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Articles from 2017 In May

How much to feed a heifer? That is the question

Composite heifers at Fort Keogh

For those of us with a little silver and gray atop our noggins, or in my case when my hair turned gray and turned loose at about the same time, we’re very familiar with the old paradigms that heifers need to be at 65% of their mature weight and in a BCS of at least 6 and 7 is better at the beginning of breeding season.

However, research over the last decade or so has challenged those thoughts. Earlier this spring, I had the pleasant opportunity to spend part of a day at the Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research Laboratory at Miles City, Mont. And I learned a thing or two in a discussion with researchers Andy Roberts and Mark Petersen.

Roberts told me that it’s not that those familiar paradigms aren’t valid, but it’s helpful to look at them through a different set of lenses. For starters, the research many decades ago that led to those paradigms and the NRC nutritional requirements to make them happen were conducted with university research herds. Those cattle may have been managed differently than commercial herds—particularly commercial herds in more challenging environments like eastern Montana.

Looking at the old paradigms, Roberts said if we fed 100% of the NRC requirements, we might get 90% pregnant. “Well, if we fed 85% of that amount, we would lose 5-10% of those animals because of reproductive failure.”

So then, the question is, what is the biological description of the animals we lose? Are they efficient animals or inefficient animals? “And my thought would be they are the least efficient animals in the herd because we had to feed them more than the other 80% to get the same response. So we’ve overfed 80% to get this 5-10% to work. And that’s a huge inefficiency when you think of that on a nationwide basis.

“And another thing it does, it removes any selection pressure for efficiency because we don’t know which animals those are when we feed them to succeed and we keep replacement heifers on them. So we basically propagate the problem into our future cowherd.”

Fort Keogh has several herds, one of which is a composite herd that’s managed very much like a commercial cow-calf herd in a challenging environment. “We decided we’ll just ask this question. If we feed less in half of that herd, what will happen after a lifetime of productivity of these animals? So we started in 2001 and are still following these cattle today,” Roberts said.

The research is fascinating and I plan to do a more extensive article in the future. However, for this blog, I’ll cut straight to the meat. They separated the herd into two halves, with one getting less nutritional input than the other. But even the “restricted” cows weren’t just left to scratch out a living on their own. Both groups, and the subsequent groups in following years, were supplemented during the winter, just at different levels.

“So after seven years of that, we basically had no significant difference in reproductive performance, pregnancy rate, on the cowherd. The thing you might conclude from that is either our estimations of what we were working with were wrong and we were feeding adequate amounts to everything, or the cows don’t operate under what we think they do, the NRC requirements,” Roberts said.

“Basically, between our work and some work that was done by Mark [Petersen] at New Mexico, what it appears is that cows managed very extensively probably have lower requirements than what we predict they should have in the NRC recommendations. They can operate at a lower level of nutritional input or nutritional availability, than what NRC says they will,” Roberts concludes.

“So the requirements are exaggerated because that 20% that need more are in there [the early research that led to the present-day NRC recommendations]. If you get rid of those, then you’ve got that other 80% that don’t need more and the requirements come down,” Petersen adds.

According to Roberts, “The other aspect of that is these are groups of cattle, both at New Mexico and here, that have been managed pretty extensively, what you would consider a traditional or maybe the commercial cattle operations in this area. They’re managed at a lower level of input. So either you’ve selected out or they’ve adapted to working at that level. It could be either way.”

And that’s basically the take-home lesson. By keeping an animal smaller, you reduce its nutritional requirements. And you can do that through genetics or management.

But there’s more. As they followed the heifer calves into adulthood, becoming part of the cowherd, they found another take-home:  “So the short of the story is cows managed with less produce offspring that are probably what you might call more drought resistant or function more favorably with less,” Roberts says. “So cows managed with more inputs, their daughters had a greater negative response when they were put in a lower feed environment post-weaning and every year of their life.”

And heifer weight at breeding? The Fort Keogh research is finding that heifers from the non-restricted group can enter the breeding season at 57% of mature weight, or around 700 pounds. The heifers from restricted dams enter breeding season at 54% of mature eight, or around 650 pounds.

“Sometimes I present these results to producers and they say my heifers are 650 pounds at weaning. These animals are 450 pounds at weaning,” Roberts said.

“When we manage an animal to be smaller, you can program that animal to be more efficient,” he concludes. “Same genetics, just changed it with management.”




Michigan state legislators are on their way to relaxing gun regulations. A Democratic candidate for governor in Illinois says Indiana's gun laws are too lax, which makes it easier for criminals to access guns that cause loss of life in Chicago.

Democrats in Senate Ag Committee are protesting deep cuts to rural development in president's budget. The Democrats wrote letter to President Trump.

Millennials, we've been told, are more into experiences than material things. That's what a man and woman in North Dakota intend to do. They have put their businesses and pets in hands of friends and will travel the globe.

Fed Cattle Recap | Cash market drifts lower

Fed cattle recap

Memorial Day is one of the biggest grilling days of the year, and the market leading up to the day that we rightfully remember our fallen was aggressive as retailers looked to fill their meat cases. With Memorial Day now behind us, will the fed cattle market begin its seasonal decline into summer? Or will great grilling weather, strong beef demand and Father’s Day keep the market ginning?

Click on the red arrow below for a complete audio report.

There will be plenty of product to meet this summer’s grilling demand. Estimated total federally-inspected cattle harvest was 613,000 head, compared with 586,000 the same week last year. That’s 27,000 head over last year. Total year-to-date harvest numbers are 666,000 head over last year 

The weekly weighted average cash steer price for the Five Area region—the five largest cattle feeding states of Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and Iowa—was $131.50 per cwt, compared with $134.26 the previous week, for a drop of $2.76. 

The Five Area weighted average cash dressed steer price was $208.61, compared with $212.62 the previous week. 

The Five Area total cash steer and heifer volume was 82,617 head, compared with about 74,925 the previous week. 

The Five Area average formula price was $219.52, compared with $228.18 the previous week, for a decline of $8.66. Five Area formula sales totaled 182,651 head, compared with about 165,947 the previous week. 

Nationally reported forward contracted cattle harvest was about 64,000 head, compared with 48,000 head the previous week.Packers have more than 246,000 head of forward contracts available for May and 297,000 for June.

The latest average national steer carcass weight for the week ending May 13 was 4 pounds higher at 836 pounds, compared with 863 pounds last year.                               

And, indicating that demand for quality beef is strong, the Choice-Select spread made history again, hitting $27.15 on Friday. That was about $1.40 higher compared with the previous week and much higher than the $20.50 spread last year.  



BETA NOPS feed assurance scheme goes international

The BETA NOPS feed assurance scheme, introduced to reduce the risk of naturally occurring prohibited substances in equine feed, has welcomed its first member from continental Europe. Hepromij, a family-run Dutch firm, has been audited to the code for its range of special feeds manufactured for the equine market under private label.

The company offers a portfolio of products, including energy mixes and herbal muesli, and ranges from feeds that are grain-free, low in starch and sugar, to those that are high in fat and fibre. It also produces pelleted snacks in all flavours, shapes and sizes.

Peggy Friesen, Hepromij's quality department head, said: “We are very happy to have become a BETA NOPS member. It shows that we have taken every possible measure to avoid NOPS in horse feed, as well as refining our quality systems to be extra-vigilant with the intake of raw materials and the production process.”

BETA executive director Claire Williams added: “With the acceptance of Hepromij into the scheme, an Australian company in the midst of the auditing process, members in the UK and Ireland – and a great deal of interest from other overseas companies – the BETA NOPS scheme has now become truly international.

“Since becoming a stand-alone code operated by BETA, rather than an appendix to UFAS and FEMAS codes, the BETA NOPS scheme has continued to grow and branch out into other countries around the world.”

Belonging to the BETA NOPS feed assurance scheme shows that a company has followed industry best-practice procedures, manufacturing in dedicated, non-medicated production lines in order to reduce the risk of cross-contamination. All members are checked on an annual basis to ensure that they continue to meet the scheme's stringent requirements and are eligible to feature the distinctive green BETA NOPS logo on feed packaging.

Meat sales fire up for summer

Amanda Radke Memorial Day beef kabobs

Memorial Day was just a few short days ago, and as the unofficial kickoff to summer, it’s got a lot of folks thinking about grilling season and backyard barbecues.

I’m in Athens, Ga., this week to speak at the Beef Improvement Federation’s Young Producers Symposium, and any time I travel, I always try to connect with at least a few consumers along the way.

Tuesday’s flight from South Dakota was no exception. Sitting in the airport, a gentlemen sitting next to me noticed the BEEF Daily blog that I was working on and asked me about what I do for a living. Turns out, we both came from media backgrounds and both studied journalism in college, so after we talked “shop” for a while, I turned the conversation to my life on the ranch.

He was from Chicago and had never met a rancher before. So we talked about cattle grazing, the value of pastureland, haying season and how we manage the herd during the cold winter months. Then, we talked about beef. I prepared myself for some tough questions, but it quickly became apparent I was talking to a serious beef fan.

He told me that he had gone to a neighbor’s house for a Memorial Day barbecue, and they were serving turkey burgers.

“Nope. I couldn’t do turkey burgers,” he told me. “If it’s not beef, it’s not a burger. I had to run to the grocery store quick to buy myself some hamburger to throw on the grill.”

Don’t you wish all consumers were like that? Hearing about his love of beef and bacon, despite all the rhetoric out there, was refreshing and reminded me that even though the naysayers may be the loudest, those folks aren’t necessarily the ones we should be focusing on.

Sure, we have some skeptics out there, but the summer of 2017 could be a prime time to market to the typical consumer who wants to buy safe, affordable beef for entertaining a crowd the next couple of months.

According to Jon Springer for Supermarket News, food retailers are looking to promote beef in a big way this summer.

Springer writes, “With deflated costs and a mad battle for share going on in many markets, supermarkets are promoting meat heavily and creatively this year as the Memorial Day kicks off the traditional grilling season with several leading with '2-day' or '4-day' sales to win traffic.”

Retailers are trending toward also promoting specialty meat items such as locally-raised, natural, organic and value products like store-made kabobs and burgers with unique ingredients.

“We monitor all the ads across the country and we’re seeing great prices for Memorial Day,” said John Beretta, vice president for meat and seafood merchandising for Albertsons Co. “We’re also seeing a lot of incremental grilling items being promoted on the cover page. That’s something we haven’t seen a lot of in the past -- burger patties, sausages and ribs are more prevalent than in years past. It’s a great position to be in as a consumer this year, that’s for sure.”

With meat sales accounting for 11% of consumer purchases, it certainly benefits retailers to encourage that steaks and burgers are added to the shopping cart.

“We know consumers are a lot more aware of the local, organic and natural meats, and so we are really involved with those offerings,” said Beretta, in the interview with Supermarket News. “We’re also doing a lot of value added items, items that we refer to as ‘one-step closer.’ A lot of our markets, if not all, are doing store-made kabobs, gourmet beef patties with inclusions like cheese or bacon. Every banner does it a little differently but that helps us in our endeavor to be the favorite local supermarket.”

Read more about supermarket trends and how retailers are promoting beef sales this summer by clicking here.

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


That comedian in the news for the distasteful picture where she appears to be holding bloodied head of President Trump has lived her adult life in California, but Kathy Griffin grew up near Chicago. She was the youngest of five children. At age of 18, she persuaded her parents to move to California so she could become famous. Tweet from Secret Service said they are on it.

Chipotle is out with list of restaurants where your data may have been hacked this spring. Several in Minnesota.

Early condition ratings with corn crop have little correlation with ratings in the fall. Interesting to see where problems are - eastern Corn Belt. In Indiana, 17% rated poor or very poor.  Ohio is 12% poor or very poor.

Farm Progress America, May 31, 2017

Max Armstrong offers a look at disease that is decimating groves across Florida - citrus greening. Max shares information about work being done to battle the disease across the state. Researchers are working hard on solutions.

Farm Progress America is a daily look at key issues in agriculture. It is produced and presented by Max Armstrong, veteran farm broadcaster and host of This Week in Agribusiness.

Who won BEEF’s ‘For the love of land & livestock” photo contest?

Stephanie Gray The Cowboy Way

The land beneath my feet is rich with stories and full of life. The variety of native grasses are bountiful with life. Bees buzz from flower to flower. Bugs and worms inch their way through the dense soil. Cattle graze peacefully, dropping fertilizer and aerating the dirt as they move through the acres of rolling hills. Calves grow thanks to their mother’s milk and the lush grass that grows abundantly in the summer months.

It’s hard not to love the summer grazing season, and spending quiet moments at the end of a hard day of work on the ranch just gazing at the horizon makes me thankful to be raising my family on the quiet prairie and grateful to be able to make a humble living tending to the land and the livestock that I love.

During the month of May, we have been celebrating ranchers' love of the land and the livestock with a photo contest. We created a gallery of reader-submitted images that showcase a rancher’s passion for the cattle and the pastures and fields he is responsible for.

You can view the entire gallery here.

From there, we narrowed the entries down to a group of finalists, and we asked you to help select the top photographs.

With thousands of votes, there are two images that rose to the top.

Congratulations to our champion photographer, Stephanie Gray, with her entry, “The cowboy way.”

Stephanie Gray

Our reserve champion award goes to Bradee Pazour with her entry, “Cousins.”

Bradee Pazour

Honorable mention goes to Dawn Smith with "Branding."

Dawn Smith

Our top photographers will receive either a western art print from BEEF's archives or a copy of “Courageous Cattlemen.”

Written by the late Robert C. de Baca, the book profiles many of the early industry leaders in the genetic improvement movement.

One of those early pioneers, de Baca was a well-known professor at Iowa State University, as well as owner of Mid-Iowa Cattle Co. and publisher of the Ideal Beef Memo, an early publication that encouraged the use of genetic selection and improvement.

Thanks to everyone who entered photos and voted. Cheers to an awesome contest with some beautiful images that truly capture the spirit of the cowboy and his love for the land and the livestock under his care.

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

6 Trending Headlines: New Yorkers meet South Dakota ranchers; PLUS: Koreans snap up U.S. beef

Jamie Purfeerst South Dakota beef cattle

South Dakota cattlemen connect with New York consumers

"The sheer size and scope of some of our beef operations in places like South Dakota can sometimes be difficult for consumers in more densely-populated areas to really grasp," said Suzy Geppert, executive director, South Dakota Beef Industry Council (SDBIC). "This is a fantastic opportunity for us to showcase how today's family farmers and ranchers combine scientific advances with family tradition."

South Dakota beef producers are utilizing a long-standing partnership with the New York Beef Council to reach East Coast consumers with a positive beef message. Each year, the New York Farm Tour brings consumer influencers to rural areas. This year, two South Dakota beef producers will help provide insight into modern beef production in the more wide-open spaces of the Midwest, reports the Tri-State Livestock News.

Click here to read more about this checkoff-sponsored event.

OIE adopts first global strategy on animal welfare

Member countries of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) adopted the first global strategy on animal welfare on May 24, Feedstuffs reports.

Primarily endorsed in December 2016 at the Fourth OIE Global Conference on Animal Welfare in Guadalajara, Mexico, the strategy aims to achieve: “A world where the welfare of animals is respected, promoted and advanced in ways that complement the pursuit of animal health, human well-being, socioeconomic development and environmental sustainability,” OIE said.

Click here to read more about the four pillars upon which the OIE strategy is based.

USDA preparing for NAFTA renegotiation

Southwest Farm Press

Regardless of all the talk about how renegotiating U.S. trade deals can improve producer's profits, there is still a lot of concern being tossed around about how changing terms of international trade agreements—like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)—will play out for U.S. agricultural producers, reports the Southwest Farm Press.

Canceling or renegotiating terms of NAFTA was a major campaign promise for Donald Trump, but even the most loyal of Trump supporters have quietly admitted they were not sure how much candidate Trump understood about the importance of NAFTA to U.S. farmers and livestock producers, and how upsetting the apple cart could have a long term negative impact on domestic agriculture production and the ag economy.

But as with so many other issues, President Trump has been well advised by scores of farm groups and key advisers since the election, including newly appointed agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue, and rumor has it that the White House has been reevaluating many ideas, such as a border tax, as they gear up to tackle renegotiating efforts with trade officials of both Mexico and Canada.

Click here to read more.

U.S. beef flying off shelves in Korea


Recently, on a trip to Asia representing the Cattlemen's Beef Board and Oklahoma's Beef Council, Brett Morris, a beef producer from Ninnekah, Okla., visited South Korea to tour facilities where beef products are shipped, stored and sold and build working relationships with leaders of the industry there.

"About a week or 10 days before we were there, (Costco) had announced that they were going to start selling 100% U.S. beef," Morris said. "Through that transaction, with that seven to 10 days, they said that their beef sales had went up 60%."

In addition to this revelation, workers that tend the meat counter at this store told Morris and the other delegates that on that day, between the time they opened their doors at 8:00 a.m. to their visit at 3:00 p.m. that afternoon, the meat cases had already sold out and had to be refilled three times.

Click here to read and listen to Morris tell more about the checkoff sponsored work in South Korea.

Start now to prepare for next spring’s calving season

Only one to two months ago the spring-calving cows were calving, the temperatures were colder and the calving pastures were covered with muck and manure. Experience would say that you do not want to ask cow-calf operators how calving is then, because the response would be less than objective, reflecting bone-chilling cold and not enough sleep.

If you wait too long, perhaps until this fall, time will have mellowed most of the events and one soon has difficulty matching a calving season with particular problems. Plus, it may be too late to make the necessary changes to reduce calving losses. Now is perhaps a better time to make a few notes on what to change for next year, reports the Angus Beef Bulletin.

Click here to read more.

Protect your horses and you against West Nile virus

Mosquito season is well underway, and with heavy rain and snowfall earlier in the year, mosquito habitats and breeding sites with standing water are abundant. Take precautions such as eliminating mosquito-breeding sites around houses and barns, using insect repellents to fight the bite and keeping horses vaccinated against West Nile virus (WNV) and Western Equine Encephalitis, rep[orts the Record Courier in Gardnerville, Nev.

"Vaccination is the best protection horse owners have for their animals," says JJ Goicoechea, the Nevada Department of Agriculture's state veterinarian. "Vaccinations, in conjunction with practices that reduce exposure to mosquitos, are very effective in protecting horses from WNV."

Click here to read more.




Max Armstrong's Midwest Digest

Road rage is getting worst. Road rage causes relatively small, but increasing percentage of accidents on our highways, according to NTSA. Group involving firearm is also increasing. A professor at Chicago's Northwest Memorial Hospital says don't cut them off. Let them go away.

Take with a grain of salt those crop condition ratings you see in this afternoon's Crop Progress report. Illinois economists say the numbers this early in the season are usually optimistic.

McDonalds customers will soon be able to order and pay for their food on their smartphones. Order through their app, determine when approaching, thereby ensuring food is fresh.