Laramie Agenda Addresses Brucellosis In Elk And Bison

The United States Animal Health Association (USAHA) and the University of Wyoming (UW) announced the availability of the Laramie Agenda that addresses brucellosis in free ranging elk and bison. The document is based on the findings of a three-day working symposium held at UW in August 16-18. The invited scientific experts at the working symposium addressed the research needs for vaccines, vaccine delivery systems and diagnostic tools for use in battling brucellosis.

The nation is at a crossroads regarding brucellosis, says USAHA immediate past president Rick Willer, who appointed the special committee that planned the working symposium.

"We have to make an investment in research for better tools to successfully address this disease in elk and bison," Willer says.

Current USAHA President Bret Marsh, chair of the special committee appointed by Willer, says that "although the decision is difficult, the choice is clear. USAHA firmly believes we can eliminate this disease providing we make the investment in the needed research now."

UWs vice president for research and economic development, William Gern, announced the university's commitment to help form a consortium of federal, state, university and private researchers to oversee and coordinate the 10-year research agenda.

"We have to ensure that the research is coordinated to guarantee productivity and deliverables," Gern says. "We believe the University of Wyoming is in an ideal position to take the lead in establishing the consortium since Wyoming is perhaps the state most impacted by brucellosis in wildlife."

The last remaining reservoir of brucellosis is elk and bison in the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA). Brucellosis can spill over to cattle from infected elk and bison resulting in a significant economic impact on the cattle industry in the states surrounding the GYA, as has been seen in Wyoming and Idaho. It can also have an impact on the nation's cattle industry as a whole due to international marketing restrictions. To access the technical report and Laramie Agenda, see

For more information go to: (
-- Clint Peck

CAB Changes Some Carcass Specifications

In place of the yield grade(YG) requirement, Certified Angus Beef (CAB) is putting a carcass weight limit of 1,000 lbs and a ribeye area (REA) range of 10"-16". CAB has not announced the new fat thickness limit as of yet, but this is expected to be announce in fairly short order.

This change is expected to narrow up the ranges of CAB product ever so slightly. CAB's press release estimated that 6% of the product that currently qualifies for CAB would no longer qualify, but they also will pick up product that previously would have failed to make the YG 3 cutoff.

This change will likely create a whole lot of discussion for people both setting priorities for their breeding programs. It is a first step toward what our customers have been saying for quite some time that consistency and uniformity may be a priority over such things as cutability and quality grade. Cynics will point out that a 1,000 lb carcass weight is not exactly small nor is a 10"-16" REA range. And, once the fat thickness spec is announced the new spec will embrace hot carcass weight, REA and fat thickness which were the same drivers in the YG system. This might be perceived as aimed more at increasing the percent acceptance of CAB than it is anything else.

The new specifications should lop off the extremely small- or overly large-REA cattle that have qualified and should make the product more consistent from a size standpoint, if perhaps a little more variable from a cutability standpoint.

The magnitude of the change initially may be rather small, but it is a significant step when the largest branded beef program rejects the established YG system. And, while not saying that consistency or uniformity is more important than cutability the reality is that excess fat is a cost to the system. But, something that's largely removed before it reaches the consumer. The consistency issue is something that the consumer, retailer, restaurateur, and wholesaler are dealing with every day.
-- Troy Marshall

Horse Slaughter Ban Goes Into The Final Rounds

As expected H.R. 503, the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, passed the U.S. House and will try to ride that momentum to passage in the Senate, which has defeated similar measures in the past. Proponents of the bill tried to move quickly in the Senate by attempting to bring it to the floor without going through the normal committee process.

The cattle, pig, poultry, and lamb industries have rightly seen this bill as alarming, as it bans the processing of animals for reasons other than science, safety or public health. It adversely affects property rights of livestock owners, and a disturbing trend that is yet another measure based on emotion and not science.

The horse industry has also responded with the understanding that this is a useful management option. Veterinarians have come out in strong opposition seeing horse processing as a way to keep horses from suffering, starving and mistreatment. The economic studies are also well documented, with the average value of a horse falling by over $300, and with the average cost of keeping a horse before vet expenses approaching $2,400 it is obvious that many owners will not be able to sustain a horse and bury them properly when they have outlived their usefulness.

The animal rights movement was correct in assuming that the emotion created with people's natural bond with horses that places them more in the role of companion animals than livestock was the place to launch this attack. While the overwhelming majority of agriculture organizations have come out in strong opposition to this bill, public sentiment would be solidly in favor. The animal rights movement has done a tremendous job of organizing their supporter who are absolutely overwhelming the opponents to this ban in contacting their elected officials.
-- Troy Marshall

Checkoff Changes Are In Order

The Checkoff Task Force recommendations would help to increase understanding of the checkoff and should give producers a better understanding of the program while making it more inclusive. The adjustment of the checkoff rate is obviously needed with inflation and expenses, a dollar is simply inadequate. However, the recommended change to $2 would require a referendum vote, and the question will be will the industry act on these recommendations. R-CALF USA opposed the recommendation to increase the checkoff increase which passed 11-4.

Referendums are expensive for the industry and take up a lot of resources that need to be directed elsewhere. The 10% signature requirement is essential to eliminating a never ending string of referendum. That said, the $1 checkoff fee has been inadequate for quite some time, and the $2 will be inadequate at some point in the future as well. If the industry is (and it hasn't done anything in this direction yet) going to hold a referendum on raising the checkoff fee to $2/head, then they should do it so that referendums will not need to be held in the future.

Instead of voting for $2 head, we should be asked to vote on a new formula for deriving the checkoff fee that would take into account cattle prices, inflation and the like. An adjusted fee basis such as this would make it so the collection fee would not have to be readjusted on a regulated basis. The only controversial recommendation will be the increase in the checkoff.
-- Troy Marshall

Importers To Pay Less In Checkoff Fees

Meanwhile... a new final rule starting Sept. 15 will allow U.S. beef importers to pay lower checkoff fees. The checkoff, in addition to the $1/head fee assessed on animals sold in the U.S., also assesses fees on imported beef based on the amount imported and the average weight of cattle carcasses.

The change raises the average weight to 592 lbs., up from 509 lbs. That means the Checkoff program will collect about $1 million less than expected for the rest of 2006, according to Kenneth Payne, USDA chief of marketing programs.
-- Clint Peck

Checkoff Task Force Issues Recommendations

The long awaited report included four recommendations for strengthening the beef checkoff program. The recommendations are:

  • An opportunity to petition for a referendum. The beef referendum process should be revised to provide producers the opportunity to petition every five years for a referendum on continuing the checkoff. Ten percent of beef producers signing the petition at county offices will trigger the USDA to conduct a vote within a year. This is similar to the soybean referendum model.
  • An adjustment of the checkoff rate. To assure strong demand-building initiatives for the beef industry in the future and to offset 20 years of inflation, adjust the per head checkoff rate to $2. The 50-50 split between state beef councils and Cattlemen's Beef Board would remain the same. The industry will need to approve any checkoff rate change through a referendum.
  • Enhanced understanding of the Federation of State Beef Councils. The Federation of State Beef Councils gives priority to enhancing its identity in order to strengthen beef industry stakeholder understanding of the Federation. Options such as changing its name from The Federation Division to The Beef Checkoff Federation could be considered.
  • Making the checkoff more inclusive. Any reference to the charter date of established national non-profit industry governed organizations be eliminated from definition (1260.113c) in the Beef Promotion and Research Order. This will make the checkoff program more inclusive.
The task force had 18 members representing all of the major industry groups, and the recommendations all passed by at least a 2/3 vote of the Task Force. These recommendations will now be presented to national and state beef organizations.
-- Troy Marshall

Sign Up Now For BEEF Quality Summit, Nov. 14-15

Sign up now at for BEEF magazine's 2006 BEEF Quality Summit. The Nov. 14-15 workshop in Oklahoma City's Clarion Hotel aims to provide attendees with the background, tools and the environment to make the connections for involvement, and the potential rewards offered, in the new beef-value chain.

The first day's program is devoted to outlining the opportunity available in the new beef-value chain, the second to how to link your production into that chain. Among the topics to be discussed are:

  • How U.S. beef consumers define quality.
  • Quality, profit and the cattle cycle.
  • International competition and opportunities for U.S. quality beef.
  • Current international beef-trade opportunities.
  • Producers will discuss how they're paid for quality.
  • Selecting a marketing partner.
  • Evaluating costs, trade-offs and risks of various markets
  • Linking up with a marketing partner -- an opportunity to meet with participating marketing channel reps.
For more detail, visit and click on the " BEEF Quality Summit" box in the top right corner of the opening page.

Look Hard At DDG Prices Soon

As increased ethanol production grows the supply of dried distillers grains (DDG), the need to manage the prices of these feed co-products is also rising.

"Spot market purchase volumes may be limited due to storage considerations (particularly for wetter products), but buyers could talk with their suppliers about locking in prices for the future for routine deliveries," says Darrell Mark, University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) ag economist, in the most recent "In the Cattle Markets" newsletter published by UNL and Kansas State University. "Additionally, new research is exploring ways to store distiller's grains that may make stockpiling supplies more feasible.

"The seasonal trend is for DDG prices to peak in mid-April and decline throughout the summer. Seasonal lows typically occur in August at about 80% of the annual average. DDG prices then increase through the fall and early winter months to peak in December and January close to 20% higher than their annual average."

According to Mark, this is based on seasonal price index of DDG using USDA Ag Marketing Service weekly reported prices for Nebraska from 2003-2005. He stresses that long series of price data on wet and dry distiller's grains to analyze are limited, and prices that are available may be thinly traded or not necessarily representative of actual trades made between ethanol plants and cattle feeders or feed buyers. Still, he says it's useful to consider trends in these feed products.

Further, Mark explains, "As ethanol production continues to rapidly increase, the availability of DDG and wet distillers grains will increase. Thus, co-product feed prices may not see as large a seasonal increase in the third and fourth quarter of upcoming years as suggested in the table. In fact, the DDG price increase was much smaller for 2004 and 2005 than for 2003.

So, in this ever-changing co-product market, prices may not increase in late 2006 as much as the historical trend suggests. But, this will likely differ greatly across localized markets depending upon the relative supply and demand for the distillers grain products."

For some added perspective on ethanol growth, a recent visit to North Dakota revealed to us: currently there are two ethanol plants in the state producing approximately 35 million gals. of ethanol; within 18 months current construction calls for a total of six or seven plants producing 10 times that much!

You can find Mark's complete report at

Mycoplasma Management Reminders -- Part I

With the fall run of calves knocking at the door, it pays to keep in mind management associated with a decreased incidence of mycoplasma (non-responsive pneumonia and arthritis). As Kansas State University researchers noted in the mycoplasma survey they conducted among stockers and backgrounders in 2001, "As mycoplasma appears to be an opportunist occurring most frequently during times of stress or when a calf's immune system is weakened, management programs should focus on procedures that can get calves started in the right direction."

  • Watch your cattle buying practices. Are you going to buy large numbers of cattle and find cattle free of mycoplasma? Probably not. The organism is too wide spread. As a simple recommendation, know your order buyer. Cattle represented as cheap and "too good to be true" probably aren't in the long run. Buying stale, stressed calves increases the likelihood of having cattle that respond poorly to treatment. A significant finding from the survey was cattle-buying practices do increase the risk of having cattle with non-responsive pneumonia and arthritis.

    Yes, there's a difference between lightweight and heavyweight cattle. Lightweight cattle are at greater risk, but you obviously still must buy what fits your program and pocketbook. Minimizing the number of states you buy cattle from or at least sourcing cattle from a single order-buying facility, regardless of the state or region of origin, appears to help in reducing loads of affected cattle. This appears particularly important for cattle brought in during winter months.

  • Buy what you can handle. It takes a pretty good workday for one or two people to feed, check pens for sick calves, and pull and treat those calves. Add into the mix days when you process a load or two, and it's not hard to see why everything begins to stack up.

    Cattle should be fed and observed for sickness first thing in the morning. Watching how calves rise and come to the bunk goes a long way in picking up sick animals. Waiting until later in the day is a problem, particularly if there's a wide difference in temperature from morning to afternoon, since most calves will have increased respiratory rates that can mask signs of early pneumonia.

    Additionally, cattle appear to better handle the stress of handling for treatment and processing earlier in the day than later in the afternoon or evening (Breazile, 1988). Leaving sick calves for treatment until everything else is done prolongs the time from when a calf actually gets sick and when the drugs begin to work. Because mycoplasma is an opportunist, extensive lung damage resulting from delayed or ineffective treatment of common pneumonia-causing organisms may increase the likelihood of mycoplasma invading the lungs.

  • Vaccinate for common respiratory pathogens. Again, mycoplasma is an opportunist. Doing all you can to minimize common respiratory viruses such as infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR), BVD, Parainfluenza 3 (PI3) and bovine respiratory syncytial virus (BRSV) from occurring will decrease the likelihood of damage to the respiratory tract and debilitation.

    As clinical cases of BVD have been associated with increased risk to mycoplasma infection, a BVD vaccine component should be used in the receiving program. Based on survey results, whether a modified-live or killed BVD vaccine was used, no particular vaccine program appeared to have an advantage over another.

    Based on the survey results, Pasteurella vaccines are currently being used in a large number of stocker operations. There was no statistical difference in the number of operations with affected loads of cattle using this type of vaccine and those that don't.

  • Minimize contact between arriving cattle and sick pen cattle. Large numbers of mycoplasma organisms are shed from nasal secretions of sick calves. Exposing new cattle to the unnecessary risk of contact with the organism should be avoided. Utilize separate sick pens and receiving or holding pens. Clean and disinfect hospital pen waterers daily.

    Moreover, water fountains are a source of infection for calves that are sick from other causes besides mycoplasma and for incoming cattle being exposed to the organism through these and common handling facilities. Since the organism can stay viable in water for extended periods of time, drain, clean, sanitize and rinse waterers daily. Disinfectant solutions of peracetic acid and iodophores have been shown to be effective against mycoplasma ((Pfutzner and Sachse, 1996). These products are commercially available in the U.S. Hypochlorides tend to be ineffective because of the prolonged contact time needed to kill the organism.
Find more recommendations and survey info at

Korea Opens To U.S. Beef

Though it seems anticlimactic after almost three years, Korea's announcement last Thursday to resume importing U.S. beef on a limited basis is a crucial step in normalizing beef trade. The ban is lifted on only boneless beef derived from cattle 30 months old or younger.

"While this still doesn't represent a full resumption of trade, it does provide access to significant value for U.S. producers," say National Cattlemen's Beef Association officials. "In 2003, the U.S. exported around $814 million worth of beef to South Korea, and boneless beef cuts accounted for nearly $450 million of this total."

USDA Secretary Mike Johanns, says, "We look forward to expanding our access to the Korean market and other export markets to achieve trade consistent with international guidelines... We're mindful that significant technical issues exist that must be resolved. We'll continue to work with Korea to address these matters in the coming days."