyes are wide open and all you hear is the wind rustling what little grass is left on a sun-baked landscape.

While some parts of the country are receiving moisture this spring, plenty of cattle country is still dark brown on the drought monitor map. And that means, says Justin Wagonner, Kansas State University Extension beef systems specialist in Garden City, you have some assumptions to make.

“First of all, the outlook for a lot of grazing days, or a normal grazing season this summer, doesn’t look real good. Even if we get a lot of rain tomorrow, while that negates the situation somewhat, there will be some limitations we’ll run into.”

The second assumption is that forage prices will stay high. “I’m not an economist, but I think the greatest challenge we face is how to balance high feed prices against high replacement female costs and where we’re at on that teeter-totter. And no, I absolutely do not have an answer to that question.”

But what Waggoner does have an answer for are some management practices that can help mitigate the effects of drought. Those include early weaning, continued culling, and looking at the possibility of limit-feeding your cows in a confinement or semi-confinement situation.

“The first thing you should consider when the grass starts getting short is getting the calf off (the cow). You can do it successfully at 100 days,” he says.

“A 120-day-old calf is going to consume about 2.2% of its body weight in dry forage a day. So you’ve got savings on the calf,” he says. “The other thing is, a lactating 1,400-lb. cow needs about 30 lbs./day of forage. If I turn her into a dry cow, it’s 27. So I not only lowered her forage requirement, but she also has a lower energy requirement, too.”

So basically, he says, if you wean 30 days early, you gain a week’s worth of grazing. “That may not sound like a lot, but what is drought management? It’s a game of grazing days,” he says. “And every day you’re not feeding cows saves you dollars.”


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