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Articles from 1998 In September


Cow-Calf

Synchronize Ovulation Instead of Estrus Synchronizing ovulation rather than estrus would allow producers to mass mate a group of cows without observing them for signs of estrus. Colorado State University researchers have devised an ovulation synchronization protocol called CO-Synch that allows producers to do just that.

The CO-Synch protocol includes an injection of GnRH followed one week later by an injection of PGF (2 alpha). Another injection of GnRH is coupled with timed insemination two days after the PGF (2 alpha) injection. (See Table 1).

This protocol differs from the Ovsynch protocol used in dairy cattle by inseminating cows at the time of the second GnRH injection rather than one day later. Thus, CO-Synch requires one less handling of cattle.

Field trials involving 1,245 beef cows at five locations have demonstrated that pregnancy rates of cows inseminated at the time of the second GnRH injection (54%; CO-Synch) were not different than insemination 24 hours later (58%; Ovsynch). Whereas, a 1996 trial demonstrated that pregnancy rates were higher for cows receiving the Ovsynch protocol (54%) than for cows receiving the Syncro-Mate B protocol (42%).

Another important component of CO-Synch is that it initiates estrous cycles in some cows that have not begun cycling following calving. Forty-eight hour calf removal [from the time of the PGF (2 alpha) injection until the GnRH injection and timed insemination] has increased pregnancy rates from 53% to 62%.

Synchronization of ovulation can be more expensive than synchronization of estrus (costing $9 -10/cow), primarily because of semen costs. With synchronization of ovulation, all cows are inseminated rather than only those cows observed in estrus. However, it should result in more calves born earlier in the calving season and more opportunities for each cow to conceive during the breeding season, resulting in a decrease in the number of replacement females needed.

For more information contact Tom Geary, Colorado State University, 970/491-6244 ([email protected]). n

Electric Prods Deemed OK Penn State researchers say electric prods are useful for moving cattle if used in a controlled manner.

Researchers conducted a study to determine the effects of electric shock, buzzing or touch of a prod on the time required to move weaned beef heifers through a chute system and to determine any negative stress responses animals may exhibit.

Animals that were shocked (1 second/exposure) moved through the chute faster than either the touch only or buzz only groups. Although the shocked animals more frequently exhibited negative behavior responses such as running, kicking or pushing past barriers, the animals' heart rates, respiration rates and temperatures were not different among the three handling methods. Researchers concluded the stress from moving animals through a chute is more stressful to an animal than a short electrical shock.

Researchers advise animals should never be shocked around the head, face or neck, and animals must have room to move forward in the chute. For example, shocking the last animals in a group of bunched cattle is not effective in moving the front animals and causes unnecessary stress to the shocked cattle.

For more information contact Darron Smith, Penn State, at 814/863-6053.

Memory Used In Foraging Decisions Experience and memory appear to play an important role in an animal's foraging locations, says University of California researcher Emilio Laca.

By utilizing their spatial memory, livestock are able to return to high quality foraging sites and achieve a higher foraging efficiency, but this often results in uneven distribution of grazing, Laca says.

To test his theory, Laca exposed six steers to three food distribution treatments for 15-20 min. each day. The treatments included variable-random (food locations were changed randomly and daily), constant-random (food locations were randomly set at the beginning and remained the same throughout the experiment) and constant-clumped (food locations were constant and clumped in groups of five). Pelleted feed was available in 20 of 64 feeders arranged in eight rows and eight columns.

Intake rate increased as animals gained experience, but increased more slowly in variable-random than constant-clumped and constant-random treatments. Time eating per food location decreased with increasing experience. Intake rate was negatively affected by search time per food location, which in turn was determined by the steers' ability to remember food locations.

Steers in constant-random and constant-clumped treatments used long-term spatial memory to return to food locations, and ignored areas where no food was found. Conversely, animals in variable random treatments were unable to use spatial memory and were less efficient, but established a systematic search pattern and utilized most of the available area.

Laca concluded a more uniform grazing pattern may be promoted by impeding spatial memory and preventing animals from developing high expectations of concentrated food rewards in specific locations. This might be accomplished by moving animals from grazing units frequently or by training livestock to expect high rewards such as supplements in unpredictable locations.

For more information contact Emilio Laca, University of California-Davis, 530/754-4083 ([email protected]).

Graze Swaths, Cut Costs High inputs (labor, machinery, etc.) make baled hay one of the highest cost feed sources. Leaving hay in windrows after harvest and allowing cattle to graze the windrows directly can eliminate the costs of baling the hay, moving and stacking bales and feeding bales. (See Table 3.) But how does it affect animal performance?

In 1996 and 1997, Colorado researchers conducted two experiments to determine if cattle performance differs between cattle grazing millet hay stored in windrows compared to eating millet hay stored as small square bales.

Foxtail millet was planted in early June and harvested at the early milk stage in late July and early August. Windrow grazing and bale feeding was conducted from early November to late December.

Crude protein, neutral detergent fiber, acid detergent fiber, cell solubles and total digestible nutrients were tracked.

Overall, leaving millet hay in windrows did result in a loss in forage quality compared to baling and storing hay; however, it was not enough to affect animal performance. Animal performance was similar for the two treatments.

Storing hay in windrows rather than bales can lead to dramatic cost reductions for producers. Based on cost comparisons, a producer could save 43 cents/hd./day in feed costs by allowing cattle to graze windrows, rather than feeding baled hay.

For more information contact Jack Whittier, Colorado State University, at 970/491-6233.

Feed High-Oil Corn For More Marbling A high-oil diet can increase marbling scores, say University of Idaho researchers, resulting in an increased number of carcasses grading USDA Choice and qualifying for Certified Angus Beef premiums.

Sixty Angus-based crossbred yearling steers were used to evaluate the effects of high-oil corn on growth performance and carcass traits in an 84-day finishing trial.

Steers were initially implanted with Synovex-S and adjusted to a high-grain diet over 21 days. Steers were then allotted by weight to one of three treatments: 1) control corn (C; 82% normal corn, 12% silage) 2) high-oil corn (HO; 82% high-oil corn, 12% silage) and 3) high-oil corn formulated to be isocaloric to C (ISO; 74% high-oil corn, 20% silage).

Dry matter intake was greater for steers fed C than HO and ISO diets. Daily gain and feed efficiency were not affected by dietary treatment. However, steers fed both HO and ISO diets tended to have lower average daily gain than steers fed C (4.27 and 4.38 vs. 4.51 lbs./day).

At 72 hours postmortem, carcass data was collected from all carcasses. No treatment differences were observed for hot carcass weight, dressing percent, fat thickness, ribeye area, kidney pelvic and heart fat percent, yield grade and skeletal maturity. Marbling score and quality grades were higher for HO than C. However, marbling scores did not differ between ISO and C. Overall, 78% of HO steers graded Choice, compared to 47% for C and 67% for ISO.

The researchers note that although feeding high-oil corn failed to improve growth performance and efficiency, higher marbling scores would result in an economic advantage when the spread between Choice and Select carcasses is large.

For more information contact Carl Hunt, University of Idaho, at 208/885-6932 ([email protected]).

Cows should be artificially inseminated about 18 hours after the onset of estrus, Oklahoma State University (OSU) researchers say. This is later than the traditional a.m./p.m. rule.

Pregnancy rates could be increased by 10-20% with artificial insemination by breeding at the proper time, OSU researchers say.

Researchers evaluated 17 Angus x Hereford cows to determine time of ovulation relative to onset of behavioral estrus during August and September. HeatWatch(r) (an electronic sensor that records each time a cow is mounted) was utilized to determine duration of estrus, number of mounts and longest interval between two mounts.

Visual observations were conducted twice daily for 30 minutes at 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., but only identified 13 of 17 cows that were detected in estrus by HeatWatch.

Beginning 16 hours after the onset of estrus, ovaries were evaluated by transrectal ultrasonography every four hours to determine time of ovulation.

The average time from end of estrus to ovulation was 20.6 hours, and duration of estrus averaged 10.8 hours (See Table 2).

The researchers concluded beef cows ovulate an average of 32 hours after the onset of estrus and time of ovulation is not related to the duration of estrus. This indicates that the best time to inseminate is about 18 hours after the onset of estrus, according to OSU researchers.

For more information contact Robert Wettemann, Oklahoma State University, at 405/744-7390 ([email protected]).

Initial body composition plays an important role in a heifer's ability to respond to periods of energy restriction, say University of Minnesota animal scientists.

Females that carry extra condition when exposed to nutritional stress can continue to show estrous cycles longer than more moderate condition females.

Therefore, researchers suggest to prevent females from becoming anestrous, cow-calf operators should not permit any female to reach body condition scores lower than 5. Among heifers a condition score of 6 is probably more adequate.

Twenty pubertal heifers were evaluated to determine the influence of initial body composition (BC) on reproductive response to energy restriction and refeeding. Heifers were randomly assigned to gain or maintain bodyweight (BW) for 57 days to create two distinct body condition score groups: fat (FC; BCS 7.0) or moderate (MC; BCS 5). Then, heifers were fed a low-energy diet (30% NEm) until estrous cycles stopped, and switched to a high-energy diet (65 Mcal NEg/cwt.) ad libitum until estrous cycles resumed.

Body condition scores and BC were determined by visual appraisal at anestrous and cycling.

Females in better condition at the start of nutritional stress did not need to gain as much condition to start showing estrous cycles again. However, regardless of initial body composition, heifers became anestrous at similar BW, BCS and percent empty body fat (PEBF), indicating that anestrous was caused by heifers reaching a certain end-point rather than by losing a certain amount or percentage of weight. That end-point appears to be a body condition score of 3.

Researchers advise managing cows to increase body reserves prior to nutritional stress periods. However, the ability of both groups to respond to re-feeding indicates that these problems, if encountered, can be overcome by feeding high energy diets.

For more information contact Alfredo DiCostanzo, University of Minnesota, at 612/624-1272 ([email protected] umn.edu).

Producers may soon be able to cull cattle that lack the genetic ability to resist parasites, according to USDA researcher Louis Gasbarre.

Gasbarre believes cattle genetics play a major role in determining parasite transmission in a cow herd and the development of immunity in individuals,

Gasbarre says nematode parasites are not "normally" distributed in cattle herds, and after several months on pasture, most cattle show resistance to parasites either by killing incoming worms or by reducing the egg output of worms. However, 15-20% of cattle do not exhibit this resistance.

As a result, these "susceptible" calves are responsible for most of the parasite transmission that takes place on pastures. Gasbarre estimates the heritability of this resistance is approximately 30%. Analyses showed the risk that a certain bull may produce those susceptible, high egg-shedding calves can be as much as 20 times that of another bull.

Current studies are aimed at characterizing the mechanisms that determine immunity and identification of the genes controlling this immunity. To aid producers in breeding decisions, a search is being made to find accurate and economical methods that identify susceptible and resistant cattle. For more information contact Louis Gasbarre, USDA Agricultural Research Center, Beltsville, MD, at 301/504-8509 ([email protected]).

Alfalfa leaf meal (ALM), a by-product of separating alfalfa leaves from stems, can be an effective protein substitute for soybean meal (SBM) in receiving and finishing diets, according to University of Minnesota researchers. The substitution has no detrimental effect on performance, carcass quality or animal health.

Ninety-six medium-frame steers were randomly assigned to one of four dietary treatments for a 167- or 189-day finishing phase. Treatments included control (supplemental protein from SBM) and ALM providing 33%, 66% or 100% of supplemental protein with the balance being SBM.

When feeding ALM, no significant differences were found in kidney, pelvic, heart fat percentage, marbling score, yield or quality grade. Moreover, there was a slight reduction in incidence of liver abscesses in steers that received ALM as the only supplemental protein source.

Steers fed diets containing 100% ALM as supplemental protein or soybean meal-based supplements had heavier carcasses than steers fed 33% or 66% of ALM as supplemental protein. Substituting ALM for SBM increased dry matter intake, but this increase was accompanied by an increase in gain which resulted in similar feed efficiency.

In a similar study with receiving diets, Minnesota researchers concluded substituting ALM for SBM in corn-based diets of receiving steers can be accomplished without a negative effect on animal performance or health. However, feedlot operators using faster fermenting grains in receiving rations should add no more than 33% of ALM as a supplemental protein until more data is gathered.

For more information contact Alfredo DiCostanzo, University of Minnesota, 612/624-1272 ([email protected]).

Speed Up Aging Administering an oral calcium gel to steers three to six hours prior to slaughter results in a shorter postmortem aging time and improved tenderness, says University of Idaho meat scientist Susan Duckett.

Twenty-nine steers were assigned to either a non-dosed control or calcium gel-dosed treatment. Three to six hours prior to slaughter, steers in the calcium gel treatment received 150 g of calcium orally. (This research is still in the experimental phase and not commercially available at this time.)

Hot carcass weights, fat thickness, ribeye area, yield grade, marbling score, quality grade and percent kidney, pelvic and heart fat were similar between treatments.

Steaks from steers that received calcium gel had Warner-Bratzler shear force values 1 kg lower than non-dosed steaks after four to seven days of aging. However, no differences were noted in shear force values at two, 14 or 28 days postmortem.

Packers could implement this technology prior to slaughter, Duckett suggests. Packers would also realize the value, but beef producers and the industry would benefit as well from the increase in customer eating satisfaction.

For more information contact Susan Duckett, University of Idaho, at 208/885-7390 ([email protected] edu).

Vet-Driven Quality

In a small building in White Oak, TX, operations manager Brenda Thornton sits down at a computer. She brings up a sales list of Vet Advantage[superscript]tm calves, consigned by ranchers or stocker operators, for sale on the Internet.

There's nothing particularly unusual about that, considering the large number of special value-added calf (VAC) preconditioning programs available. But this one is different.

The Vet Advantage program is owned, directed and controlled exclusively by practicing local veterinarians, like Grady Ellis and Jesse Richardson, through a corporation called Vet Ranch Marketing Association (VRMA).

Unlike other such programs, it follows strict rules with compliance procedures built in, overseen, documented and certified by the local veterinarian. "He becomes the liaison between the producer and the feedlot," says Ellis, VRMA's president.

Vertical cooperation, not integration, is the ultimate aim of the Vet Advantage program, says Michael Spencer of Vet Alliance.

"The goal is supervised beef production, cooperation with vets, monitoring and recording everything we did with that calf from the beginning, in order to provide a safe product," he says. "Who better can address food safety than the animal care professional working in a conceptual relationship with producers."

Getting Started In 1994, Ellis, Richardson and a group of practicing veterinarians, aided by Spencer of Vet Alliance, began monitoring value-added calf programs such as Tex Vac. They decided the current beef quality assurance and preconditioning programs weren't getting the needed results.

"Those early quality assurance programs were like pushing rocks up a hill on the producer side, and even for the local veterinarian," says Spencer.

So they began working with feedlots, drug companies and industry representatives to develop a "non-breed specific tracking and marketing system." It was specifically aimed at the 30-cow producer with the veterinarian as key motivator.

"We knew we had to put together a program that met the demands of the industry, had policing and compliance, and information exchange between buyer and seller," Spencer says. "It gave ranchers the ability to build a reputation with their herd as well as bring extra dollars for predictable performance."

Controlled By A Nine-Member Board Incorporated in 1996, VRMA is controlled by a nine-member board of practicing veterinarians. A non-voting advisory board made up of representatives of drug companies and legal and financial institutions also helps. There are 70 members, mainly in Texas and the Southeast.

Through this system, a producer who wants to market Vet Advantage calves selects one of six health programs (see sidebar). He has the option to sell his calves on VRMA's Internet listings, retain ownership through yearling and feeding programs, or partner with other small producers to commingle less-than-potloads of calves.

Those first years, VRMA had to overcome two challenges:

* Not enough cattle numbers to attract buyers, and

* Opposition from some order buyers, auction barn operators and over-the-counter drug vendors who feared loss of business.

But interest is growing. Ellis is sticking to his long-term goal of signing up 200 veterinarians during the next 12 months and 500 over five to seven years. That's the number he needs to meet the program goal of marketing 500,000 Vet Advantage calves each year, he says.

Producers Pick Their Market Outlet Enrolled producers pick their individual market outlet - the VRMA Internet listing (www.vrmainc.com), local order buyers, auction markets and satellite auctions like Superior Livestock.

That arrangement satisfies Superior Livestock official Jim Odle, even though Superior has its own successful VAC program. "Anytime we can offer an animal that has been on a health management program, we're tickled to death to help promote it," he says.

Calves are sold by description on the Internet, although inspectors will soon take photos of each consignment animal with digital cameras. To get on-ranch data, one of the 15 professionally trained VRMA inspectors, usually an order buyer, goes to the ranch and evaluates frame size, genetic appearance, quality grades and estimated weights.

If sold on Superior Livestock, the area representative takes full responsibility for inspection, appraisals and video taping of animals.

One of Richardson's clients, Mike Smith of Athens, TX, put his Angus and Braunvieh/Brangus-sired calves on the Vet Advantage At Weaning program last fall. He tagged them and kept detailed records based on specific rules and provisions established by VRMA and certified by Richardson. He could give the shots himself if qualified, but he had to buy drug products through the Henderson County Vet Hospital.

Upon joining, Smith obtained a packet that he completed and returned to Richardson. He pays a per-head commission that includes the special Vet Advantage Allflex eartag that stays on the calf through to slaughter. A portion of the fee is returned to the veterinarian for his services.

Smith completed the program as scheduled. He sold the heavy end of the calf crop last October to two buyers who fed them in a Gruver, TX, feedlot. But, the market turned bad and he could not retain ownership, so he sold his 56 steers and 36 heifers to Kevin Sutherlin, another of Richardson's clients, last December. Sutherlin needed cattle to make a full load.

The two ranchers worked out a 35 cents/lb. gain grazing deal. They kept the cattle in Smith's pastures where Richardson had helped Smith start a rotational grazing system.

"This was a tremendous educational process for both of these young guys," Richardson says.

He says he saw a big change in Smith's operation after they discussed health matters, genetics, management and nutrition programs through the Vet Advantage program last fall. Smith agrees.

Use Consultants "I use Jesse on a consulting basis on my herd health program," he says. "He answers questions and has to sign off that I've done all the correct procedures and vaccinations. I leave it to him to make sure shots are given correctly in the right places and right kinds. This gives me more comfort when the vet oversees the program."

After two years, Vet Advantage is now a recognized brand of performance, Spencer claims. The cattle consistently outperform other marketing alternatives and demonstrate the economic benefits of pre-shipment health and preconditioned feeding programs.

Spencer is convinced the Vet Advantage program works, citing Smith's experience with the cattle he sent to a Gruver, TX, feedlot three weeks before a disastrous blizzard hit last October. The lot owner was astonished. "The medicine cost was 74 cents/hd versus the average cost on the Texas Ranch to Rail program last year of $27/hd," Smith tells BEEF.

The first pilot program of 5,000 Vet Advantage calves was shipped in 1995 to feedlots and stocker operators in Kansas, Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle. "We kept our fingers crossed on the first run," Spencer says. "The cattle performed well - no death loss, few treats."

Twenty-five loads of Vet Advantage calves sold during the last five months of 1997 averaged $25 more per head than comparable kinds sold through the local market. The steers and heifers ranged from 462 to 677 lbs.

Tracking Cattle Performance The primary goal of VRMA is to process, track and report on cattle performance, says Spencer. It hopes to develop a brand that builds a "reputation" through predictable performance. Three factors provide predictable performance, he says.

* Cooperation between producer and veterinarian in developing the right health program for that ranch.

* The assurance of careful selection and handling of drug products.

* Quality assurance and records (verified by the local veterinarian) that assure confidence to buyers in all markets that a Vet Advantage calf is what it really is.

Producers enrolling their calves in VRMA's Vet Advantage Program have six options:

* Head Start - Single-Vac Program: requires initial modified live virus IBR, PI3 , BRSV, BVD, initial Pasteurella and 7-8 way clostridial vaccinations at 3-4 weeks preweaning with no eartags. The Double-Vac program prescribes the booster shots at weaning time before shipping.

* The Pre-Weaning Program: At 2-4 months of age, initial 7-8 way clostridial; 30-40 days pre-weaning, initial IBR, PI3, BRSV, BVD and Pasteurella with booster 7-8 way clostridial and at veterinarian's option, Lepto and H. somnus injections; at weaning, booster IBR, PI3, BRSV and Pasteurella shots, then prescribed nutrition programs are fed for 45 days before shipping.

* The Calf At Weaning Program is designed for those who can't work calves at 30-40 days preweaning. At weaning, initial IBR, PI3, BRSV, BVD and Pasteurella, booster 7-8 way clostridial, and Lepto and/or H. somnus shots, if prescribed, are given; 14-21 days later, booster IBR, PI3, BRSV, BVD and Pasteurella and Lepto and/or H. somnus, if prescribed. The last 24-day feeding program continues until shipment.

* In the Calf 60 Program for purchased weaned calves of unknown origin, calves are held for at least 60 days and follow the Advantage Yearling Program.

* Advantage Yearling and Yearling Plus Programs: health programs prescribed for weaned calves of unknown origin that will go on full-term backgrounding programs. Initial vaccinations and other practices are given on arrival and boostered 14-21 days later. Calves certified through the Pre-Weaning and At-Weaning program automatically qualify for the yearling program.

Each program has specific health, management and quality assurance guidelines established by VRMA and administered by the local veterinarian in each area, who is the liaison and motivator. Here are general rules:

* Calves to be certified must come from a producer's own cow herd or purchased into a producer's own operation acceptable to the veterinarian.

* All animal health products must be acquired and administered by the veterinarian, although (if qualified) the producer may give the shots.

* All programs require these treatments: 1) castrating by knife prior to weaning or upon arrival in the Advantage Program; 2) dehorning and tipping; and 3) treating for internal and external parasites at prescribed program periods.

* Rules give strict instructions for injection sites, such as location, type of needle used, and where to administer viral vaccines, Pasteurella and clostridial bacterins. No more than one set of killed virus vaccines and at least one set of modified-live virus vaccines are administered to all Advantage calves.

* Producers are responsible for maintaining complete records on all calves in the program, including veterinary bills and feed bills. The documents are required prior to shipping.

The most popular programs so far in areas of plentiful pastures and hay supplies are the Vet Advantage Calf Pre-Weaning or At-Weaning programs. They are geared for producers who can retain calves 45-50 days past weaning before shipping.

But few calves will be backgrounded in East Texas and the Southern Plains this fall. Searing heat and drought has destroyed hay and pasture supplies. "I'm encouraging my producers to go ahead and sell their calves," veterinarian Jesse Richardson, Athens, TX , says. "No feed, no hay, the pastures are gone."

As a result, several of Richardson's clients put their calves on the Vet Advantage Head Start program. They were sold on the Superior video auction at weaning time and weighed 350-400 lbs. when delivered in early August. Other clients will wean and sell their calves this month and next. "We don't want their cows to lose condition so they can hold on to their breeding herds," Richardson says.

Go Ahead Beef Up Your Diet

If you are thinking about eating healthier, you may want to pass on foods like bread, potatoes and pasta and consider taking a second helping of meat instead.

That's according to medical doctors Michael and Mary Dan Eades. The Eades are co-authors of the national best- selling book Protein Power that promotes beef and other protein sources as a mainstay to a healthy diet.

Contrary to the low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet that's become popular in the last decade, the Eades propose a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet - meaning you can enjoy steaks, burgers and roasts.

Protein Power is just one of several books on the best-sellers' list, including Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution, Sugar Busters and The Zone, that are helping boost beef's nutritional reputation.

"There are lots of good things about beef besides the fact that it tastes good," says Michael Eades. Among beef's attributes are that it is:

* A complete, hypo non-allergenic protein (meaning no one is allergic to it).

* A conjugated linoleic acid that helps fight cancer.

* High in vitamin B-12, which your body can't get from plant sources.

* Contains lipoic acid - an antioxidant.

* A good source of zinc - a major component of the immune system.

* High in heme iron (see sidebar).

But one thing beef - and other meats - have few of is carbohydrates. And that, say the Eades and other authors, could be one of meat's best attributes.

Their reasoning: when we eat carbohydrates, whether they're from chocolate or whole-grain bread, they are broken down in the body into a sugar called glucose that affects the body's blood sugar levels.

"Metabolically, a can of Coke and a potato are the same thing to your body - about 11/44 cup of sugar - because they are all turned into glucose," says Mary Dan Eades.

Your body likes to keep blood sugar on a very narrow range. So the arrival of glucose in the bloodstream signals the pancreas to secrete insulin - a major hormone that controls metabolism. Insulin regulates blood sugar by helping shuttle glucose into cells.

Foods that break down quickly - typically those high in carbohydrates - release a lot of glucose at once. (Bananas, rice cakes and carrots are examples.) They dump so much glucose into the blood so fast that the pancreas has to pump out extra insulin. After a while, cells become less sensitive to insulin and require more of it just to get the glucose transported. This is called insulin resistance or hyperinsulinemia syndrome.

"When you are insulin resistant and you eat sugar, your blood sugar goes up, the pancreas releases insulin and nothing happens," says Mary Dan Eades. "So the pancreas releases more and more insulin, until it overcomes the resistance, pumps the sugar down and everything is OK again, except that you end up having too much insulin most of the time," she adds.

"When we age, 75% of us become resistant to the affects of insulin," she says. Excess insulin has been implicated in a range of diseases including adult-onset diabetes, hypertension, stroke, cancer and heart disease.

"People have long thought that when they gain weight, then other health problems start to occur. But that is only because they see the weight gain first," says Michael.

Almost all people who have a weight problem actually have an insulin problem, say the Eades.

Less Carbohydrates, More Protein The solution, say the Eades, is changing the diet to fewer carbohydrates and more protein. "Protein replacement is what it takes to keep the body healthy," says Mary Dan. Protein is necessary to maintain lean tissues including hair, skin, bones, blood and organs.

"Food is composed of carbohydrates, protein, fat and water. All food is one or more of these things," says Mary Dan. "If we understand what these basic four things do to our insulin, it puts us back in the driver's seat of our own health.

"Food is the balancing tool. It's the most potent medicine you can use against health problems, if you do it right," she adds.

There are three methods to reduce insulin levels:

* Decrease carbohydrate intake.

* Decrease caloric intake.

* Increase exercise.

"The easiest thing to get people to do is to decrease their carbohydrate intake," says Michael.

Lower carbohydrate intake reduces blood sugar levels and decreases insulin production - allowing cells to become sensitive to insulin once again. In turn, you can control high blood pressure, high cholesterol and triglycerides, and even obesity, all directly caused by an overabundance of insulin, say the Eades.

But Sachiko St. Jeor, a nutritionist who serves on the American Heart Association's nutrition committee, cautions against replacing carbohydrates with too much protein.

"There is a role for protein in the diet, but protein in excess can be harmful because of the associated fat," St. Jeor says. "Adequate protein is very important, especially in diets with fewer calories, but the exclusion of fruits and vegetables can lead to a dietary imbalance," she adds.

St. Jeor suggests a well-balanced diet from a variety of foods, with about 12-15% of calories in the diet coming from protein.

But Michael still contends, "The low-fat diet has been a total failure. Everybody tells you to eat less fat because fat causes obesity, diabetes and heart disease. And people are listening because in the last 20 years fat consumption has dropped by 30 percent."

But we haven't seen a corresponding decrease in health problems, Michael adds.

Instead, U.S. beef consumption has continued to decline. Meanwhile, our total consumption of sugar and other sweeteners is now 150 lbs./person annually, up 28 lbs. since 1970.

"Beef producers have got to become more proactive. Emphasize the virtues of beef and de-emphasize the low-fat diet," says Michael.

Doing so may be one more way to add value to beef and take back market share.

To follow the protein plan, the Eades suggest the following:

* Set your carbohydrate level at 7-10 effective carbohydrate grams/meal. Passing on a roll and potato and eating more vegetables or protein can easily take you from 80 carbohydrates to 10 carbohydrates.

* Calories don't count - but you shouldn't get below 1,000/day.

* Don't worry about fats, but choose healthy fats such as olive oil, nut oils and even butter. However, avoid "trans fats," or partially hydrogenated fats, like margarine or Crisco.

* Never let yourself go hungry - keep snacks on hand and eat regular meals.

* You can drink alcohol, but count the carbohydrates. A glass of wine has 3 grams of carbohydrates.

* Drink lots of water and exercise regularly.

Promoting just one of beef's many nutritional attributes has helped the Australian beef industry sell more pounds of beef.

Since 1992, Meat and Livestock Australia, the red meat industry organization for that country, has positioned lean beef as a superior source of iron. Iron is essential to carry oxygen in the blood, and a lack of it causes fatigue.

Australian television and magazine ad campaigns have targeted women and the fact that seven of 10 women are deficient in iron.

The new awareness is boosting beef sales, says Andrew Ralph, business development manager for Meat and Livestock Australia. Overall, the iron campaign has had an estimated $240 million impact on Australian beef sales a year since 1993.

Why Iron? With a continual decline in red meat consumption from 1978 through 1992, the Australian beef industry wanted to find a new, radical strategy for marketing lean beef.

Consumer research identified women as a key factor driving the decline in beef consumption, primarily because red meat was associated with health concerns, specifically fat, says Ralph. With women responsible for 80% of meat purchases, a campaign was designed to position beef as essential for health.

A number of beef's nutritional attributes were considered (protein, zinc, vitamin B-12), but iron was chosen for the following reasons:

* 70% of women do not reach their recommended intake of iron.

* Beef is a better source of iron than vegetables like spinach. You need to eat a 50-lb. fish compared to a 6 oz. steak to get your daily recommended allowance of iron, says Ralph.

* The iron in lean beef (heme iron) is more easily absorbed by the body. Twenty-five percent of iron in lean beef is absorbed vs. 2% in other sources such as vegetables.

"When we looked at beef's nutritional attributes, it's obvious that it is a great source of iron," says Ralph. "We wanted to raise awareness of that."

Most recently, the iron campaign has targeted lean beef as an essential source of iron for toddlers, with the message that iron is critical for their normal development and health.

Research for the campaign has been funded in part by the Australia beef checkoff, which is $3.50/hd. each time an animal is sold. Plans for the iron campaign are scheduled to continue.

Sysco introduces 26 new beef items

Twenty-six new beef and veal products have been added to the marketplace by Sysco, the country's largest foodservice distributor. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) and Sysco worked together to develop the lines which include Oven Ready Roasts, Specialty Beef Steaks, Smart Cut Veal, Veal Bacon and beef and veal appetizers.

Sysco requested NCBA's assistance in developing and bringing the new products to the marketplace.

Sysco, which sells more than 2% of the nation's total beef, expects the new beef and veal product lines to have a positive impact on its total sales, which hit nearly $15 billion in 1997.

Drought losses continue to mount in Texas. Continued hot, dry weather in parts of the Lone Star State is hitting ranchers hard. Ernie Davis, Extension ag economist, says that since May the drought has cost livestock producers $451 million in losses. An estimated $126 million involves direct revenue losses as ranchers have liquidated herds and sold lighter-weight cattle. The remaining $325 million is the estimated extra feed bill that producers have paid.

If you're looking for hay, the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) reinstated its free Hay Hotline at 877/429-1998. The hotline is staffed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday to help connect farmers and ranchers who need hay with those who have hay for sale. The list of hay suppliers is also on TDA's Web site at www.agr.state.tx.us.

In addition, the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation in Ardmore, OK, is compiling a free hay directory to help producers find hay buyers and sellers. They're also providing no-charge hay testing to sample the hay's nutrient quality. For information, call 580/223-5810 or check their Web site at www.noble.org.

The vesicular stomatitis quarantine has been lifted in Texas, according to the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC). Livestock in Texas are now free to move unhindered to other states with appropriate documentation. However, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado are still embargoed. For more information, call TAHC at 800/550-8242.

BeefAmerica has announced it's closing its only plant in Norfolk, NE, effectively putting the company out of business. BeefAmerica officials site a labor strike as the reason for the closure. The company was the sixth largest beef packer in the nation last year, with a daily capacity of 2,500 head.

NCBA's Board of Directors has set its new budget at $64 million for fiscal 1999, which begins October 1. Of that total, $8.18 million comes from dues and will focus on increased action in policy areas including environmental issues. These costs must be paid for with dues dollars, because checkoff funds cannot be used for policy issues, according to federal law.

The $55.9 million checkoff portion of the NCBA budget will be funded by the Beef Board and state beef council investment in national checkoff programs. Checkoff-funded programs must be approved by the Beef Promotion Operation Committee of the Beef Board, an independent body created by law to approve individual program authorizations.

A USDA judge has issued a ruling that one provision in IBP's Beef Marketing Agreement with a group of Kansas feedlots violates the Packers and Stockyards Act. The judge dismissed the case and allowed the marketing agreement to stand as long as the "right of first refusal" provision was removed.

The right of first refusal, which allows IBP to obtain livestock by simply matching the highest previous bid, has the effect of reducing competition, according to the ruling. Under the legal process, IBP has the right to appeal the ruling regarding right of first refusal to Federal District Court.

Northern Plains Premium Beef, a rancher-owned beef processing and marketing cooperative, reached its deadline of July 15 and was 70,000 shares short of its goal to break escrow and launch the cooperative. Their board has voted to extend the stock offering until September 15 to give producers a final chance at purchasing shares.

So far, about 300 producers have committed the equity for approximately 30,000 shares. If the cooperative's 101,000-130,000 share goal is not reached, it will dissolve on September 21.

Iowa Quality Beef, a new management tracking and marketing division of the Iowa Cattlemen's Association, began last month. The new program offers producers opportunities to learn more about the quality and consistency of the beef they produce through creation of a data base which tracks calves from birth to box. Producers will be able to buy into the new system, including electronic eartags, access to data and a marketing manual describing a variety of fed and feeder cattle marketing options, for a per head fee.

U.S. consumers enjoy low food prices compared with the rest of the world. USDA compared the cost of selected staple items, including a gallon of milk, 2 lbs. of sirloin, a dozen eggs, a 5-lb. bag of sugar, 1 lb. of cheddar cheese and a 2-lb. bag of apples. U.S. consumers would pay $18.79, versus $23.19 in England, $30.10 in France and $74.23 in Japan.

Gifting estate money to heirs

Question: If I want an amount of money to go to heirs (for example, $300,000), can I put this in both my name and my sons' names as JTWROS (Joint Tenants With Right Of Survivorship) so they'll get it upon my death?

Answer: The fact is that you can put your sons' names on nearly any assets that you want (as JTWROS). The question is whether or not it's an appropriate thing to do. I think the best response is to give you a couple of examples about what might happen.

In fact, here are a few questions that would be good to have answered to more accurately respond to your question?

* How old are you? What is your health like?

* Why would you want to give that much money away now?

* Do you need the money to live on now or later?

* How much of your total estate is the $300,000?

First, be aware that if you put your sons' (let's say two sons) names on the $300,000; then technically you have made a "gift" of 21/43 of the money - and it's gone. If that $200,000 is a large part of your estate, a few problems might arise. If you believe that "getting the money out of your estate" will help you qualify for Medicaid to pay for potential nursing home costs, for example, you are mistaken.

Nursing Home Consideration Currently, any asset given away within three years of entering a nursing home is calculated back into the estate when determining financial need. In the past, this "gifting" strategy was used to spend down an estate, but it is long since outdated - and even dangerous.

If you give $200,000 of your money to your sons, and then you need it to live on later, they have absolutely no legal obligation to give it back. You could be stuck with a big bill for extended care and no money to pay for it.

If the $200,000 is a smaller portion of your estate, the picture changes somewhat.

>From the articles published earlier in BEEF, you know that you can pass on the first $625,000 of your assets with no federal estate taxation. Thankfully, this estate-tax exemption will increase each year between now and 2006. However, it can be used only once - either during your lifetime, atyour death or through some combination of the two. In addition to this lifetime exemption, you are allowed to give away up to $10,000 each year to anyone that you wish.

Appreciating Assets? If your total estate value was $1 million and you give away $200,000 now and die later this year; there would only be $425,000 of your exemption remaining that could be used at death. This may or may not be a problem. If the rest of the estate were made up of assets that had really appreciated, the remaining exemption of $425,000 might be insufficient to cover them. It might have been better to get those "highly appreciating" assets out of the taxable estate to avoid a large potential estate tax.

Perhaps, because of the nature of the estate, it would make more sense to just let the sons inherit the $200,000 at your death. Or, if you're in relatively good health and want your sons to have the money to be able to pay federal estate tax and/or state inheritance taxes, as well as other closing and settlement costs, then using some of the money to purchase insurance makes more sense. (The money can be leveraged considerably by owning it outside of the taxable estate.)

I hope this gives you some ideas.

90% There

If all segments of agriculture were inspected as thoroughly as feedyards, it's less likely the industry would make periodic headlines. That aside, feedyards will soon be inspected more often based on increasingly stringent environmental guidelines.

New water and air quality regulations are still being determined by federal and state agencies, but all concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) will be inspected based on them by 2005.

Harry Knobbe, owner of Harry Knobbe Feedyard in West Point, NE, is confident his 5,000-head yard will comply.

"In 1972, the Clean Water Act became law. It basically calls for zero discharge. Prior to that, all our waste water ran off," Knobbe says. "By 1974-75 we complied with the Act and, while it was a learning process, we realized it was the right thing to do from a standpoint of stewardship and business practices."

Establish A Track Record "However, there will be certain times during a decade, such as this year, when you can't comply with zero discharge," Knobbe says. "If you've established a track record where you've consistently maintained good stewardship practices, regulatory officials will generally give you credit for trying and work with you during extraordinary years. Nebraska's Department of Environmental Quality officials inspect our yard and they've been fine to work with."

Knobbe's two lagoons do more than catch runoff. The water mixture from the lagoons is gravity-flowed into nearby cornfields. He notes there is a small amount of nutrient value in the mixture, though it's relatively insignificant.

Solids from the lagoon are applied about every other year on soybean fields.

"There is some value in the solids," Knobbe says, "But most of the time it costs 10 to 25 percent more than it's worth to haul it. I look at it like snow removal - it's part of the overhead."

Business Expense "Lagoons are great and they're nice to build when we have income," Knobbe says. "It hurts a lot more now when we don't have the income. But, you've got to look at the big picture. For example, if you've got $100,000 invested in the business and need $10,000 for a lagoon, you may need to sell land or equipment to pay for it. If you need the lagoon, you've got to have it and the most important thing right now is to be in business in the next six to eight months."

Knobbe says costs will vary considerably based on what water comes through a yard in addition to the yard water. He adds that the larger the operation, the more the per-head-basis cost will be.

"Right now, if you're in compliance with the Clean Water Act, you're 90 percent there," Knobbe says.

Look To The Future Jean Waters, director of the Pollution Prevention Institute at Kansas State University, doesn't disagree with Knobbe. However, the times are changing and changing quickly, she says. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) aims to reduce nutrient pollution from CAFOs and will issue permits for those with more than 750 head by 2005. Significantly increased enforcement comes with this package as well.

Waters says EPA is increasing its oversight of air quality, too.

"EPA is particularly concerned with particulate matter in the air," Waters says. "Particles less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5) in size are respirable dust, which is absorbed into the lungs of humans and animals. Normal evacuation methods, such as coughing and sneezing don't eliminate the particles from the system."

Several cattle feeding organizations are currently working with EPA officials to help determine reasonable limits regarding feedyard regulation. It's not certain what the end results will be. Ross Wilson, government affairs director for Texas Cattle Feeders, says EPA officials are trying to be reasonable.

Enforcement/Involvement Once the standards are set, the issue isn't so much enforcement by EPA or state officials, Waters says.

"This issue is that a disgruntled employee or an irritated neighbor may file a complaint," she says. "This forces the regulatory agency to investigate whether or not the complaint is legitimate. This takes time and it may actually cost a feeder money from fines, required improvements or both.

"Right now is when feeders can make a difference in upcoming air quality regs," Waters says. "Work with your association as it works with EPA to get accurate information before setting standards. This is the time to be cooperating with officials to help create livable regulatory policies."

What To Do Can you get ahead of officials and begin implementing systems to help improve air quality? Yes and no. Yes, you can begin improving air quality, but don't guess what the final standards will be, Waters says.

"I probably wouldn't spend a lot of money now," she says. "Instead, use best management practices (BMPs) to get the most from what you have. In other words, go for the low-hanging fruit first."

Waters adds there are several low-cost measures to enhance air quality around your feedyard. You can:

* Enhance the efficiency of the feed mill.

* Sprinkle and water pens.

* Water roads.

"As far as dust level in pens, I wouldn't make a decision just now based on pending regulations," Waters says. "But, if you can justify improvement from an animal health or worker safety standpoint, do it."

Justification Ward Feedyard, Larned, KS, has improved the health of cattle in the yard and the attitude of neighbors in the last three years by sprinkling the yard.

Lee Borck, president, says the 167-riser sprinkler system has been quite the management tool for cattle.

"Since we installed the system in the spring of 1996, we've found that respiratory deaths are almost an exception in the summer and in high dust times," Borck says. "In addition, we can cool the yard 3degrees to 5degrees F on a 95degrees F day.

"We've also been able to maintain consumption on the cattle through the summer and avoid the typical summer drop. It especially benefits the high-stress cattle and those in the sick pen by keeping them cooler."

Borck describes the system much like a computer-controlled golf course watering system, located above ground with 10- to 12-ft. risers. Watering guns the same size as those on a pivot irrigation system deliver water to 90% of the yard's pen space. Borck says the system cost about $25/head capacity.

Good Neighbors This animal management tool was actually installed as part of being a good neighbor. Some residents in the nearby town of Larned had complained that dust and odor from the feedyard were a problem. Since they were part of the community and wanted to continue doing business there, Borck and his team cleared the way to install the system.

"Construction required more than 50,000 ft. of PVC pipe of two to six inches in diameter," Borck says. "In addition there's more than three-quarters of a million feet of underground wiring.

"The system is radio-controlled so we can turn on the water in a particular pen if needed," Borck adds. "We're generally pumping about 600 gal. a minute, running four to six risers at a time in three- to four-minute cycles, watering from the apron to the back alley. It takes about three and a half to four hours to cover the entire yard.

"There are extra benefits, too," Borck says. "We can put an odor control agent in the water through a chemigation system. This gives us great success with controlling the odor level in the yard. Plus, we can run fly spray through the system and control any fly outbreaks we may have."

It's not trouble-free, though.

"Our biggest enemies are lightning and late freezing," he says. "A late freeze can damage diaphragms and boosters, but we've managed to work around that. We've added heavier surge protectors, but any time there's danger of an electrical storm, we physically disconnect the electrical panel."

Other enemies have somewhat retreated, Borck says.

"The community reaction has been very positive. We've actually had letters from residents who've gone to the Department of Health and Environment complimenting us. People are realizing we're trying to be a good neighbor," Borck says.

Let Community Know Now is a prime time to let your community know about the good sides of the feedyard business.

"It's in the interest of business to let people know about the low impact feedyards have on the environment," Waters says. "Put a good PR program in place to tell your story. A lot of what residents may understand is the result of miscommunication. Be responsive. When you're in the coffee shop, let folks know what you do." (Editor's note: See BEEF Feeder, April, 1998 and June, 1998 for public relations tips.

"Be proactive. Work with your associations and market the fact you're environmentally responsible," Waters says. "Don't just do what it takes."

Practical tips on why some handling systems work better than others.

Some cattle handling systems work like well-oiled machines, while others bog down with cattle that constantly balk and turn around.

Fixing crowded, poorly designed systems isn't impossible. In fact, there are usually three basic causes of problems in crowd pens and chutes:

* Distractions, such as a chain hanging down in the chute entrance, that cause balking,

* Poor handling methods, like overloading the crowd pen with too many cattle, and

* Layout mistakes in the crowd pen and chute.

Curved vs. Straight Round crowd pens and curved single file chutes work better than straight ones, but they must be laid out correctly.

A curved chute works more efficiently than a straight one because it prevents cattle from seeing people and other activities at the end of the chute.

A round crowd pen will work better than a straight crowd pen because, as cattle go around a 180degrees turn, they think they're going back to where they came from (see Figures 1 and 2). Round crowd pens should be laid out so cattle make a 180degrees turn as they move through the crowd pen.

The most common mistake is the straight-through layout shown in Figure 3. The advantage of a round crowd pen is lost when cattle move straight through it. When cattle go around the bend as shown in Figures 1 and 2, it takes advantage of their natural behavior. Cattle want to go back to where they came from.

The design in Figure 3 can be improved by changing the angle of the entrance. The dotted line shows how to improve the layout. In places where a 180degrees turn is not possible, use a 90degrees or greater turn. Crowd pens where cattle make a 90degrees turn work better than a straight-through design.

The most common design mistake is dead-ending the curved single file chute. This occurs when the chute is bent too sharply where it joins the crowd pen. An animal standing in the crowd pen must be able to see a minimum of two body lengths up the chute before it turns.

Figures 1 and 2 show good layouts, and Figure 3 shows a dead-end layout. The dotted line on Figure 3 shows how to correct the problem. Cattle movement in Figure 3 can be greatly improved by adding a 10- ft. straight section of single file chute. This will enable cattle standing in the crowd pen to see two to three body lengths up the chute before it turns.

Why is it so important for an animal to be able to see up the chute? Cattle will refuse to go somewhere unless they can see a place to go. The principle of a well-designed, curved single file chute is to show the animal there is a place to go and then take him around the curve.

Another common mistake is making a crowd pen either too big or too small. The ideal radius for a round crowd pen is 12 ft. If a crowd gate longer than 12 ft. is used, the pen will be too big. An 8-ft. gate is too small. Cattle in a crowd pen need room to turn.

The crowd pen and curved chute systems shown in Figures 1 and 2 should be built as shown. Many producers think that efficiency will be improved if the crowd pen is designed so the crowd gate can squeeze the cattle all the way into the chute. If an animal is turned around, handling will become more difficult if you attempt to squeeze the crowd pen space down to nothing.

A system that is designed perfectly will not work if the chute entrance is too dark or the system contains distractions that cause balking. Recently, I visited many feedlots and worked with employees to improve handling. In half of the lots, cattle balked at dangling loose chain ends hanging down in the entrance of the single file chute.

In many feedlots, good cattle movement was impossible until I tied open the anti-backup gate at the entrance of the chute. Anti-backup gates can also be equipped with a remote control rope. Cattle entering the chute will enter more easily if the gate is held open. After they enter, the gate can be closed.

A handling facility in a dark building will also cause balking. Cattle often move more easily in buildings equipped with translucent skylights or translucent panels in the walls. The panels provide bright lighting that is free of shadows.

Cattle often move more easily if the crowd pen and most of the single file chute is located outside the building. Cattle will often balk if the wall of the building is placed at the junction between the crowd pen and the single file chute. A building either has to cover the entire crowd pen and single file chute, or you need a minimum of two body lengths of single file chute protruding outside the building.

It's important that a crowd pen have solid sides and a solid crowd gate. A solid crowd gate is important to prevent cattle from attempting to turn back to where they came from. Man gates must be installed to allow people to escape from charging cattle.

Improve Handling When cattle enter the crowd pen, they should move easily into the single file chute. If the animals balk, either eliminate distractions (such as a closed one-way anti-backup gate) or change where people stand.

The No. 1 rule is never overload the crowd pen. Cattle need room to turn. Fill the crowd pen less than 31/44 full.

Photo 1 shows a round crowd pen that is similar to Figure 1. In this photo, the pen is being used properly. Note that the crowd gate is not pushed up against the cattle. The crowd gate should be used the same way the emergency brake is used in the car: you should almost never have to use it.

The crowd gate in Photo 1 has been left on the first notch and it stays there. If cattle are walking into the chute, don't push them with the crowd gate. The crowd gate should only be used if there are one or two stubborn cattle. Pushing the crowd gate tightly against the cattle makes handling more difficult because animals cannot turn.

The handlers in Photo 1 are using sticks with plastic flags on them to move cattle. The man in the dark shirt has his flag on the ground so cattle don't see it. He's also standing back far enough so cattle move easily. Cattle sometimes move more easily into the single file chute if the handler works fairly close to the chute entrance.

Photo 2 shows a person moving cattle into the single file chute by moving on the catwalk. He walks forward to reduce jamming at the entrance and moves backwards, away from the entrance, to speed up the cattle. The handler should not move into this position until cattle have started to enter the single file chute. Cattle may refuse to approach the chute entrance if a person is standing near it.

Cattle movement into the single file chute will be more efficient if handlers wait until the chute is partially empty before attempting to fill it. This takes advantage of natural following behavior. If there is space, cattle can walk directly into the chute. Also, if the chute is full, cattle in the crowd pen are more likely to turn around. The crowd pen should be used as a pass-through pen to induce cattle to enter the chute.

Why & How AI Pays: Smart breeding Part II

In my July BEEF article, page 10, I attempted to show on a cost basis why beef producers should consider the use of AI, in addition to breeding with a bull. On average, even with consideration of a worst-case-scenario, the cost per pregnancy for AI - regardless of the system employed - is comparable to breeding with a bull.

Even if a rancher is using a bull costing as little as $1,750, the poorest AI results with Co-Sync (50% AI success) and/or Syncro-Mate B (45% AI success) produce pregnancies with a cost only $12.34 and $4.64, respectively, over that of breeding naturally. When using a bull with an initial cost of $2,750 or more, any and/or all AI systems described in that article will produce pregnancies at a lower cost.

I'm not suggesting everyone sell their entire bull battery and go to AI exclusively. Nor am I naive enough to suggest AI is for everyone.

The AI systems I described each take careful planning and implementation. The selection and purchase of top-quality semen from a proven top performing bull is time consuming. Though AI can be done in any environment with any breed of cattle in just about any facilities, the herd and the management team must be up to the task. A rancher must have the end in mind before even beginning the process.

If a comparable, if not lower, cost per pregnancy isn't enough of a motivating factor for you to consider AI, here are some of the positive production efficiency factors I've experienced.

What Has AI Done For Me Today? On a large operation in the Southeast we used Syncro-Mate B on thousands of cows annually. Each year we sent nearly all the resulting AI steers (500-1,500) and the top performing natural service produced steers (300-1,000) to the feedlot. The steers were sorted by breed, AI sire and those produced by natural service. They were then fed by groups.

The AI-produced calves consistently had a cost of gain that was $15-25/cwt. less than the natural service steers. Normally, we sent the steers to the feedlot at 675-750 lbs. to be killed at 1,200-1,250 lbs. Therefore, the cattle would gain some 500 lbs. in the feedlot.

Cost of Gain (COG): Production Efficiency Savings from AI: 500 lbs. gain X $20/cwt. average COG reduction = $100/steer

Faster Finish = Less Interest Cost

We also noticed the AI-produced steers finished 45-75 days earlier than natural service steers, reducing our opportunity costs. Let's assume a steer value at the end of the feeding period of $759.50 (1,225 X $62/cwt.) and opportunity cost of 8.25%.

Opportunity Cost: Production efficiency savings from AI: $759.50/steer X 8.25% for an average of 60 days = $10.44/AI steer

Carcass Premiums In evaluating the carcasses, our AI-produced steers average 64% Choice or better while the bull produced steers were only 32% Choice or better. Using grid pricing from Beef America (week of June 26) where the basis is a Choice YG 3 we can calculate the production efficiency bonus of the 32% improvement with AI.

Let's assume the 32% improvement was all in the basis of Choice YG 3s as compared to Select YG 1. On the previously mentioned grid, the price differential was $6.25/cwt. Let's also assume 725-lb. carcasses. Therefore, if we had 100 head of natural service steers and 100 head of AI-produced steers, what's the AI production efficiency premium?

Quality Beef Premium: Production Efficiency Premium from AI: 32 additional 725 lb.-Choice quality carcasses at $6.25/cwt. spread overthe entire group of 100 head = $14.50/AI steer.

In essence, the 32 extra Choice quality steers added a total of $1,450 to the set of 100 steers. It must be noted that there would be additional YG 2s and more Prime quality carcasses, etc., not accounted for in this example.

Total Added Monies: The cumulative production efficiency bonus from AI in this herd was $124.94/steer.

I had similar results in a large Angus herd in Nebraska where we have been using AI for several years and are now slaughtering steers produced by AI out of AI-produced cows. By using 11/42 and 31/44 sisters to produce 31/44 and 71/48 brother steers (using one AI sire in each case), we have virtually eliminated the outlier (discount) animals.

This herd not only went from 70% Choice or better, with YG 3s and 4s to 95.5% Choice or better and YG 2.76, but we also eliminated all YG 4s and all Standards and nearly all Select grade cattle (only 4.5% Select).

In addition, cost of gain was reduced by $16/cwt. And, average slaughter age dropped from 19 months to 13 months, thus providing additional feed savings over the longer period.

Premium Replacement Heifers One of my Sandhills clients produces top quality F-1 black baldie heifers out of his straight Hereford cows using better than average Black Angus bulls. He usually bred his top heifers each year with Angus bulls and then sold them.

I talked him into utilizing an MGA - Prostaglandin AI program. We sorted the AI bred heifers from the natural service heifers with ultrasound, then sold both groups.

The AI bred heifers averaged $125/head more than the bull bred heifers. Is that $125 premium too much, or too little, when you consider the fact that the first calf could garnish you a minimum of $124.94-154.19 in AI production efficiency bonus dollars?

On another ranch where AI-produced females were AI bred and sold at an area heifer sale, the AI-produced and AI-bred females brought $1,000/head and $250/head more, respectively, than similar black heifers from another reputation herd bred with bulls naturally and sold the same day.

Uniformity: The Economic Mystery The greatest benefit from AI breeding that is difficult to place a dollar figure on is uniformity. With AI, all females can and should be bred to one bull. The next year, they will in turn produce calves that are all half brothers and sisters, which will lead to a more uniform calf crop. If the rancher then takes the 11/42 sisters and breeds them all to one bull, they in turn will produce calves which are 31/44 brothers and sisters - even greater uniformity.

What is the biggest problem we have in the beef industry? Lack of a uniform, high-quality product. Why? Because we're breeding mongrels to mongrels.

With AI, a rancher can solve this lack of uniformity problem in one to two generations. Try it and see what a whole set of half brothers and sisters look like in your weaning pen.

I'll show you a herd of 3,300 head in Nebraska that is now made up of 71/48 brothers and sisters. Look for yourself and see if you can't see the difference genotype uniformity makes in phenotype appearance.

Al's Bottom Line The bottom line is that AI can produce pregnancies for a cost ($30.50-39.25/pregnancy) at or below that of breeding with a bull ($29.26-46.50/pregnancy) - even when the cost of semen goes beyond the analyzed $6/unit.

AI is especially cost effective when the cost of bulls gets above $2,500.

With a production efficiency bonus of over $100/AI-produced calf, it almost doesn't matter what you pay for semen, though I encourage everyone to perform a strong price discovery search. In fact, even if you double the cost of semen to $12/unit, it will only increase the cost per pregnancy 30-40%, depending on the AI system.

Therefore, rather than $30.50-39.25 you might be looking at AI pregnancy costs of $39.65-54.95, which is still comparable to breeding natural service with a bull.

My conclusion: Artificial insemination costs less and pays more.

Steady feeder prices ahead

The cattle market moved down in July with fed cattle losing $3/cwt. Choice Amarillo slaughter steer prices dipped into the $50s toward the final weeks but held at $59.

Feeder cattle and calves also gave up some firmness in line with the feds. The price weakness for feeders was about the same, but the heavier feeders were able to hang on to prices somewhat better than lightweights.

Price Reporting The Senate Ag Appropriation Bill offered in mid-July would require mandatory price reporting on sales of cattle and beef products. The price-discovery provision would set up a three-year pilot project requiring any buyer, seller or marketer to report sales of livestock and meat to the USDA. Currently, most transactions are private and reporters obtain only voluntary price information.

Both the American Meat Institute and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association lobbied against the reporting proposal as an unfair intrusion into private business. They argued that most live cattle and boxed beef prices are reported publicly now.

In a related move, the Senate agreed that beef and lamb should be labeled as domestic or imported. Currently, these products are designated by their country of origin when entering the U.S. Once processed, however, there's no such labeling requirement.

Most cattlemen would probably favor both of these new regulations. The expanded price reporting seems logical because it would gather a lot more information than is now available.

Ironically, livestock price reporting has been severely curtailed in recent years by USDA and state governments to save money. As a result, many industry organizations have picked up this service and now either sell it or include it as a perk to their membership.

Such a change, therefore, would require a greatly altered attitude on the part of both the organizations and the government. If it does fly, you can expect a considerably larger amount of additional money being spent on price reporting and a much greater government involvement in a business that prides itself on being independent.

The question of labeling imported meat is another story. While it sounds great, remember there are many American consumers who eagerly seek out foreign products to buy. This labeling effort could backfire.

USDA released its mid-year cattle inventory in July. The report indicates a 2% decline in the number of cattle and calves on farms and ranches in the U.S., compared to a year ago. The 107-million-head total was 2 million less than last July and is the second year of lower numbers.

While the January 1 inventory is traditionally used to determine the phase of the cattle cycle, this latest data suggests another year of liquidation. Beef cows fell 2%, while heifers held as replacements dropped 6%. This indicates a substantially reduced breeding herd in 1999.

The calf crop for 1998 is estimated at 37.9 million head, down 2% from last year. Actually, that statistic is only 800,000 head smaller than a year ago. In comparison, the 1997 calf crop was down slightly over 1 million head. Even though expectations are to produce 2% fewer calves in the second half of 1998, Texas drought conditions may cut even deeper into the calf crop.

Cattle Feeding The July 1 cattle feeding report recorded 9.2 million head of cattle and calves on feed in the U.S. in feedlots with capacities of 1,000 head or more. That's a 2% gain over a year ago but 6% less than the month-earlier level. The largest state gain was reported in Texas with a 9% increase. Oklahoma gained 7% and Nebraska 4%.

June fed-cattle marketings were 2 million head, almost exactly the same as a year ago and up slightly from the month earlier. (Note that the marketings figure for May in the table of last month's column had an error. The 1997 level should have been 2.06 million and the 1998 level was 1.95 million, representing a 5% decline.)

Forecast equations predict marketings to be near the 2 million-head level for July, then drop sharply. Projections for August and September are 1.8 million head. This should be very encouraging for the fed market.

Cattle and calves placed on feed in June were 1.6 million head, up 8% from a year ago but down 23% from a month earlier. The largest gain was in Texas - a 16% increase. Nebraska rose 9%.

The June placements were primarily heavier weight feeders. Each weight grouping was larger than a year ago except the lightest class - less than 600 lbs. This same relationship existed when comparing the weight group placements to the month-earlier levels.

The 800-lb.-or-more weight group rose 28% from a year ago. Texas reported a 92% increase in such heavy weight feeders placed on feed in June.

Feedlots continue to emphasize heavier weight animals in their placements. The result is heavier weight finished cattle. The average slaughter weight of cattle in the Texas-Oklahoma Panhandle rose to 1,184 lbs. in mid-July, 23 lbs. more than a year ago.

What's Next The projected decrease in feedlot marketings for the next few months could help fed-cattle prices. It should at least stop a further weakness in the market and may even allow some price strength.

The drought situation in Texas is not likely to cause any short-run supply problems. It may force some early ranch sales and, therefore, might affect cow beef slaughter. The impact upon feedlot sales, however, should be minimal. In the long run, the extra movement of heifers into feedlots will likely cause some increased fed-beef supplies.

Three things may weigh heavily upon the fall feeder market:

* Continued feedlot losses will likely decrease replacement demand just when larger sales of calves are under way.

* A lack of real strength in fed cattle will make it difficult to get feedlots too excited about refilling pens.

* While feedlot breakevens are dropping, they still remain in the high $60/cwt. levels, limiting profits unless fed-cattle prices strengthen substantially ..

In contrast, certain factors are reducing the number of available feeder animals. The 1998 calf crop is estimated to be off 2% and could be lower due to drought in Texas. Fall calf movement may be further reduced by early sales due to drought. That would not only reduce numbers but could force calves into the lighter weight classifications.

Altogether, these factors should allow feeder prices to maintain their current levels into the fall. That would be quite different from the seasonal pattern traditionally displayed by feeders, and it could be quite favorable to ranchers.