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Survey Snippet: Producer optimism on the upswing

State of the Industry in 2017

BEEF surveyed its readers earlier this year for our annual State of the Industry report, and the results show that as a group, beef producers are looking ahead with confidence, in spite of a projected cyclical decline in cattle prices. 

Scott Grau, Penton’s director of research, says, “I see that producers are showing increased optimism both in the short term and long term due to their perception of the supply and demand fundamentals, domestically and internationally. This is supported with their view that the international beef trade influences the prices they receive here in the U.S., so they are competing in a worldwide marketplace.”

To better compete in this market, Grau says a vast majority of respondents are making management decisions to decrease their input costs. “The most common method is to get more gain per acre of pasture.”

 View the whole survey here.


These are not your daddy’s calf crops

Calves on pasture

Opinion; By Bruce Derksen

When the relative peace and quiet of the summer months come to an end, cattlemen’s thoughts turn to weaning the calf crops. The meticulous planning of the spring vaccinations, branding, tagging, castrating, and dehorning the calves before they were sent to pasture is far in the rear view mirror. The late spring and warm summer months have added pounds, maturity and size to the calves and conditioning and health to the cowherd. 

During these months, the organizational focus of many progressive ranches and feedlots has been switched to the proper upkeep and completion of new building projects, and the readiness of the weaning facilities. Usually, with the help of a veterinarian’s program, all the vaccinations, parasite controls and other health considerations are in place for both the mothers and the calves.

For, after all, these aren’t the 1980s anymore and these aren’t your daddy’s calf crops. Nor should they be. The days of haphazard lack of planning are long gone. Margins are much too tight in this day and age. Cost aside, the modern cattleman has finally reached the conclusion that a cow and calf need to be taken care of properly, for our own conscience and for the sake of appearance to the consumer. It’s just the right way to do things, all around.

Now even though us old cranky pen checkers hate coming down off our four-legged mounts and using our own two spindly legs, chances are we likely were recruited somewhere along the summer to pitch in with the many projects and repair jobs that precede the weaning process. We grudgingly swung a hammer and ran a chain saw to repair or rebuild feedlot fences, replace old barb wire with new and pound in some new posts. 

I’ve always found it hard to dismount from old Sonny at these times, but once we get in the swing of things it becomes like riding a bike, as they say. The camaraderie and practical jokes shared by co-workers and friends can make the job a lot easier to take for these old bones. A staple of the agricultural life is the philosophy of teamwork and duty—everyone pitching in even when it’s not always our favorite job.

I have always been a fairly organized, mildly obsessive-compulsive person, thanks to my parents drilling into me the importance of being a productive, hardworking citizen at a young age and later having a significant other in my life who won’t let me off the hook if I ever have thoughts of straying from that path. 

I’ve seen these qualities in good owners that I have had the privilege of working for and with, and in my opinion they lend themselves well to the challenge of preparing the calf crop for the trip home from the summer pastures. Good owners are not necessarily followers, but are open to new ideas. They work together with veterinarians on a plan to give the newly-weaned calf crop the best chance to be healthy, efficient, productive animals in the feedlot. 

So when all the repairs have been made, the projects completed and the health program is firmly in place, we can hang up the chain saw, the hammers and carpenter’s aprons and re-acquaint ourselves with our four legged mounts to resume the pen checker’s more desired routine. 

And when the day would come that the cow-calf herds are to be brought back to the ranch site, I looked forward to the butterflies in my stomach as they would turn from the pasture fences and string out down the roadway. Sonny would show off a bit more that day, snorting and throwing his head like a youngster. 

Soon you would recognize the leaders that had travelled these roads before, striding on ahead with purpose. There are still the stragglers, the cows and heifers with the younger calves and the generally slower pairs, but if you’ve done your best taking care of their health throughout the summer, that’s all you can ask. 

As they turn into the feedlot yards, you can be proud that even though one chapter of the year is done, it’s time to begin the next in these animal’s lives. We can be proud to say that these ain’t your daddy’s calf crops anymore.

If you’re the guide, your horse will follow your lead

Riding horses

It’s truly a pleasure to watch a rider and horse work as one. That doesn’t happen by accident. Indeed it takes time to build trust between horse and rider.

But when you do, the payoff is tremendous. Your horse is relaxed and receptive when he has found and understands his role in your relationship. Horses know how to recognize a good guide, and they are happy to follow.

On the other hand, it makes for a long day if the horse and rider are always fighting each other. If your horse is displaying negative behavior, take a look at your leadership style.

In most cases, a horse’s negative behavior is caused by:

  • Lack of trust and confidence: If your horse is afraid, help him. Break up an exercise so he can understand it and succeed in doing it. It’s useless to ask him to do too much too quickly. Exercises must be done according to the horse’s unique rhythm, not at the speed you prefer. Help the horse where he is, not where you want him to be.
  • Lack of respect: Respect must be earned. The horse must know who is in charge, which he will learn from your attitude and not from brutality. This lesson can be made easier by the fact that you can control all parts of his body.
  • Loss of connection/deterioration of the bond: Contact and connections are not only physical. Whenever you interact with your horse, you need to be really present. The link between you and your horse goes beyond the physical - it is also mental and emotional. If you don’t take control of the situation, he will.

Earning Respect

Difficult horses often lack both trust and respect. Fear makes them want to escape from what they feel to be danger. This reaction can have serious consequences, such as pushing, knocking over the handler or kicking.

Your horse must learn to respect your personal space. By controlling his movements, you’ll let him know who’s leading the dance.

A series of exercises will teach you how to move your horse. You must control his forequarters in order not to be pushed, and his hindquarters in order not to be kicked. This procedure affects not only the horse’s physical behavior, but also his mental and emotional state.

Tiring the horse out and concentrating only on the physical aspect can have adverse effects over time. The horse must gain confidence and respect before we can pay more attention to his physical development.

Source: American Quarter Horse Association


Consumer confidence bolstered by stable energy prices

Weekly oil rig count

Last week’s Industry At A Glance focused on the current state of the consumer. The Consumer Sentiment Index currently stands at 93 – somewhat lower than stronger numbers posted earlier in the year. However, the 12-month moving average is encroaching on 95 – the best mark for the average since early 2005.  

There are any number of reasons for continued strength on the consumer side, or at least consumer perception of the economy. Perhaps one of the most important components has been an extended streak of stability around gasoline prices. The energy complex has proven to be incredibly productive in recent years.

To that end, this week’s illustration highlights weekly drilling rig count in the United States. The current count stands at 952. That’s way off from the nearly 2,000 rigs at work in the peak of oil and gas exploration, but up sharply versus just a year ago.

The energy industry’s success – and subsequent decline in oil and gas prices – forced the rig count plunge during 2015. However, the energy complex has begun to recover and is seemingly going back to work. That’s reassuring from the long view – it ensures there’ll be steady supply in the years to come. And that count doesn’t include active wells that are currently on pause until prices recover to higher levels.


Energy is a huge part of our economy and largely impacts consumer sentiment. To that end, John Eichberger, vice president, motor fuels with the National Association of Convenience Stores, several years ago explained the effect of rising fuel prices this way: “…for the consumer it’s emotional, not necessarily a logical purchase. They go to extraordinary measures [to avoid higher prices].” Higher – and volatile – gas prices soften confidence and thereby impact consumer spending throughout the economy.   And obviously, lower prices work in an opposite and favorable manner.

It appears that the current price environment has bolstered consumers – and that’s likely helped beef demand during the first half of 2017. Moreover, stability around fuel prices also benefits beef producers in terms of budgeting – not to overlook the fact that lower prices also mean lower costs when operating machinery including trucks, tractors, steam flakers, etc. 

What’s your take on the energy sector? Where do you see fuel prices headed in the coming months? How have favorable fuel prices impacted your operation? What impact do you think the energy boom has had on our economy and the consumer? Leave your thoughts in the comment 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.

Declining prices and negative reports push feeder volume lower

Feeder cattle receipts at the test auctions dropped about 4,000 head at 22,400 head on the heels of the big negative reports and declining prices. Prices were mostly $2-$6 lower but instances more. During spring discussions during the wheat pasture runs, there were a lot higher % of yearling heifers being sold since fewer were retained for breeding which really bumped up the placements for many months. It's a similar story today. Also, very good profits after a long time of big losses promoted bigger placements, especially with the drought movement of feeders.

Slaughter cow receipts dropped at the test auctions which is normal this time of the year and prices were either side of steady from $1 lower to $1 higher. Cow meat prices continue to be close to steady the last couple of weeks. Big news continues to be the impact of the new packing plant near Boise, Idaho.

Meat Market Update | Are positive numbers on the horizon?

The daily spot Choice cutout continued to decline and was $2.44 lower by Friday, but started to improve slightly by Monday and Tuesday of this week. The four-week moving average of total weekly box beef sales has started to improve, following the previous year increases that normally occurred after the price declines following the big grilling season rally. Also, out-front sales were a little lower, but still good volume with prices that were much closer to current prices after being way below the current prices for several weeks.


The company that provides the amusement rides for the Ohio State Fair is a longtime operator. They've been around 70 years. Amusements of America is headquartered in New Jersey. Their website has section on ride safety. Fireball came apart last night at Ohio State Fair.

The best looking corn in the nation is in Minnesota - seven bushels above the trendline. 183 Minnesota yield. Iowa yield 181. Illinois farmers 190 - 7 bushels off year ago. Michigan farmers peg corn yield at 170 - five bushels above trend. This is from Allendale survey.

Kansas and Missouri have standing water after storms last night.

There's been a lot of intersection crashes across Midwest this season. In eastern Indiana teenage boy died at rural intersection when pickup truck collided with sprayer. At another, pregnant woman and her two sons died.


The Fireball ride at the Ohio State Fair was inspected just hours before the tragedy on that ride. At around 7:30 p.m. it was prime time on opening night. Seven riders were launched into the air before they fell to the ground. Governor ordered rides shut down at the fair.

Agriculture Secretary in Mexico to continue discussions begun in June when his counterpart visited Georgia. Mexico is crucial supplier of workers to U.S.

Taiwan company will build in Wisconsin. 10 sites are under consideration in that state. Plant will make iPhones.

RAGBRI is going on this week in Iowa. Lance Armstrong is joining the ride today.

Farm Progress America, July 27, 2017

Max Armstrong shares his thoughts on what he's learned about the use of technology in the dairy industry. Long known for tracking information on cows, the industry has evolved to wide use of feed management, nutrition control and event robotic milking technology. Max shares insight into what's driving this move to precision dairying.

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.