Handle shrink and get a better handle on the bottom line

Lowstress cattle handling
<p>low-stress cattle handling</p>

In the great scheme of things, you can argue that the weight lost via cattle shrink never disappears from the industry, permanently, considering compensatory gain and whatnot.

Likewise, buyers—either through the pencil or the price—are unlikely to ever pay for weight that’s not there.

Sellers, though, especially cow-calf producers making the first trade, stand plenty of risk via weight lost during the marketing process. And that risk, if not managed properly, turns into hard, cold cash that goes into someone else’s pocket.

There’s transportation, for one thing.

For instance, hard-won experience and various studies at Kansas State University (KSU) found that cattle shrink at approximately 1% per hour for the first 3-4 hours of food and water deprivation. After that, shrink declines to as little as 0.1% per hour up through 10 hours.

The timing of gathering cattle for transport can impact pounds, too.

According to multi-year KSU research (steers grazing smooth bromegrass pastures), producers can pick up about 3 pounds per head, per hour, for every hour after daylight cattle are allowed to graze, until 9 a.m. or so.

More specifically, steers gathered three hours after daybreak shrunk at a rate of 0.5% per hour compared to 0.69% per hour for steers gathered at daybreak. Steers shrunk 0.71% and 0.67% per hour when gathered at one or two hours after dawn, respectively.

In part, researchers say this stems from the typical grazing pattern of cattle. Depending on factors such as forage type and environment, cattle will usually graze during 2-4 distinct periods throughout the day. The primary grazing period is often during the early morning. So, gathering cattle at first light robs them of their main meal of the day.

Low stress handling pays multiple dividends

Moreover, the way cattle are handled can preserve or rob pounds via shrink, along with preserving or impairing performance at the next stop.

One example in broad terms: KSU researchers gathered eight different sets of stocker cattle from eight pastures to weigh for a trial. Seven sets of cattle found the gate easily; their weight compared to one taken the day before was 12.0 pounds less. It took about 30 minutes to get the other set of calves through the gate; their weight compared to the day prior was 48.2 pounds less.

If you’ve never seen an expert stockman at work—someone who understands what makes cattle tick—the results are extraordinary.

Most recently, I had a chance to watch Tom Noffsinger bring two pens of heifers into a separate holding pen, then ultimately into another pen to go on a scale. This was at KSU’s Beef Stocker Unit, as part of the recent field day there.

By the way, if you’ve never been to the stocker unit, it’s more than worth your time. Dale Blasi, Bill Hollenbeck and their crew continue to build upon an amazing research and demonstration facility.

Noffsinger had never been with these heifers. He began getting to know and train them when each pen was let into the alley.

The process was quick. No raised voice. No cattle whirling in a mass or hurling themselves into a fence. Just calm cattle going where Noffsinger asked them to go. One reason the process was so efficient is because he took the time necessary to gain the cattle’s trust at the outset.

A couple of observations from the demonstration.

Take it in chunks—Noffsinger explained and demonstrated that you don’t want to train on a group of cattle for more than four or five minutes at a time. The time between training sessions can be brief, too, but the cattle need a break.

Find the leader in each group—Rather than animals at the front of a group, Noffsinger says the leaders are often in the second row. They’re the ones keeping track of you, wanting to know what you want them to do. Show them, and the rest will follow.

Keep it positive—if you’ve ever been around Noffsinger, then you know that he’s like a kid in the proverbial candy store with cattle. He respects the cattle, loves getting to know them and learning more about them.

There are all kinds of useful guides and videos to help you see and understand the finer points of low-stress handling. You can find a package of animal handling training videos by Noffsinger at Animal Care Training.

These are some other BEEF articles that offer more of Noffsinger’s insights:

Low-stress handling during weaning pays big

Tom Noffsinger: 5 end-goals of proper animal handling

Consider shrink as you are weaning, preconditioning and shipping your calves this fall. And certainly consider the effect of proper cattle handling on shrink. You’ll be glad you did.

 

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How beef can boost your immunity this cold & flu season

Cold and flu season is here, and for infants, the sick, and the elderly, it’s a good time to think about boosting immunities and trying to ward off colds if possible. A good way to boost the immune system and strengthen our ability to fight off infection is through diet, and foods rich in zinc can help improve our immune response to colds and flu.

A recent study funded by the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) studied a group of older adults who had low levels of zinc and reviewed how raising their zinc levels helped to boost their immune function.

According to an ARS release on the study, “A previous study…found that many nursing-facility residents had low blood zinc concentrations. There was a 50% greater incidence of pneumonia among those with low zinc levels than among those with normal zinc levels.

“For the newer study, researchers recruited participants 65 or older from Boston-area nursing facilities. Again, more than 30% of participants tested low in zinc. The researchers divided the zinc-deficient participants into two groups.

“For three months, one group consumed 30 milligrams (mg) of additional zinc via a daily multivitamin supplement, and a control group received a similar supplement that contained 5 mg of zinc. While the recommended dietary intake is 8-11 mg daily, the higher level was used because many volunteers had low blood zinc levels. The researchers then retested the participants' blood zinc levels and T cell numbers. They found that the participants who took 30 mg of supplemental zinc had higher blood zinc concentrations and higher T-cell counts than those in the control group.”

So what foods can help boost zinc levels? There’s oysters, shellfish, fortified breakfast cereals, pork, beans and of course, beef, which also provides ample protein and iron to help avoid muscle wasting — or sarcopenia — in the elderly.

Tell Grandpa to keep enjoying his beef every day and consider it a super booster for his immunity and strength this cold and flu season.

We continue to see more benefits of beef in the diet, and despite the rhetoric by doctors who might tell you otherwise based on decades of biased nutritional advice they have been taught, beef is truly a health food — perfect for baby’s first meal, great fuel for working parents, and an excellent protein choice for the elderly.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.

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Vote for your favorite “Cattle & Colors” photo now!

Vote for your favorite “Cattle &amp; Colors” photo now!

Autumn is officially here, and ranchers are busy silage cutting, weaning, working calves, preg-checking cows, and getting ready for the upcoming winter months. We’ve captured it all with a fun photo contest, and readers submitted more than 90 images to create a beautiful collection that truly depicts the beauty of the season and life on a cattle ranch.

View the complete gallery here.

From those entries, we narrowed the field to our favorite 15 images. Congratulations to our finalists: Kaylee Miller, Val Oakes, Stacey Francis, Kayla Mercer, Rochelle Schmit, Bill Long, Uriah Swisher, Patti Holmes, Aaron Rees, Terryn Drieling, Rebecca Farha, Laurie Skori, Bailey Bannister, Sheri Erickson and Amelia Fendley.

View the finalists’ gallery here.

Now we need your help in choosing our champions. The grand champion photographer will receive a $100 VISA gift card, and the reserve champion will go home with a $50 VISA gift card, respectively. Plus, we’re giving away three western coffee table books to three randomly selected voters!

Voting will be open until 10 a.m. CST on Oct. 3, and the winners will be announced on Oct. 4.

To vote, click here.

Thanks to all who participated and helped make this contest one of our best yet!

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.

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Can we apply customer service principles to the vet business?

Smiling vet and customer

Since most veterinary businesses are a combination of retail store and service center, putting emphasis on customer shopping assistance and customer service outside the exam room is a worthwhile endeavor.

Helping customers find what they need in your retail store is important, suggests Glenn Muske, rural and agribusiness enterprise development specialist for North Dakota State University. Some of the great ideas for retail businesses may be usable in your veterinary office.

Muske tells people that helping a customer who walks in the door is tough without the right questions. Is the person just starting and gathering information, or down to picking between a choice of two specific products — or looking for something you don’t have?

“Perhaps the customer already knows what he or she wants and is deciding where to buy it,” he says.

“Getting answers to these and other questions about the customer’s intentions is key to a successful interaction,” he says. “Such information comes through two sources. The first source of information is asking questions and then actively listening to what the customer says. Greet your customers as they enter the store and ask if you can be of help. Listen hard to the answer for clues to guide your next action.”

It could be more important to help veterinary customers make decisions they’re pleased about than retail customers, he suggests. They often come to the office/store looking for advice. That makes it even more important to assist customers in making the best decision, because they are even more likely to give positive comments to friends and neighbors about your business.

The second source of information about customer intentions comes from body language, Muske says. Does the customer comment that he or she needs no help, but then stands there looking around? This may be a sign the person does need a little help, but doesn’t want to have someone following his or her every footstep.

“If the customer indicates a desire to be left alone, honor that wish. However, don’t abandon the person,” Muske says. “Again, watch the body language and check back. If you hear again that he or she just wants to browse, listen but be available. When a customer does determine he or she needs some help, research shows the person doesn’t want to have to run all over the store to find it.”

Muske says the top wish from customers in any business is to interact with knowledgeable staff. That means if a person needs help with something your staff is not familiar with, tell them not to try to bluff their way through. You never know the depth of the customer’s knowledge, so you or another knowledgeable staff member should be available to answer those questions.

Muske adds that retail customers want to be treated fairly, with promptness and respect.

“They also desire your time once they’ve made a decision to buy. Don’t try to handle two or three people at one time,” he adds.

8 service tips

Muske, rural and agribusiness enterprise development specialist for North Dakota State University, suggests these eight components of good service:

  • Respond promptly.
  • Resolve issues quickly.
  • Listen.
  • Keep your promises.
  • Give more than expected.
  • Help, even if it does not have an immediate return for you.
  • Make sure you and all your employees offer great assistance.

Learn over time from talking to your customers about what products you should carry.

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Check out Yamaha’s 2017 lineup of ATVs and side-by-side vehicles

<p>Yamaha Viking side-by-sides hit the road.</p>

A select group of agricultural editors from throughout the U.S., including BEEF Senior Editor Burt Rutherford, visited the Yamaha production facilities in Newnan, Ga., for a behind-the-scenes tour of the plant that produces Yamaha ATV and side-by-side (SxS) vehicles, as well as a test ride of the 2017 models.

Yamaha’s full line of 2017 4x4 and utility-based ATV and SxS vehicles includes:

  • Viking and Viking VI SxS models
  • Wolverine and Wolverine R-Spec SxS models
  • Grizzly ATVs
  • Kodiak 700 ATVs

Here’s a photo tour of the plant and the test ride. Enjoy.

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5 Trending Headlines: Implications of China’s beef announcement; PLUS: Protect fall pastures

China’s announcement that it will import U.S. eventually was a pleasant surprise. But is it a game changer? That and more awaits you in this week’s Trending Headlines.

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60+ stunning photos that showcase ranch work ethics

15 favorites from fall photos on the ranch

Autumn is officially here, and ranchers are busy silage cutting, weaning, working calves, preg-checking cows, and getting ready for the upcoming winter months. We’ve captured it all with a fun photo contest, and readers submitted more than 90 images to create a beautiful collection that truly depicts the beauty of the season and life on a cattle ranch.

Now we need your help in choosing our champions. The grand champion photographer will receive a $100 VISA gift card, and the reserve champion will go home with a $50 VISA gift card, respectively. Plus, we’re giving away three western coffee table books to three randomly selected voters.

To vote, simply click on your favorite image below. You can vote once per day, so come back each day to support your favorite!

Ag literacy needed for savvy shoppers & ag job opportunities

Our nation’s education system is at a tipping point. Currently, the government is obsessed with standardized testing, and as such, achieving specific scores is more important than a well-rounded education. Don’t get me wrong, the core areas of study — math, science, reading and writing — are incredibly important, but so are life skills that are being pushed aside with this new intensity of only four principles of learning.

What do I mean by life skills? How about basic handwriting and keyboarding? What about classes that explore creative thinking like art? And how about skills like balancing a checkbook, budgeting, grocery shopping, or knowing where your food comes from?

Recently, the CHS Foundation gifted $3.44 million to the University of Minnesota to transform agricultural education from kindergarten through higher education. The donation will be used to support new opportunities for students to learn more about agriculture.

"The CHS Foundation is committed to growing the next generation of agriculture leaders," said Linda Tank, president, CHS Foundation, in a recent press release. "Together with the University of Minnesota, we are cultivating, preparing and helping agriculture leaders thrive now and into the future.”


The gift will be used to create a CHS agriculture education technology lab, support agricultural adventure-based learning project curriculum, integrate agriculture-infused curriculum in K-12 classrooms, develop agricultural literacy programs in conjunction with 4-H and the Minnesota Youth Institute, create agricultural and science programs at the Bell Museum, and start an agricultural education endowed fellowship at the University of Minnesota.

"We are charting a new course for the future of ag education with new technologies, interdisciplinary curriculum and experiential learning that combine best practices in agriculture and natural resource sciences," said Brian Buhr, dean of the College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences at the University of Minnesota, in the press release. "This critical support from CHS and the CHS Foundation will better prepare future agriculture leaders and educators while strengthening rural communities.”

This isn’t the CHS Foundation’s first donation to support agricultural education; in 2015, the group gave $11.2 million to support the development of future agriculture leaders, improve agriculture safety and enhance rural vitality.

To learn more about the CHS Foundation and its goals to achieve agricultural literacy in K-12 students, click here.

The CHS Foundation’s gift is not only important for educating and informing our future consumers so they are aware of where their food comes from, what it takes to get it to grocery stores, and how the United States’ modern food production system allows them to spend so little of their disposable incomes on food, but it also will help prepare students for future careers in agriculture.

A recent survey conducted by Purdue and the USDA revealed that in the next five years, nearly 58,000 jobs will be available in the areas of food, agriculture, renewable natural resources and the environment, and the industry is currently only able to fill about 60% of those positions.

According to Logan Hawkes for Southwest Farm Press, “USDA officials say the survey and university study indicate that with a growing population, college graduates with expertise in agriculture-related areas are essential to U.S. food security, sustainable energy and environmental quality. They point out that by 2050 there will be more people to feed as the population grows, and a sustainable food supply and quality food will be the backbone of agriculture and the support system that will be needed to feed the world.

“Also, as the demand on the industry increases, job opportunities in the agriculture industry grow, and so does the diversity in career opportunities within the industry. The study says in the future, college graduates with expertise in agriculture-related areas are essential to U.S. food security, sustainable energy and environmental quality, and they will be in great demand.”

The study revealed that nearly half of the agricultural career opportunities are in management and business; 27% will be in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, 15% will be in foods and biomaterial production; and 12% will be in education, communication and governmental services.

The old stereotype of the farmer in overalls is long gone. There is an abundance of agricultural career opportunities that rely heavily on those core areas of education — science, math, reading and writing — and I hope programs like what the CHS Foundation has put together will help wed agricultural literacy with the major areas of focus in our current educational system.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.

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Young ranchers, listen up: 8 tips from an old-timer on how to succeed in ranching

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Burke Teichert: How to cull the right cow without keeping records

3 weaning methods compared; Which one rises to the top?

6 tips for proper electric fence grounding

9 things to include in your ag lease (that you better have in writing!)

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This Week in Agribusiness - September 24, 2016