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Articles from 2015 In May


Nominations for 2015 BEEF Stocker Award now open

BEEF magazine developed the National Stocker Award in 2006 to recognize stocker operations and backgrounders for their contributions to the beef industry. What’s more, the program serves as a platform for top producers to share ideas and learn from one another.

The winner of the 2015 BEEF National Stocker Award, sponsored by Zoetis, will receive $2,000 in products, an October 2015 cover story in BEEF magazine and $1,000 to cover expenses to attend the 2016 Cattle Industry Convention, January 27-29 in San Diego, Calif.

For inspiration, check out our previous winners.

Click here for a nomination form and click here for the rules.

Entries are due by July 8. For more information or questions, contact Wes Ishmael at [email protected] or 817-249-4545.

Meat Market Update | Rib and loin continue to carry cutout

Ed Czerwien, USDA Market News reporter in Amarillo, TX, provides us with the latest outlook on boxed beef prices and the weekly cattle trade.

The situation is basically the same as last week and the tremendous rally in the Choice rib and loin has carried the cutout higher due to holiday demand for steak meat. These cuts have pretty much carried the cutout higher by themselves since the round and chuck have been steady to weak during this same time.

Genetic evaluation is now in the hands of commercial cattle producers

Genetic evaluation is now in the hands of commercial cattle producers

It seems that everyone in seedstock circles is talking about genomically-enhanced EPDs and the rapid changes occurring in the seedstock industry. With the advent of multi-breed evaluations and improvements in national genetic evaluations, the rate of progress is unprecedented. The seedstock industry in many respects will be almost unrecognizable in five years compared to what it is today.

Yet, the greatest impact of these changes will be felt by the commercial industry. The rate of change in our genetics is occurring quickly, and while the differentiation between those who do and don’t take advantage of that is growing in every segment, nowhere is it more pronounced than at the commercial cow-calf level. 

Perhaps the biggest step in this regard has been taken, with very little fanfare, by the American Simmental Association (ASA), which now provides EPDs for commercial cowherds. Commercial cattlemen who participate will be the beneficiary of selection tools that, in time, will be as powerful, if not more so, than what the seedstock industry enjoys today. The ability to fine-tune selection decisions, optimize profits and ensure sustainability from a genetic selection perspective is entering a brave new era. 

That brave new era will be met with more than just a little discomfort in all segments, but the technology has evolved to the point where the only limitation to improved genetic selection will be producers’ willingness to utilize the tools available.

For the longest time, genetic evaluation tools were almost monopolistic; they were only valuable to registered, purebred populations and to those willing to invest significant time and resources to collect and analyze data. Those walls are crumbling, and it is hard to imagine that the different EPD bases that make it difficult to compare animals across breeds or with varying breed compositions will last much longer. 

We are entering a time where everyone will have equal access to data, meaning genetics will be valued based on their true value regardless of their origin, breed or breed composition. The competitive advantages won by exclusive databases will actually become limitations as the industry moves to having one database that eliminates the barriers to competition and allows selection decisions to be based less and less on perception and more and more on science. 

seedstock 100

BEEF Seedstock 100
Looking for a new seedstock provider? Use our BEEF Seedstock 100 listing to find the largest bull sellers in the U.S. Browse the Seedstock 100 list here.

 

The ASA has led the way in terms of multi-breed evaluations and now it has taken the step to give that power to commercial producers. Remember the days when we all had 70 pound birth weights, 1,200 pound cows, calves with all their shots, the promise of nothing more than our eyeballs that we purchased good bulls and a market that paid nearly the same price for calves after adjusting for color, condition, fill and lot size? I have a feeling I will be telling my grandkids about it one of these days and they will give me the same quizzical look I get when I try to explain to my kids about floppy disks and Blockbuster video stores. 

 

Pricklypear control helps replenish pastures

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Breed-back on first-calf heifers starts with nutrition

How to treat lump jaw disease in cattle

Picture perfect summer grazing scenes from readers

9 new haymaking tools for the 2015 forage season

Memorial Day is more than a grilling holiday

Beef Checkoff Photo

As cattle producers, we tend to talk about Memorial Day from its standpoint as one of the biggest holidays of the year for beef consumption. As I sat down to write this, I was going to talk about the good news from Memorial Day beef clearance, which exceeded lower expectations brought on by abnormally wet and cold conditions over a large swath of the country. I had a mind to delve into the two schools of thought relative to the grilling season, which has been slowed by unusual weather patterns.

Instead, I’ll only touch on that briefly. One school of thought says that once the opportunity is gone, so is the demand we would have enjoyed. The other school holds that demand builds up, and we will recover some of those lost opportunities when the weather allows for grilling season to get going in earnest. There is nothing quite as dangerous as extrapolating overall trends from one’s own experience, but our grill has seen more use in the last two weeks than it has in the last four months. 

Yet, it seems incomplete to talk about Memorial Day beef demand without talking about the real significance of the holiday. I’ve always been taught that there is no greater gift to give than to lay down one’s life for another. It is what Jesus Christ did and it changed the course of all humanity. It is what our soldiers have done for us and it not only won us our freedom, but the right to take advantage of unprecedented opportunities. 

With that said, it is difficult to sufficiently honor those who have sacrificed so much for us; those are debts we cannot repay, gifts we did not deserve. We can say thanks and give praise for their sacrifices, and they expect no more. 

But that seems somehow inadequate. Last week, there was a huge group of motorcyclists who went through our town on what they call the “Run to the Wall.” They go to Washington, D.C., to the war memorials to pay tribute those who have given so much to us. I watched a Vietnam veteran go past me, with his modified motorbike that had his wheel chair strapped to the back, and it was a stark reminder of just how much has been sacrificed on our behalf. 

While we can never deserve the gifts that have been given us or repay the sacrifices made, perhaps the greatest honor is to live our lives in a way that honors those who have given so much. Like most people, I talk about the value of hard work and strive to achieve certain things, but the three greatest blessings in my life – my faith, the love of my family, and the freedoms and opportunities associated with being an American—are undeserved; they are the result of tremendous sacrifices willingly given by others for me. 

Perhaps that is the real message of the holiday—it is about honoring those sacrifices. While they are debts we cannot repay, we honor them by helping to ensure that the next generation receives what our heroes have given so much for.

 

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New movie, “The Ivy League Farmer,” discusses ag technology, hunger

Many people involved in modern agriculture have long believed that ag technology is an important tool in fighting hunger, not only in far-away lands, but in our own communities.

Those two closely-related topics have come together in a new feature film, “The Ivy League Farmer,” which tells the story of a father and son in conflict over the use of modern technology and the future of the family farm. It’s also a love story that explores a small town’s concern about local kids not getting enough to eat.

“Food safety, sustainability, and affordability are critical issues,” says Jeff Cannon, president and CEO of Diamond V, an Iowa-based company focused on cost-effective production and optimal food safety. “Food security is a growing concern, too. Even though the U.S. has one of the safest and most affordable food supplies in the world, 15% of Americans suffer from food insecurity.

“Even in Iowa, one of the top agricultural states, there are communities where one in four school-age children get their only meal of the day at school.”

At the same time, Cannon says, everyone gets a great deal of confusing, often contradictory information about modern food production.

“Less than 2% of Americans live on working farms,” he points out, “so it’s not surprising that there are a lot of misconceptions about modern agriculture and the vital role it plays in meeting the challenges of food security at home and abroad.”

Cannon said it’s a challenge to help consumers better understand the real choices ahead as farmers work to produce safe, sustainable, affordable food. To help address the “farm to food knowledge gap,” Diamond V became a founding member of Farming to Fight Hunger, a non-profit organization to increase public awareness of food security issues and improve knowledge of modern agriculture. “The Ivy League Farmer” is the group’s first project.

Diamond V is using “The Ivy League Farmer” in a non-profit initiative to raise funds to help feed local kids in need. The company is sponsoring the film’s premiere showings, June 5-7, at Theatre Cedar Rapids in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Industry and local sponsors also are stepping up to support Operation BackPack, an all-volunteer, non-profit project that feeds school children who may not get enough to eat over the weekend. The six-county Hawkeye Area Community Action Program (HACAP) administers Operation BackPack, providing kids in need a backpack containing nutritious food items for the weekend.

Diamond V recognizes food security as a growing concern worldwide. The company is an international leader in nutritional health products for animals and people with offices around the world and sales in nearly 60 countries.

“Every 3.6 seconds someone dies of hunger,” Cannon says. “Seven million children starve to death every year. Another 870 million people suffer from malnutrition. In many countries, rapid population growth, fragile ecosystems, and limited natural resources impact people’s food supply. In other countries, increasing per capita income means growing demand for food.”

Unfortunately, most of the world’s land suitable for farming is already in production. What this means, Cannon says, is that an estimated 70% of future increases in food production capacity must come from new and improved agricultural technologies. He believes that family entertainment like “The Ivy League Farmer” can raise public awareness about hunger, modern technology, and the farmers who devote their lives to meeting the growing need for food.

Cannon, who grew up on an Iowa farm, says, “If we show it… they will see!”

Watch the movie trailer at http://www.diamondv.com/media/farming-to-fight-hunger/.

“The Ivy League Farmer,” directed by Tom Weber, produced by Mark Miller and Frank Miller, starring Randy Wayne, Janine Turner, Terry Serpico: Just graduated from Harvard, Joel Gilbert has a highfalutin’ job waiting for him on Wall Street. But when he returns home for the summer he discovers his family’s dairy farm is in trouble. Joel’s Ivy League business skills can help, but his dad is too stubborn to risk investing in the high-tech future of family farming. Joel’s problems multiply when he realizes he’s falling in love with his childhood sweetheart. However, Holly Kramer’s mission in life may or may not include Joel. Many school-age kids in their rural hometown are not getting enough to eat. Besides teaching school, Holly is leading the local fight against food insecurity.

 

Family Ranching Series Part 4: 10 ways to sabotage family estate transfer plans

Family Ranching Series Part 4: 10 ways to sabotage family estate transfer plans

This is the fourth and final installment in my family ranching series, where I have focused on preparing for emergencies, managing money expectations in the family business and tips for estate planning. This week, I want to expand on estate planning with these 10 do’s and don’ts for families beginning the tough and numerous conversations about establishing a succession plan.

When planning my four-part family ranching series, I wanted to zero in on common problems ranchers need to navigate to keep the business thriving and the family intact. By far, the biggest hurdle families face is putting together an estate plan.

In case you missed the previous three installments, check them out here: 

1. Family Ranching Series Part 1: Is your family ranching business prepared for a crisis? 

2. Family Ranching Series Part 2: 5 resources to help manage money expectations 

3. Family Ranch Series Part 3: Avoid these 3 mistakes when estate planning

According to a report from University of Wyoming Extension and the Wyoming Agriculture & Natural Resource Mediation Program, nearly 30% of farm, ranch and rural business owners do not know what will happen to their operations when they retire. Even worse, only 1% of family-owned farm and ranch businesses in North America are transferred to a third generation, and 30% of all family-owned farm and ranch businesses have not considered a successor. A whopping 58% of farm and ranch business owners say inadequate succession planning is the biggest threat facing their business.

So why do ranchers avoid estate planning like the plague? According to the report, the topic of estate planning is often avoided because ranch families may not be ready to think about the issues regarding people, property, taxes, laws, and the subsequent costs of putting a plan in place.

I recently ran across an article in the Journal of Extension titled, “Some do’s and don’ts for successful farm and ranch estate planning.” Although the article is a bit dated, the tips remain quite relevant.

Here are 10 ways to sabotage family estate transfer plans:

Photo Credit: Flickr user Rob Lee

1. Procrastinate. Don't write a will or transfer plan. Let the children worry about it after you're gone.

2. Avoid planning or making decisions.

3. Don’t discuss the subject of estate transfer. Keep information from younger family members. This is a sure way to increase family conflict.

4. Blame others for problems. Stay angry.

5. Do all you can to block the younger generation from any involvement in goal setting or decision making until they are middle aged.

6. Refuse to listen to other family members' viewpoints.

7. Hold on to total control of the family business.

8. Assume others know what you want. Avoid discussing your wishes about transfer with family members.

9. Make sure all your sense of worth, your identity, and life's meaning come solely from the business. Resist transferring to the next generation. This way they have the least influence and the most stress.

10. Pay no attention to wake-up calls like a farm/ranch accident, illness, death, or major choice point by an offspring.

For more on these 10 tips, read the entire article here.

These tips not only apply to estate planning but are also relevant to how we communicate with one another on the ranch, as well. Do you have an estate plan in place? Do any of the 10 things sound familiar? Share your stories in the comments section below.

Be sure to keep tuning in to June’s series on cattle nutrition. Each Thursday, I will focus on the various ways to keep your cows, calves and bulls healthy during the summer months.

By the way, in April I wrote a five-part grazing series. In case you missed it, here are the links to each installment in the series.

1. Grazing Series Part 1: 3 tips for spring hay & pasture management 

2. Grazing Series Part 2: Extensive vs. moderate grazing, effective cross-fencing & more 

3. Grazing Series Part 3: Questions to ask before planting cover crops, alfalfa & perennial grasses on irrigated pastures

4. Grazing Series Part 4: 7 resources for pasture management in times of drought 

5. Grazing Series Part 5: Be a good neighbor & maintain your fences with these 3 tips 

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.

 

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Buddy to boss: Helping newly-promoted manager succeed

Does the following story sound familiar? A hard working employee—let’s call her Debora—proves herself a great sales producer and a real “go-getter.” When a supervisory position opens up, Debora seems the logical choice for the spot. Who else could better train the staff into a mean, lean selling machine? Debora accepts the promotion with enthusiasm and everyone looks forward to great things.

Alas, the anticipated revenue boom never materializes. In fact, sales start to soften. It’s no secret why: People hate working for Debora. The result is predictable: Productivity falls. Customers flee. Profits go south.

Debora ends up jumping ship--and her erstwhile employer faces a costly and time-consuming rebuilding effort.

Promote wisely

Debora’s story illustrates a lesson too often learned the hard way: An individual who excels in sales, technical operations or administrative tasks can easily fail when it comes to managing others.

“Too often business owners believe that exceptional employees who provide extraordinary service are the best candidates for managerial positions,” says Richard Avdoian, founder and CEO of Midwest Business Institute, a consulting firm based in metropolitan St. Louis, Mo. (midwestbusinessinstitute.com). “Unfortunately, such people often become just adequate leaders.”

Avdoian suggests a more effective approach for assessing management candidates: “Look for employees with qualities that make great leaders,” he says. “Do they deal with people in an effective way? Do others like working with them? When they speak, do their colleagues listen? Do they rally others to complete tasks?”

Lead the way

Those questions suggest the importance of one personal characteristic: the ability to inspire others to great performance. And that ability, in turn, suggests the truism that transformational “leadership skills”—not the ability to manage discreet projects—are more important than ever in today’s work environment.

“New managers and supervisors need to understand the difference between managing and leading,” says Lois P. Frankel, a partner at Corporate Coaching International, Los Angeles (corporatecoachingintl.com). “Managing is about producing measurable outcomes: about controlling budgets and costs and work output. Managers tend to mandate policies and procedures that too often restrain new ideas from getting off the ground.”

Leadership is different. “Leaders clear the way for great ideas to come to fruition,” says Frankel. “They inspire people to create change and meet challenges.”

Managing, while critical to getting tasks done, is less than effective when dealing with people, says Frankel. “You can manage the organizational process, but you must lead people.”

If you’re thinking that prospective leaders might be harder to find that nascent managers, you would be correct. “We often see strong managers,” says Frankel. “But seldom strong leaders.”

Spot the leader

If promising leaders are scarce on the ground, it follows that you will need to sharpen your own skills for identifying them when they do appear. And that begins with an understanding of the specific characteristics of strong leadership.

“Great leaders possess transformational skill sets,” says Lauran Star, a business consultant based in Bedford, N.H. (lauranstar.com). “You need to spot people who like change, who see issues well before they become problems, and who think outside the box and develop creative solutions rather than just putting out fires.”

Leaders are able to develop teams and have the discipline to manage themselves well. Such competencies might be assessed by many points of measurement. For example, the ability to develop teams might be assessed by the tendency to grant deserved recognition, to take a win-win approach to negotiating solutions, to play fair in judgement and action, to foster collaboration across different cross functional boundaries and to manage and resolve conflict.

Communicate well

Great leaders also have the ability to communicate with others, says Randy Goruk, president of The Randall Wade Group, Scottsdale, AZ (leadersedge360.com).

“Ineffective communication leads to many problems,” says Goruk. “Frustration. Anger. Conflict. Low productivity. Poor quality work. Higher costs. It’s a killer.”

Communication skills have become even more important because of changing demographics, says Star. “Today we have baby boomers who are letter writers, Gen Xers who are emailers and phone callers, and Millennials who are Tweeters and instant messagers. Good leaders are able to communicate with members of all these generations in all these ways.”

What’s good for the employee is good for the customer. “Leaders communicate well with all the generations making up an organization’s customer base,” says Star. “Leaders understand what marketing messages will drive sales with diverse audiences.”

Prepare for launch

Spotting employees with leadership skills is important. Seldom, though, does one prospective leader possess all the requisite skills at the level required. Enter training.

It’s smart to put a training program in place that will teach people what it’s like to be a manager before they get promoted. Training, of course, can be expensive. One way to reduce the cost is to make temporary work assignments that give people the chance to lead and to decide if the management life is right for them.

Johanna Rothman, founder of Rothman Consulting Group, Arlington, Mass. (jrothman.com), suggests approaching promising candidates with words such as these: “Why don’t you manage one or two people as a team leader? You can practice your skills in coaching and in providing feedback.” Then, says Rothman, set a date and time to discuss any issues that might have arisen during the candidate’s time in control.

Helping hands

Mentors can help newly promoted leaders succeed. “Employees with formal mentor relationships tend to value them,” says Goruk. “They say things like ‘Mentors are good because they hold me accountable for things. They share different perspectives and are experienced in overcoming the challenges I am facing.’”

But take care in assigning mentors to your nascent leaders. Not everyone is good at the job. “Mentors must have the desire to be mentors,” says Goruk. “They must want to help people succeed and have an interest in people personally and professionally.”

Coaches, too, can help pave the way for successful promotions. They differ from mentors in the level of control and input they provide their wards. “A mentor teaches skills; a coach helps a person navigate through professional development,” explains Avdoian.

Gen Xers tend to need mentors, while Millennials tend to need coaches, according to Star. The disparity results from the differing psychology of the two groups. “Gen Xers are proactive about improving themselves,” says Star. “They have taken their assessments and already know what skills they lack. And they have enough business acumen to realize that unless they improve themselves they will not get ahead.” For them, regular consultations with mentors suffice.

“Millennials, on the other hand, often do not know what skills they lack,” says Star. As a result, they need a more assertive level of assistance. “Coaches can prompt Millennials to think through problems and find solutions, and that will help them grow faster.”

Plan for success

Finally, let us return to the story that opened this article. Debora, the star salesperson, had been promoted to a management position not because she possessed leadership skills but as a reward for great performance. That led to disaster. “You would not hire someone to be an accountant without accounting skills,” says Frankel. “Yet too often we promote people without relevant experience or training to important management roles. The result is that the promoted individuals often flounder and create discord within their departments.”

It’s a common scenario that can be avoided with proper preparation. Spot potential leaders by their ability to lead without the trappings of a formal assignment. Then make sure they get the mentoring or coaching they need to perform the demanding tasks of leadership. The result will be a successful hire, a happy staff and higher profits.

 

Sustainability drum beats louder

Healthy cattle
<p>Healthy cattle</p>

The impact of Walmart’s Friday announcement regarding its positions on animal welfare and antibiotic use in farm animals—as a next step in improving sustainability of what it sells—is squarely in the eye of the beholder.

Among other things, Walmart is asking its suppliers to:

  • Report and take disciplinary and corrective action in cases of animal abuse.
  • Find and implement solutions to address animal welfare concerns in housing systems, painful procedures and euthanasia or slaughter.

“Walmart will not tolerate animal abuse, supports the globally recognized Five Freedoms of animal welfare and is committed to working with supply chain partners in order to implement practices consistent with those five freedoms,” according to the position statement for Walmart USA and Sam’s Club USA.

These Five Freedoms are:

  • Freedom from hunger and thirst – by providing ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigor.
  • Freedom from discomfort – by providing appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
  • Freedom from pain, injury or disease – by ensuring prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
  • Freedom to express normal behavior – by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind.
  • Freedom from fear and distress – by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.

Response from the cattle side of the fence has been muted so far. After all, cattle producers already address these Five Freedoms through common sense animal husbandry practices learned across generations by working with Mother Nature.

The one area that should cause some squirming is painful procedures and pain control.

In a separate document—“Position on Farm Animal Welfare - Sustainable Products at Walmart and Sam’s Club”—Walmart says it is asking its suppliers to find and implement solutions to address animal welfare concerns including, “…Painful procedures where avoidable or without pain management (for example, tail docking, de-horning and castration)...”

Incidentally, when it comes to pain management, the Walmart statement didn’t mention the fact that an analgesic has yet to be approved for use in beef cattle by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

General news media seemed to think the announcement was a big deal, some reports even suggesting Walmart’s size and sway in the retail marketplace make their position a game changer. There are certainly plenty of examples that Walmart wants ultimately to set industry standards in areas like packaging and inventory control.

Activist groups seemed to generally applaud the Walmart announcement, then yammer on about the positions representing suggestions rather than mandates with concrete deadlines.

“These positions are not time-bound, says Kevin Gardner, Walmart senior director, global responsibility communications. “Our positions are not time-bound and are not mandatory guidance to our suppliers, but we have many examples of similar productive collaborations with our suppliers that has resulted in positive change across many categories.” 

The same goes for Walmart’s position on the responsible use of antibiotics in farm animals.

Among their requests, Walmart asks suppliers to adopt and implement the “Judicious Use Principles of Antimicrobial Use” guidelines from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). That includes accurate recordkeeping, veterinary oversight, and limiting antimicrobial treatment to animals that are ill or at risk.

Walmart also mentions adoption and implementation of FDA’s “Voluntary Guidance for Industry #209” in their own operations and their industry producer programs.

Both are in keeping with what cattle producers are already doing or preparing for.

The other thing that has producers wondering is Walmart’s mention of reporting. In the case of animal welfare, Walmart is asking suppliers to promote transparency by providing progress reports to Walmart and publicly reporting against their own corporate animal welfare position on annual basis.

In the case of antibiotic use, they’re asking producers to promote transparency by providing a report on antibiotics management to Walmart and publicly report antibiotic use on an annual basis.

Gardner mentioned that several Walmart suppliers are already doing this on their company websites. By the way, I asked for a definition of supplier—the best I could come up with is anyone having anything to do with producing the beef that Walmart USA or Sam’s Club USA ends up procuring.

Reading between the lines, programs like Tyson’s FarmCheck program may already fill the bill of compliance for this non-mandate. FarmCheck is focused on feedlots selling cattle to Tyson and includes third-party audits.

“I’d like to emphasize again that our requests in these positions are not time-bound, and we want to collaborate with our suppliers to drive innovation in these areas,” Gardner says.

“Our customers want to know more about how their food is grown and raised, and where it comes from. As the nation’s largest grocer, Walmart is committed to using our strengths to drive transparency and improvement across the supply chain,” says Kathleen McLaughlin, president of the Walmart Foundation and senior vice president of Walmart sustainability.

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Pricklypear control helps replenish pastures

6 steps to low-input cow herd feeding

Breed-back on first-calf heifers starts with nutrition