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Articles from 2013 In July

Learn to take the business of horses to a new level

All businesses need to evolve to remain successful, and thinking outside the box can make all the difference. Learn what makes a properly planned business stand out with Equine Guelph’s 12-week online course, Equine Business Management.

Offered through the University of Guelph, Equine Business Management has been designed for those interested in establishing a business in the equine industry or for those already operating a business and looking for a way to boost that bottom line in today’s struggling economy. Topics covered in this course include preparing an all-important business plan, including financial, marketing and public relations strategies and suggestions on how to put them all into practice.

“Writing a business plan uses skills, which can be applied in many different aspects of life,” says course instructor Heather Gentles, who has a Master of Business Administration in Marketing and General Management from the Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio, and a Bachelor and Masters of Science in Biology from the University of Northern Arizona.   “Students will learn how to research their ideas, and integrate them with finance, legal and insurance concerns, along with human resources. These skills are useful whether they are used for their own business or as an employee. We also teach time management, including learning how to set priorities and overcome procrastination, which then allows students to have some down time to be with their horses.”

Students will also create an in-depth business portfolio, which can help them better understand their strengths and interests, not only for use with their own business, but also when looking for employment. With access to guest speakers in the areas of equine law, finance and equine insurance, the course benefits from case studies, questions and answers, and critical feedback on real life business proposals.

“Upon completing this course, past students have developed some very interesting business ideas for operating a boarding, lesson, breeding, or a training facility,” says Gentles. “Others have gone beyond traditional business models, and have established plans pertaining to equine tourism, such as a ranch resort or ‘bed and bale’, and even a psychotherapy facility.”

Gentles notes that the 12-week course has helped some students to narrow down their initial ideas into a more focused effort, while for others it has helped them to realize that they need to broaden their income base.

“There are always some students who realize that actually running a business may not be for them or at least in their current stage of life, which has probably saved them financial and emotional hardship,” she says. “Others have had their dreams reinforced and feel they now have the tools and knowledge to move forward with confidence.”

Equine Business Management is part of the Certificate in Equine Business Management continuing education program and will be included in Equine Guelph’s Fall 2013 online lineup. Other course offerings include Advanced Equine Behaviour, Management of the Equine Environment, Equine Nutrition, Equine Functional Anatomy, Equine Genetics, Equine Growth and Development, Stewardship of the Equine Environment, and Equine Journalism. Registration is now open, with courses running from September 9 to December 1, 2013.

For more information on our business courses, please contact Open Learning and Educational Support at [email protected], call 519-767-5000

or visit .

SmartPak introduces new schooling breeches

SmartPak has introduced  Piper, a new line of schooling breeches exclusively by SmartPak. Piper is fashionable and functional and is fabulously priced, starting at just $79.95.

“We designed Piper breeches because our customers asked us for a fun, fashionable schooling breech at an affordable price,” said Melissa Hamlet, SmartPak’s Vice President of Merchandising. "We're thrilled with the feedback we've been getting so far and our plan is to update the Piper color offerings continually so that our customers can keep their wardrobes fresh." 

Piper breeches are made of a stretch synthetic fabric that is extremely comfortable and long wearing and that stands up to the demands of schooling. The fabric offers fantastic grip and has great durability. It performs well in the saddle and has long-term shape retention. An ergonomic-shaped panel at the calf eliminates bulky Velcro and annoying seams for a streamlined fit. The coverage is perfect, thin enough to be comfortable, yet substantial enough to provide plenty of coverage while creating smooth, flattering lines, the company said. 

Piper breeches come in four models – Piper Full Seat Breeches, Piper Knee Patch Breeches, Piper Plus Full Seat Breeches and Piper Plus Knee Patch Breeches. 

Features include:

o              Trim on pockets that takes the look from dull to delightful

o              Contrast stitching that gives the breeches a little “personality”

o              A comfort fit sock bottom that fits smoothly inside the boot

o              A contoured 2”-wide waistband for a trendy and flattering style

o              The Piper, and Piper Plus, Knee Patch models also feature a fashionable Euro Seat for trendy styling

“Piper breeches were designed to offer a schooling breech with great style at a great price,” added Hamlet. “Schooling style doesn’t have to be hot pink and zebra plaid, but it doesn’t need to be boring either! We think everyone will like the Piper colors, whether Merlot with dark grey trim, Charcoal with light grey, Wheat with teal or Blue Jeans with brown.


“Farm Kings” Features Ag Family In Reality Show

Farm Kings on GAC

My family has been approached twice this summer with interest from different producers to be a part of ranch wife reality shows. I’ve politely answered questions about my life on the ranch, the challenges we face, the role I play in our operation, and my hopes for the future. On both occasions, their interest fizzled following our conversation. When these producers call, I assume they’re looking for a stereotypical hillbilly farmwife, and I like to think I have a little more going for me than wearing bib overalls and acting like a redneck.

Apparently, it just doesn’t make good TV to have a well-behaved family whose members work well together in caring for their animals and tending to the land. And, as one rancher aptly wrote to me in a private email, “Being rejected for reality TV is the best thing that could have happened to you.”

While it was flattering to be considered, and certainly interesting to be interviewed and taped for a potential show, the theatrics and exploitation behind the whole deal are intimidating and probably not worth the hoops one would have to jump through for such an endeavor.

However, a Pennsylvania farm family, the Kings, is braving the reality TV show world. And although I’m skeptical how agriculture might be portrayed in this series, the central focus is on a large family working together to make a living on a farm.

Sure, there is some craziness included in the show. For example, brother Dan has a mohawk, and brother Pete sells produce at the farmer’s markets by attracting the ladies when he takes off his shirt to show off his six-pack abs. Add in the fact that there are 10 children, all boys except for one girl, and you’ve got the dynamics to make an interesting show.

The show will air in August on GACTV. Here is a description of the program:

Farm Kings
Pete, Tim, Joe, and Dan King of Freedom Farms from the GAC show Farm Kings. Catch Farm Kings Thursday nights at 9/8c! Photo courtesy of Stage 3.

“Join the King Family of Freedom Farms as they battle the elements — and each other — to provide the Pittsburgh region with the very freshest produce possible. Watch as Joe, the oldest of the 10 King kids, manages brothers Tim, the head of produce, Pete, the "Human Harvester," Dan, the passionate wannabe-partner, and mom Lisa, to make sure the work gets done on a daily basis. From overnight bakery shifts and early-morning picking, to stripping down and selling their wares until sunset, the Kings will lay it all on the line each week to bring their customers fresh, local food – done right. But when you're in business with your family, things are bound to get personal, so these Farm Kings will have to find a way to overcome their differences and balance the business and their family, or see it all come crashing down.”

You can watch a preview here.

Since I haven’t seen a full episode yet, my verdict is still out on whether this show is positive or not for the industry. Have you seen a previous episode? If so, what did you think? Do you think farmers and ranchers should participate if asked to be on reality TV? Why or why not? Will you be watching Farm Kings on GACTV this August?


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Cover Crop Use Growing As Corn/Soybeans Acreage On Upswing

A new survey shows that cover crop usage by farmers is on the upswing. The survey is the work of the Conservation and Technology Information Center and USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program.

“We did it because we wanted to see what was happening with cover crops and their impacts during such a dry year of 2012,” says Rob Myers, a University of Missouri agronomist and regional director of Extension programs for North Central Region SARE.

Among the findings that were “mild” surprises, says Myers, was the significance of yield impacts after cover crop adoption. “Those yield differences were certainly greater than we expected. The fact that the yield difference was larger in the driest states was a surprise.

“Overall, we knew that cover crops were likely to help in dry conditions. That’s because of their ability to promote deeper rooting for corn and soybeans and provide a residue blanket on the soil.”

To read the entire article, click here.


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How To Receive Full Value For Your Calves

getting the most money for your calves

I’ve written many articles on preconditioning (PC) over the years, but few generated the response of my May BEEF column, in which some readers challenged my contention that everyone should wean calves before selling them. The common complaint was that it’s next to impossible to precondition calves on large, extensive ranching operations.

I listened to their arguments, did some research and asked veterinarians who work with large ranches to help me become more informed.

Was I too bold in my May BEEF column by implying that everyone can wean calves before selling? In a word, yes. While I received responses from DVMs with Western clients who operate on extensive acreages with no feed or facilities to wean calves, the good news is, I received many more responses from DVMs whose clients make PC (including weaning) work for them.

Here’s what I learned:

• Every DVM responding to my request for help said health and vaccinations are the easy part. Nearly all their top herds vaccinated for bovine respiratory disease in one of the following ways: branding and weaning, three weeks prewean and weaning, or weaning and three weeks postweaning. Treating for parasites and providing coccidia control are also musts.

• Nutrition is among the biggest obstacles. Some herds brought pairs to a meadow preweaning, then moved the cows and left the calves on this high-quality forage. Others fed cake to pairs preweaning, so the calves would acclimate to eating feed. Weaning rations can range from high-quality grass to a complete ration, or something in between. The system, however, must be adapted to the ranch.

DVMs said the key is to have a positive energy balance postweaning. The calf needs calories for a properly functioning immune system to respond to the vaccine and to fight off pathogens.

• A variety of weaning options surfaced. The “quiet wean” method of placing an antinurse device for 5-6 days was used by some, while fenceline weaning with a strong fence was advocated by others. One DVM said some ranches’ only option was leaving calves on high-quality grass, while moving cows miles away to lower-quality pasture.

• Facilities are another challenge on many ranches. Justifying the cost of a set of facilities, feed bunks, etc., for only 45 days is a legitimate question. However, one DVM cites a client who — using enterprise analysis — learned he tripled the profit on his calves with a 45-day PC program, vs. selling the calves off the cow.

 In addition, some producers rent neighboring facilities. Sharing facilities between ranches with different weaning times is another option. And if calves go to high-quality grass, this allows a minimal investment in equipment. 

• A marketing plan is critical for PC success. It’s important to call the auction market before you deliver calves in order to receive the calves’ full value. Selling at special PC sales also is highly desirable, as are video auctions or selling direct to the feedlot. As your preconditioned calves gain a positive reputation, the price should improve.


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One DVM reports that his clients follow a popular PC program, with calves tagged appropriately. If his clinic does the work, he will apply an additional PC tag with the clinic’s name and telephone number. He reports excellent success with this program. Also, third-party verification can add additional value.

Numerous respondents said PC’s greatest value is in retaining ownership of the calves to the feedlot. In fact, CattleFax reports that retained ownership pays in most years, particularly if your calves’ health and genetics are better than average.

Sometimes it’s logistically very difficult to wean calves for 45 days or more before selling. But we do need to work to make this the exception rather than the rule in order for cow-calf producers to receive full value for their calves.

Do you have a PC tip to share? Send a note to [email protected] for use in a future article.

W. Mark Hilton, DVM, is a clinical professor of beef production medicine at Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN.


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Panera Bread Uses Fear To Sell Chicken Sandwiches #PluckEZChicken

Panera Bread Uses Fear To Sell Chicken Sandwiches #PluckEZChicken

I don’t frequent Panera Bread much since the soup-and-sandwich chain doesn’t have much of a presence in my area. However, in my future travels, you can be sure I’ll pass by that restaurant and choose another. Why? Because of the chain’s new advertising campaign, which calls ranchers “lazy” for using antibiotics.

Panera Bread has created a new Twitter account @EZChicken. Its new Facebook graphic boasts the slogan, “The road to switching to antibiotic-free isn’t easy, but it sure is tasty.” In addition, the marketing campaign contends that using antibiotics in livestock production is a lazy way for livestock producers to not care for their animals. The image includes a chicken shaped in the form of a pill with tag lines such as: “Hard work pays off eventually, but lazy pays off now.”

panera bread ez chicken campaignIn response to the campaign, producer Carrie Mess wrote a scathing editorial on her blog, Dairy Carrie, that further describes the new marketing campaign. Her response was followed by an overwhelming outcry from the agricultural community, which Panera characterized as one of the loudest responses ever to one of its campaigns. Good job, guys! Check out #PluckEZChicken on Twitter.

I’m sure the company thought its campaign would help sell those expensive sandwiches and paninis. Instead, it’s quickly losing customers because of its #EZChicken campaign.

Following her blog post, Mess received a response from Panera, in which the chain promised to rephrase the campaign and eliminate references to EZChicken. You can read the response here.

common ground ag advocacyWhile the information is still online, Common Ground has put together an excellent infographic that is going viral. The graphic reads, “The talk: 80% of the antibiotics used in the U.S. are given to livestock. The truth: People and their pets use 10 times more antibiotics than our nation’s livestock. Bottom line: Livestock producers use antibiotics for the same reason as the rest of us, to keep their animals, and our food, safe and healthy.”

Another great blog on this topic is from Mom At The Meat Counter. Read "Antibiotics In The Meat Supply: Residues Vs. Resistance." 

I'm all for truth in marketing, and I don't believe in scaring folks to sell a product. Let Panera know how you feel by using the hashtag #PluckEZChicken in your conversations online. 

What do you think about the ad campaign? How do you respond to a fast-food chain that calls you lazy? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below. 


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Offal Meats As Good As Gold For U.S. Beef Market

Rarely found on menus in the U.S., variety meat – also called offal or fancy meat – takes many forms: kidneys, livers, stomachs, tendons, aortas, cheek meat, oxtails and more. And because it's highly sought after in key export markets of Egypt, Japan, Peru and Mexico, variety meat is gold to the U.S. beef industry.

According to the U.S. Meat Export Federation, total U.S. beef exports in 2012 set a new record at $5.51 billion. Beef offal represented $703.1 million, or about 12% of that. It also accounted for 28.4% of the total volume of beef exports.

And, virtually 100% of the U.S. livestock herd is represented in variety meat exports – some part of every animal is sold to international customers.

"Demand for both large and small intestines would tank without the international market," says Jerry Wiggs, export salesman for Greater Omaha Packing Company Inc. (OPC). "We are selling large intestines to South Korea or Koreans who recently moved to the U.S."

Wiggs says  OPC just recently resumed selling small intestines to Mexico, where they had been banned since BSE was found in the U.S. in late 2003.

To read the entire article, click here.



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Beef Exports To Japan Look Positive

Beef Exports To Japan Look Positive

A group of Nebraska corn farmers and cattlemen have returned from a trade mission in Japan convinced that Japan will soon return to its traditional spot as the number-one export customer for U.S. beef. 

The Nebraska Corn Board (NCB) funded the participation of five Nebraska producers on the Japan mission, which centered on Tokyo and the Sendai region. Tim Scheer of St. Paul and Mark Jagels of Davenport represented NCB.  Kyle Cantrell of Anselmo represented the Nebraska Corn Growers, while Dale Spencer of Brewster and Doug Parde of Sterling participated on behalf of Nebraska Cattlemen.

Jagels is the chair-elect of the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), a Denver-based organization supported in part with checkoff funds from NCB and dozens of other U.S. organizations. USMEF is responsible for market development and promotion of U.S. beef, pork and lamb around the world. The trade mission was hosted by USMEF's staff in Tokyo.

In January 2013, Japan agreed to permit imports of U.S. beef from animals aged 30 months and younger, up from an earlier restriction of 20 months and younger that was adopted after a 2003 BSE scare involving one case of the disease in Washington in a Canadian-born cow. With the restriction now raised to the 30-month level, about 95% of U.S. beef now qualifies for import into Japan.

For all practical purposes, American beef has been out of the Japanese market in the 10 years since the BSE scare. "During that time, Australia and New Zealand have been very aggressive in promoting their product into Japan with considerable success," Jagels said. "We need to reintroduce Japanese consumers to the robust flavor of American corn-fed beef—and teach them ways to prepare and enjoy convenient and delicious dishes featuring U.S. beef." 

Already, sales of U.S. beef into Japan are on track to exceed $1 billion in value this year, up from virtually zero in 2006. The Japanese market is particularly important to U.S. beef producers since Japan is a high-volume purchaser of beef cuts that are not highly valued in the U.S. 

"Beef tongue, short plate, skirt and variety meats are greatly desired by Japanese consumers," Scheer said. "Beef tongue that brings about $1.50/lb. in the U.S. will command $7/lb. in Japan—and that adds value to every beef animal raised in America." 

The Nebraska team was able to take part in two significant promotions sponsored by USMEF. Some 40 influential "foodie" bloggers from across the country were invited to a luncheon featuring Rika Yukimasa, a rising television star and mother of two. She prepared a number of dishes featuring U.S. beef and pork—and the bloggers reacted with enthusiasm, rushing the stage several times to snap pictures of the food.  

"Many of these bloggers have 20,000 readers every day," Scheer said. "With that one event, USMEF was able to create a firestorm of positive news about U.S. beef and pork on the Internet in Japan." 

The following day, 640 high-level meat buyers and purveyors were on hand for a beef and pork training and information seminar, during which USMEF staffers outlined the consumer promotion campaigns, provided educational information on U.S. beef and pork, and answered questions. Following the seminar, the participants were treated to a buffet dinner featuring a wide range of dishes featuring U.S. beef and pork. 

"Within a 36-hour period, USMEF reached some of the most important decision-makers and influencers in Japan," Jagels said. "Add to that the aggressive consumer advertising and public relations campaigns that are underway, and it's very clear that our checkoff dollars are being used to great effect in getting U.S. beef back on Japanese dinner plates." 

During the weeklong trade mission, the Nebraska team also: 

• Met with several of the top Japanese importers of U.S. beef to discuss their outlook for increased business and their expectations in terms of quality, service and delivery; 

  • Visited retail establishments to see how U.S. beef and competitive products are being displayed, marketed, packaged and promoted; 
  • Met with key restaurant chains that feature U.S. beef on their menus, including one chain that specializes in beef tongue (with 30+ different tongue items on the menu!);   
  • Saw a major advertising campaign for U.S. beef in Tokyo station, one of the largest metro transit stations in that city of 30 million people; 
  • Toured the Yokohama port facility, through which a large volume of U.S. beef enters Japan; 
  • Visited a food processing facility that transforms U.S. beef into ready-to-eat convenience meals; 
  • Visited Japan's largest cold storage facility, which featured a large inventory of American beef and pork—as well as products from a number of competitor nations; 
  • Got a first-hand look at a Wagyu beef feeding facility as well as an auction of Wagyu beef  carcasses. Wagyu beef is highly marbled Japanese beef. It's also highly valued.  One 950-lb. carcass on auction brought $12,000 U.S.


"The USMEF Japan team has done an excellent job in raising the profile of American beef and creating excitement that U.S. beef is back in Japan," Scheer said. "All of the key contacts we met were very complimentary of the efforts of USMEF staff and were extremely optimistic about their increased use of American beef." 

The group also visited Katsura Island off the coast of Sendai, Japan, the area devastated by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. NCB was the first commodity organization within USMEF membership to be in Japan with support for the islanders and other victims. Working with USMEF, NCB and Nebraska Beef Council helped provide beef and pork and other foodstuffs to the remaining islanders. USMEF partnered with a number of Japanese organizations to make that happen and continues to do so.  

One of those organizations is Bond & Justice, a group of Japanese thirty-somethings involved in the nation's hip-hop music industry. During the team's visit, the Bond & Justice group grilled U.S. beef and served the Nebraska team as well as dozens of island residents. The musicians have been visiting Katsura Island about twice a month since the disaster to provide food and social connections for the islanders. USMEF continues to provide beef and pork for these visits.  

"Our relief efforts are greatly appreciated as the people of the Sendai region struggle to rebuild their communities and their lives," Scheer said. "We should be thankful that Nebraska is in a position to provide food and support for our Japanese friends who have suffered through unspeakable disaster."  

The group returned to Nebraska optimistic about the prospects for regaining market share for U.S. beef in Japan. "It's clear that Japanese importers are very excited and relieved to have American beef back in the marketplace," Jagels said. "Once Japanese consumers again experience the flavor, tenderness and unique qualities of American beef, we expect beef exports to Japan to go nowhere but up. Since Nebraska is a national leader in beef production, this will have a tremendous positive effect on our state's livestock industry."

For a detailed blog on the mission, click here.


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27 Top Value-Based Alliances For Cattle

Here are the latest listings of the U.S. beef industry’s top value-based marketing alliances for cattle and calves. This 2013 edition is the 16th annual listing by BEEF magazine and includes a total of 27 programs categorized by consumer-based programs and calf-based programs.