It's Both A Sellers And Buyers Market

One thing you have to love about high calf markets and scarce forage -- at least they're opening up some value propositions on the buy side.

"Cow-Calf producers from Missouri, northern Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska and the Dakotas are selling their calves early and at lighter weights in an attempt to salvage enough forage for their mothers," say Ag Marketing Service (AMS) reporters. "Many of these calves possess less added-value than normal, with producers weaning en route to the sale barn. Also, a larger percentage of the smaller operators are leaving bulls uncut and shots un-given. The feeder market is hard for sellers to resist, with handsome prices for calves and near record levels for yearlings."

In round numbers, feeder and stocker cattle sold firm to $3 higher last week, boosted by fed-cattle prices the prior week that surpassed $90 for the first time since February. Added strength came with recent moisture in parts of wheat-pasture country, and the psychological lift of South Korea agreeing to resume importing U.S. beef.

According to AMS, "Ample recent moisture in the hard red winter-wheat regions has backgrounders excited about early grazing as farmers are hustling to sow fields. Orders increased for 250- to 450-lb. calves bound for southern Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas Panhandle starter yards for a quick 30-day warm up."

As for the fed-cattle market, gains in boxed-beef prices helped feeders hold pat last week, refusing packer bids they deemed too low.

"Late Friday, managers of mostly current feedlots continued to refuse lower packer bids and significant trading appeared doubtful with October CME contracts settling $1.40 lower at $92.35," say AMS analysts.

The summary below reflects the week ended Sept. 8 for Medium and Large 1 -- 500- to 550-lb., 600- to 650-lb., and 700- to 750-lb. feeder heifers and steers (unless otherwise noted). The list is arranged in descending order by auction volume and represents sales reported in the weekly USDA National Feeder and Stocker Cattle Summary:

Summary Table
State Volume Steers Heifers
Calf Weight 500-550 lbs. 600-650 lbs. 700-750 lbs. 500-550 lbs. 600-650 lbs. 700-750 lbs.
TX 24,700 $119.90 $113.41 $107.04 $114.22 $105.74 $102.10
MO 21,300 $135.91 $132.53 $125.60 $123.04 $119.15 $117.28
KY* 15,300 $119-129 $109-118 $105-1145 $108-118 $100-110 $95-1055
OK 14,300 $130.60 $120.87 $123.42 $118.74 $115.53 $111.47
AL 12,700 $118-126 $110-117 $100-1075 $104-112 $98-107 $92-98
WY* 12,500 $136.21 $125.97 $121.10 $121.83 $124.00 $115.18
TN* 9,100 $122.29 $114.02 $108.53 $111.27 $103.44 $102.834
Dakotas 8,700
South Dakota
North Dakota






MS* 7,900 $110-1201 $100-1103 ** $105-1101 $95-105 $90-954
GA*(***) 7,700 $103-129 $100-117.25 $96-105 $90-117 $95-108 $86-99.50
AR 7,400 $124.80 $116.24 $111.30 $114.94 107.39 $102.66
IA 6,500 $141.50 $134.33 $130.53 $133.67 $120.39 $116.65
FL* 6,100 $105-124 $97-112 $91-102 $100-110 $95-106 $95-1034
LA* 5,500 $113-123 $105-1153 ** $105-116 $101-111 **
NE 5,000 $138.83 $137.152 $122.64 $129.56 $119.512 $118.27
CO 4,000 $138.77 $128.302 ** $123.41 $119.642 **
NM* 3,500 $122.56 ** ** $116.38 $109.57 **
Carolinas* 2,700 $107-128 $100-1153 $94-1065 $100-113 $94-1063 $85-99.505
VA 1,600 $121.192 $113.76 $108.10 $111.352 $104.56 **
WA* 1,500 $126.28 ** ** ** ** **
MT 1,400 $131.96 ** $117.546 ** ** $112.97
KS 800 ** ** ** $120.162 ** $113.38

* Plus 2
** None reported at this weight or near weight
(***) Steers and bulls
NDNo Description
1500-600 lbs.
2550-600 lbs.
3600-700 lbs.
4650-700 lbs.
5700-800 lbs.
6750-800 lbs.
7800-850 lbs.

Some Rain -- Finally!

It doesn't change anything for cow-calf operations that shipped cows months ago, but the rain that fell in some of the most parched states -- the first measurable precipitation in months -- sure has some folks thinking about the prospects of fall grazing.

According to the National Ag Statistics Service (NASS), pasture conditions actually improved in some of the driest states for the first time since last year. That doesn't mean it's not horrible, just that it's heading in the right direction.

In part due to remnants of tropical storms Ernesto and John, the folks at NASS explain, "Light to moderate rainfall across much of the Corn Belt and Great Plains helped to improve soil-moisture levels and crop conditions."

At the risk of being a spoilsport, last summer ended on a wet note, too. Moisture conditions were more favorable then before the rain set in then stopped.

According to NASS, for the week ending Sept. 3:

  • Corn -- 97% is at or beyond the Dough Stage, compared to 96% last year and 92% for the five-year average. Doughing was at or ahead of normal in all states. 81% has entered the Dent Stage, which is 4% ahead of last year and 14% ahead of average. 59% is rated Good or better, compared to 51% last year.
  • Soybeans -- 13% of the acreage was dropping leaves, the same as last year but 1% ahead of normal. 59% is rated Good or better; 54% was at the same time last year.
  • Spring Wheat -- 97% of the crop is in the bin, which is 9% ahead of last year and 17% ahead of the five-year average.
  • Barley -- Harvest advanced to 93% complete, compared to 87% at this time last year and 83% for normal.
  • Sorghum -- 94% of the acreage is in the heading stage, which is 1% behind last year but 2% ahead of normal. 62% was at or beyond turning color, 2% ahead of last year but the same as average. 30% is ranked Good or better, compared to 47% last year.
  • Pasture -- 24% is rated Good or Excellent, compared to 34 last year. 24% is rated Poor and 23% is ranked Very Poor, compared to 22% and 12% respectively at the same time last year.
States with the worst pasture conditions -- at least 40% of the acreage rated poor or worse -- include: Alabama (67%); Arizona (67%); Arkansas (49%); California (65%); Colorado (42%); Georgia (46%); Kansas (50%); Louisiana (45%) ; Mississippi (49%); Missouri (64%); Montana (48%); Nebraska (65%); Nevada (58%); North Dakota (61%); Oklahoma (74%); OR (49%); South Dakota (56%); Texas (78%); and Wyoming (73%).

States with the lushest pasture conditions -- at least 40% rated good or better -- include: Florida (40%); Idaho (41%); Illinois (58%); Indiana (59%); Iowa (50%); Kentucky (60%); Maine (89%); Michigan (52%); New Mexico (66%); New York (66%); North Carolina (54%); Ohio (53%); South Carolina (51%); Utah (47%); Washington (46%); West Virginia (48%); and Wisconsin (44%).

USAHA Annual Meeting Set For Minneapolis

The Laramie Agenda as well as other animal health and welfare issues affecting the nation's livestock industries will be addressed at the 110th annual meeting of USAHA held in conjunction with the 49th Annual Conference of the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians (AAVLD) at the Minneapolis Hilton, Oct. 12-18.

USAHA, the nation's animal health forum for more than a century, is a science-based, national organization of state and federal animal health agencies, international animal health agencies, state and federal wildlife agencies, national allied organizations, district representatives and individual members. AAVLD is a national organization that coordinates animal disease diagnostic activities of regulatory, research and service laboratories, and disseminates information relating to diagnosis of animal diseases.

In addition to the joint scientific session, there are scheduled meetings of USAHA's 33 species- and subject-oriented science-based committees and more than 20 supporting industry and professional organizations. At its Annual Conference, AAVLD will hold 11 scientific sessions, 5 symposiums, and 29 committee and subcommittee meetings.

Information on the USAHA annual meeting is available at
-- Clint Peck

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

Agroterrorism Symposium Is Sept. 25-29 In Kansas City

The 2006 International Symposium on Agroterrorism is Sept. 25-29 at the Westin Crown Center in Kansas City, MO. Sponsored by the FBI and the Heart of America Joint Terrorism Task Force, it offers detailed discussion of topics and issues related to food defense and security. For more info and registration, visit
-- Joe Roybal

Ranch Management: Quick Tips For Easier Calf Weaning

weaning beef calf best practices

Vaccine best-practices

Once weaning time is here, keep Beef Quality Assurance guidelines top of mind. Here are some basic vaccine-handling precautions to ensure effectiveness of the vaccine:

  1. Read the label.
  2. Purchase fresh vaccines and store them in a refrigerator. Never use an outdated drug or vaccine.
  3. Modified-live vaccine (MLV) begins to lose effectiveness after about an hour, so don't mix too much vaccine at one time. Because direct sunlight also degrades products, keep vaccines and syringes in a cooler when working cattle.
  4. Don't use the same syringe to inject MLV and killed products. A trace of killed product can harm MLV product effectiveness.

After calves are weaned and being backgrounded, monitor the calves for signs of cattle diseases. Gerald Stokka, former Kansas State University Extension beef veterinarian and current Pfizer senior veterinarian, says in most cases the cause of treatment failure is not treating an animal early enough during the course of the illness.

"It's important to recognize the behavior of healthy animals," Stokka says. For instance, healthy animals should be bright-eyed, have a good hair coat, demonstrate curiosity, and be grooming themselves and others.


Appetite can also be a big indicator.

"Bunk management is critical. A lot of times with high-performing calves, the temptation is to feed the daylights out of them. But we can push calves too much and create respiratory disease by the way we feed them. So it's important to monitor historical feed intakes," he says.

Monitor for sickness

Calves with droopy ears, dull haircoats, poor appetites, runny eyes and nose should be pulled, have their temp taken and be further evaluated and treated if necessary. Stokka says 101.5° F. is the normal temp for a calf. However, in feeding situations, up to 103° can be considered normal because environmental temps can influence rectal temps of calves. Thus, on a hot day, calves might have a slightly higher temperature.

To gauge an animal's response, monitoring temp alone after treatment isn't enough because a fever may persist for a few days after treatment. Instead, weight gain is one of the most important things to pay attention to. (Thus, it's a good idea to have scales on your chute.)

"If the animal is back on feed and gaining after treatment, that's the best indicator," Stokka says.

Parasites can also suppress appetite and the immune system, so ensure parasite control is part of the health program both at the ranch and in the feedyard, he adds.



Other popular articles at BEEF:

9 Tips For Preventing Pasture Bloat In Cattle

8 Biosecurity Tips For Your Cowherd

Cows Out On Pasture | 80+ Grazing Photos From Readers

What's The Best Time To Castrate Calves? Vets Agree The Earlier The Better

5 Tips For Minimizing Heat Stress In Cattle

Considering Early Weaning? Here's Some Advice


Put Hay To Work For Feed, Shelter & Fuel Savings

For the past seven years, Mike Moon has had his winter-feed supply working for him three ways -- as winter feed, as animal shelter and as a fuel-saving measure.

Since 1998, the manager of the John E. Rouse Beef Improvement Center near Saratoga, WY, has stacked more than 2,000 tons of large, round bales in giant "V" shapes pointed directly into the prevailing winter winds. The hay serves as winter feed for the Colorado State University (CSU) facility's 400 commercial Angus cows and yearlings. But the stacking method also helps stabilize the cattle's nutritional requirements by providing them with shelter from chilly winter winds. Plus, the V shape makes snowed-in haystacks a thing of the past.

Moon sets the giant, V-shaped walls of large round bales in his winter-grazing areas. He stacks the bales two deep and two high to a height of about 12 ft. The bottom rows stand vertically and the top rows lay horizontally across the top.

The two, 100-ft.-long wings (50 bales each side) come together to form a 90° wedge. The point is oriented directly into the prevailing winter winds that blow off the Sierra Madre Mountains 20 miles to the southwest.

The hay compacts to form a solid surface impervious to wind. When the wind runs into the V shape of the stack, it spills to the sides, channeling wind and snow along the sides of the wedge rather than over the top.

The diversion greatly reduces the wind velocity in the area behind the stacks for as much as 300-400 ft. downwind. It also eliminates accumulation of blowing snow in the protected area.

Moon's old-style stack yards tended to drift in, he says. It wasn't unusual to have to use a crawler tractor to cut a path into a stack yard and dig out the bales at feeding time. The wedge design, however, keeps bales accessible as the wind scours snow from along the front of the structure and deposits it downwind outside the shelter area.

"We've found the system works very well. The wedges take less space than our old stackyards and are cheaper to fence because of that," he says. "We haven't had much snow the last 5-6 years but we have had a lot of wind and below-0 weather. That's when the cow's really utilize the shelter behind the wedges."

Moon began by building two of the wedge structures the first year, and added another the following year. This winter, he plans to have four -- three for cows and one to protect feedbunks in the bull-feeding area.

During the winter-feeding season, Moon feeds from the ends of the wings. To prevent feed loss to wildlife, he surrounds his wedges with game-proof fence, something operators in other locales shouldn't have to do.

"If you don't have a wildlife problem, temporary wire panels probably will work to keep cattle out of the hay supply," Moon says. "Corral panels would work the best, but they're expensive."

Moon feeds from the ends, working toward the middle as the winter progresses and the need for shelter dwindles. On the coldest of days (those 0 and below), he feeds behind the shelter. On most days, he spreads hay away from the shelter to draw cattle out from the protected zone to spread out the manure buildup.

The hay wedges are the brainchild of Bob Jairell, a hydrologic technician formerly with the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Laramie, WY. The idea was born out of research he and a team of blowing-snow experts developed over more than three decades. The team's methods and designs are in extensive use throughout the world.
-- Joe Roybal

Cattle Care And Handling Guidelines Available

The Cattle Industry's Guidelines for the Care and Handling of Cattle is now available through the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA). This 15-page Beef Checkoff funded publication includes sections on industry developed standards for feeding and nutrition, disease prevention practices and health care, transportation, handling downer cattle and euthanasia techniques and stress reduction. It also contains a self-evaluation for producers and their employees.

Included in the publication a Code of Cattle Care that lists general recommendations for care and handling of cattle:

  • Provide necessary food, water and care to protect the health and well-being of animals.
  • Provide disease prevention practices to protect herd health, including access to veterinary care.
  • Provide facilities that allow safe, humane, and efficient movement and/or restraint of cattle.
  • Use appropriate methods to humanely euthanize terminally sick or injured livestock and dispose of them properly.
  • Provide personnel with training/experience to properly handle
  • Make timely observations of cattle to ensure basic needs are being met.
  • Minimize stress when transporting cattle.
  • Keep updated on advancements and changes in the industry to make decisions based upon sound production practices and consideration for animal well-being.
  • Persons who willfully mistreat animals will not be tolerated.
"With all the cattle care and treatment issues coming down the pike, it's very important that we distribute these guidelines as widely and as quickly as possible," says Ryan Ruppert, NCBA's director of Quality Assurance programs. "Producers need to be proactive in the of proper care and handling of cattle as activists and retail groups push for care and handling accountability at the farm, ranch and feedyard levels."

The cattle care publication can be obtained by contacting your state Beef Quality Assurance coordinator or state beef council. For more information contact Ryan Ruppert, 9110 East Nichols Ave., Centennial, CO, 80112 or call 303/850-3369.
-- Clint Peck

Wyoming Declared Brucellosis Free

The USDA declared Wyoming 's cattle herds free of brucellosis, meaning costly restrictions placed on the state's producers over the past 2 1/2 years can be eased, state officials said Tuesday. The decision to declare the state brucellosis-free will be official in the next several days when it is published in the Federal Register.
-- Clint Peck

Montana BVD-PI Screening Project Creating Awareness

The Montana BVD-PI Herd Screening Project, a program designed to improve the overall health of the state's cow herd and add value to its calf crop, is currently underway. The focus is to investigate the role of screening cattle herds for animals persistently infected (PI) with the bovine viral diarrhea (BVD) virus, a disease which costs the U.S. cattle industry more than $2B annually.

The first phase of the project concluded with the testing of the ear notches from about 30,000 cattle from 55 Montana ranches, says John Paterson, Montana State University (MSU) Extension beef specialist. Among the PI-positive animals found through the project is what's being dubbed the "PI-Pair" -- a first-calf heifer and her calf.

Bruce Hoffman, DVM, Manhattan, MT, and president of Animal Profiling International (API) says finding both a calf and its mother that are BVD PI-positive is very rare; particularly a pair that looks as healthy as any other cow-calf pair in a cattle herd. API is conducting the tests for the Montana project in its Portland, OR, laboratory.

But unfortunately, Hoffman says, because they are both persistently infected with the BVD virus, they are lethal animals that must be separated from their healthy herd mates.

Montana has taken the lead in this voluntary industry driven approach to animal health management. Paterson expects that up to 15,000 more Montana calves will be screened for PI status as ranchers look to take advantage of market opportunities for "PI-free" calves.

Paterson adds that the overall incidence rate of PIs in Montana appears to be just below the national average which is estimated to be about 1 PI animal for every 1000 calves.

"We're working hard to help ranchers find PI cattle and create more awareness of this disease process," he says. "The PI prevalence rate in Montana is very low -- but we want to help make it even lower."

The Montana BVD-PI Herd Screening Project is a collaborative effort of the MSU Beef Quality Assurance program and the Montana Stockgrowers Association.
-- Clint Peck