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Articles from 2007 In August

R-CALF's Canadian Suit Fails Again

Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF) added to its long list of courtroom setbacks this week when the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decision allowing importation of Canadian cattle into the U.S. The group had argued that USDA's plan to allow the importation of live Canadian cattle posed a BSE risk to the U.S. cattle herd.

"Having reviewed the merits of this case, we conclude that the agency considered the relevant factors and articulated a rational connection between the facts found and its decision to designate Canada a minimal-risk country. R-CALF's extra-record evidence has failed to convince us that the agency's review was unauthorized, incomplete or otherwise improper," wrote Judge Cynthia Holcomb Hall.

To read the 21-page decision, click here:$file/0635512.pdf?openelement.

While the ruling was no surprise, and was considered a formality by most, it nevertheless had the U.S. and Canadian beef industry's full attention, as the industry feared the backlash that would have been caused by a surprise ruling. R-CALF expressed disappointment in the ruling, continued to raise concerns about the safety of beef as a result of USDA's rule, and said it was evaluating its options on how to move forward.

But there are very few options left to R-CALF. The group could request a hearing in front of the full court. It also could appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, but most experts believe there's virtually no chance the Supreme Court would choose to hear the case.

Considering the millions of dollars and man-hours spent on this effort, and already reeling from its internal division and strife, R-CALF likely will now focus on trying to play some sort of role in getting mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) implemented. Mandatory COOL remains a top priority for its membership and success in that arena represents an opportunity for the R-CALF leadership to claim some sort of victory to its membership.

Colorado State Fair Fiasco Tops This Week's Bloopers

I've heard it said many times that the problem with any youth program is the parents. To that we might add: "and those who are in charge of enforcing the rules but refuse to do it."

The controversy this year going into the Colorado State Fair (CSF) was that the 4-H and FFA programs were requiring all livestock entries to have a premise ID. This was quite possibly the most publicized CSF rule ever due to the controversy that accompanied its implementation.

Those opposed to national ID capitalized on it as their rallying cry, instituting public-relations and protest campaigns at quite a few of the county fairs. Incidentally, the rule was implemented at the behest of several of the state's largest cattlemen's groups as a proactive step in protecting the health of Colorado livestock.

The rule required all 4-H livestock projects in the state to have a premises ID for the 2007-2008 calendar year, but two animals that had qualified for this year's livestock sale didn't have a premises ID. The owners were asked to simply list an address and phone number on a slip of paper, but they refused, apparently preferring to make a political statement.

But for some inexcusable and unexplainable reason, CSF officials essentially rewarded these youth exhibitors for not adhering to rules that were very clear. While the animals weren't allowed to sell in the sale, they were given the exact same amount as the replacement animals that were chosen, and the exhibitors were reimbursed for their travel expenses!

Several key factors need to be mentioned. First, livestock shows run a high risk for disease transmission, and animal-health officials felt the premises-ID rule was a very good tool to help stop some sort of outbreak. Exhibitors, of course, always have a choice; if they don't agree with the rules established by 4-H or FFA, they can elect not to participate in those programs. But they shouldn't have the right to pick and choose which rules they will follow. After all, an exhibitor without health or brand papers wouldn't have been allowed to show.

Most people reacted in dismay and frustration upon watching once again a prominent youth program get bullied into not following its own rules due to the threat of litigation and controversy. But, at some level, the episode is almost humorous in that these exhibitors not only chose not to comply with established rules, but were rewarded beyond other exhibitors who did follow the rules.

Sure, it was an orchestrated attempt by activists to raise an issue. And CSF avoided litigation -- which would assuredly have won -- as well as negative media coverage that youth programs definitely don't need. But CSF officials also sent the message loud and clear that all rules are only suggestions; and if you elect to not follow them, and are willing to threaten lawsuits, then you will be rewarded.

Of course, setting aside the CSF's unwillingness to enforce its own rules and the message that sent, it's still a great thing to walk through the aisles of this country's livestock shows and see the quality of young men and women who participate. It's also gratifying to witness the support that local communities continue to give to these programs to make them possible. Politicizing our youth is bad enough, but being rewarded for doing so was something that should not have happened.

10 Tips For More Cost-Effective Winter Rations

Want some "hot" advice on ways to cheapen cow-herd rations as fall and winter approach? After visiting with John Paterson, Montana State University Extension beef specialist, and ranchers from diverse locations, here's a top-10 list of cost-saving tips adaptable to about any winter grazing situation and geographic location.

  1. Balance rations to be "best-cost" rations realizing that they may not be least-cost rations, Paterson says.

    "Understand the nutrient requirements for a weight or age class, or stage of production, of the cow, calf or bull, is a place to save some money," Paterson says. "Cow nutrient requirements -- dry matter intake, energy intake, etc. -- are different for replacement heifers."

    Paterson likes ranchers to know the differences in the nutrient requirements for a cow in the middle trimester of gestation vs. the final trimester.

  2. Johnny Weese's key to keeping cow wintering costs down is flexibility. The Fisher, WV, rancher likes to rent dormant fescue pasture when he needs some low-cost winter grazing.

    "I don't normally like fescue," he says. "But we can go in behind yearlings after the first good frost and get 60 days of good pasture on dormant fescue."

    This year, Weese is gearing up for feeding corn silage, which he says will be available due to drought stress. "The corn around here just isn't going to ear-up but it will make good forage."

  3. Of course, one of the best ways to cheapen a winter ration is to have enough standing forage to keep the cows out grazing as long as possible, aided by a small amount of high-protein supplement, says Gene Vieh, Kaycee, WY. But when Vieh feeds a supplement, he likes to be strategic about what he feeds.

    "The higher the protein amount in the supplement, the fewer trips you'll have to make to the pasture," he says. "Those extra trips with the feed truck cost money."

  4. Nutrition and health programs depend on each other. When developing a year-round nutrition program, Paterson wants the local veterinarian to be a part of the management team to cover all the bases. This includes vaccinations, parasite control, biosecurity measures and recordkeeping. Cattle performance will suffer if either the nutrition or health program is deficient.

    Not providing an adequate amount of any nutrient -- water, energy, protein, vitamins and minerals -- may result in compromised immune function, reduced conception rates and lighter calves.

  5. Paterson always recommends obtaining a forage analysis of hay supplies well in advance of winterfeeding.

    "Then, a rancher knows how much energy and protein is available," Paterson says. "A water analysis should also be done to check for detrimental antagonists like nitrates or sulfates."

    Vieh likes to include an analysis of fecal samples as a nutrient balance gauge.

  6. Split the cowherd into groups based on body condition score (BCS). Paterson likes to see the herd split into groups of animals with good BCS (greater than 5) and those with poorer BCS (less than 5). "Why feed the entire herd an expensive ration when only the thin cows need it?" he asks.

    "Depending on the winter, we might or might not sort and feed the cows according to age and body condition," Vieh says. "Sorting is a pain in the neck, but we'll do it if we're facing a bad winter."

  7. Paterson likes to use wheat or barley straw in the rations he formulates. He does this to cheapen the ration, to prevent over-feeding of nutrients, and control rates of gain for cows and even heifers.

    Recently, because of drought conditions, Paterson's balanced many rations based on barley-grain hays, alfalfa and wheat straw. These rations often do not require additional supplementation other than a mineral supplement.

    Weese says rolled-up corn stalks serve the same purpose in his region. "Corn stalks make great filler and there's not a lot of waste."

  8. Determine if feed or food-industry byproducts can be used as supplements -- wheat midds, distiller's grains, peas, carrots, corn gluten feed and even whole potatoes. One of Paterson's favorite rations had rejected caramel candy in cardboard boxes. The cows ate the candy and the boxes. He's seen rations that had rejected hard Christmas candy, corn chips and even chocolate.

    Weese plans to use brewer's grain this year on cows that need a little extra boost before calving -- mixing the wet grain with corn silage and hay. "We've got a Coors brewery over in the Shenandoah Valley that is close enough to make it worthwhile."

    For more detail on the typical composition of more than 300 feeds commonly fed to cattle and sheep in the U.S., view BEEF magazine's "2007 Feed Composition Tables" published in the March issue of BEEF and available at It's in the "resources" section of the opening page.

  9. Know the weight of your cows using a scale. Paterson says a rancher who underestimates average cow weight by up to 200 lbs. could see a 4- to 5-lb. difference in dry matter consumption each day.

    Vieh knows his mature cows average 1,080 lbs. "We can't let cow weight get out of hand," he says.

  10. Minimize feed waste. Research shows that the method of feeding hay can have a dramatic influence on hay waste.

    Marc King, Sweetgrass county, MT Extension educator, says he's worked with a Big Timber, MT, rancher who's saved $9,000 in hay cost purchasing a bale processor. The rancher partitions the hay out in smaller packages on a daily or alternate-day basis. This practice has been shown to produce less waste than providing free-choice consumption by feeding once weekly.

Sign-Up Dates For New Disaster Programs Loom

USDA has announced sign-up dates for the new Livestock Compensation Program (LCP), Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP), and Crop Disaster Program (CDP). These programs are to provide benefits to producers who suffered losses caused by natural disasters in recent years.

  • Under LCP and LIP, eligible livestock producers can apply to receive benefits beginning Sept. 10. LCP compensates livestock producers for feed losses occurring between Jan. 1, 2005 and Feb. 28, 2007, due to a natural disaster. LIP compensates livestock producers for livestock losses between Jan. 1, 2005 and Feb. 28, 2007 that resulted from natural disasters, including losses due to blizzards that started in 2006 and continued into January 2007.
  • Under CDP, eligible producers can sign up beginning Oct. 15, if they suffered quantity losses to their crops; CDP signup for quality losses will be announced later by USDA. CDP provides benefits to producers who suffered “quantity and quality losses to 2005, 2006 or 2007 crops from natural disasters if the crop was planted before Feb. 28, 2007, or in the case of prevented plantings, for crops that would have been planted before Feb. 28, 2007.”

Find more info on these programs at; click on Disaster Assistance Programs.

UK Drawing Up Livestock Plans For Global Warming

In the U.S., the discussion on climate change has been slow in developing. But in Europe, where the topic of climate change is everyday conversation, the United Kingdom's (UK) ag community is laying out an action plan. Perhaps it carries some lessons for their U.S. counterparts on what to expect down the road.

In December 2006, the UK's National Farmers Union (NFU) teamed up with the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to survey 385 of its members on their views about climate change. Astonishingly, 60% of farmers surveyed said climate change was already affecting them and 70% said climate change would affect them in the next 10 years.

The question then became: So what do we do about it?
To raise awareness, NFU and various partners got together to educate farmers and producers on climate change. They've published 14 fact sheets that explain everything from the basics of climate change to how it will affect weather patterns; from how climate change will affect agriculture directly to suggestions for individual operations -- from beef producers to dairy farmers, horticulturalists to cereal farmers.

Of those surveyed, more than 60% say climate change will create opportunities for their operations and 72% claim to already be taking steps to combat climate change on their farm.

"It's not just global warming that's having an impact. It's a whole range of climate issues -- from water availability to temperature variances -- that will have an impact on productivity of all agriculture," says NFU livestock advisor Alastair Johnston.

In the UK, ag accounts for 7% of the country's greenhouse gas emissions, which are said to be the leading cause of climate change. Most of the talk outside the ag sphere is about carbon emissions, something most commonly associated with cars. That's what's led to the sudden introduction of biofuels and flex-fuel cars, trucks and buses and booming ethanol production in the U.S. Midwest.

But ag's impacts on climate change are different. Rather than carbon emissions, it's methane and nitrous oxide that bear watching. In fact, the NFU says UK agriculture accounts for 39% of the country's methane emissions and 57% of its nitrous oxide emissions, but only 1% of its carbon emissions.

"In mainstream media and among government spokespeople, there's no hesitation in pointing the finger at ruminants as greenhouse gas emitters," says Duncan Pullar, cattle and sheep industry development manager at UK's Meat and Livestock Commission (MLC). MLC works with the British meat and livestock to improve its efficiency, competitive position and marketing prospects. Its work is funded through checkoffs collected on sheep, pigs and cattle slaughtered for human consumption or exported live.

He adds that methane emissions per kilogram of beef produced has come down significantly over the last 20-30 years, and by 15% in just the last 10 years. Now MLC is undertaking a major study exploring the "lifecycle analysis" of beef production in the UK. It's looking to see how much carbon and other greenhouse gases are released into the air for every kilogram of beef produced. It will compare UK emissions from beef production to their South American and North American counterparts.

Johnston said looking at "food miles," or how far a product has traveled from where it's grown to where it's consumed, is becoming a major issue. It may be cheaper to buy beef from Brazil, but the distance the beef has traveled from the farm to the plate can be measured in the carbon released into the atmosphere during the journey.

"It may be more expensive to buy beef from someone down the road, but the fact it came from down the road is obviously better for the environment in terms of food miles," he says.

NFU fact sheets on climate change explain how average temps will rise 1.5 to 5°C. over the next century, depending on what greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere in the next few years. Warmer temps aren't necessarily bad, but producers need to be aware of what it means -- hotter, drier summers and colder, wetter winters, more droughts, fewer frosts or cold spells, and more extreme weather.

For farmers and producers, it generally means longer growing periods. In the UK, growing periods by the year 2080 will increase by at least 30 days in the north near Scotland and may increase by as much as 90 days in the south, around Cornwall and Kent. Longer growing periods could mean more cropping, so lower feed costs. Feed costs will also go down as more farmers switch to producing biodiesel from canola, meaning much more meal on the market.

Longer growing seasons also mean more grass availability and longer grazing periods, but there's also the question of how to manage water. Even now, cities in the UK have to ration water as early as March, a practice that likely will spread to rural areas as the years go on.

"This year in the UK, there was a lot of rain and now warmer weather, so there's a lot of grass. That's good for feed costs but then there's the question of finding rentable grazing areas as well as the impact on your food miles," Johnston says.

Water availability may affect what animal producers raise in the future, as well, he says. For example, since sheep consume most of their water from the plants they eat, they will be a better fit for areas of less water availability than a cow-calf pair. If that becomes the case, it will then be up to producers to explain to consumers how raising lamb is better for the local environment than beef.

Hotter summers and colder winters may also mean that forage species will change. If producers aren't paying close enough attention to the feed mix in their own pastures, they may find their herds aren't getting the protein or mineral content they assumed they were. By closely monitoring grazing areas on a summer-by-summer basis, the NFU suggests producers will be better able to supplement their herds before health issues arise or productivity decreases. In areas where summers are getting hotter, monitoring animals for heat stress may also be necessary.

Take at look at your genetics as well, because NFU says producers may need to introduce breeds better able to adjust to extreme weather changes or more suitable for hotter, drier areas. NFU has even gone so far as to suggest looking at breeds that produce less methane so your herd's direct impact on climate change itself is reduced.

Johnston says consumer demand may also change with warming. In warmer climates, the demand for red meat is lower, while demand for white meat and fish goes up. The reverse can be said for places where the weather gets cooler. What's important, he says, is making sure the industry stays at a critical mass so it can adjust to consumer demand.

Carefully analyzing your feed mix could also go a long way to reducing methane as well, they say. Pullar says the MLC has commissioned a study looking at nutritional management to determine which animal diets produce less methane.

As once-dry areas become wet, and colder areas become hotter, pests and diseases will adapt, as well -- probably more quickly than herds or managers can keep up. Pullar cites a perfect example of last year's outbreak of bluetongue virus in the Netherlands. The disease traditionally is only found in the Mediterranean region but as global temps rise and regions warm, these kinds of new outbreaks are more likely to happen.

"We've been debating climate change internally for about two years, and first commissioned related work about a year ago. Tackling climate change is now a recognized part of MLC policy. It's in the consciousness now and is a recognized thought process in everything we do," Pullar says.

Calf Marketing Pools – marketing less than a truckload lot of cattle

Calf Marketing Pools – marketing less than a truckload lot of cattle

Today’s rapidly-changing market for beef calves is still most favorable to cow/calf operators who market calves in truckload lots. Not surprisingly, calf buyers like to purchase and transport calves in groups large enough to fill a commercial cattle truck (also known as a cattle “pot” or “pot belly”) to save on freight.

Importance of Truckload Lots
In most states, a cattle truck is legally allowed to haul about 48,000-50,000 lbs of cattle, with some states allowing 60,000 lbs or more. Therefore, in addition to the forces of supply and demand, cost of freight has a substantial affect on calf price, especially when diesel is $3 or more per gallon!

In order for one owner to market 50,000 lbs of cattle (commonly known as a “load lot”), he would need to have at least 80 calves weighing 600 lbs each. This requires a cowherd of nearly 200 cows (or more, if the lot is uniform and all the same sex). Fewer cows may be needed if calves are heavier, sold later (and are heavier), and not uniform in size, age, breed, or sex.

Despite the fact that most marketing options cater to large operators, nearly two-thirds of U.S. cow/calf producers do not have enough weaned steers to market them as a truck-load lot (65.9% own less than 200 cows). As a result, most cow/calf producers market their calves in small groups through auction markets.

Video and Internet Auctions
Historically, about 85% of producers marketed their steer calves through livestock auction markets. In 2003, a greater percentage of cattle were being sold via video and internet cattle auctions (11% and 5%, respectively) and private sales (23%). This change has primarily benefited larger producers, since these methods require that cattle be in load lots as a service to their buyers. A survey of North and South Dakota producers indicated that as herd size increased, a producer was more likely to sell calves via either a private party or video auction compared to an auction market. In addition, as herd size increased cost per head associated with selling via private party or video auction decreased.

Since small- and medium-sized cow/calf producers are facing a reduction in marketing options at weaning time, they are exposed to fewer buyers. This forces these producers to be “price takers,” rather than “price makers.” Ultimately, fewer buyers will lead to less interest in their cattle, and oftentimes a lower price.

Livestock auction markets have done a great job creating a marketplace for these producers to sell their calves. They are basically providing a chance for their buyers to pool your calves together with others’ calves to make truck-load lots. In addition, niche marketing (including freezer beef and organic beef production) has provided producers with some additional, but limited, options for marketing smaller groups of calves.

Calf Marketing Pools
To overcome the load lot ‘requirement’ that most video auctions, internet sites, and order buyers have, some cow/calf producers have developed “Calf Marketing Pools” to increase the demand and price for their calves. These small ‘alliances’ have been formal (including by-laws, elected officials, etc.) and informal. However, their primary objective is the same – to increase the number of prospective buyers bidding on their calves.

A Calf Marketing Pool will only work if participating operations have similar programs. Ideally, the breed makeup and quality of the cowherd, date of calving and weaning, and vaccination programs should be almost identical. In addition, producers should have similar marketing philosophies, know and trust each other, and commit to making a cooperative marketing effort work.

Producers interested in initiating a Calf Marketing Pool should consider these key steps:

  1. Initiate the pool:
    1. Identify possible operations
    2. Secure member ranches
    3. Form a legal partnership (is it necessary?)
    4. Determine cattle characteristics (breed, sex, age, size, etc.)
  2. Determine sale method (decide early):
    1. Local auction market
    2. Video auction
    3. Internet sale
    4. Order buyer/private treaty
  3. Selling the cattle:
    1. Timing of sale and delivery
    2. Determine base weight
    3. Decide on an acceptable price
    4. Cattle management prior to sale (off-the-cow, backgrounded, etc.)
  4. Delivery of cattle:
    1. Central location to haul to
    2. Sorting of calves
    3. Weighing conditions (shrink/slide)
    4. Handling of money

Success Stories
Producers who have participated in Calf Marketing Pools indicate that their key to success was in the identification of producers who were trustworthy, easy to work with, and willing to compromise. In addition, decisions were made early and regular meetings were held.

A group of seven producers in central Idaho has collectively marketed their calves for almost 10 years. The calves have been sold via video auction in late summer, for fall delivery. In general, calves returned upwards of $2-10/cwt more than calves sold at the local auction market around the time of fall delivery.

A Utah pool, which groups as few as 10 calves per owner, uses some baseline rules of operation. As would be expected, cattle that fit pre-set specifications (breed, sex, weight, etc.) are committed by each owner, video-taped, and sold via video several months in advance of delivery. At delivery time, producers haul their cattle to a central location where they are sorted, weighed, recorded, pooled, and shipped. The pool receives payment from the video auction company, and distributes funds to each participant.

Even producers who don’t quite have enough calves to successfully pool with others and sell as a load lot can benefit from pooling. Oklahoma State University data collected during 2001-2003 indicates that selling a group of 10-15 head (vs. just one head), can lead to a $2.50/cwt premium (Figure 1). Additional research done in Oklahoma and by Kansas State University indicates that the optimum size for a set of cattle to be sold at an auction market was about 45-55 head.

Figure 1. Price premiums paid by buyers based on lot size, 2001-2003 average (adapted from Ward et al., 2003)

The Bottom Line
The majority of U.S. cow/calf producers are unable to utilize the multitude of new marketing options available in the industry. As a result, these small- and medium-sized producers are receiving less income for their calves. Producers should consider working with neighbors or other local producers to decrease cost and increase revenue by forming a Calf Marketing Pool to gather and sell load lots of cattle.

If collective marketing of your calves is a success, the next step could involve the formation of a retained ownership alliance. By commingling groups of cattle from different owners, the collection of performance data (both feedlot and carcass) necessary to help make informed selection and culling decisions would be possible.

What Would Rural America Look Like If…

Here we share John Crabtree’s letter to Iowa Senator Tom Harkin about the kind of farm bill that rural America truly deserves:

The farm bill debate in the U.S. House of Representatives has been, to say the least, disappointing. Increased and weakened farm payment limits will mean larger subsidy checks to the nation’s largest farm operations being used to drive more of their smaller neighbors out of business. The following are excerpts of a letter I wrote on behalf of my family to Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) earlier this year.

Senator Harkin, no one will ever farm our farm again after we leave, not if things remain the way they are now. Of course, someone will till the soil, plant, and harvest. But no one will farm here; no one will live here.

… The current farm bill has driven up land costs to the point where young farmers have no chance. The only so-called “farmers” who are still buying land are mostly speculators or very large operators that do not even live around here.

We own some of the best land anywhere. There should be lots of farms with kids and with livestock and lots of building for the future. … I urge you to stand up to the Southerners in Congress and tell them we will no longer write nor tolerate farm bills that destroy family farms. If they want to destroy their family farms, let them have their way with cotton and rice, and may God have mercy on their souls.

But let us have a farm bill here in Iowa … and the rest of the nation that supports family farmers, especially beginning farmers, and the communities that have grown up around them. Let us have a farm bill with real payment limits. No more tricks, no more loopholes … but real farm payment limits that level the playing field and bring young families back to our communities.

That is what it would look like if rural America truly mattered, the opposite of what is happening in thousands of rural communities across the nation – more thriving family farms and ranches, more kids, more rural main street businesses, and prospering rural communities everywhere.

And in the end, that is what it will look like if rural Americans – North, South, East, and West – stand up and let Congress know that we will not accept another farm bill that destroys family farms and that we want a farm bill that invests in family farms, ranches, and rural communities.

To share your comments, contact: John Crabtree, [email protected] or 402.687.2103 x 1010.

Farmer Up for Youth

Becky Plattner is “up” on farming and the Grand Pass farmer is helping youth stay upbeat about the future of agriculture. It’s not easy being a farmer or rancher these days. Those who live off the land today worry about more than just weather and markets. Today’s world is more complicated, and so is farming.

But Becky knows the benefits outweigh the headaches. She hopes high school students interested in an agricultural career heed the call to “Farmer Up!”

“Farmer Up! is a statement for all who work in the field of agriculture,” says Becky. “When you seem to be going through something tough and want to get out of farming altogether, I say ‘farmer up’ and work that much harder. It is the surviving for centuries that has given many of us the very privilege of saying that we are Missouri Farmers and proud of it.”

The idea came to Becky four years ago when standing in line for refreshments after a wedding. “I turned to a gentleman behind me and asked how he was and what he was doing these days. As he poked his hands in his pockets and looked down at the floor, he shyly answered, ‘Oh, I farm.’ He almost acted ashamed to answer me and at that point, I began my mission,” she says.

Becky and her husband, Russell, have slowly grown their grassroots effort to help high school students feel good about agriculture by distributing rubber wrist bands with the slogan “Farmer Up!” The bands come in two colors. Brown represents the earth and orange represents safety.

The Farmer Up! slogan was borrowed from the rodeo phrase “cowboy up,” a rally cry for cowboys thrown off a bronc to get back up and ride again. The phrase means tough it out.

Becky hopes high school students, those in FFA, 4-H, and anyone with an interest in agriculture, will spread the word that farming is a great career, one that many farmers and ranchers are passionate about more than ever.

Becky knows about passion and toughness. She and Russell have two daughters who are both recipients of the FFA American Farmer Degree. The Plattners farm in partnership with Russell’s brother, Spencer. “I can’t explain it other than my husband and his brother absolutely get a thrill when they smell dirt being turned,” she says. Then there are the two hired hands, one a nephew and the other a neighbor. “Every day we have two young men get in the tractor because they love farming.”

But Becky wears another hat as Saline County Presiding Commissioner. The position has been challenging for her during a time when county citizens increasingly scrutinize confined animal feeding operations proposed in the county. All the more reason, she says, to promote Farmer Up! to anyone with a foot in agriculture. Farmer Up! is about generating excitement.

“I enjoy the privilege of saying I am a farmer, and to be able to produce products to help feed the world. In our part of the world that is what we know how to do,” she says. “I say look at agriculture, look at where we are coming from, look at what we can do,” Becky says.

She continues to meet with FFA chapters to hand out the rubber wrist bands and the message they bear. Her hope is they catch on among rural students much like the “I’m Proud to Be a Farmer” buttons of the '70s. Although the words are different, the meaning is the same. Farmer Up!

10 Vaccination Tips

Vaccinations are an important key to proper animal health, and herd health management. And, to ensure that vaccination is as effective as possible, proper vaccine handling and administration is very important. The following tips from Dale Grotelueschen, DVM and veterinarian with Pfizer Animal Health, will help get you on the right path to better herd health management:

1. Consult your veterinarian to develop a protocol that fits the health goals of your operation.

2. Select a quality product. Consult your veterinarian to ensure you are selecting the right products for your use. It is important to purchase only federally licensed vaccines from a reliable source.

3. Carefully read the label to maximize the value and effectiveness of the vaccine. It is important to understand precautions so vaccines are given at the right stage of the animals’ lives, to animals of the right age, in the proper dosage and at the appropriate intervals if more than one dose is needed

4. Store the vaccines according to label directions, paying particular attention to ensure correct temperature and light conditions.

5. When transporting vaccines to chute side, store them in a cooler with an ice pack. Keep the cooler and products in the shade.

6. Always use a sterile transfer needle or disposable syringe when rehydrating products.

7. Mix only one vaccine bottle at a time prior to administration. A good rule of thumb is not to mix more vaccines than will be used in 1 hour.

8. Subcutaneous injections are the preferred route whenever label instructions allow. All injections should be given in the neck.

9. Make sure to use new, sharp needles and the correct gauge size for the vaccine being used and the size of the animal. Change needles every 10–15 animals, and never re-enter a vaccine bottle with a used needle.

10. Always properly clean equipment and syringes after vaccinating. Grotelueschen suggests using the following steps to assure your equipment is sterilized: Reusable syringes should be washed in hot, distilled water. First wash the outside and then take the syringe apart to wash it thoroughly. Fill the syringe with water and cover with damp paper towels. The wrapped syringe should be placed in an open resealable plastic bag and placed in the microwave on high for five minutes. The damp paper towels prevent the metal parts form sparking.

Transfer needles also should be sterilized in the microwave; wrap in damp paper towels, place in an open resealable plastic bag and microwave on high for 30 seconds.

Next tip: California offers beef guide for small operations