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Are we headed the right direction or on the wrong track with the U.S. food system?

Direction of our food systems

During the past several weeks, Industry At A Glance has featured highlights from a recent annual survey performed by the Center for Food Integrity (CFI):  Inside the Mind of Influencers – The Truth About Trust. Data has included most trusted sources around food and broader assessment of impression and knowledge of food and agriculture.  

Last week’s column revealed that survey participants were generally favorable toward agriculture. Nearly 70% of respondents possessed either a very positive (25%) or somewhat positive (43%) impression of food and agriculture. Meanwhile, nearly 80% expressed an interest in knowing more about the food system and where food comes from. 

This week’s data is the broadest category of all. The questions ask whether consumers believe the food system is headed in the right direction (55%), down the wrong track (23%) or were generally unsure about its direction (22%). To that end, CFI notes that, “Survey results show a fairly significant upward trend in the number of consumers who feel the food system is headed in the right direction – 55% this year, compared to 40% in 2015.”

That’s consistent with last week’s data. That is, it appears that consumer attitudes toward food and agriculture may be improving. And better yet, there’s an opening toward them learning more about where their food comes from.

How do you perceive these results? Are you surprised by the improvement over time? Do you foresee an important opening for food and agriculture to make substantial gains in consumer trust? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below. 

Nevil Speer is based in Bowling Green, Ky., and serves as vice president of U.S. operations for AgriClear, Inc. – a wholly-owned subsidiary of TMX Group Limited. The views and opinions of the author expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the TMX Group Limited and Natural Gas Exchange Inc.

Keep mineral supplementation simple if pasture quality is good

University of Missouri Extension Minerals for cattle in pastures

Source: University of Missouri Extension

"Whenever I'm in a pasture with cattle, it is not unusual to find the (mineral) feeder empty, and it may look like it had been empty for several days. Fortunately, minerals do not require a daily intake as the cattle's body can help tide them through most shortages," says Eldon Cole, livestock specialist, University of Missouri Extension.

However, salt is an item that should be available at all times. Cattle like salt and when deprived of it for a while they respond with a high intake of it for several days.

Most mineral supplements state on the label that consumption averages 2 to 4 ounces per day. Intake depends on the animal's weight, age, forage type and availability.

"Mineral supplements do not need to be complicated if forage quality is good," says Cole. "Research shows the forage cattle select and consume rates better on nutritional value than what humans collect if they sampled a pasture."

During much of the year, cattle on quality pasture may only need salt as the supplemental item. "Exceptions may be with stressed, undernourished cattle or those with high genetic levels of milk production. It's often difficult to see an economic response to elaborate mineral mixes," Cole says.

Certain trace elements may interact with other minerals, causing them to be less available. Molybdenum is an example. When its level is high enough, it ties up copper so a copper supplement could be needed.

"I encourage farmers to invest a few extra dollars in testing a forage sample for energy and protein, so they know the mineral levels in their hay and pasture. This enables them to make smarter supplement buying decisions," Cole says.

Understand mineral levels

What does the feed tag tell you? Trace mineral levels on the tag expressed as parts per million (ppm) will run as follows: copper, 1000-1500; zinc, 3000-3500; selenium, 12-15; manganese, 2000-3000.

A free-choice, all-purpose beef cow mineral usually will have from 10 to 30% or more plain salt. Calcium will run around 12 to 15% and phosphorus will be 5 to 12%. Magnesium will run around 1%.

"An exception is during the winter or grass tetany season. At that time, a 10 percentage magnesium level is advised if you have tetany-prone cows and suspect forage conditions," says Cole.

Mineral levels more than that needed by the cow may not improve performance and likely will increase cost. The cost of minerals will be higher if used as a carrier for one or more additives such as ionophores or those used for parasite control.

"Mineral supplementation is not a cut and dried or one-size-fits-all matter. Know your animal's requirements and the makeup of the forage or other feed you are providing. Then make sure you keep the mineral/salt out for them free choice," Cole advises.

What’s the status of ag gag laws?

Watershed Media Ag Gag Laws in 2017

It’s been a few years now since I’ve last blogged about the once very hot topic of ag gag laws. The discussion stemmed from undercover animal rights activists gaining employment in a production agriculture setting and secretly filming things that were potentially staged by the activists themselves and then revealing them to the public.

The outcry from agriculture soon followed with producers arguing that these videos were an invasion of privacy and that the videos, which could be edited and dramatized to meet the activists’ agendas, shouldn’t be permissible evidence in a court of law.

If you want to read on the topic, you can check out previous BEEF blogs here:

Do you support ag gag laws?

Carried Underwood gets political on Tennessee ag gag bill

New Hampshire bill: Too short for an ag gag bill?

While the discussion on ag gag laws have died down, the threat continues of activists trying to gain employment and cause problems at stockyards, dairy barns, hog units and other livestock enterprises.

This was even a discussion at the Livestock Marketing Association’s annual meeting in Montana a few weeks ago, with Kay Johnson Smith of the Animal Agriculture Alliance presenting a workshop with advice for how to avoid hiring one of these activist instigators.

In a recent webinar, Dave Aiken, University of Nebraska-Lincoln agricultural law specialist, shared updates on ag gag litigation in the U.S. today.

Heidi Carroll, South Dakota State University Extension livestock stewardship associate, recapped the webinar. Here is what you need to know about ag gag laws:

Caroll writes, “Over the last five-10 years, many animal activist groups have focused on increasing state animal abuse laws to not just improve animal welfare, but also encourage people to stop purchasing any products coming from animals. Now there is a shift in focus from this traditional platform to going straight to major retailers (McDonalds, Tyson, etc.) and pressuring them to establish and require humane husbandry practice standards for the livestock they purchase or own. Despite focusing more on the retailers, animal activist groups are still interested in the various ag gag or whistleblower laws that individual states may be introducing and passing to protect animal agriculture. Ag gag laws refer to state statutes that make it illegal for someone to come onto the property—often as employees who are undercover activists—and illegal to distribute the undercover videos they take of livestock treatment at farms and ranches. Though proponents of these laws typically refer to them as property protection acts.”

According to Aiken, “Less than 10 states have current laws in place protecting farms and ranches from potential undercover videographer attempts and falsifying information on employment applications.”

Carroll recaps, “One may wonder – why is there so much hype about these ag gag policies? Misconceptions regarding animal care practices have caused some people to believe that abuse of farm animals is occurring on a regular basis. Thus, these individuals desire more accountability and undercover videos are one way they believe to gain an ‘unbiased’ glimpse behind farm gates.”

As an industry, there are several legal challenges to establishing ag gag laws as they potentially violate the First Amendment (Freedom of Religion, Speech and the Press). However, Aiken says, “It is essential that agricultural groups be proactive regarding undercover videos. We need to stress the fact that any videos of improper animal care or handling do NOT represent the majority of animal caregivers and state how caregivers try to prevent abuse from happening.”

You can listen to Aiken’s full presentation by clicking here, or read Carroll’s entire article on SDSU’s iGrow by clicking here.

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

5 Trending Headlines: Throw a D.A.R.T for cattle health; PLUS: Immigration reform concerns

Among the many responsibilities that befall a rancher you may not think being a forensic specialist would be one of them And it isnrsquot at least as you watch the many and various television shows with that themeBut in the bootsontheground reality of ranching thatrsquos often what you are Especially when trying to solve the reasons behind newborn calf mortality reports Beef ProducerAccording to a 2008 study by National Animal Health Monitoring System the highest calf loss is within

Throw a D.A.R.T for cattle health

Any parent knows when their child is sick, because they tell you. But parents can usually tell just by looking at them. Your cattle, however, can’t tell you they don’t feel well, so you can use the D.A.R.T system, an acronym that literally helps producers to keep in mind likely tell-tale signs of poor animal health, says Barry Whitworth, veterinarian and Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension food animal quality and health specialist.

Those four indicators include the following symptoms to look for, according to the Oklahoma Farm Report:

D stands for Depression

A stands for Appetite (or lack of appetite)

R stands for Respiration.

T stands for Temperature.

Click here to read more.

Trump calls for expanded broadband internet in rural areas

Scott Olson/GettyImages

One of the frustrations in running a rural business is higher-cost, slow internet. President Trump hopes to fix that, saying that expanded access to broadband internet service in rural areas will be part of the infrastructure plan he will submit to Congress, reports Southwest Farm Press.

"I will be including a provision in our infrastructure proposal -- $1 trillion proposal, you’ll be seeing it very shortly -- to promote and foster, enhance broadband access for rural America also," Trump said in remarks last week at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, after touring agricultural facilities on campus. "We will rebuild rural America."

Click here to read more.

Be patient as Chinese market develops

China’s long-awaited return to the U.S. beef market is indeed the buzz of the beef business. And even though the U.S. has a robust export beef trade, it will take time for the U.S. to ramp up the programs and procedures necessary to fulfill the potential that China represents, according to the Oklahoma Farm Report.

On the other side of the world, products not suited for our domestic market may actually be in higher demand and have a higher value in foreign markets. The ability to export these cuts, allows U.S. beef producers to salvage the carcass value that might have been lost if it were sold domestically. This has been the case for the major markets we're already exporting to, like China and South Korea. But it didn't happen overnight, says Oklahoma State Livestock Marketing Economist Peel.

"There's a lot of potential in this market over time. But, I think it will take some time," Peel says. "That's a process that will grow over time as you try to build market share."

Click here to hear and read more.

Immigration reform must consider labor needs

Former U.S. Representative Charlie Stenholm teaches a class on agriculture, energy, and food policy at Tarleton State University. This article in Southwest Farm Press includes views and recommendations from that class, which have been “respectfully submitted to House and Senate Ag Committees.”

“Some 43 million foreign born immigrants currently live in the U.S. (9.5 to 11 million are estimated as undocumented). That must change.  In our opinion, rounding them up, locking them up, and deporting all of them is not a feasible or desirable option. For most, their only crime was seeking a better place to live and earn a living.

“Reform must include a workable plan to encourage most of the undocumented to come forward voluntarily (with their employer or sponsor) to receive legal documents that will allow them to become legal immigrants. They or their sponsor must pay the appropriate fine or other punishment applicable as determined by Congress. Those who have broken other laws or do not come forward should be deported. Changes proposed by the current Administration on H1B visas are an important step in the right direction.  A workable immigration policy for the future must have the buy-in of employers and an absolute enforcement mechanism with buy-in of We the People.  Only Congress can provide that.”

Click here to read more.


Driving cattle with low-stress techniques

Just about everything we do with our cattle comes down to driving them someplace, whether to summer pasture and back, into or out of the corral, up the alley, onto the scale, or through the crowd pen and up the chute. And a really important thing to understand is that if we don’t drive our animals properly, we’re going to have problems (e.g., resistance, runbacks). But if we drive them properly, we should avoid creating unnecessary problems and old problems will often disappear.

From the low-stress livestock handling perspective developed by Bud Williams, all the hoopla of conventional driving is unnecessary and counter-productive. Effective driving is based on communicating with the animals through proper technique so they understand what we want and do it willing—no fear or force necessary.

Click here to see two different ways to drive cattle with less stress on you and the cattle


Gasoline prices in most areas keep falling, but some of markets in Ohio have seen price increases.

Leaders of National Farmers Union in Dakotas asked for it and they got. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is going to allow emergency grazing on CRP acres in North and South Dakota and Montana.

Tom Bernard from Minneapolis, Bobby Bones in Nashville, John Records Landecker and Bob Sievers are among those inducted into Radio Hall of Fame.


Ranchers selling off cows and calves in dry South Dakota

jmt0826/ThinkstockPhotos Angus cow and calf on brown pasture.

by Megan Durisin, Jeff Wilson and Sydney Maki

It’s so hot and dry in northern parts of the U.S. that cattle ranchers are frantically selling off animals to trim their herds as hay crops and pasturelands wither.

There were so many cows, calves and pairs of the animals available for sale at a recent livestock auction in Aberdeen, South Dakota, that bidding lasted 15 hours, said Steve Hellwig, the co-owner of Hub City Livestock Auction who chanted the rhythmic repetition of prices until 1:30 a.m. Sales for the day reached a record 2,480 lots, or more than three times the normal weekly total.

Drought conditions have swept the northern reaches of the Great Plains this year, parching grazing pastures and grain fields while demonstrating how quickly severe weather can upend commodity markets. Prices for spring wheat, grown in the area, have soared 16% this month as volatility jumped. While the rush of cattle to auctions probably won’t have an immediate impact on U.S. meat supplies, some of the ranchers who are being forced to sell their animals early or pay more for feed may see their incomes suffer.

“Probably more than 70% of the cows that sold would have ended up as hamburger later this year -- the drought sped up the liquidation,” Hellwig said.

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington authorized emergency grazing on land in a federal conservation program in Montana and the Dakotas through Sept. 30, unless conditions improve. 

“Ranchers in the hardest hit locations have already been culling their herds,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement.

The National Farmers Union and groups from Montana, the Dakotas and Minnesota had requested the emergency measure, partly because some ranchers are driving hundreds of miles to find hay, according to a letter sent to Perdue earlier this week. At the start of the year, the four states held about 10.7 million cattle, or 11% of the national cattle and dairy herd, government data show. 

About half of South Dakota, two-thirds of North Dakota and a quarter of Montana are in moderate drought or worse, according to U.S. Drought Monitor data as of June 20. While some recent showers have eased parched conditions in North Dakota, there’s little rain expected in the next few weeks for most of the northern regions, said Brad Rippey, a meteorologist at the USDA.

Some cattle have been sold to ranches in Wyoming and Nebraska, where grazing conditions were more favorable, said Tim Petry, a livestock marketing economist at North Dakota State University in Fargo. Better pastures in the rest of the U.S. will also limit the impact of increased cattle auctions on meat supplies and prices, he said.

Consumer Impact
“Other parts of the country have very excellent conditions, so it’s likely they have been selling fewer cows because there’s herd rebuilding,” Petry said. “So far, it really hasn’t increased beef production to affect the consumer at all.”

Some calves sold from northern states may head to feedlots earlier than usual, where the animals are fattened on grain until ready for slaughter, said David Anderson, a livestock economist at Texas A&M University.

Cattle placed on feed in May rose 12% to 2.12 million head from a year earlier, USDA data showed Friday after the close of futures trading. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg, expected a 10% gain.

June placements may post an even bigger jump if auction sales are any guide.

In eastern Montana, more than double the amount of cattle were sold at auctions at Sidney Livestock Market Center when compared with a typical June, according to Tim Larson, the manager. Most farmers in the area have enough grass for the summer, while persistent dryness could cause a shortage of the hay supply that animals rely on in the winter months. 

“Come October or November, that’s where we’re going to see substantial numbers and things change,” Larson said. 

Cattle futures for August delivery rose 0.9% to close at $1.15275 a pound on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. This week, the contract dropped 2.5%, the third straight decline.

--With assistance from Brian K. Sullivan.

To contact the reporters on this story: Megan Durisin in Chicago at [email protected]; Jeff Wilson in Chicago at [email protected]; Sydney Maki in Chicago at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Simon Casey at [email protected]

Patrick McKiernan, Steve Stroth

© 2017 Bloomberg L.P


A U.S. Air Force Thunderbird pilot appears to be recovering well. Capt. Eric Gonsalves was extricated from airplane that overturned after crashing at Dayton International Airport.

The website for the governor of Ohio was hacked and displayed pro-ISIS propaganda.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is going to allow emergency grazing on CRP acres in North and South Dakota and Montana. Ranchers in hardest hit areas are already culling herds.

What's next in the Dakotas? Cold and frost. After record low temperatures over the weekend, farmers are out inspecting their crops as there might have been frost. It got to 39 in Pierre, S.D. Tomorrow should be over 90 degrees.

Tractor pull from Tomah, Wis., shows John Deere pulling tractor rearing up and collapsing down before falling on side. Driver was protected by roll cage on tractor.

Farm Progress America, June 26, 2017

Max Armstrong shares that the work of the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates is having an impact on agriculture. Max shares insight from a recent survey of farmers from Farm Futures showing that interest rate strain is starting to have an impact on their operations.

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.

4 tips to get the most out of hay sampling

3 round bales of hay
TIME TO BALE: Farmers across Missouri are making hay. However, before they stack the bales for storage, a beef nutritionist and university agronomist say to sample them.

Large round bales and even a few small square hay bales dot the rolling hills across Missouri. Haymaking season is in full swing. Farmers will move and stack this year's forage, but don't forget one important step before feeding — sample it.

Dennis Holthaus, senior beef nutritionist with Hubbard Feeds, says many farmers question why they should spend money on the analysis of a sample when they are just feeding the cows. "Sampling feeds and feedstuffs gives a benchmark or starting point to adequately meeting the nutrient requirements of the animal we intend to feed," he says in a news release. "All livestock classes have differing nutrient requirements to meet the potential of their genetic ability to grow and reproduce."

Get more INSIGHT: Download 10 Hay Farming Basics now!

Holthaus is responsible for feedlot and cow-calf nutrition in Kansas, western Nebraska and Colorado. He says that harvested forages provide feed throughout the year, so farmers need to know its quality. And it all starts with proper sampling techniques.

How to sample hay
Holthaus offers the following tips to help farmers with hay sampling this year:

1, Use a hay probe. Farmers need a hay probe that will take a core sample at least 14 to 20 inches in depth. The diameter of the core should be approximately one-half inch to provide a proper amount of both leaf material and stem or stalk.

CORE SAMPLE: This illustration by the Noble Foundation of Oklahoma shows the density of the bale. Hay samples should be taken that includes adequate amounts of both stem and leaf material. (Photo illustration by Matt Hersom, University of Florida)

2. Consider your hay bale type. Holthaus says the core should be made on the rounded side of the bale at a 90-degree angle to the flat side for a large round, or at a 90-degree angle to the cut end of the bale for a large square. "When we consider the amount of hay we are sampling per bale, the core sample we take from a large round bale is at a higher percentage of the forage within the bale then that of a large square bale," he says.

The illustration shows the proportion of bale contained within five 6-inch sections of a bermudagrass large round bale. The density of the bale and forage type has an impact on the amount of hay within each 6-inch section; however, Holthaus points out the percentage of hay within each section should remain relatively the same. "To look at this another way, if you core-sample the outside 12 inches of a bale, you are effectively sampling close to 60% of the hay in that bale," he explains. "If you use a hay probe that is 18 inches in length, you are effectively sampling close to 80% of the hay in that bale."

3. Don't skimp on sampling. Sample multiple bales out of a hay lot. The lot should represent at least 10%, or at least 15, random bales. Hay that has been baled above 15% moisture should not be sampled for at least four weeks to allow the bales to acclimate to the environment.

4. Keep each lot separate. If sampling from multiple fields, keep all hay samples separate.

What to do with the hay samples
University of Missouri Extension agronomy specialist Anthony Ohmes says farmers should mix samples in a bucket and fill a quart plastic bag with the forage. Since the samples perish quickly, send them the same day to the lab.

Farmers unable to send the samples immediately should keep the samples away from direct sunlight. Store them in a cool, dry place until shipping. Ohmes says farmers can even freeze high-moisture samples, those above 15%, if they cannot be sent to the lab right away.

Make sure to mark the sample by date, cutting, location and owner before shipping, he adds.

Hay tests cost about $20 each at certified labs throughout the state. Information on how to read results is available at

Prime Time Gala raises $236,508 to provide beef to food banks

Robb Long Imaging Prime Time Gala with Martina McBride

South Dakota ranchers may be facing a drought, which is forcing many to sell off pairs, but they still have giving hearts despite the hardships they are facing back at home.

A little over a week ago, the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Foundation (SDCF) hosted its annual Prime Time Gala & Concert in Sioux Falls, S.D. The event, which brought together 1,540 cattlemen, beef lovers and country music fans, raised $236,508 for Feeding South Dakota.

Since 2014, SDCF has raised $737,508, which is earmarked to purchase beef and dairy products for the state’s food banks. This is an important distinction considering less than 5.8% of the 13.5 million pounds of food that Feeding South Dakota distributes consists of animal proteins.

Additionally, the Foundation presented four agricultural students pursuing careers in beef production and promotion with $10,000 in scholarships.

The evening included a social hour, steak supper and auction featuring items such as a stock trailer, original art, pickup truck and more. The event ended with a concert by Carly Pearce, Scotty McCreery and Martina McBride.

"The results from this year's Gala are so exciting,” said Ryan Eichler, SDCF president, in a recent press release. “Our board of directors is so grateful to all of those involved with this event. From our corporate partners, to everyone in attendance Saturday night, the people of the Prime Time Gala are what makes it so successful and will ensure its legacy. We're honored to provide Feeding South Dakota with much-needed funds to procure beef, the most powerful protein in the world!"

"We truly couldn’t do the work that we do if it wasn’t for the support and the generosity of our farmers, our state’s cattlemen and cattlewomen, of the producers and of course, the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Foundation,” said Matt Gassen, CEO of Feeding South Dakota.

It’s been incredible to see how SDCF has built the prestige of this event, and it’s truly a testament of the caliber of the committee members who have worked tirelessly in the last four years to give back, promote the beef industry and bring together urban consumers with rural Americans.

“We felt like it was our responsibility as an industry to help provide to those in our state that need it the most,” said Eichler. “The agricultural industry has been blessed so much and this is a way for us to give back in a big way."

According to SDCF, funds raised at the event since 2014 have helped to purchase 414,644 pounds of beef for those across South Dakota. These donations have been distributed to all 66 counties in the state.

If you’re interested in attending the event next year, mark your calendars for June 23, 2018, and visit for more information on the upcoming event. And for those in other states, please consider your local or state food bank in your charitable contributions.

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