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It's a longstanding tradition in Ohio for governor to do inspection of state fair on opening day. Not this year, he'll be presiding over execution.

Abortion opponents seeking to shut down last abortion clinic in Kentucky will bring in jumbotron to show graphic images of abortion.

Cow-calf producers in northern Arkansas are dealing with unique problem - vultures are killing calves.

Torrential rains across southeast Wisconsin caused damage in three southeast Wisconsin counties last week. Few western Wisconsin counties dealing with flooding this week.

Orville Olson, 100, spent his life on a farm not far from DeKalb, Ill. He died July 9 and a memorials are going to the DeKalb County Farm Bureau, which is setting up a scholarship in his name.

Farm Progress America, July 21, 2017

Max Armstrong talks about the work of the soil and water conservation districts as they team up with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. He notes that they even work in cities and suburbs to help protect water and soil quality too. New grants focused on urban areas show how the organization has evolved.

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.

Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

Prices skyrocket as they catch up with last week's rally

Feeder cattle volume increased almost 6,000 head at the test auctions totaling 26,100 head. Prices skyrocketed at the early week auctions as they caught up with the big late week rally last week.

Slaughter cow numbers were 6,400 head at test auctions from Pennsylvania through Idaho and the Southern Plains compared to mostly 3,500-4,800 head last year during July and early August. This year's big drought in the Northern Plains is moving a lot of cows to market. Prices were steady to $3 lower but cow meat prices continued to improve a little.

Meat Market Update | Total box beef sales jump higher

Total box beef sales jumped higher with 7,076 total loads sold which was up 1,378 loads, helped by a much higher volume of out-front sales. The weekly average Choice box beef cutout continued to decline on the heels of a big drop in the daily spot cutout. There also was a larger volume of out-front sale that had much lower average prices than the current average formula prices for the same products.

Cattle Feeders Hall of Fame inducts four

Jeff L. Biegert (left) accepts the award for the 2017 Cattle Feeders Hall of Fame Inductee. Biegert is pictured with Brett Gottsch (center) and his wife, Sally Biegert (right).

The Cattle Feeders Hall of Fame recently inducted four into its growing list of those who have made significant contributions to the cattle feeding industry. Earl Brookover, founder of Brookover Feed Yards in Garden City, Kan., and Jeff L. Biegert, founder of Midwest PMS/Biegert Feeds of Shickley, Neb., were honored as inductees from the cattle feeding industry.

Additional inductees were Dee Griffin, clinical professor at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine, who was presented with the Industry Leadership Award, recognizing individuals who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and provided exemplary service to the industry. Eulogio “Lohill” Dimas, feedyard manager at Southwest Feeders in Hayes Center, Neb., received the Arturo Armendariz Distinguished Service Award, which honors exceptional and hardworking feedyard employees. 


Do consumers have a long view or short view of the economy?

Consumer sentiment

The stock market’s run since the election has been nothing short of phenomenal. The major stock market indexes have strung together new records on a regular basis in recent months. In total, the markets have advanced about 15% in just a little over eight months. 

Meanwhile, we’ve also witnessed a sharp rally in the beef market. Before the recent seasonal summer decline, fed cattle prices tacked on 48% between the October low and the May spring high. Meanwhile, the Choice-Select spread established a new all-time record this past spring, surpassing the $30 mark. 

Those types of gains garner lots of discussion about market behavior going forward. And that inherently brings focus on the state of the consumer. Your assessment of the consumer in the U.S. will likely depend on whether you have the long view or the short view relative to their general attitudes about the economy.       

This week’s graph illustrates the latest monthly Consumer Sentiment reading (July 2017 is preliminary) along with the 12-month moving average. The short-view perspective shows the index has declined from 98 earlier in the year to 93 in July – and this month’s reading is steady with levels prior to the election.


However, the long-view perspective ignores monthly gyrations and sees consumer attitudes as slow and steady, working to higher ground; July’s 12-month moving average now stands at 94.6 – the best mark since early 2005. 

What’s your general assessment about the economy in 2017? How do you perceive the current state of the consumer in the United States? Where do you see markets headed in the coming months? 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.

Feed intake study looks at genetic efficiencies

University of Illinois Dan Shike with GrowSafe
Dan Shike and Kellie Kroscher, looking at intake records for the GrowSafe system, while Tara Felix examines a feed sample with Will Rincker in the background.

Cattlemen looking for a genetic base for feed efficiency have, for many years, been similar to the guy trying to hunt down the leprechaun who hid the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

That may be changing.

“Grain intake in the feedlot is relatively easy to measure and the industry now has a substantial number of feed intake records. But forage intake while a cow is grazing is extremely difficult to measure. We need to get a handle on that to really capture feed efficiency for the entire beef production system,” says Dan Shike, associate professor of beef cattle nutrition in the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Illinois.  

The concern is that intake regulation varies, depending on diet type. In other words, a cow can fill up on forages before meeting her basic nutritional requirements. The same cow being fed grain in a controlled setting like a feedlot will likely meet those requirements on less feed. However, feed intake evaluations are typically done in the feedlot, potentially misrepresenting the efficiency of the animal over her lifespan.

“Prior to our study, there were limited data evaluating the relationship of intake on a grain diet with intake on a forage diet. If they are related, we may be able to use the intake data we have from the feedlot to extrapolate throughout the cow’s life,” Shike explains. 

Shike and a large team of collaborators from 11 institutions set out to determine if there was a relationship between feed efficiency in forage-fed cattle and in grain-fed cattle. Both heifers and steers were fed out of a GrowSafe system, which precisely tracks intake to individual animals.

Heifers were fed forage during a growing period of 70 days, then switched to grain for a 70-day finishing period. Steers were fed grain for both periods. The team looked for relationships between dry matter intake and average daily gain in the two periods, and found a strong correlation for both heifers and steers for dry matter intake.

“The study suggests that dry matter intake is repeatable across varying stages of maturity and diet types in cattle, and accurate feed efficiency measures can be obtained in either the growing or finishing period,” Shike says. “And our results show that measures of dry matter intake and feed intake in heifers are relevant, no matter what they were fed.”

Having more information about feed intake can lead to a more economical operation. Raising more efficient animals can reduce feed waste and potentially increase profits.

“We, as a cattle industry, have gotten very good at tracking our outputs,” Shike says. “We know how they grow, what their carcass characteristics are, and we can predict those very well in the next generation. But we don’t have a good handle on the input; really just a handful of feed intake records existed prior to this project. Some breeds had no feed intake records.”

An animal’s feed intake is just one the many traits that make up its phenotype – or outward appearance and behavior. The study provides more data on this trait across the lifespans of both steers and heifers.

The article, “Effects of timing and duration of test period and diet type on intake and feed efficiency of Charolais-sired cattle,” is published in the Journal of Animal Science. The project was supported by a USDA NIFA grant, and the study’s authors include researchers from the National Program for Genetic Improvement of Feed Efficiency in Beef Cattle, as well as associated graduate students and staff.

Source: University of Illinois 

Good stockmanship techniques make weaning easier

Jamie Purfeerst Get those calves ready to go

Much has been said and written about the benefits of low-stress cattle handling techniques. One of the places where that is clearly evident is on weaning day.

Indeed, one of the best ways to reduce stress at weaning is to use low-stress handling/stockmanship to quiet the calves after they are separated from their mothers, says Ron Gill, associate department head, Extension, at Texas A&M University. “Even if you get them sorted and separated quietly, without much hassle, those calves still walk the fence and bawl. Someone needs to get in with them and quietly change their focus. This is part of a process we call acclimation, to get them settled into their new situation smoothly.”

If you can get the fence-walking, bawling calves to stop and focus on you, this helps. “If you do this periodically during the first day or two, the calves realize they can stop and rest. They start looking to you for reassurance and guidance, just as they looked to their mothers,” Gill says.

“You are their surrogate. You can take charge of that group and let them know you can settle them down and that you are the one providing their feed. As a distraction, you reduce a lot of their stress,” he explains.

“We used to have a preconditioning operation, and found we could reduce sickness and mortality rates (by acclimating calves). Those problems dropped to almost nothing after we implemented good handling practices.”

Most people separate pairs and then just leave them in the pen or pasture and don’t do anything with them until they quit bawling, Gill says. If you relieve their stress the first day or two, they stop bawling quicker. 

 “It also helps to get calves accustomed ahead of time to how you’ll be handling them in the working facility. If they’ve never seen a person on foot, get them used to that. A lot of operations that do everything horseback have problems in a corral because those calves don’t learn to make the transition from someone horseback to someone on foot.” This can be very stressful for calves; they may run wildly and crash into fences.

“If cattle are always handled horseback, have people get off their horses occasionally. Just lead your horse as you go through the calves. This gets them used to seeing someone on foot so that when they go to a marketing facility or see the truck driver, they don’t freak out,” he says. 

Smith Thomas is a rancher and freelance writer based in Salmon, Idaho.


In new security program that recognizes facial features. It has been implemented at O'Hare in Chicago. It should help with security, according to federal officials. Privacy advocates are expressing concern.

You've heard about John McCain's brain cancer diagnosis. Only about 160,000 people in U.S. have brain cancer.

Congratulations to Ted McKinney who has been nominated to be undersecretary. Also named Sam Clovis from Iowa.

As many as 40,000 mink set free from Stearns County mink farm. Several animals have died. These mink have been killed by people who opened their cages.

Are we becoming a post-beef continent?

Red barn

There are a lot of things that attract people to the cattle business and this way of life. Everything from the ability to work daily with nature to the commitment and passion it requires. One of the things that always attracted me to this business was the people—hardworking people grounded in honesty, integrity and faith. Certainly, there are exceptions to that rule, but it is hard to imagine someone acquiring much success without them. 

All of us want to do something significant with our lives. We want to make an impact, to make a difference, to do something important and to excel. We all want to contribute in way that lasts. 

But fame and fortune are not simply the answer. I’m sure I will have to explain to my grandchildren who Bill Gates and Joe Montana were, and the question may never get asked.

Yet, while we want to contribute to something that endures, we get caught up in the proverbial rat race and all that society says is important. As cattlemen, we get caught up in working solely on our own operation and let the industry find its own way. As Christians, or people of faith, we conform to the cultural norms. Those are not necessarily wrong in and of themselves, but without a greater meaning or calling, they are inappropriate ways of finding significance. 

So much of what we do fades away the moment we retire or pass away. But there are those things that reverberate forever, such as our investment in family, among others. Those things that bring significance are those things that contribute to the welfare of others. 

Now, to get to the point

This is a long way of getting to the point, but Patrick Morley said something that struck me when he described Europe as being a post-Christian continent—where the great churches in the major cities of Europe are now mostly classified as tourist attractions.

If you are a Christian, this is particularly sad as there is no way to explain this transformation of Europe except that there simply were not enough people of faith who stood up. It appears America is on a similar trajectory, with the only question being whether or not enough people of faith will stand up and work to make sure that we do not follow Europe’s decline.

The similarities to the cattle industry are striking. The culture of the cattle industry has changed. The majority of us are so caught up in merely surviving that we are not as active as we once were on contributing back to the industry and the institutions that support it. We know the value, but we hope someone else will invest their time, their capital and stand up for it, while we go about our daily lives.

The reality is that by most objective standards, one could argue that the beef industry shares a similar trajectory to Christian values in our country. The passive indifference that most of us show is in essence contributing to the decline. The cost of standing up continually increases as the trends move against us, and thus it demands more time, more money and more commitment. It requires us to make a stand.

Take NCBA as an example. While it represents a large percentage of cattlemen through all of its affiliates at the state and local level, a relative small number of producers are actively involved. And even though there may be 6,000 to 7,000 enthusiastic producers at the annual convention, there is a tendency for cattlemen to not put their membership front and center, just like there is for people of faith to not make that declaration. 

I even had a friend say that he didn’t share he was a rancher while on a recent trip where he was seated next to a person that, for whatever reason, made him think he might spend the entire trip defending what he does on a whole host of issues.

I, for one, don’t believe or at least I can’t comprehend the thought that our country will someday be classified as post-beef or post-Christian. I just don’t want to believe that societal influences could be so wrong-headed as to be pushing in that direction. But if I’m honest with myself, I know that both are occurring at an accelerating pace.

There are only three alternatives: 1) Step forward and defend in words and in action what we believe in, and boldly proclaim our affiliation; 2) Go about our business, trying to do things right and hope that others are successful about winning the battles we face or; 3) Simply hope that we are able to go about our business and lives as we always have as society moves us toward irrelevance.

After all, what is faith without action? I’m a cattleman, someone who believes that this is how God intends for me to make a difference. I want to be known as a man of faith, as a good husband, a good father, a good cattleman. But wanting to make a difference and truly standing up for what you believe and acting on it are two entirely different things.

The opinions of Troy Marshall are not necessarily those of and Farm Progress