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Articles from 2000 In July


The Latest On Shipping Fever

The Latest On Shipping Fever

BRD's Impact On Costs

Just how hard does BRD hit producers' pocketbooks in treatment costs and animal performance? To find out, Iowa State University veterinarians and animal scientists compiled data from 2,146 feedlot cattle in 17 feedlot tests from 1988 to 1997.

The study aimed to determine the impact of BRD on veterinary treatment costs, average daily gain (ADG), carcass traits, mortality and net profit. A second study then identified factors that accurately predict the incidence of BRD.

The Iowa researchers found morbidity caused by BRD was 20.6%. On average, each treatment for BRD cost $12.39; 81% was for drug costs and 19% was for veterinary and feedlot services.

Mortality rate of calves diagnosed and treated for BRD was 5.9% vs. 0.35% for those not diagnosed with BRD. ADG was reduced for treated steers vs. non-treated steers during the first 28 days on feed but did not differ from 28 days to harvest, probably due to compensatory gain.

Net profit was $57.48 lower for treated steers. Of this difference, 82% was due to a combination of mortality and treatment costs. Of the net profit difference, 18% was due to improved performance and carcass value of the non-treated steers. See Figure 1.

The Iowa researchers also determined factors that can help predict the incidence of BRD. Using data from 496 steers and heifers in nine feedlot tests, the effects of age, weaning and use of modified live virus (MLV) or killed vaccines were examined to predict BRD.

Younger calves, non-weaned calves and calves vaccinated with killed vaccines had higher BRD morbidity than those that were older, weaned or MLV-vaccinated, respectively. Moreover, treatment regimes that precluded relapse resulting in re-treatment prevented reduced performance and loss of carcass value.

The researchers concluded that using MLV and weaning calves 30 days prior to shipment can significantly reduce the incidence of BRD.

Disposition scores were also monitored among the animals, but researchers pointed out that the number of animals was limited for this part of the study. Disposition scores did not account for differences in the occurrence of BRD; however, ADG and net profit appeared to be lower for wilder steers than for docile steers.

For more information contact Iowa State's Nolan Hartwig at 515/294-8791 or e-mail [email protected]

Pre-shipping Vs. Arrival

When it comes to health and performance of beef calves received in the feedlot, pre-shipping medication programs are no more effective than arrival medication programs using tilmicosin phosphate. So say researchers at New Mexico State University's Clayton Livestock Research Center.

When the percentage of cattle treated for BRD is low, arrival time is the optimum time to administer medications en masse, researchers say.

In the first of two experiments, researchers treated 96 steers with tilmicosin phosphate (TP) either before shipping, upon arrival or not at all. The percentage of steers treated for BRD decreased for animals treated with TP (control - 71.9%, preshipping - 45.2%, and arrival - 46.9%). The week that calves were treated for BRD differed as well.

In the second experiment, 240 steer and bull calves were treated with or without chlortetracycline, in addition to being treated with TP either before shipping, upon arrival or not at all.

In that experiment, the number of calves treated for BRD decreased for steers treated with TP and for those treated upon arrival (control - 40%, preshipping - 18.7%, and arrival - 7.5%). Averaged across days, serum concentrations of immunoglobulin decreased for steers treated with TP.

Neither of the experiments noted any differences among the treatments in ADG, daily dry matter intake, or gain:feed ratio for the overall receiving period.

For more information contact Glenn Duff at 505/374-2566 or e-mail [email protected]

Vitamin E Advantageous

Supplementing receiving diets with high levels of vitamin E can reduce anti-microbial treatment costs, according to researchers at Oklahoma State University. But, the vitamin E supplements do little to improve ADG and feed conversion, researchers add. (See "Feeder Research" page 6-BF, May 2000 BEEF.)

Researchers fed 694 shipping-stressed calves a common receiving diet of soybean hulls, corn, wheat middlings, cottonseed hulls and a protein supplement containing lasalocid. Feed intake was not restricted and the diet was supplemented with 2000 I.U. of vitamin E for 0, 7, 14 or 28 days.

When animals met specific criteria for morbidity, a regimen of antibiotic drugs was used. Most symptoms occurred within the first seven to 14 days. The percent of calves identified as sick and thus requiring treatment with anti-microbial drugs was 67.8%, 68.3%, 61.8% and 60.3% for 0, 7, 14 and 28 days, respectively.

Medical costs decreased 9.4% and 17.2% for seven and 14 days, respectively. For cattle fed 2000 I.U. of vitamin E for 28 days, anti-microbial treatment costs were reduced by 22.4%. The medical costs (minus the cost of providing 2000 I.U. of vitamin E for 28 days) provided a 38 cents/head savings.

Regardless of dietary treatment, ADG and feed conversion were not improved.

Improved carcass value, which further improves profits, also may be a benefit of vitamin E supplementation, researchers say.

For more information contact Jeff Carter at 405/744-8877 or e-mail [email protected]

BRD And Carcass Quality

The negative effects of BRD extend all the way to carcass quality, according to Oklahoma State University researchers. They found the long-term effects of BRD can cost producers up to $40/head of carcass value 200 days post-backgrounding.

A total of 406 crossbred, sale barn heifers were backgrounded and followed through finishing and harvest. Heifers were categorized by severity of the BRD complex: 0 treatments: "healthy;" one treatment: "mild case;" greater than one treatment: "severe case."

Heifers that had a more severe case of BRD during the backgrounding period had lower ADG - 2.32 lbs., 2.17 lbs. and 1.83 lbs. for healthy, mild and severe cases, respectively.

However, once heifers entered the finishing period, animals with mild or severe cases of BRD during backgrounding actually showed some compensatory gain (2.83 lbs., 2.85 lbs. and 2.90 lbs., respectively, for healthy, mild and severe cases).

While BRD during the background period might not have long-term effects on feeding performance, there were significant differences in carcass traits and overall carcass value, researchers say.

Final live weights and hot carcass weights of heifers tended to be slightly lower due to increased BRD severity.

The biggest long-term effect from BRD during backgrounding was impact on marbling score. This sizeable decrease in marbling score caused a 25% reduction in percent Choice carcasses (66%, 59% and 41%, respectively, for healthy, mild and severe cases of BRD).

This reduction can cost producers money when marketing cattle on a grid. Comparing healthy calves to calves that had a severe BRD case during the backgrounding period on a basic grid, only about a $3/cwt. difference of carcass value was shown.

However, calculating in lower hot carcass weights and medical costs, the margins show a larger spread. When comparing healthy heifers to calves that had a mild case of BRD or to heifers that had a severe case of BRD, net return carcass values were $11.48/head and $37.34/head lower. This is an impact that occurred approximately 200 days post-backgrounding.

The OSU researchers suggest the only real solution to BRD is prevention, such as value-added cattle that have been preconditioned.

For more information contact Don Gill at 405/744-6060 or e-mail [email protected]

Intranasal Is Best

When given only at processing, an intranasal IB R-P13 vaccine may benefit ADG and feed conversion in newly arrived feeder calves, according to researchers at New Mexico State University. But delaying vaccination with a modified live viral vaccine until seven days after arrival offers no advantage, and the modified live vaccine does not negatively affect performance during the first seven days.

In one experiment, calves were given either an intranasal (IN) vaccine, an intramuscular (IM) vaccine or no vaccine (control) at processing. Compared to those given an IM vaccine, calves given the IN vaccine had significantly greater ADG and improved feed conversion.

In another experiment, calves were given either no vaccine at processing and an IM vaccine on day 7, an IN vaccine at processing and an IM vaccine on day 7, an IM vaccine at processing and on day 7, or no vaccines at all (control). For the overall 28-day period, vaccinated calves had improved feed conversion compared to controls. From days 15 to 28, feed conversion improved for calves vaccinated at processing vs. delayed vaccination.

The percent morbidity did not differ among treatments in either experiment.

For more information contact Glenn Duff at 505/374-2566 or e-mail [email protected]

Ear Vs. Neck

Ear injection of a clostridial bacterium toxoid vaccine (Alpha-7) does not appear to influence ADG or rate of growth promotant implant payout, say Kansas State University researchers.

In a 129-day study, 200 previously non-implanted heifers were given one of four treatments: vaccine in left neck and implant in left ear, vaccine in left neck and implant in right ear, vaccine in right ear and implant in left ear, vaccine in right ear and implant in right ear.

Vaccinating in the base of the ear vs. vaccinating in the neck significantly increased ear temperature, but 28-day gains were similar. Weight gains for opposite and same ear placement of vaccine and implant were similar. Regardless of vaccination site, testosterone concentrations in the blood were similar for heifers implanted in the right ear.

For more information, contact Dale Blasi at 785/532-5427 or e-mail [email protected]

The specter of drought

The fed cattle market lost ground in May. Choice slaughter cattle in the Amarillo area moved down $4/cwt., ending the month in the $69/cwt. range. Feeder cattle and calves also weakened but not as much. Medium frame, 600- to 700-lb. feeders fell almost $3/cwt. by mid-month but recovered some the final week of May. For May, the average price will be around $87/cwt. Heavyweight feeders are becoming difficult to locate so prices are hard to get in the feedlot areas.

The May 25th USDA Outlook and Situation report had these key comments:

* Cattle inventories will likely decline through 2000 but a bottom is likely in 2001, and a rise is possible by 2002.

* Beef production in 2001 will likely be down 4-5% from 2000's near record level.

* Retail Choice beef prices are on a record setting pace but the supply of higher grading beef has been very tight. As beef supplies begin to decline cyclically, fed cattle will be managed so a greater proportion will be pulled into the higher grading categories.

* Fed cattle prices are expected to average in the low to mid $70s/cwt. in 2001, the highest since the early 1990s. They could go higher if the economy and consumer confidence remain at their current strength.

* Prices for Choice beef at retail reached a record $3.05/lb. in April. As supplies of such beef increases in late spring and summer, prices will decline modestly.

Cattle and calves on feed for slaughter in feedlots with capacities of 1,000 head or more totaled 2.66 million on May 1. That's up 9% from a year ago and above March and April levels. It's also the highest on-feed figure in the seven major historical feeding states in six years.

Fed cattle marketings in April were 1.87 million head, 4% below 1999 and 1% under 1998. The April figure was also the lowest since 1995 in the seven major feeding states.

Placements of feeder cattle and calves into feedlots in April were 1.69 million head, slightly below 1999 and the second month of lower than year-ago figures. April placements of cattle and calves weighing less than 600 lbs. totaled 299,000 head; 600-699 lbs. totaled 307,000 head; 700-799 lbs. totaled 568,000 head; and those 800 lbs. and greater totaled 511,000 head.

Several factors could turn this summer unpleasant for cattlemen. While record-high beef retail prices are encouraging, not all this so-called "stronger demand" is showing up at the ranch level.

For example, even though retail beef prices are up 10% and moving higher, the packer/wholesaler margin is also up 28%. Meanwhile, Choice steer prices are only up about 9% and weakening. If margins continue to widen, farm prices will feel even more pressure from the marketing system.

While some rains have come to the South, more are needed. The West may already be beyond help. Such conditions impact cattlemen in many ways. They can alter marketing plans and timing, influence calf weights at selling, greatly increase the cost of feeding and holding animals, and frequently change the long-range plans of breeding herd ranchers.

Feedlots are back into a low- or non-profit position again, which will dampen the incentive to buy high-priced calves. As long as feeder supplies remain tight, ranchers and stocker operators are in good shape. But, that could change fast if the drought or other factors force any adjustments.

Caught In The Middle

Chute design can make it difficult to vie injections in the neck. Temple Grandin shares some strategies.

Everyone knows injections should be given in the neck to prevent damage to the meat. Research has shown that the damaging effects of injections in the meat are long lasting.

Unfortunately, the design of some squeeze chutes makes it difficult to inject an animal in the neck. The biggest problem is neck extender bars on the head gate, that position the animal too far forward for workers to access the neck.

Some producers believe neck extender bars are essential to hold an animal's head still for implanting. That's not true. Neck extenders aren't necessary.

If a calf is handled quietly when he is brought into the squeeze chute, he can easily be backed up in the head gate. In this position, he can not wave his head around. On most squeeze chutes, when the animal is backed up so the head gate bar is positioned right behind its jaw, the neck will be located at the first drop down bar on the squeeze side.

Crunching the animal's jaw or eye in the neck extender bars is the wrong way to get it in the correct position. It can cause injuries. Even if it does not injure the animal, it is likely to cause soreness. An animal with a sore jaw may cut its feed consumption.

Feedlots that have worked hard to handle cattle quietly are being rewarded with animals that go on feed more quickly. One feedlot manager reported a 99% perfect implant rate when his crew caught the animals with the neck extender around the jaw. They would probably get better weight gain if they took the neck extender off.

Crunching the jaw and face causes many animals to bellow. Our research has shown that cattle that become agitated in the squeeze chute have significantly lower weight gain.

Another advantage of calm cattle is they defecate less. Cattle that defecate less will have cleaner ears. This will help improve implant retention rates and reduce infection in the ears.

Try A Settle-Down Period Cattle will be quieter and easier to move through the chutes to the squeeze if they're allowed to settle down for 15-20 minutes after they've been brought into a corral on a ranch or brought up to the holding pens near the work area at a feedlot.

During this time, the crew can get equipment and vaccines ready. The animals must not be left waiting in the tub (crowd pen) or single file chute during this period.

Here are some ways to keep the cattle calm:

* Fill the crowd pen half full. Animals need room to turn.

* Replace electric prods with flags and paddle sticks. The electric prod should sit on the vaccine table and only be used on cattle that refuse to enter the squeeze.

* Chutes with solid sides or angled rubber louvres help keep cattle calm.

* Avoid yelling and whistling. Canadian researchers Joe Stookey and Jeffrey Rushen have found that yelling is frightening and stressful to cattle.

* Remove distractions such as a dangling loose chains that create noise and cause balking.

* Remember, cattle don't like to enter dark places. Cattle movement inside a building will often be improved by opening more doors or adding translucent white plastic wall panels to admit light.

People manage what they measure. Keep score on how cattle behave while being handled. Animals should walk in and walk out of the squeeze chute. This will provide the added advantage of preventing injuries to the shoulder and neck.

Keep score on the percentage of cattle that moo and bellow in the squeeze chute. Data collected at both feedlots and packing plants indicates that when cattle are handled quietly, only 3% or less will vocalize during movement through the chutes and when they are held in a restrainer or squeeze chute.

Keep score on electric prod use. A reasonable goal is to move 99% of the cattle without an electric prod.

Double-Sided Squeeze Works Best The best squeeze chutes apply pressure from both sides. A chute that squeezes on only one side has a tendency to throw the animal off balance. Cattle often stand more quietly in a chute which squeezes on both sides, making it easier to make the animal back up to restrain the head.

The chute must also have a non-slip floor. Cattle tend to panic when they lose their footing.

To avoid injuries to cattle and people, the pressure in hydraulic chutes must be set correctly. A properly adjusted hydraulic chute should be set to stop squeezing at a reasonable pressure.

Look at the animal, it should not be grunting or straining. If the animal moos or bellows when the squeeze is applied, it is too tight. You should be able to get your hand between the side bars and the animal. If the animal is bulging out of the side bars it's too tight.

When a calm animal enters a squeeze chute you will be amazed that very little pressure is required to hold it.

Injuries can also be reduced if the operator slows the animal down in the squeeze before it reaches the headgate. However, greater emphasis should be put on how the people bring the cattle up to the squeeze chute. If you fix the handling in the back, the handling in the squeeze chute will fix itself.

On chutes with a hydraulic-powered device to restrain the head, the pressure setting also should be very low. You should be able to hold the device and stop it from moving when the control valve is held down and the valve is bypassing hydraulic fluid back to the reservoir.

All types of hydraulic devices for holding the head must be on a separate valve with its own pressure relief valve. This can be set independently from the rest of the chute. The pressure can be set extremely low and the animal will not be able to move the device after the operator lets go of the control valve. When the operator lets go, the valve centers and fluid movement in the hydraulic system is blocked.

If you are planning on purchasing a new hydraulic chute, the quieter chutes are recommended. Even some of the less expensive chutes are now available with a quieter pump and motor.

Temple Grandin is an assistant professor of livestock handling and behavior at Colorado State University in Ft. Collins. Visit her Web site at www.grandin.com

Untitled

One of the primary challenges of bringing calves or yearlings into a feedlot is minimizing stress associated with shipping and processing.

Under non-stressed conditions, animals allocate nutrients in the following order - body maintenance, pregnancy, growth and then immune response. When an animal becomes sick or stressed, the order of nutrient use shifts to body maintenance, pregnancy, immune response and then growth.

That's why, when an animal is stressed, growth is reduced or stopped completely. Providing optimum nutrition to aid the animal to develop a strong immune response to disease pathogens and vaccination is the best opportunity to head off stress-related illness.

Nutrition And Immune Response That nutrition can affect a calf's immune response and increase vaccine efficacy is a widely accepted concept. It isn't, however, practiced as widely as most consultants would like.

Most producers are concerned with protein and energy, but many programs lack the proper vitamin and mineral supplementation or use the wrong recommendations. Feed salesmen should sell programs, not products, to the producer.

Vitamins such as A, E and the B-vitamins are essential to the immune response, as are the minerals copper, zinc, selenium, iron and manganese. Antibodies are made of proteins, so protein levels of 14-16% should be in the receiving ration.

Urea or non-protein nitrogen has no place in receiving rations. By-pass protein, however, has shown favorable results in a number of receiving rations.

Despite the general awareness of increased requirements and reduced animal performance during stress, the data doesn't detail precisely the specific needs of all stressful situations. The variety of possible scenarios in feed, water, cattle types, environment, handling, age, vaccinations, parasites and disease challenges makes a blanket recommendation impossible.

However, by using past experience, along with feed and water analysis and cattle history, nutrition consultants, in conjunction with the veterinarian, can put together a good receiving program for the producer.

In most weaning/receiving rations, I recommend 1.5 to 2 times the NRC recommended levels of minerals. This, of course, does not take into account any antagonistic levels in the water or feed and any problems particular to each individual producer.

I like to include chelated (organic) forms of copper, zinc, magnesium and possibly manganese and potassium at a level of 30% of the total mineral level. At this level, I feel I get the best response for the animal at the best cost for the producer.

These are the general guidelines I use for receiving diets. Most diets, however, are customized for each producer.

* Protein - 14 - 16%

* Concentrate - 50 - 55% ration (more for yearling cattle)

* P - 0.4 - 0.6%

* Mg - 0.2 - 0.3 %

* Cu - 12 - 15 ppm

* Mn - 40 - 60 ppm

* Zn - 75 - 100 ppm

* K - 1.2 - 1.4%

* Se - 0.1 - 0.2 ppm (max.)

* Vitamin A - 2,000 - 3,000 IU

* Vitamin E -100 - 400 IU

Medications such as Bovatec, AS-700 or Deccox may be included if problems are anticipated. Probiotics and yeast cultures also may be included to stimulate rumen activity.

A high level of potassium is of importance for incoming cattle because potassium and sodium are depleted by shrink, especially when it's more than 6-7%.

The immune system is one of the most complex and intricate molecular interactions in the animal's body. Proper trace mineral supplementation won't eliminate disease. It will, however, allow the animal's immune system to respond with efficiency to disease pathogens and vaccination programs and minimize the risk of economic loss.

David Wieland is a nutrition consultant specializing in cow/calf, feedlot and horses. Based in Shepherd, MT, Wieland also publishes a subscription newsletter. For more information, contact him at 406/373-5512 or e-mail at [email protected]

Smaller Feeders Find Their Niche

A look at how small and mid-sized feeders survive and prosper.

It's no secret that big feedlots dominate the feeding industry, while many of their smaller cousins struggle.

"If you travel across the Midwest and Great Plains, you see an awful lot of lots that are empty with weeds growing up," says Marvin Duncan, professor of agricultural economics at North Dakota State University (NDSU).

Like much of agriculture, feeders are realizing the scale needed to make a profit tends to be increasing.

Still, many small yards, which feed from a few hundred to a few thousand head, not only survive but make money. Successful small feeders keep a sharp eye on costs, hold down debt and adopt well-conceived business strategies.

"The day is long gone where hard work alone will get you there," says Chuck Jones, operator of a 2,500-head lot in Torrington, WY. "You can generally make as much money in the office as you can out in the field."

Most importantly, successful small and mid-sized lots play to their strengths. Some turn to niche markets that the industry's giants won't touch, such as feeding newly weaned calves. Many farmer-feeders emphasize their farming operations as a way to cut their feeding costs. And, as a rule, smaller lots emphasize customer service.

For example, some feeders help customers minimize risk through hedging or forward contracting. And, like their bigger competitors, many smaller lots help customers market their cattle.

"Those who are really making it a success are customer oriented," says Ed Boos, president of First Bank and Trust, which serves numerous mid-sized feeders from its headquarters in Cozad, NE.

Bigger Isn't Always Better Giant lots have many advantages over smaller ones, including unmatched economies of scale. The big feeders can keep facilities and equipment in use year around, whereas some smaller operators only feed one cycle of cattle a year. And the big feeders benefit from specialization; because they do only one thing, they often do it very well.

"At a large feedlot, the sole reason to be is to feed cattle efficiently," says Tim Niedecken, business analyst at eMerge Interactive's Professional Cattle Consultants in Weatherford, OK, a firm that provides comparative feeding data to feeders of all sizes.

But Niedecken cautions against the assumption that bigger is always better. "We find very efficient operations in feeding performance and cost management at all capacities of lots we work with. Size is not necessarily a determinant of an efficient, well-run operation," he says.

Moreover, giant feeders can run into major problems if their segment of the cattle business goes sour. With the big yards, "you can make money faster, but you can go broke faster," says Duncan.

Small and mid-sized feeders wear many hats, and this has helped them survive and prosper. Diversity cushions them if one segment of their business hits the rocks.

"Diversity is a good thing when things go bad," says Niedecken.

For example, some small feeders have a cow-calf operation, a feedyard and a farming operation, which generates some crops for the feedlot and other crops for the cash market.

"Generally, one of the options you've got makes some money and keeps you in business in a bad year," says Chuck Jones, a Wyoming farmer-feeder.

By growing their own feed, small lots also insulate themselves when feed prices skyrocket. But there are drawbacks to diversity, notes NDSU's Duncan.

Diversity is an advantage only if you're good at each segment of the operation. That means some operators must excel at farming, ranching and feeding. And, even top performance in several areas may not overcome the disadvantage of prices or poor location - either too far from feed supplies or too far from slaughterhouses.

Keep Costs In Check Successful small feeders also stress cost containment. They hold down long-term debt and labor costs, avoid unnecessary equipment purchases and emphasize herd health in breeding and feeding operations.

Smaller operators also tend to keep their equipment in top shape. This avoids the need to take out big loans for new equipment. Gary Ham, operator of a 3,000-head lot in Benkelman, NE, checks his equipment over every time he uses it. He also keeps an old model feed truck in good repair to serve as a spare in case the newer one breaks down.

Ham minimizes equipment outlays by hiring out certain services. A custom operator chops his alfalfa. "I also have my corn harvesting custom done," he says.

The bottom line: Smaller feeders can survive and prosper if they find the right niche, play to their strengths and watch every penny.

"The largest lots have an economy of scale," says Niedecken. "But the smaller lots have an advantage in customized care - not only care of the cattle but care of the customer.

"I have people say that smaller operations in agriculture can't survive," says Niedecken. But he disagrees. "They may have to do things a bit differently. They may have to seek out niche markets. They may have to do things the larger yards don't want to do." But, he says, "They can be efficient, and they can be profitable."

Doug McInnis is a business management writer and a contributing editor to BEEF. He's based in Casper, WY.

Small and mid-sized feedlots may never achieve the economies of scale of a 40,000-head feedyard. Even so, they can adopt tactics to help level the playing field. Computers are one way to do this.

Computers help small feeders track their costs, figure when to reorder feed and warn them when they're headed for financial trouble.

"You can do a better job of figuring out where you have to be to break even," says Chuck Jones, operator of a 2,500-head lot in Torrington, WY. Jones also says the computer helps him determine when his cattle aren't eating enough, an early warning of possible health problems.

Computers also provide detailed cost-of-gain and rate-of-gain information that helps small feeders give first-rate service to their customers.

Should've Been A Cowboy

Wayne Justus captures the cowboy experience firsthand.

Wayne Justus talks about as fast as he paints - and that's not exactly fast. He contemplates each soft-spoken word like a detail in one of his Western paintings.

Authenticity is essential to the work of this Pagosa Springs, CO-based artist, who gathers subject matter by traveling to ranches in the Southwest, sometimes working as a cowpuncher.

"More often than not, I see a landscape and I visualize something happening there," he says.

"Hold-Up At Blanco Basin" is a good example of Justus' fashion and is one of his favorite paintings.

"Years ago, they used to raise a lot of cows in there (Blanco Basin)... so I visualized what it might have been like in those days," he says. An enormous landscape with tremendous detail - thousands of cows, a watering hole, a train, old barns and a water tower - resulted.

Born To Paint A horse lover from day one, Justus started sketching the animal in the fifth grade. Liking the attention his sketches brought him, he stuck with it.

Justus bought and studied every publication he could find with illustrations by Western art icons Charlie Russell and Frederick Remington. He also took charcoal drawing and painting lessons from several accomplished artists.

He sold his first painting in eighth grade at a show hosted by his local art association. His second painting sold to artist Marjorie Reed, who is famous for her paintings of the Butterfield Stage Coach.

Despite how early his talents surfaced, Justus wasn't always sure he wanted to work as an artist. At one point, he was seriously considering a career as a jockey. After recovering from an accident in which he and a horse went over the rail, Justus decided to look for a safer way to make a living. He went to work operating heavy construction equipment.

"I still painted at night, but I didn't have the guts to just drop the security of a weekly paying job to become an artist," he says.

Then, Justus visited his mentor Austin Dual, a former combat artist in Vietnam and a fellow Western artist. Dual had just opened an art gallery on Main Street in Scottsdale, AZ, and he pushed Justus into painting full-time.

"Basically, he said that he didn't want to see me anymore unless I quit my job and just started painting. And, so that's what I did. We ate beans for a long time and I painted," he says.

Though he had a lot of experience on horseback and had team roped competitively, Justus felt he didn't yet know enough about the cowboy life and needed to gather subject matter for his paintings. He finagled his way into tagging along as a "hoodlum" cook's helper on a big outfit in Arizona.

"They still run a chuck wagon on it and do things like they did 100 years ago," Justus says.

At first the cowboys Justus met were pretty standoffish, and, for insurance reasons, the wagon boss wouldn't let him ride with them. So, Justus made sketches, took pictures and did anything he could to make himself useful.

Eventually, he won their respect by helping the horse wrangler move the horses when the camp progressed to the other side of a canyon. One thing led to another, and for several years Justus returned to the ranch for two weeks at a time to help the cowboys.

The turning point in Justus' career came after a month of living on crackers and painting day and night in preparation for the Peppertree Ranch Art Show in California. He sold out at the show, and he and wife Cathy moved to Colorado shortly thereafter.

A former fiddler for a bluegrass band, Justus enjoys backpacking on horseback in the Rocky Mountains and reading books about the Civil War - his great-great grandfather fought in a Civil War battle in Tennessee.

Justus has retold a few Civil War stories through his paintings, and he plans to paint more about the war.

"I'll always paint Westerns. That's kind of my roots. But every now and then I'll throw in a Civil War one since there are so many great stories that need to be told," he says.

This month's cover painting was inspired by the light of the early morning, Justus says. The setting of "Early Morning Chauffeur" is from a ranch near Del Norte, CO. True to his style, he envisioned the cows and cowboy later.

Justus hopes those who view the painting get the feeling of the clean fresh air of early morning, the dew on the ground and the way the early light makes everything golden.

For information on Justus's work contact the Toh-Atin gallery at 800/509-3888 or contact Justus at 970/264-4462.

The goal is satisfying customers

As Elmer Kelton said, "Ranching never has been a great living but is sure is a great life."

People tend to produce cattle more for the lifestyle than for its profits. As a result, our industry is made up of many strong and dedicated individuals who love the land and stock that our creator put us here to care for.

The ranching lifestyle is noble and provides a great environment for raising a family, but profitability is required to maintain a viable industry. As beef producers, we must focus on improving profitability and sustainability through satisfied customers.

Our customers want a healthy, nutritious, great tasting and convenient product at an affordable price. As beef producers, we should strive for each of these but focus our efforts on the things we can change most through genetics and management:

* Affordable price (through improved efficiency of production) and

* A great tasting product.

Focus On The Prize Remember as a child, trying so hard not to, "Step on the cracks and break your mother's back," that it seemed like that's where your foot always landed? We tend to hit what we focus on, so in the cattle business why not focus on producing great tasting beef at an affordable price, rather than concentrate on the cracks and imperfections in the industry?

Over the past 10 years, many of us have evolved from being raisers of commodity cattle to being producers of specification beef - and have been paid to do so. We did it by focusing on producing cuts of beef in the meat case instead of just a calf at the market. Beginning with the end in mind, our viewpoint changes and we more accurately produce what consumers want.

Continuing to work independently of each other makes beef producers very vulnerable. It's time for all producers to join forces and work together for the benefit of all beef producers.

We are in the age of alliances where producers work together and gain strength in numbers. The tremendous increase in branded beef products coming from alliances is proof that consumers are willing to pay more for products that consistently meet defined specifications. Alliances like U.S. Premium Beef, Rancher's Renaissance, and Future Beef are providing true value-based marketing and allow producers to receive the profits their cattle deserve. For perspective, every commodity market is a break-even business. Less than half of the cattle sold in a commodity market can return significant profits. Plus, as more of the good cattle go into alliances because of the premiums they earn, there will be fewer good cattle in the commodity market, making the commodity market even more volatile.

So, which market will you choose?

A commodity market - a world defined by price discovery in a population of cattle that is continually decreasing in quality. This market is increasingly volatile and cost cutting is the primary opportunity to increase returns.

Or, a specification market - a world defined by value discovery, which offers tremendous opportunity for profits. Here the quality of the cattle is continually improving, demand is steadier and producers are directly paid premiums for hitting the target specs.

Keep These In Mind * Remember, retained ownership is only one of several options to receive value-added premiums. You can also align with other producers in your area to form marketing alliances like the North East Texas Beef Improvement Organization (NET-BIO). This group has special sales where they add value to their calves by putting groups of producers' calves together in uniform truckload lots.

Participating producers also follow prescribed health specifications. As a result, buyers can come and easily buy truckloads of cattle that are ready to go straight to grass or the feedlot. These calves have sold well over the top of the market every time.

* Another option is to align with your seedstock supplier to help you market your calves.

* For that matter, breed associations should align themselves and work together in areas such as marketing and genetic evaluation. It's time we eliminate our biases and the countless dollars we spend each year in duplicative efforts.

Look at what the pork and dairy industries have done. They have one genetic evaluation that puts virtually all EPDs on a common base so it's easier for producers to use and understand. Plus, it greatly reduces the cost since there is only one evaluation instead of the more than 20 that occur in the beef industry today.

This cooperation can also give tremendous critical mass, which allows us to generate and utilize more accurate tools to help producers hit the targets consistently (i.e., DNA technology).

It's time we join forces, put aside our biases and work in a unified effort to regain the strong demand beef once had with consumers. Let's focus on where we want to be so that we can improve the profitability of our industry and make ranching both a great life and a good living once again.

Donnell "Donald" Brown is co-owner and manager of the R.A. Brown Ranch, a family business since 1895. He and father Rob produce and market Angus, Red Angus, Simmental, SimAngus and Hotlander composite cattle, semen and embryos. The Browns are founders of the Rancher's Renaissance Alliance. For more information, write to R.A. Brown Ranch, Box 789, Throckmorton, TX 76483; or call 940-849-0611 or www.rabrownranch @westex.net.

The Supreme Court, Babbitt and grazing

"...grazing privileges recognized and acknowledged shall be adequately safeguarded...," Justice Stephen Breyer in PLC vs. Babbitt

It was apparent five minutes into oral arguments in March that the Public Lands Council (PLC) was going to lose PLC vs. Babbitt. On May 15, the U.S. Supreme Court made it official, and it wasn't even close - 9-0.

Now, after dissecting the court's decision to uphold the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals' rulings on the Bureau of Land Management's 1995 Rangeland Reform regulations, the livestock industry realizes not all was lost by taking the Interior Department to the mat.

In ruling that Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt's reforms did not violate the Taylor Grazing Act, the court cleared the way for, and even encouraged, ranchers suffering injury through denial of grazing privileges to seek their own injury claims. It told ranchers to keep holding the feet of government to the fire.

At issue in the case were three areas of the range reform regulations: grazing preference, mandatory qualifications to hold a grazing permit and ownership of range improvements.

Under the regulations, livestock producers felt grazing preference, which historically has ensured the protection of grazing privileges, had been removed completely. The court ruled the reform language does not cancel preference based on the agency's definition of preference.

The court also clarified mandatory qualifications for holding a grazing permit. Livestock producers were concerned the ambiguous definition of mandatory qualifications would allow those not in the livestock business to obtain grazing permits. Ranchers could have been forced to compete with someone who had no intention of using a permit for grazing. The industry felt this was a backdoor attempt to achieve conservation use of grazing permits.

With regard to range improvements, the court will allow permit holders to negotiate with the government over ownership of range improvements. It has no problem with a permittee seeking title to and compensation for range improvements. There's no doubt the court's ruling upholds Babbitt's Rangeland Reform regulations. But, it does not allow radical changes to the federal rangeland grazing system.

Back on March 1, the Justices spent much of PLC attorney Tim Bishop's 30 minutes at the podium informing him the PLC was barking up the wrong legal tree - that the case should have been brought based on "injury" as opposed to a "facial" challenge.

Should the PLC have tried to sue under an injury determination - a fight that might have been winnable, as opposed to arguing on the facial evidence or basis of the law - a fight they knew would be fought uphill? Of course not. The industry could not risk having grazing privileges tied up in court for years. Today, that injury option is still open and even encouraged by the Supreme Court.

Was it worth it? Yes. While this case was working its way through the courts, the Babbitt-prescribed Rangeland Reform regulations were not applied to BLM permittees. By taking Interior through the courts, some terribly ambiguous terms were clarified and, a portion of Babbitt's overall environmental agenda was checked.

This case only cost the industry a few hundred thousand dollars. That's not much when you put it into perspective and calculate what the livestock industry and the rural West had to lose - and gain.

The key, even though the tally was 9-zip, was that the Western livestock industry united under a common cause that will help preserve a way of life - and did so in a manner we can all look to with pride.

As Congress prepares to add more land to the federal estate for conservation purposes, the condition of lands already under federal control continues to be scrutinized.

"If we are to protect America's most valued lands, federal land management policies must be reformed and private conservation efforts encouraged," says Holly Lippke Fretwell, a Bozeman, MT, researcher with the Political Economy Research Center (PERC), which provides market solutions to environmental problems.

In her new report - "Federal Estate: Is Bigger Better?" - Fretwell points out that one-third of the land area of the U.S. is under federal control. More than 800,000 acres are added each year and will rapidly increase if proposed legislation specifically for land acquisition is passed by Congress.

While federal land ownership expands, funds for managing the new lands aren't provided. For example, President Clinton's Land Legacy Initiative provides $1 billion a year for land acquisitions, but has no funds for addressing critical resource management problems.

Merely placing land into federal ownership without addressing its management needs in no way ensures conservation and can actually lead to greater degradation, Fretwell says.

Recreational lands should pay their own way. Lands without wildlife habitat or scenic value should be sold and the proceeds used to manage lands with higher conservation value.

"And private efforts should be encouraged by expanding the flexibility of conservation easements and easing the estate tax burden," she says.

Fretwell's report is available from PERC at 406/587-9591 or at www. perc.org.

Early weaning can extend returms

In the vicious domino-circle of nutrition, reproduction and feed cost, early weaning will never offer a sure-fire profit hedge. But, in the right situation and at the right time, it does offer powerful production and marketing potential.

"In a spring calving herd, I think early weaning is one of the greatest windows of opportunity there is to manipulate the cow herd," explains Don Adams, a range nutritionist at the University of Nebraska's (UN) West Central Research Extension Center at North Platte.

Specifically, Adams says early weaning can help some producers build cows' Body Condition Score (BCS) heading into winter and extend the use of available forage - at times enough to run a few more cows. And, he says, selling calves and fed cattle earlier and outside marketing windows can increase revenue.

"If people are pressuring cows where they rely on low-quality forages for winter grazing - stockpiled forage or winter grass - it's imperative to understand a cow is not likely to gain body condition, and early weaning is a powerful tool to do that," says Adams.

It doesn't matter whether drought is limiting the quality and quantity of late summer and early fall forage, or it's a matter of managing reproductive risk via BCS, especially in first-calf heifers. Adams says, "Once you shut milk production down, a cow's maintenance requirements immediately go down."

BCS Is Predictable For perspective, Adams says an additional dry cow can be fed for every 2.5 days a cow doesn't have to nurse a calf. Moreover, during late summer and early fall, he explains cows will lose 0.1 BCS every two weeks of lactation.

So, if a cow is a 5.5 BCS in the middle of August, Adams says you can predict when she'll be a 5.0. He believes 5.0 is the minimum BCS mature cows should be heading into winter if breeding rates following next spring's calving are to be maintained. For first-calf heifers, it's 5.5.

Of course, there's no free lunch. Dick Clark, a UN professor of economics at North Platte points out, "Early weaning is there to benefit the cow, and you might be able to reduce some feed costs, or at least some feed consumption by the cow. But, you might turn around and put it right back into the calves."

He says balancing savings on cow nutrition with the necessity of feeding their calves longer, either at home or in the feedlot, boils down to knowing production costs.

"What's it going to cost you to keep the calf growing to a similar weight on the cow? Or, should you go straight to the feedlot and potentially hit a little higher market (fed price)?" asks Clark. Even when producers sell calves or yearlings, he says early weaning offers marketing advantage. Sell calves lighter and the price per cwt. is higher. Sell them earlier, away from the typically lower October and November markets, and the price floor is also higher.

On the cost side of the equation, at least in Western Nebraska ( due in part to extraordinarily low grain prices and atypically high grass cost), Clark says, "The last couple of years you could put gain on calves more cheaply in the feedlot than on grass... It's just so doggone year-dependent."

At the same time, Clark explains there is extra net potential any time a producer can limit the necessity for harvested feeds, while still providing the cow herd adequate nutrition.

"Our experience is that if you can manage the cow so she does more of the work to harvest what she needs to keep going, you have an opportunity in most instances to improve your bottom line."

Clark adds, "We estimate it costs $10-$12/ton to feed hay." And, that's just the interest, equipment depreciation and fuel cost associated with delivery. Labor can add another $2-3/ton.

Of course, both Adams and Clark point out supplementing lactating cows can extend grazing and cushion BCS as well. But, they emphasize harvested feed costs usually run higher. And, Adams cautions producers not to confuse calf and cow supplementation.

"People need to understand that creep feeding calves doesn't help the cows. The calves will still take the milk first," he says. So, even if the calves have extra grub, the cows won't consume fewer groceries themselves.

Before ever diving into early weaning or any other ranch management strategy, Adams emphasizes, "One tool will not fit everyone. You do something because it will help the needs of the ranch and the profitability."

In the case of early weaning, he suggests, "First, identify if there is a resource on the ranch, in terms of management or marketing, that it can help."