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Make-A-Wish Helps Leukemia Patient Become A Farmer

A popular Facebook status update that has gone viral reads, “All of us have a thousand wishes. To be thinner, to be bigger, have more money, have a cool car, a day off, a new phone, to date the person of your dreams. A cancer patient only has one wish, to kick cancer's butt.”

The Make-A-Wish Foundation, while it can’t cure cancer, can grant wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses. Popular wishes range from Justin Bieber tickets to a trip to Disney World. One special five-year old battling leukemia, however, had something a little different in mind.

According to a report by KSDK News, “Plenty of people flee cities and suburbia for a whiff of fresh country air, but the people who tend to crave it aren't typically five-years old.Then again, most five-year olds haven't spent more than 120 days of their little life locked away from it in a hospital.”

Diagnosed with leukemia at two-years old, Joe Joe Charles has gone through more in a few years than many will face in their entire lifetimes -- chemo, surgeries, radiation.

“So when Make-A-Wish came calling, it was a silver lining that Joe Joe's parents knew would include shades of green because he's always had a tender spot for tractors.”

Joe Joe dreams of becoming a farmer, so the town of Waterloo, IL, granted in him that wish. He spent a day planting and fertilizing fields, picking up chicken eggs, holding baby pigs and fishing. He was given a complete cowboy makeover, along with his twin brother. The boys got to ride in a stage coach in a parade, with students lining the streets and signs hanging on every corner and business sign. The magical part of this warm reception was the fact that the Charles family is from Kansas City, but the Waterloo community adopted Joe Joe and his family to make one special little boy’s dreams come true.

"When cancer enters your life the way it has for our family, you see your community, your churches rally around you because they know you, they love you," says Thomas Charles, Joe Joe's dad. "But when a community who has no idea who you are because they fell in love with a little child's dream rolls out the red carpet and welcomes us in like they've known us all our lives, I truly mean this Waterloo, Illinois is becoming our new home. It's just remarkable what these people have done."

I couldn't help but smile when I saw this news report. I hope and pray that Joe Joe is able to beat the odds and kick cancer’s butt and grow up to be a big and strong farmer.

Many farm and ranch families have been impacted by cancer, and mine is no exception. When my cousin Ty Eschenbaum was diagnosed with leukemia as a freshman in high school, it was a stark reminder that family is very important and that we need to live life to the fullest. Eschenbaum had a long road with chemo treatments, radiation, surgeries, staph infections, and degenerative joint issues, but he perservered, graduated as valedictorian in his high school class, finished college at South Dakota State University, and now works to help others who are fighting the same battle he once faced. He is a motivational speaker on this topic and has established the Ty Eschenbaum Foundation to support and enhance the lives of youth and their families affected by cancer.

Last fall, he teamed up with local grain elevators, where farmers could donate bushels of corn to support the non-profit organization. The money is used to provide college scholarships to kids battling cancer. You can learn more about it here. I’m very proud and inspired by Ty’s strength and work in this arena, and I thought it was something worth sharing today.

Without question, cancer is a horrible thing to happen to a family, and my heart is with those who dealing with such challenges. I hope Joe Joe enjoyed his day as a farmer in Waterloo, and I pray other communities are inspired by this story and pass it on. A small gesture can create a ripple effect, and I think this is one worth growing.

What do you think about today’s feel-good story? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


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Industry Reduces E. coli By 90%, But Little Progress With Salmonella

salmonella caused by lymph nodes in cattle

The U.S. beef industry has done a tremendous job of dealing with carcass contamination involving E. coli. In fact, E. coli O157 positives in ground beef sampling have dropped by more than 90% in the last decade.

The same drop hasn’t been seen in incidence of Salmonella in ground beef, however, says Guy Loneragan, Texas Tech University professor of food safety and public health.

“We haven’t seen a decrease in human incidence of Salmonella. Admittedly there are many sources of Salmonella – in poultry, eggs, etc. – but the beef industry is asking itself why our intervention can so effectively manage E. coli O157, and not Salmonella.

Focusing on lymph nodes

Salmonella is an occasional disease problem in cattle. However, in the past few years, researchers have been investigating the discovery of what is probably an old issue – Salmonella in healthy animals’ lymph nodes at the time of slaughter.

lymph node location in cattle

One theory is that cattle contract a low-grade Salmonella infection, which their immune system combats by engulfing the bacteria and transporting it to the lymph nodes for destruction. The Salmonella bacteria, however, are able to remain alive and are retained in the lymph nodes. The concern with this translocation is that some of the lymph nodes are later incorporated into ground beef at processing, which presents a potential food safety issue.

Dayna Harhay, a microbiologist and molecular biologist with the Meat Safety and Quality Research Unit at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (MARC) in Clay Center, NE, is among specialists working on the Salmonella/lymph node link. She’s done extensive work with Loneragan, as well as with Steve Carlson, a former MARC colleague now at Iowa State University.

“Over the course of a year, we collected lymph nodes from feedlot cattle and cull cattle (beef and dairy) at slaughter facilities in three regions – West Coast, South and Midwest,” she says. “We found that the presence of Salmonella in cattle lymph nodes generally is low (about 1%). But, in feedlot cattle, we found higher levels (11% on average) than in cull cattle.”

dayna harvey beef safety quote

The researchers matched cull and fed cattle within each region, and found that the highest levels of Salmonella in the lymph nodes of fed cattle occurred in animals from the southern U.S. Interestingly, however, the levels of Salmonella in the lymph nodes of cull cattle from that region were low – about 1%, she reports.

“We’re trying to understand the epidemiology. Since mostly peripheral lymph nodes are contaminated, we theorize that the bacteria entry may be transdermal, from a cut or scrape on the hide, biting flies, or foot rot,” rather than their typical route via the digestive tract, she says.

“The animal’s body does what it’s supposed to – it localizes and contains the invader in the lymph nodes. The tricky part is that Salmonella appears to have evolved the ability to survive within the lymph node that is designed to kill it.”

Loneragan has been engaged in Salmonella research for the past 15 years. He says the industry needs to rethink its understanding of Salmonella and how it behaves within and between cattle. “In many situations, it doesn’t sicken the animal. Obviously, some strains are very pathogenic and we want to control those, but there are also many strains that don’t cause harm,” he says.

Seasonal, regional differences

“This is a regional and seasonal phenomenon, involving a warmer climate and warmer time of year,” Harhay says. “We see seasonality with pathogen prevalence on hides and in feces. We see more Salmonella in warmer climates and warmer times of year, but we were surprised to find that about 11% of lymph nodes isolated from fed cattle had Salmonella. In summer at some locations, it was higher.”

Loneragan says the prevalence of Salmonella in lymph nodes spikes at midsummer through late fall. “In the South during peak season, we generally recover Salmonella from 30%-50% of the lymph nodes we’ve checked in the flanks of these animals,” he says.

Meanwhile, the Salmonella strains inhabiting the intestines of cattle seem to be seasonal. “Prevalence goes up in summer, and then down during transition from fall to winter,” Loneragan says. “When we look at cattle operations here in Texas, we routinely recover Salmonella from 30%-60% of fecal samples from healthy animals during summer and fall.”

However, the overall prevalence in Colorado is usually less than 1%. “We don’t find the diversity or level of Salmonella that we find farther south,” he adds. “We’re trying to understand the seasonal and regional factors that affect the levels of Salmonella.” 

Food safety issues

Loneragan says the peripheral lymph nodes of concern are located between the muscles of the legs, shoulder or flank. “When we grind this tissue into hamburger, it may include lymph nodes. It’s impossible to sort them all out, as many are embedded in lean muscle tissue, and deep in the fat trimmings.”

In most situations, the levels of Salmonella in lymph nodes are low. “If the fat trim containing those nodes ended up in ground beef, it would be significantly diluted,” Harhay says. “However, we also found some positive nodes with a higher load. These could be more of a problem, and a likely source for Salmonella getting into ground beef.”e. coli intervention in beef industry quote

She says the serotypes she’s found in these lymph nodes that have higher concentration happen to match what surveys indicate are the dominant serotypes of Salmonella found in ground beef – S. montevideo and S. anatum. The focus of her research, however, is on the serotypes that are likely to cause sickness if undercooked ground beef containing Salmonella is consumed – S. newport and S. typhimirium. “Even though we did find both of these in lymph nodes, we found them only rarely, which is good news,” Harhay says.

The understanding that not all serotypes of Salmonella are equal is crucial, she says. “This is important to the beef industry in the same way that we don’t target all E. coli. To impact human health, we need to know which Salmonella serotypes we must be more concerned with.”

She says researchers are looking at virulence, as well as genetic determinants the industry can use to screen for the strains of concern. “Right now, if we find one lymph node positive in a carcass, we don’t know what the likelihood might be of finding any other lymph nodes positive. Also, there are so many lymph nodes in a carcass that it’s impossible to effectively remove them. We’ll have to find upstream methods to deal with this,” she says.

Packing plants have tried to reduce carcass contamination based on the assumption that Salmonella (like E. coli) comes from manure-contaminated hides coming in contact with the surface of the carcass, but this hasn’t worked to the same extent. “So we’re exploring whether lymph nodes may be contributing to the problem,” Loneragan says.

Is management the answer?

As animals are going to slaughter with Salmonella already inside the carcass, specialists are considering what preharvest practices could be employed at feedlots to reduce the risk. This may involve use of a probiotic, or management to eliminate or reduce biting flies, Harhay says.

“Monitoring might show whether there are higher levels of Salmonella in the environment. After all, there are differences from one location to another. If certain practices can be identified that might help keep Salmonella levels down, then broad implementation of those practices might address this problem,” she says.

Loneragan says work is underway on vaccine technology as well, such as Pfizer’s Salmonella SRP vaccine. “We’re trying to identify where vaccine works and where it might not work. We’ve also been looking at a probiotic called Bovamine Defend, made by Nutrition Physiology Co. This also looks promising. Perhaps we can control this issue preharvest, or reduce it enough to have a meaningful impact,” he says.

Genetics is another area of focus, since some non-black cattle have been found to have two copies of a gene that makes them very resistant to Salmonella. This finding is being pursued by a company called PSR Genetics, in Scott City, KS.

Harhay adds the differences in Salmonella lymph node contamination between feedlots, and between dairy and feedlot cattle in the same region, would seem to indicate that interventions may be possible at the farm or feedlot level.

Not all Salmonella are dangerous

Salmonella can cause disease in cattle and humans, but there are many serotypes; not all of them are dangerous. Many that exist in cattle only rarely cause disease in cattle.

“Some are more pathogenic than others, in both animals and people,” says Guy Loneragan, Texas Tech University professor of food safety and public health. “S. newport and S. typhimurium are quite pathogenic and can cause substantial disease in cattle and people, yet the farther south we go, the more diverse collections of serotypes we find in cattle, and more total numbers,” he says.

“We often find a carcass that has at least one lymph node in which we can recover Salmonella. These animals are healthy, with no history of clinical disease. These diverse strains of Salmonella seem to get in from the environment or the intestines, and enter the peripheral lymph nodes. Our hypothesis is that much of the Salmonella we observe in these locations are getting into the animal through the skin,” he says.

Heather Smith Thomas is a rancher and freelance writer based in Salmon, ID.


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Feral Hog Hotline Established To Identify High Risk Areas

Military strategists tell us the success of prosecuting any successful plan against the enemy begins with gathering intelligence. It stands to reason then that when it comes to managing and controlling the estimated 2.6 million feral swine in Texas, officials need to collect more information.

That’s where Jared Timmons and Mark Tyson come in. The two Texas AgriLife Extension associates have been assigned with the monumental task of collecting data about the growing feral swine problem in Texas in an effort to provide landowners and state and Extension personnel the latest intelligence on where efforts are critically needed the most.

Timmons has been documenting feral hog activity in the Plum Creek area of Hayes and Caldwell counties over the last two years, operating an online pilot program that collects landowner reports for Texas AgriLife officials. The pilot program served as the platform for the launch of a new expanded online reporting system now available to landowners across the state.

“We need input from landowners and the general public to identify feral hog activities in general and where the greatest concentrations of these activities are occurring,” Timmons says. “We are interested in both public input of hog sightings and reports from landowners that help document control efforts and feral hog damage.”

To read the entire article, click here.


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Manage Grazing For More Production & Profitability

grazing management for beef cows

I want to apologize in advance if I sound too critical of the way some of you graze. However, I’ve seen many ranches become much more productive and profitable, and some even pulled back from the brink of bankruptcy, by their managers learning how to manage grazing.

I have the opportunity to visit with many ranchers. When asking about their grazing program or the way they graze, I get answers that tell me they’ve heard about grazing management and perhaps watched a neighbor across the fence, but really don’t know much about grazing and its effects on soil and plant productivity and health. Too often, they assume that, if they get the stocking rate right, all is well. However, grazing management goes way beyond stocking rate.

Effects on plants and soil

The way you graze has numerous effects on the plants and the soil. This will, in turn, have a number of effects on the water cycle, mineral cycle, sunlight energy flow and biological succession. These will be followed by effects on future productivity.

I usually hear about some sort of rotation where the same pastures are used at the same time each year with movement from pasture to pasture based on the calendar. This suggests the use of two very powerful tools for grazing management – time and timing:

• Time is primarily about “how long” livestock are left in a pasture or paddock, and how long that pasture or paddock is allowed to recover (rest) before it’s grazed again. While the time spent in a paddock, and the time allowed for recovery, are both important, the time for recovery is more important.

Most of us start with a few (8-12) paddocks/herd and advance from there to perhaps more than 20. If we’re going to protect recovery time, then the length of stay in a paddock is determined primarily by the desired length of recovery and the number of paddocks available.

For good grazing management, time control can’t be tied to the calendar. It is planned and determined by the season of use, and the plants’ growth rate as they are being grazed and during recovery. This will vary greatly from year to year and is highly dependent on rainfall and its timing, as well as temperatures.

• Timing is about “when” pastures are grazed. Since your cattle need to be somewhere 365 days of the year (preferably grazing), unavoidably some plants will be grazed at very sensitive times. You use timing to avoid grazing the plants at those biologically sensitive stages in successive years.

Timing can also be affected by:

  • A need to be at or near certain locations for cattle working and shipping. Many of the good graziers I know brand and work calves at portable facilities in the pastures to allow more flexibility with pasture use timing. They also have several paddocks near the shipping and cow-working facilities to enable better timing from year to year.
  • A desire or need to avoid defined places to protect sensitive species at critical times. This might include critical nesting habitat for some birds or a fawning area for deer, etc.

It’s planned, time-controlled grazing

Many of us call thisplanned, time-controlled grazing.” It’s not a cookie-cutter approach. Even though we rotate through a number of paddocks, we don’t like to call it “rotational grazing” because it’s rarely, if ever, the same from year to year. In fact, those who rotate in the same manner each year with a set number of days in and out of each pasture are probably doing “controlled overgrazing.”

While not difficult, the planning process for good grazing takes time and thought about the various factors that must be considered. You plan ahead, you execute the plan, you pay attention (monitor) as you are grazing, and you modify the plan to fit the changing conditions. The plan must be flexible.

The primary objective of good grazing is to improve ranch productivity and grazing quality. We do that through manipulation of eco-system processes. We will try to graze in a way that will:

  • Capture more of the rainfall that comes and make it available for plant growth,
  • Improve nutrient cycling and
  • Increase sunlight energy flow to photosynthetic plant leaves, which produces animal feed that ultimately becomes food or fiber for human use.

We might say that we are creating a solar panel. The solar panel gets bigger and more effective when our management reduces runoff, reduces evaporation, and increases infiltration and the ability of the soil to hold moisture. It also gets bigger when there are more plant leaves and the leaves are bigger. And it becomes more effective when there are plants that green-up very early in the growing season, others that are green throughout the growing season and some that are green very late in the growing season.

Everything that we, through our livestock, and Mother Nature do to the land will have an effect on ecosystem process and will cause changes in biological succession. Our management will have a huge effect on the direction of that succession. Will it be positive or negative toward our goals?

 My next couple of articles will expand on this topic. 

Burke Teichert, consultant on strategic planning for ranches, is retired as vice president and general manager of Deseret. He can be reached at [email protected]


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Time & Money Drive The Retailing Of Beef Products

beef sales and restaurant trends

Some of us of a certain vintage can remember when going to the new McDonald’s franchise a couple of towns away was a big deal; it was a destination treat when a celebration or extra cash was on hand.

These days, of course, whipping through the drive-through of a fast-food restaurant is typically as special as deciding between toast and cereal for breakfast.

food away from home spendingBy 2011, according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) Retail Trends, consumer food-away-from-home spending accounted for 48.7% of all food spending, up from 47.1% in 2000 and 43% in 1990 (Table 1).

Of that spending, full-service restaurants (FSR) and limited-service restaurants (LSR, such as fast food) account for upward of 75% of all food-away-from-home spending (Table 2). Other food service players included institutional food service operators in schools, hotels, nursing homes, recreational facilities and the like.

As for beef specifically, according to the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, beef remains the number-one protein served in restaurants. LSRs accounted for more than 43% of all beef served in commercial restaurants in 2008. 

Changing U.S. households

Prior to the Great Recession, ERS analysts say, “…the share of household expenditures for prepared foods and meals had risen due to changes in household composition – such as more single-person households and more households with two working adults – as well as increased household incomes and changes in consumer preferences for convenience foods.”

For perspective, ERS analysts note in Let’s Eat Out: Americans Weigh Taste, Convenience, and Nutrition, that: “Traditional families, defined as a married couple with children, accounted for 30% of all households in 1980 … they totaled only 24% of all households in 2000 and may further decrease in share to about 17% by 2020. By contrast, single-person households increased from 23% of all households in 1980 to 26% in 2000, and may reach 29% in 2020.”

Even a decade ago, ERS analysts noted in The Demand for Food Away from Home: Full Service or Fast Food? that: “U.S. households are becoming, on average, richer, older, smaller, more ethnically diverse, and more likely to contain single people or multiple adults without live-at-home children. These changes each have foreseeable impacts on the demand for food away from home, the subsequent offerings of food service establishments, and ultimately the diet and health of all those going out to eat.”

Whatever the reasons, ERS analysts note, “Whether eating out or buying carry-out, Americans are consuming more and more of their calories from full-service and fast-food restaurants. The share of daily caloric intake from food eaten away from home increased from 18% to 32% between the late 1970s and the middle 1990s, according to USDA’s food-intake surveys (1977-78 and 1994-96) …”

where consumers spend away from home on food

Consumers seek increased value

LSRs enjoyed greater growth than FSRs for decades as they established more locations, often closer and more convenient to consumers; and, at times, in non-traditional food retail locations.

But, FSRs appear to be gaining more traction as consumers look for more value amid the menu of convenience, quality, price entertainment and overall dining experience.

In response, ERS analysts say, “… some fast-food restaurants are now offering more of the variety of items and heightened amenities typically associated with full-service establishments ...” But, they add, “Both FSRs and LSRs are increasing the variety of foods and services available to their customers.”

Aside from a cacophony of new menu items, think about everything from electronic self-order kiosks to table-top television, and the equipment in the kiddy playground.

“Although many factors could be contributing to the evolution of the food service industry, a sustained shift in consumer demand appears to be the primary force,” ERS analysts say. “A change in demand can alter the competitive dynamics of a market. If consumer demand is shifting in favor of the foods and services traditionally offered by FSRs, then FSR companies will be encouraged to operate more outlets offering more variety and dining amenities. Fast-food restaurants (LSRs) might also introduce many of these same foods and services themselves …”

Fulfilling consumer demand has grown more costly and precarious as the nation’s unemployment rate increased and consumer incomes decreased through the Great Recession and the nascent recovery.

On the one hand, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) expects wholesale food costs to continue on an upward trajectory through 2013, putting significant pressure on restaurants’ bottom lines as about one-third of sales in a restaurant goes to food and beverage purchases.

On the other, folks at the NRA point out that there’s a strong correlation between restaurant sales and consumer disposable income.

Then there’s health care and the threat of higher costs with reform.

According to NRA, one-third of a typical restaurant’s sales go toward labor costs, so significant increases in those costs will result in additional cost management measures to preserve the slim pretax profit margins of 3-5% on which most restaurants operate.

“Despite a continued challenging operating environment, the restaurant industry remains a strong driver in the nation’s economy,” says Dawn Sweeney, NRA president and CEO.

According to NRA’s 2013 Restaurant Industry Forecast, total restaurant industry sales are expected to exceed $660 billion in 2013 – that is a 3.8% increase over 2012. It would be the fourth consecutive year of real sales growth for the industry.

“The fact that the restaurant industry will continue to grow in an operating environment that presents substantial challenges is a testament to the essential role that restaurants play in our daily lives,” says Hudson Riehle, NRA senior vice president of research and knowledge. “Restaurants are offering products and services that consumers actively seek out and enjoy.” He adds that even with cash constraints, consumers seek to eat out because doing so has become an important component of their lifestyle.

Restaurant trends

Local sourcing and nutrition are among the strongest consumer trends for 2013.

According to survey research from the National Restaurant Association (NRA), more than seven of 10 consumers say they’re more likely to visit a restaurant that offers locally produced menu items, and more than six out of 10 said locally sourced menus are a key attribute for choosing a restaurant.

Currently, a majority of table-service restaurants offer locally sourced produce, meat or seafood. Such availability is highest in the fine dining segment.

As for nutrition, more than seven out of 10 consumers in the NRA research say they are trying to eat healthier at restaurants now than two years ago – and women more so than men (75% vs. 66%). About three-quarters of consumers say healthy menu options are an important factor when choosing a restaurant (80% of women vs. 71% of men).

And restaurants appear to be responding to this increasing demand for nutritious options. In fact, 86% of consumers say restaurants are offering a wider variety now than two years ago.

5 Things You Should Know About This Morning

beef industry hot topics

Whether it’s a suggestion for a new reality show featuring real ranch wives of rural America, or discussing the latest tactics of animal rights activists, or news on the latest way the media has “pink slimed” the beef industry, BEEF Daily aims to keep readers up-to-date on everything and anything beef industry related. I’m always looking for leads for new blog posts, and I welcome emails and suggestions for future blog discussions. Today, here is a round-up of five beef-related news items submitted to me by readers.

1. A New York City school has adopted an all-vegetarian menu. First, many colleges adopted Meatless Monday; then, USDA MyPlate slashed protein servings in schools; and now, a school in New York City has established a new menu for elementary students, sans meat.

A city public school, Public School 244 in Queens, is one of the first in the nation to adopt an all-vegetarian menu. The menu includes items like tofu wraps, vegetarian chili, black bean and cheddar quesadillas and roasted potatoes. The elementary school houses 400 students in pre-kindergarten through third grade.

"We think this is a really exciting development," says Ryan Huling, who coordinates PETA's work with colleges that serve vegetarian fare. "The school should be commended for providing students with low-fat, nutrient-packed brain food." Read more about this here.

I think this is nothing short of child abuse and a nutritional decision based not on science or wellness, but on emotions and popular politics. It’s been proven that children need protein to fuel their active lifestyles, growing bodies and developing brains.

According to the New York Beef Industry Council, “Are your kids getting enough nutrients to support their active body and learning needs? Are you not feeling as energetic or sharp as you should be? Do you know iron brings oxygen to our muscles as well as our brain? Iron deficiency is common among young children and women. Beef is the number-one natural food source of iron in our diet.

“Iron is an essential mineral which plays a role in a variety of body functions. Iron’s primary role is to carry oxygen and carbon dioxide within the red blood cell from one body tissue to another. Iron is also necessary for the production of energy and to support the immune system. Many foods in the diet contain iron, but this iron is not always easily absorbed by your body. Iron in meat such as beef is better absorbed and available to our bodies than plant foods.”

2. Orthorexia is on the rise. This disordered eating eliminates entire food groups such as meat and dairy. One nutritionist warns about the dangers of excessive eating and dieting.

Michelle Roberts for WBZ-TV writes, “This is the time of year when many people are excited to get in shape and eat healthier. The problem is many people are going too far. A dangerous phenomenon called ‘Orthorexia’ is becoming more prevalent.

“Staying healthy means following a balanced diet. A growing number of people, however, are eliminating entire food groups, seeing only negative qualities in things like dairy, eggs, meats, grains, and fats. Over time, the only things left in their diet are fruits and vegetables. Taken to an extreme, it’s now treated as an eating disorder called Orthorexia.

“This is how Boston University Nutritionist Jenn Culbert defines Orthorexia: ‘What it essentially means is that someone is obsessed with eating only healthy food that they consider to be pure. Fat helps us absorb fat soluble vitamins, A, D, E, and K, and it also helps us absorb phydo-chemicals in fruits and vegetables.”

Eating disorders are certainly something to take seriously, and eliminating entire food groups can prove dangerous. After reading the comments, I have to agree that focusing on a healthy diet and active lifestyle shouldn’t be categorized as disordered eating. More and more consumers are paying closer attention to the label, and I certainly empathize with those who abstain from certain foods because of allergies. But, for those who take diets to extremes in order to get a six-pack, this is a valid concern.

3. Women’s Health & Fitness Australia lists lean red meat as its number-one healthy food in a list of top 10 foods for active women. According to the article, “Lean red meat is an excellent source of iron, zinc, protein and vitamin B12. Iron deficiency is a very common problem for women and may lead to anemia. Symptoms include tiredness and fatigue due to a lack of oxygen in the blood and other body tissues including muscles. It is very difficult to keep active or perform optimally if you are anemic. “Female athletes are at a particularly high risk of iron deficiency irrespective of the type or intensity of exercise. While there are many physiological factors involved in female athletes’ vulnerability to iron deficiency, low dietary intake of iron is a major factor.

“The Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) of iron for menstruating women aged 19-50 years is 18mg/day. Iron from animal foods like red meat is more easily absorbed than iron from plant foods, with 100g of red meat containing about 3-4g of iron. Generally, the redder the meat, the higher the iron. For example, 100g of liver contains about 10g of iron, whereas 100g of pork has only 1g of iron. The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend red meat to be eaten three to four times/week, especially for women and athletes, to maximize iron absorption. Diet tip: Combine red meat meals with dark green leafy vegetables to enhance plant iron absorption.”

Other foods that made the list included bananas, oranges, berries, sweet potatoes, pasta, oats, natural yogurt, soybeans, and salmon.

4. Obama family enjoys steak supper every Friday night.

Admittedly, there are some things that First Lady Michelle Obama do that makes me ask, “What the hell, Michelle?” Friend and Nebraska rancher Trent Loos has a blog post titled just that. You can read his responses to some of Obama’s positions here.

When she slashed protein servings in the updated USDA MyPlate food guidelines, I scratched my head, wondering how these kids would fuel up to get through advanced math classes and late-night sports practices. But, setting politics aside, in a recent interview with CBS News, Michelle dishes on everything from her Let’s Move campaign, to gun violence, to growing food in the White House garden, to the President’s favorite meal -- beef.

“Most nights, the White House menu is driven by what comes out of the ground right there. But Friday nights, all bets are off. Friday is Steak Night.

"You know, we're not vegetarians. We love red meat," says Obama. "We generally have steak on Friday, and that's the President's favorite dinner, so Friday nights are steak nights." Like her or leave her, if she called me up to a Friday evening meal at the White House, I would be hard-pressed to turn it down. I wonder what the President’s favorite cut of beef is?

5. The Chew On This Tour is a unique, interactive road show traveling the nation to heighten awareness about one of the biggest problems facing the world today: hunger.

Tour spokesperson Bill Goldberg, former NFL lineman and champion wrestler, answers questions about world hunger and sustainable food production. A reader sent me information on this informative, educational tour, which aims to bring awareness to the one in four American children who go to bed at night hungry. The tour is full of facts to “chew on.” Here are a few to ponder this morning:

  • Chew On This! About 870 million people worldwide don’t get enough food.
  • Chew On This! Hunger kills more people worldwide than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.
  • Chew on This! According to the United Nations, by the year 2050, the global population will be 9 billion. We will need 70% more food and 70% of that food will have to come from efficiency-enhancing technology.
  • Chew on This! Less than 2% of Americans farm for a living. So many people lack knowledge about where their food comes from and how it’s produced. For more information on the tour, including facts, event photos and details for how to get involved, check out the website here.

Do you have any comments or thoughts on these five news items of the day? Share your ideas in the comments section below. And, be sure to email me at [email protected] with any suggestions for future blog topics. Thanks for your participation.


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Cow Slaughter Rates Affecting Beef Production

Beef production and slaughter have been larger in recent weeks, helping to make the decrease in the year-to-date total less than many analysts expected, says Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension livestock marketing specialist.

Total beef production for the year to date has decreased 1.3% and total slaughter is down 2.1% compared to the same period last year.

"A significant part of the total slaughter number is the result of increased cow slaughter," Peel said. "Year-to-date slaughter of steers, heifers and bulls are all down from last year. Only cow slaughter is up, at 1.2% so far this year."

Improving drought conditions are expected to limit cow slaughter in coming months. Peel believes the numbers are the result of several factors, most notably unexpected beef herd liquidation and structural change in the North American dairy industry.

For example, the closure of a major cow slaughter plant in Quebec, Canada, last year has had an effect on U.S. cow slaughter, as well as the trade flow of cattle and beef between the United States and Canada.

"A significant part of the 4.4% increase in dairy cow slaughter this year is likely due to increased imports of Canadian dairy cows," Peel says. "Previously, these cows were slaughtered in Canada and much of the processing beef shipped to the U.S."

Though the data are incomplete, there are indications that the flow of processing beef – such as trimming for ground beef – has reversed with Canada, which is now deficit in processing beef.

"The incomplete nature of trade and domestic slaughter data make it difficult to assess what is happening to the U.S. dairy cow herd," Peel says. "However, it is clear that this structural change must be considered, otherwise it would be easy to draw incorrect conclusions about changes in the U.S. dairy cow herd."

After five weeks of year-over-year increases, beef cow slaughter in the United States U.S. decreased only 2.1% for the year to date. Unexpected beef herd liquidation is implied by the fact that beef cow slaughter has increased nearly 14% year over year for the last five weeks.

"Basically, it appears that winter has been just too much for some producers," Peel says. "Hay is extremely expensive and in short supply, and apparently beyond the reach of some cattle producers, especially in more recent weeks."

To read the entire article, click here.


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The Importance Of Weaning And Castration

weaning baby calves

Recent research findings by Edouard Timsit, a University of Calgary DVM, point a finger of responsibility for bovine respiratory disease (BRD) right back at the sick feeder calf. Using DNA typing, his studies show that the most common and destructive bacteria involved in the BRD complex (BRDC) – Mannheimia haemolytica – are mostly not spread from calf to calf during BRD outbreaks occurring at feedlots.

No, this bacterium seems to attack the calf’s lungs after some stressful event, and it’s primarily the M. haemolytica bacteria that live in the upper respiratory tract as a part of the calf’s “normal” bacterial flora that do the damage. After some stressors, the calf’s immune system is unable to fight off the bacteria that have been residing in the calf’s nasopharyngeal area for months.

According to preliminary research by Jared Taylor at Oklahoma State University, Pasteurella multocida, another bacterial pathogen in BRDC, seems to be similarly opportunistic.

Both researchers contend that BRD due to M. haemolytica andP. multocida may not really be contagious. The stress on the calf’s immune system, along with these bacteria that normally inhabit the upper respiratory system, could be all it takes to trigger a BRD event. While research is ongoing, the initial findings point more to the sick calf itself and less to the pen mates.

I’m not downplaying stressful events like commingling cattle and long truck rides, as we also know that the viruses that play a role in many BRDC cases, along with Mycoplasma bovis, are spread mostly from calf to calf in an outbreak. But what is the biggest stressor? I think the consensus would be weaning.

Most studies corroborate this finding, and most feedlot operators would concur. A calf weaned for 30 days (45 days is better) is much more tolerant to thrive in the feedlot environment than a calf that is unweaned.

Vaccinating the calf before moving is also important, but the work by Timsit and Taylor shows that if we add too many stressors, the bacteria will travel to the lungs and likely cause disease. With weaning being the biggest stressor, we need to have no other stressors that day, or opportunistic bacteria will likely storm down the trachea and set up shop, ready to cause disease.

Another health and welfare issue is selling bull calves. Castration at the backgrounding lot is too late. Walk those spring-born calves through the chute now and cut them.


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I often hear that farmers and ranchers are the nation’s original champions of animal welfare, and I believe it. But, if you’re not weaning and castrating your calves before you sell them, you can’t wear the animal welfare ribbon.

We’ve all heard someone say, “I can’t wean calves before I sell them. I don’t have the facilities or feed.”

  • If you don’t have facilities, use the two-step weaning program in which you apply an anti-nursing device to the nose of the calf for five days, and then wean with a single electric wire between the cows and calves.
  • If you have no feed, then wean the calves when you still have some grass and save the best patch for the weanlings.

I tell my students that “can’t never did anything,” and they figure out a way to get the task accomplished. 

The bottom line is, we can do better. We can reduce morbidity and mortality, and enhance animal welfare. If you’re not weaning and castrating calves before selling them, then figure out a way to get the task accomplished.

Ask a neighbor who weans before selling how he does it. Ask your herd health veterinarian or Extension beef specialist for help. They likely have helped others with similar concerns, and most love that part of their job.

Again, we can do better, and your calves deserve better.


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