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Articles from 2014 In August

Creep Feeding Economics: Bring Them Back Out for 2014

Better feed prices and concerns about lower-quality hay for the winter have some cow-calf producers once again thinking about a move back to the creep feeder, says Patrick Wall, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach beef program specialist.

In a recent editorial for the Iowa Beef Center's “Growing Beef” Newsletter entitled, “Creep Feeding Economics in 2014,” Wall makes the case for creep feeding into fall:

"Research suggests cows can come in 20-30 lbs. heavier and in better body condition if her calf has access to creep feed. A little extra flesh may help that cow endure a period of low quality hay or reduce the amount of purchased supplement it takes to get her back in a body condition score (BCS) of 6 prior to calving next spring."

To read more about the economics of creep feeding, click here.


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BEEF, TAMU & Merial Team Up For New Interactive Contest

beef efficiency contest

Weight and carcass quality grade have been traits long valued by beef producers for making selection decisions with an eye toward optimizing the profitability of their cattle. But there’s a relatively new concept that’s gaining attention called residual feed intake (RFI), which is a measure of an individual animal’s efficiency in getting to those desired end points.

Here’s the concept: Two animals can produce a Choice, Yield Grade 2 carcass, but one of them might do it much more efficiently than the other. That means that the more-efficient (low RFI) animal produces the desired meat yield and quality on less feed (thus at less cost) than the animal with a higher RFI. This is the Holy Grail of beef cattle performance.

Consulting nutritionist Kenneth Eng describes the promise of RFI this way in his memoir, “Started Out Small & Just Got Lucky,” which debuts this month:

“I believe the most important research breakthrough of the decade has been the advent of the RFI system for measuring feed efficiency. The ability to directly measure feed efficiency is a breakthrough because previously many assumed that high-consumption and high-gain animals were also the most efficient. The RFI system punches holes in that theory.”

New technologies, such as the GrowSafe SystemTM, allow the measurement of individual animals’ feed intake and feeding behavior. That GrowSafe system was an integral part in the building of an exclusive reader contest in BEEF magazine developed by Texas A&M University (TAMU) faculty and is sponsored by Merial.

The contest is designed to help cattle producers better understand the relationship between cattle efficiency and profitability, and an important facet of the exercise will deal with the role of RFI. Led by Dan Hale, TAMU professor and Extension meat specialist, and Gordon Carstens, TAMU professor of animal nutrition, the contest presents six steers with a high RFI (inefficient) and six steers with a low RFI (efficient) for readers’ evaluation.

Photos and videos of these 12 steers are available for viewing in a gallery on Readers can use these photos and videos, along with data on each of the 12 animals (also posted on the website) to make their choices.

feed efficiency & profit contest

Can You Tell Profit When You See It?
Enter our 2014 BEEF Efficiency & Profit Contest here & you could win $1,000 cash (individual) or $5,000 in Merial product (feedlot group). Enter here!


The aim of this 12-steer exercise is to demonstrate the importance of feed efficiency on the profitability of a cattle enterprise, as well as the role of other economically relevant traits such as performance and carcass quality on profitability. In addition, readers will learn about the importance of obtaining data on their cattle to help them make genetic and management changes in their herd and improve their bottom line.

Are you interested in entering the contest to vie for a total of $7,000 in prizes being awarded in three categories – youth, adult and feedyard team? Just go to the entry form, read the overview, study the photo, video and data on each steer, do your calculations, and fill out the entry form on the website. All entries are electronic and will be accepted until midnight on Oct. 20.

Also on the website are several instructional videos:

In the November issue of BEEF, we’ll present the actual results and discuss the lessons of the exercise. Then, in the December issue, we’ll announce the prize winners in three categories.

It’s a unique contest that offers big monetary rewards to a select and lucky few, but some great educational lessons on efficiency and profitability for all participants.

Good luck.


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BIVI Steps Up For Third Time To Sponsor Free BQA Certification

It’s safe to say that the philosophies behind the beef quality assurance (BQA) program are sound and work. It’s also safe to say that the BQA program has been one of the most successful efforts in recent times to help individual cattlemen and the beef industry collectively give consumers the assurance they’re looking for that their beef is safe and wholesome.

And now, for the third time, Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. (BIVI) is giving beef producers who haven’t yet become BQA certified, or want to recertify,  a chance to join the growing crowd for free.  BIVI is supporting the checkoff-funded Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program by sponsoring all online certifications this fall for producers who enroll from Sept. 1 through Oct. 31.

Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. will pick up the $25-$50 certification fee for beef or dairy producers who are interested in becoming certified or recertified during this period. Visit to take advantage of the open certification period.

The BQA program is important to the cattle industry as it gives producers a set of best practices for producing a safe and high quality beef product. And for dairy producers, this offering is also beneficial as a large percentage of dairy calves and market cows make their way into the food chain.

The BQA certification modules are customized to fit the specific needs of each segment of the cattle industry – cow-calf, stocker, feedyard and dairy operations. The program covers best management practices such as proper handling and administration of vaccinations and other products, eliminating injection site blemishes, and better cattle-handling principles.

"One of the challenges that beef producers face is having all of their employees become BQA certified," says Jerry Woodruff, professional services veterinarian with Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. "Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc.'s partnership with BQA helps offset some of those expenses, and we encourage producers and their employees to use the web-based training programs."

More than 11,000 producers have taken advantage of Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc.'s BQA certification sponsorship. Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc.’s sponsorship also includes financial support of the Beef Cattle Institute at Kansas State University, which developed the certification module.

"We are honored to be able to support the cattle industry through this sponsorship," says Steve Boren, executive director of the U.S. Cattle and Equine Business Segments for Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. "BQA education aligns with Prevention Works, our focus of preventing disease in cattle. We do this because it is the right thing for the animal, for the producer and for the consumer."

To become BQA certified, or learn more about the program, visit



Veterinarians Must Play Key Role In Expanding America's Cowherd

improving beef cowherd

As beef producers in the United States move to expand numbers, veterinarians are positioned to play a key role in the process of rebuilding the U.S. cow herd,” says David Patterson, state beef extension specialist and professor of animal science at the University of Missouri (UM). Patterson is also an internationally recognized expert in beef cattle reproduction.

“Veterinarians serve as a key information source for U.S. beef producers and are essential in facilitating the adoption of reproductive procedures,” Patterson says. He refers to the beef 2007-2008 study from the National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS). It cites veterinarians as the primary source most cow-calf producers use as their source for information pertaining to their operations, including health, breeding and genetics, nutrition or questions pertaining to production or management.

This trust represents a key veterinarian opportunity and responsibility as the industry faces the need to significantly grow the cow herd.

Wanted: Reproductively Fit Heifers

For perspective, when this year began, there were 29 million beef cows, according to USDA. In 1996, 18 years earlier, there were 35.3 million. All cows and heifers calving last year were the fewest since 1941. The total inventory of all cattle and calves January 1 this year was the sparsest since 1951 at 87.7 million head.

In its 10 year projections published earlier this year, USDA estimates a beef cow herd of 33.7 million head by 2023—4.7 million head more than we had when 2014 began.

The annual U.S. Baseline Briefing Book released by the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) at the University of Missouri sees beef cows increasing from 28.9 million head this year (January 1) to 30.9 million head in 2018, and then declining to 30.1 million head by 2023—as many as 1.1 million more cows over the next decade.

According to Patterson and D. Scott Brown, a UM agricultural economist  and assistant research professor of agricultural and applied economics, “The opportunity for an increase in retention of beef heifers to exceed 5 million head remains a possibility as the herd attempts to recover from the long term inventory decline.”

D. Scott Brown, University of Missouri Ag Economist

Besides growing raw numbers in the name of competitiveness with other domestic animal protein sources, and with international beef, U.S. beef producers also need to improve the reproductive efficiency of the existing herd.

Based on a synopsis of key efficiency metrics from Southwest Standardized Performance Analysis, such as calving rate and pounds of calf per cow exposed, efficiency during the past two decades is static at best.

“Effecting change in reproductive management of the U.S. cow herd requires a fundamental change in the approach to management procedures and development practices being used on heifers retained for breeding purposes,” Patterson and Brown say. “We have reached a point concerning reproductive management of our nation’s beef cow herd in which the tasks of development and transfer of technology must be emphasized equally and progress parallel to one another for the U.S. to maintain a strong beef cattle sector in our agricultural economy. Unless efforts are taken to implement change and incentives in the U.S. beef cattle industry, many of the products of our research and technology will be exported to more competitive international markets.”

David Patterson, State Beef Extension Specialist

Unfortunately, the NAHMS study mentioned earlier suggests the use of reproductive technologies in U.S. commercial beef cow operations continues to be lacking. In that survey, for the East and South Central regions, Patterson points out only 22 percent and 32 percent of beef cow operations, respectively, used reproductive procedures including estrous synchronization, artificial insemination, pregnancy diagnosis, ultrasound, pelvic measurement, body condition scoring, semen evaluation, or embryo transfer. In the West and Central regions it was 55 percent and 49 percent, respectively.

For that matter, 55 percent of beef operations in the U.S. reported having no defined breeding season, representing 34 percent of all beef cows in the U.S.

One reason adoption of readily available reproductive technology lags is the fact that so many producers have so few cows.

Fragmented Cow Herd Structure Represents Challenge and Opportunity

In round numbers, 3.58 percent of the operations in the 2012 Census of Agriculture had herds of 200 or more cows, representing 32.6 percent of all beef cows. At the other end of the spectrum, 57.2 percent of all operations had herds with 19 or fewer cows, representing 11.37 percent of all cows.

This distribution of fewer and larger operations controlling relatively more cows than smaller and more numerous operations is nothing new. What becomes more apparent when comparing the latest census to the one in 1997—in order to account for most of the years of cow herd liquidation—is the transition of the operations in between with herd sizes of 20 to 99 head, as well as those with herd sizes of 100-299 head (Table 1).

shift in beef size operationsFor perspective, there were 76,589 fewer beef cow operations (-9.52 percent) in the 2012 census than in 1997 for a total of 727,906 total operations with beef cows. There were 5.1 million fewer beef cows (-15.0 percent) in 2012 than in 1997 for a total of 28.96 million cows.

Most of the attrition among operations—not counting herds with 2,500 or more cows—occurred for those with 50-99 head. There were 25,408 fewer of these operations (-26.30 percent) in 2012 than in 1997. Herds with 50-99 head accounted for 1.65 million fewer cows (-25.85 percent) in 2012.

Operations with 20 to 49 head decreased by 50,449 (-22.1 percent) to a total of 177,658 operations in 2012. These accounted for 1.52 million fewer cows (-22.19 percent) than in 1997 for a total of 5.33 million head.

Operations with 100-199 cows declined by 19.83 percent. There were 9,011 fewer of these operations in 2012 for a total of 36,428 operations. These operations accounted for 1.11 million fewer head (-18.82 percent) than in 1997 for a total of 4.80 million cows.

There are plenty of reasons for the attrition among these operations or for the movement of operations with larger herd sizes to smaller ones. Among them are likely raw economics and the need for an operation deriving a significant portion of its annual income from cows to have more cows in order to dilute costs and risk. It’s that risk that is becoming more untenable for some producers with cow-calf enterprises who also have jobs off the farm or ranch.

These same factors could help explain why operational growth, on a percentage basis, occurred among herds with one to nine head. There were 36,593 more of these operations (16.31 percent) in 2012 for a total of 261,017 operations. This group also accounted for 83,396 more cows (+7.46 percent) in 2012 for a total of 1.20 million head. 

The next most growth occurred among herds with 500 to 999 head. There were 273 more of these operations (+6.93 percent) in 2012 and they accounted for 176,590 more cows (+6.94 percent) than in 1997 for a total of 2.72 million head.

As for the operations with 2,500 or more cows, there were 168 in 2012, which were 44 fewer (-20.75 percent) than in 1997. They accounted for about 696,000 cows, which was 26.29 percent fewer.

Plenty of Reproductive Tools Exist

“Moving forward, the veterinary community and allied industry will be required to take on larger roles in supporting beef producers in understanding the benefits of incorporating improved technologies into management schemes on the farm or ranch, and that benefits derived from these technologies outweigh their costs,” Patterson says.

There are plenty of tools to choose from, too.

“There now exist an array of technologies currently online or emerging that offer the potential to expedite genetic progress, enhance efficiencies of production, and add value to beef cattle produced in the U.S.,” Patterson explains. “Improvements in reproductive technologies have enabled beef producers to utilize artificial insemination without the need to detect estrus; existing and emerging genetic and genomic technologies enable beef producers to make more rapid strides toward improving the quality of beef they produce; and producers’ ability to access and target individual marketing grids enable them to be rewarded for specific quality endpoints.”


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“On-farm development programs that involve local veterinarians, state, regional, or county livestock specialists, and individual farm and ranch operators provide the structure from which change within the industry can occur,” Patterson emphasizes.

Specifically, Patterson explains veterinarians are critical components in implementing what he describes as a five-point plan to improve beef cow herd sustainability.

1. Create an understanding of the importance of heifer development based on reproductive outcomes.

2. Implement changes in heifer development that will eventually spill over into the cow herd.

3. Emphasize the importance of reproductive management, which becomes apparent as changes are implemented.

4. Expand producer focus to genetic improvement.

5. Emphasize to participating herds that creation of a value added product requires a reevaluation of marketing strategies.

These were the steps developed in 1996 by veterinarians, extension specialists, beef producers and allied industry in Missouri to implement a plan that would impact long term sustainability of beef herds across the state. These steps also serve as the core to the Missouri Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifer Program, which other states are attempting to emulate.

“These five steps have built equity in herds that embraced the plan, and 16 years later the Missouri Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifer Program has impacted the cattle industry statewide,” Patterson explains. “The program incorporates all available tools to support long term health, reproduction, and genetic improvement of replacement beef heifers and includes provisions for ownership; health and vaccination schedules; parasite control; implant use; weight, pelvic measurement and reproductive tract score; estrous synchronization and artificial insemination; service sire requirements for birth weight EPD or calving ease EPD; early pregnancy diagnosis, fetal aging, fetal sexing, and body condition score.”

Incidentally, much of this information, and more, is part of a recently published abstract, “Management Considerations in Beef Heifer Development and Puberty.” It is published in Clinics Review Articles at Veterinary Clinics of North America: Food Animal Practice.

“This compendium provides a comprehensive overview of the various considerations involved with successful development of replacement beef heifers,” Patterson explains. “It is intended to serve as a resource for veterinarians to support beef producers in better managing their herds and to rethink the way in which heifers are developed as they enter herds across the U.S.”

Increasing Equity Risk Demands Finer Reproductive Focus

The importance of all of this will likely accelerate, too

“As cattle prices and input costs increase, traits of efficiency and quality will be become bigger drivers of profitability than ever before, and the commodity model of U.S. beef production in all likelihood will no longer be viable,” Patterson and Brown say. “Beef producers in the U.S. have the tools in hand to maintain our country’s ranking as the leading global supplier of high quality beef. As U.S. beef producers look to the future, the challenge most will face centers on determining which, if any, of these tools will be adopted and used to the extent that enables current and future generations to compete in a global arena, and if so, how effectively.”

Future issues of BEEF Vet will explore the reality of specific opportunities that current expansion presents to veterinarians to help their clients improve the reproductive efficiency of existing herds, select and develop heifers and sort through the economics of keeping or buying replacement heifers.

“A range of procedures are available to cow-calf producers to aid in reproductive management of replacement beef heifers and determine the outcome of a development program. These procedures, when viewed collectively as a ‘program’, assist producers in more effectively managing reproduction in their herds,” Patterson says. “One can assume that a very small percentage of either raised or purchased replacement heifers are ‘programmed,’ per se, in terms of reproductive procedures currently available. The expertise to develop and market programmed heifers exists, but requires a team approach to manage heifers from the perspectives of health, nutrition, reproduction, genetics, and emerging management practices.”


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USDA Proposes Rule To Import Beef From Argentina

Argentina flag
<p>Argentina flag</p>

In a move that drew immediate criticism, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced that it will add the Patagonia Region of Argentina to the list of regions considered free of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and rinderpest. The proposed rule was published in the Aug. 28 Federal Register.

The move opens the export gates, allowing that region of Argentina to export live cattle and fresh and frozen beef to the U.S.

In a Stakeholder Announcement, APHIS defended its decision, saying, “In response to the Government of Argentina's request to recognize the Patagonia Region as FMD-free, APHIS conducted an assessment.

“Based on the assessment, APHIS determined that FMD is not present in the Patagonia Region of Argentina, and that the surveillance prevention, and control measures implemented by Argentina in that particular region were sufficient to minimize the likelihood of introducing FMD into the United States through the importation of susceptible ruminants and ruminant commodities.  It is important to note that rinderpest has never been established in South America—no South American country has ever reported the disease except Brazil and it was quickly eradicated nearly a century ago.

“While the Patagonia Region will be declared free of FMD, the region will be added to the list of regions that are subject to certain restrictions designed to lessen the risk of introducing FMD into the United States, in accordance with APHIS regulations.  These restrictions ensure that there is no commingling of products from regions with a lesser animal health status.”

The proposal drew immediate fire from cattlemen, including Bob McCan, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). In a statement, the Victoria, TX, rancher says NCBA is deeply concerned by the proposal.

“Our extreme concern is only further magnified by the associated proposed rule to allow chilled or frozen beef to be imported from the region of Northern Argentina. Northern Argentina is a region that is not recognized as being free of FMD by APHIS. We strongly believe that these recent actions by APHIS present a significant risk to the health and well-being of the nation’s cattle herd through the possible introduction of FMD virus,” McCan says.

The South Texas cattleman points out that FMD is an extremely contagious viral disease of cloven-hooved animals and many wildlife species. “This disease is considered to be one of the most economically devastating livestock diseases in the world and an outbreak of FMD could ultimately threaten the entire U.S. economy as well jeopardize our national food security,” he says.

APHIS conducted its risk analysis based on a series of site visits to Argentina to determine the FMD risk status of these regions, according to McCan. “NCBA’s repeated requests for written reports for these APHIS site visits to Argentina have gone unanswered. Finally, we were informed by APHIS that written reports are not required for APHIS site reviews. This lack of documentation and an obvious lack of management controls for the site review process calls into question the integrity and quality assurance for the entire risk analysis. Valid science-based decisions are not possible in this flawed system,” McCan says.

"It is evident that APHIS has charged blindly forward in making this announcement, ignoring the findings of a third-party scientific review identifying major weaknesses in the methodology of the risk analysis that formed the foundation for the APHIS decision-making process. The third-party scientific review uncovered deficiencies in the APHIS hazard analysis and the exposure assessment, as well as an overly subjective qualitative format for the risk analysis.

"NCBA remains committed to supporting open trade markets, level playing fields, and utilizing science-based standards to facilitate international trade. At the same time, no amount of trade is worth sacrificing the health and safety of the U.S. cattle herd. Strict transparency for the adherence to sound science must be the basis for all animal health decisions of this magnitude," McCan says.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Meat Export Fedration confirmed that U.S. beef does not have access to Argentina due to BSE-related restrictions.

The proposed rule to allow Argentina to export chilled and frozen beef to the U.S. follows an earlier proposal by USDA to expand Brazil’s ability to export beef to the U.S. The comment period on that proposed rule closed in April, but so far, USDA has not issued a final rule.

Public comment for the proposed rule concerning imports from Argentina is open until Oct. 28. For more information and to comment, click here.


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Read Between The Lines Of HSUS Rhetoric

Read Between The Lines Of HSUS Rhetoric

Editor's note: This article has been modified from its original version.

Much can be learned in life and politics by looking beyond the political rhetoric and reading between the lines. Wayne Pacelle, the president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), has made his intentions clear. He’s politically astute enough to say it in a way that’s politically palatable and couches HSUS attacks on animal agriculture as a battle against so-called factory farming.

You have to listen carefully but he is very clear that HSUS intends “to transform agriculture and the way consumers think about and consume food.” I translate that as meaning no animal production, though I think he’s willing to accept a much smaller industry as an interim step. HSUS argues livestock production isn’t environmentally sustainable, and is immoral and inhumane, and blames factory farming for contributing to nearly every ill in America.  

HSUS is extremely sophisticated in its attacks, and attacks on many fronts. It uses legislation and public policy where possible; the judicial system to sue people into submission; has a huge public relations machine to blackmail businesses to fall in line; and effectively wields the ballot initiative to circumvent the legislative and judicial branches when those avenues fail them.

HSUS advocates for vegetarianism and works to shape general public opinion using a well-coordinated and planned effort. The organization also takes a long view, acknowledging that while changing the opinions of mature Americans might not be possible, children are fertile ground for indoctrination. 

Being one of the biggest players in what has become a multi-billion dollar activist industry, the top HSUS priority will likely always be to increase funding. And in this regard, no person has been more effective than Pacelle. It’s ironic that most who donate don’t understand what programs their dollars support or how they’ll be used.


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Our industry will never have the dollars of HSUS and the other activist groups, but our biggest advantage may be that these groups are committed to the slow demise of our industry. They need a significant industry to oppose in order to keep the dollars flowing in.

Perhaps no tactic has been more effective for HSUS than its efforts to appear to partner with agriculture. As Pacelle says, “The kind of change we are seeking won’t happen overnight.” We should pay attntion to the words of HSUS. It is committed to our destruction; and while politically astute, the group is also unapologetic.

The opinions of Troy Marshall are not necessarily those of Penton or the Farm Progress Group.

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The Beef Industry’s Next Era Will Be Even Better; Prepare For It

The Beef Industry’s Next Era Will Be Even Better; Prepare For It

This morning I opened an email from a seedstock producer whose materials I always read because I consider him to be unequivocally the best marketer in our business. His message today contained his warnings about the coming return of lower prices and tough times in the beef business.

This breeder is in a unique position, as his cattle are most desirable in times of drought, low prices and high inputs. They’re low-risk, low-reward cattle bred to fit the most extreme markets and environments. So perhaps it’s somewhat understandable that he would be reminding people that tough times will return.

Meanwhile, others in the industry are justifiably pointing out that, while the cattle cycle has moderated but not gone away and Mother Nature will always be fickle, we have moved into new price levels. Thus, the new lows will be higher than the old lows. Again, this is a valid point.

But also valid is the point that today’s environment won’t last forever. I’m not talking about prices and moisture levels, as they will fluctuate as they always have. I’m talking about fundamental changes to our marketplace.

Our industry was drastically reshaped and downsized with the advent of ethanol subsidies, and the learning curve was fairly steep as the industry was forced to react. Yet, the industry adapted fairly well to this new environment.

It’s an interesting phenomenon in our industry that the really revolutionary changes that substantially drive profitability are usually very subtle in how they’re adopted. Value-based marketing was the buzzword 30 years ago, along with optimization. Yet, our industry is just now beginning to realize the value from all the changes that have occurred, and the rate of change in this area is accelerating even as it’s become less of a top-of-mind concern for most producers.

We’ve had the preconditioning revolution, and weaned and preconditioned calves are now the norm. We’ve had the grid, instrument grading and branded-beef revolutions. We’ve had the age and source verification movements, and now we’re seeing commercial entities and breed associations put products into the marketplace that document the genetics and value of those genetics. And the list goes on.


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Today, commercial cattle routinely do things that would have been revolutionary when this all started. I remember saying 30 years ago that we were striving to produce “80 x 80 and 5 x 5 cattle.” That means 80% Choice, 80% Yield Grade (YG) 2s or better, and gaining 5 lbs./day and converting at a 5:1 ratio.

Economics haven’t rewarded the YG 2s as much as we once thought. Thus, we don’t see people actually feeding cattle to those compositional endpoints very often, but 5x5 cattle and 80% Choice are almost routine. In fact, so much so that 80% in the upper 2/3 of Choice is now closer to an industry goal, and we have producers now talking about “percent Prime” at levels previously unheard of.

The amount of product produced per cow and the efficiencies gained from a total systems approach compared to the past is almost mindboggling. You still see those in the industry who have a commodity mindset, who look at cows as interchangeable parts, and who talk about maximizing profits from an archaic silo-type mentality with no consideration for how profitable those cattle are in the context of an entire systems approach, but those producers are now the anomaly and not the norm.

You also can still find those who want to argue for big cows or little cows, etc., but they are like people arguing over whether Ford, Dodge or Chevy are better. Meanwhile, the average consumer is looking at hundreds of different models and determining the best for their particular circumstance.

From a cattle industry perspective, the rate of progress, especially in the genetic area, is accelerating. It is happening at a rate that the most profitable animals today will be average for profitability in a decade, and likely discounted beyond that time frame. That means even the most profitable operations will be in danger of being forced out of business if they aren’t adapting new technologies, improved genetics, and new management strategies.

Looking back 20 years is fairly simple. We were just starting out, and we made some monumental mistakes along the way, but it is startling to see the changes that have occurred. The question we all need to ask ourselves over the next five years is how we can position ourselves for the demands and changes that are occurring today but are being obscured by the golden era of cattle production.

All eras come to an end. I think the next one will offer new players and even more opportunity. But even greater demands will be placed on managers, genetics and resources. Who would want it any other way?

The opinions of Troy Marshall are not necessarily those of Penton and the Farm Progress Group.

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Is Beef The Best First Food For Babies?

My 3-month-old daughter Scarlett has the cutest bib that reads, “When I get teeth, feed me beef.” Although she is a few months away from being able to eat solid foods, there is some significant research that shows beef, not iron-fortified cereal, is the best first food for babies.

According to research conducted by Nancy Krebs, University of Colorado researcher and pediatrician, “In a randomized-feeding trial, 88 exclusively breastfed infants were fed either pureed beef or iron-fortified infant cereal as their first complementary food from 5 to 7 months of age. After that time, all food choices were left to the parents’ discretion. But, until then, infants in the beef and cereal groups exclusively ate beef or cereal, respectively. Measures of zinc and iron status were taken at 9 months, and dietary, anthropometric and developmental data were taken up to 12 months. The study found that giving pureed beef to infants as their first complementary food is both practical and a better way to improve zinc intake than using iron-fortified cereals.”


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The results of the study showed impressive results about the benefits of beef as a complementary food for breastfed babies.

“The study found at 5 and 7 months, infants in the pureed beef group had signficantly higher zinc and protein intake, while infants in the fortified-cereal group had significantly higher iron intake at 7 months. Infants accepted both the cereal and pureed meat, but at 7 months, infants in the meat group were consuming 90% of the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) for zinc. Those in the cereal group were getting less than half of the EAR.”

According to Shalene McNeill, PhD, RD, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) executive director of human nutrition research, there is some new research coming out from Krebs’ lab. This project studied Denver, CO, babies and showed that higher protein intakes provided primarily from meats as complementary foods from 6-9 months were associated with greater linear growth and proportional weight gain, compared with a lower-protein, cereal-based diet.

The upcoming research suggests that a higher intake of protein from meats can be safely recommended for breastfed infants, for whom rich sources of bioavailable zinc and protein are particularly important during the complementary feeding period.

These studies seem to parallel popular recommendations for parents. In a recent article entitled, “10 foods to feed your baby (that you probably aren’t),” written by Natalia Stasenko, RD, for, animal proteins and fats such as red meat, eggs, butter, and full-fat cheese and yogurt make the list. 

Stasenko writes, “Steak as a first food? Why not! Traditionally, iron-fortified, single-grain cereals were the preferred first food for infants. Current advice offered by the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests exploring other iron- and zinc-rich foods such as red meat, especially if you are breastfeeding. These foods provide the type of iron that is better-absorbed than the type found in plant sources. To improve absorption even further, combine iron-rich foods with those high in vitamin C, like fruit and vegetables. Meatballs and tomato sauce were meant to be together! For younger babies, steam or simmer meat, puree and thin it with breast milk, formula or water to the desired consistency.”

If you have children, did they like beef as babies? What do you think of this new research? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or the Penton Farm Progress Group.


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Feedlot Provides Real-World Persepective For Two Nebraska Veterinarians

Feedlot Provides Real-World Persepective For Two Nebraska Veterinarians

If you’re ambitious enough to sign on for four more years of intensive schooling and related debts, you probably have a plan.

That’s where Ryan and June Loseke, DVMs, found themselves in 1993. They were about to be married, just before entering their junior year of veterinary school at Kansas State University.

Their postgraduate plans included living in a rural area and working in large animal medicine.

As owners and practitioners at Loseke Veterinary Services P.C., north of Columbus, NE, the couple made good on those plans. But what they did in the 15 years leading up to their incorporation deviated from the original script.

As she was altering bridesmaids’ dresses, she got a phone call from her soon-to-be husband.

“He said, ‘Do you want to buy a feedyard?’ I remember thinking the bridesmaid’s dress was going to last a few hours,” she recalls, “but the feedyard? That’s a big deal. It really put it in perspective.”

nebraska vet own feedlot

They did buy the feedyard, which will grow to 3,000 head when current expansion is complete. Just down the road from where Ryan grew up, it serves as the base for the family operation that includes crops and trucking services.

It also provides real world perspective when the couple is serving cow-calf producers and farmer-feeders in their northeast Nebraska practice.

“I do everything from scrub water tanks to drive the feedtruck to haul manure to working with [our nutritionist] on rations,” Dr. Ryan Loseke says. “It’s one thing to talk about delivering feed evenly through the bunk but I’ve put in hundreds of hours in the feed truck.

pink slime controversy

Photo Gallery: Nebraska Veterinarians Practice What They Preach At Family Feedlot
Learn how Ryan and June Loseke, DVMs, gain practical experience from their feedlot in this short photo gallery.

“It helps keep me practical in my recommendations,” he says.

Scott Schmid farms and raises cattle near the Loseke family.

“When I talk to Dr. Ryan Loseke, he knows exactly what I’m talking about. He’s probably going through the same thing, too,” Schmid says. “The reason I like him and we get along good is that he’s in the same business I’m in, plus he’s a vet. He can relate to everything I tell him.”

Dr. Ryan Loseke shares personal experience on what vaccines seem to be working best on the pathogens of the season.

Integrated Businesses, Family

The Losekes don’t view the feedyard as a side business, or simply a place to market their home-raised grain. It’s a main focus.       

In September, Loseke Feedyard was named Feedlot Partner of the Year at the Certified Angus Beef ® (CAB) brand annual conference in Marco Island, FL, for their dedication to producing high quality beef.

“Angus cattle were in our wedding vows,” Dr. Ryan Loseke jokes.

Maybe it wasn’t that blatant, but Dr. June Loseke’s family always fed and raised the breed on their ranches near Verdigre, NE. When they moved back with their veterinary degrees in spring 1995 and found the pens filled with “striped, sheepish” cattle, she said, “Not again. No.”

Today most of the calves come from ranch-direct purchases out of Montana.

“The predictability is good,” Dr. Ryan Loseke says. “You know what you’re going to get from a health and performance standpoint.”

Their mortality rate is low, at .75 percent or less, compared to some industry wide estimates of twice that.

But health isn’t just about treating cattle.             

“You find the longer you’re in practice, the answers are very rarely in the bottle,” Dr. Ryan Loseke says. “It’s holistic and there are many factors that influence the end product.”

Most cattle are preconditioned for four to six weeks before arrival, where they get a 24-hour rest before processing.

“We’ve never really had a wreck, but we don’t buy high-risk cattle, either,” Dr. Ryan Loseke says.

So far this year, the feedyard posted a 38 percent CAB acceptance rate, which is 18 points above the national average and more than triple what it was a decade ago.

Although they purchase all the cattle, they share quality and performance information with their suppliers.

“Some feeders are hesitant to send carcass data back, but it gives them a chance to see how they’re doing,” Dr. Ryan Loseke says. “If the industry wants to make improvements, it needs to go all the way back to the seedstock guys to really see a change.”

Shawn Christiansen of Hot Springs, MT, markets feeder calves to the Losekes and uses the feedback to improve genetics and management.

“Because of that, you know what bulls are working under my environment and his environment,” Christiansen says. “He’s been really helpful in getting information to help keep the consumer demand up.”

Indeed, their joint focus is on raising higher quality cattle.

“I want something that’s 1,400 pounds at 14 months of age, but I understand they have to have cows that work on the ranch, too,” Dr. Ryan Loseke says.

The veterinary business benefits from that industry-wide perspective, as much as the feedyard draws on that animal health background.

In all areas, the Losekes split tasks. They ride pens together each morning, but “she has the knack for finding sick critters,” Dr. Ryan Loseke says. They treat any pulls and then he delivers feed while she typically drives to the clinic to begin veterinary work.

Their small office is mainly set up for large animal work, though as Dr. June Loseke says, “Cattle and horses usually come with dogs and cats.” She serves those small animal clients, and they do swine consulting and have a few sheep producers.

“We can cover a broad amount of species, just because of the difference in our size and abilities,” Dr. June Loseke says, noting they make a good team—and an efficient one at that.

Their only employee is nephew Jake Bartos, but they draw support from Dr. Ryan Loseke’s dad, Wayne, and their children, Elisabeth (18), Erika (15), Carsten (12) and Cort (10).

“They’re our main secretaries,” Dr. June Loseke says of the latter. “All of them have been out on horses since they were infants, out here with us. I think they learned to count and number recognition because of reading ear tags.”

Their “typical” office hours are anything but standard, and include a lot of evenings and Saturday appointments (unless it’s harvest season or they’re receiving cattle at the feedyard).

“Our clients know that it’s pretty much whenever they can catch us, and they’re good with that,” Dr. June Loseke says.

Bookwork is completed in the evenings and, thanks to smartphones, in spare moments waiting for children at sports camp or a 4-H event.

“Post-it notes go through our house pretty fast,” Dr. June Loseke says. They also rely on synched Outlook calendars, Quickbooks and Excel spreadsheets.

The schedule is demanding, but also a blessing that allows working together and raising their family around them.

It’s responsibility they don’t take lightly. Dr. June Loseke says, “We are thankful He created Angus cattle and allowed us to be stewards of some of His land and livestock.”


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