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5 reasons why women are agriculture’s best resource

Agricultural writer Mark Parker recently found himself in some hot water following a blog post he wrote for Farm Talk titled, “The top 10 ‘above and beyond’ farm wife qualities.” The list included her abilities to reheat leftovers, read romance novels on trips to the elevator, and be happy with jumper cables instead of roses for her birthday.

I know the article was intended to be a funny post about agricultural women, and although I didn’t find it particularly humorous, I will admit that I have seen myself, my mom, my grandmothers, and my girlfriends — who I consider to be very strong women in agriculture — play many of these roles in our day-to-day lives on the ranch. Running for parts, raising kids, cleaning the house and opening gates are just part of the equation to making a ranch run, but women are so much more than that.

While I’m proud of my ability to run the home, raise my children and cook for my family (all roles that are traditionally reserved for women), I also appreciate my opportunity to have a career in agricultural communications, to have a real stake in our family’s cattle operation, to serve in leadership roles, and to be a part of the evolution of the agricultural community where a young female writer like myself can gain the respect of the older male ranchers who make up the majority of the readers who check out this blog each day.

Where Parker went wrong is he forgot to acknowledge the expanding role women play in the agricultural community. I will admit I’m somewhat tired of all of the “politically correct” rhetoric that the media uses to pit people against each other, so I was hesitant to join the many women who were “offended” by this pretty lame list that was so clearly written in haste and without much effort. However, I think Parker’s blog post does present an opportunity to talk about how the role of women in agriculture has grown exponentially in recent years.

Today I am speaking at the Gregory County Women In Agriculture conference in Burke, S.D., and in preparing my remarks for the event, I decided to respond to Parker’s blog post and create my own top list for the “above and beyond” farm qualities of women in agriculture.

Here are five reasons why women in agriculture are huge assets to the world of food production:

1. She is 1 million strong

According to USDA’s Robert A. Hoppe and Pennie Korb, “Over the past three decades, the number of women-operated farms increased substantially. In 2007, women operated 14% of all U.S. farms, up from 5% in 1978. Women-operated farms increased in all sales classes, including farms with annual sales of $1 million or more. About half of women-operated farms specialized in grazing livestock—beef cattle, horses, and sheep or goats. In addition to a principal operator, some farms have secondary operators. If both principal and secondary operators are counted, the number of women operators in 2007 expands from 306,200 to nearly 1 million.”

2. She is educated

The 2012 USDA Census for Agriculture revealed that, “On average, women farmers and ranchers are better educated than their male counterparts. Approximately 61% of women principal operators have education beyond high school (with 32% having a college degree and 29% some college), compared with only 47% of male principal operators. The shares of women farmers who continued their education beyond high school also exceeded those of all U.S. householders by 4 percentage points.”

3. She is an entrepreneur

A woman’s ability to multi-task is unmatched, and I doubt my husband would disagree with that statement. She can run a ranch with a kid on her hip, and she can maintain a job in town to bring home insurance, benefits and a 401K plan. She can also creatively find ways to bring extra income to the ranch when things get tight. The old saying, “Behind every successful rancher is a wife who works in town,” may be a little dated, but it still rings true. However, women in agriculture today are often the primary rancher who can maintain the cow herd while also bringing in a steady paycheck from town. According to the USDA report, “The share of women working off-farm has grown substantially, from 42% in 1982 to 59% in 2007, an increase of 17 percentage points.”

4. She is an ag professional

Women in agriculture hold influential positions both on and off the ranch. Female leaders are working in agricultural science, biotechnology, research, education, communications, marketing, sales, business and more. We are seeing more women hold positions on agricultural boards, serving as presidents and executive directors of commodity groups, lobbying on behalf of farmers and ranchers in Washington, D.C., and taking part in important discussions with consumers about food and how it’s produced.

5. She is invested

Since returning to my family’s operation in 2009 and getting married in 2010, my husband Tyler and I have bought our own ranch, rented pasture, purchased cattle and equipment, hired labor, and made other heavy financial decisions together. It’s not just his name on the dotted line at the bank, mine is there, too. We both have to make the payments.

We both are deeply invested in this dream of ours. A financial risk doesn’t care which gender you are. A woman rancher has just as much skin in the game as her male counterpart, and she knows and understands the responsibility and burden of making the numbers work to support her family, grow the operation and protect it for the next generation.

Parker may have missed the mark with his blog post, but I’m confident that women in agriculture will continue to grow and thrive in the agricultural community despite such silly rhetoric. I’m so pleased to have been asked to speak at the Gregory County Women In Agriculture event today because I know that this demographic is truly the industry’s best kept secret weapon to getting things done and getting them done right.

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

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Could beef be the simple cure for diabetes?

Did you know the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is estimating that if current trends continue, as many as one in three U.S. adults will be diagnosed with diabetes by 2050? That’s a huge jump from one in 10 U.S. adults who suffer from diabetes currently. There are 24 million people who deal with the troubling complications that come with a diabetes diagnosis, including kidney failure, blindness, leg and foot injuries/amputations, and staggering medical costs.

With these startling statistics, it’s no wonder there are so many programs, initiatives and weight loss “snake juice potions” out there promising to alleviate the effects of diabetes. With all of the information out there, it can be overwhelming for folks trying to find answers, but could the cure rest with a simple food item like beef?

Hippocrates once said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” and yet, thanks to decades of misinformation presented to us by USDA Dietary Guidelines, we continue to shun simple, wholesome foods like red meat and dairy products while fully embracing processed sugars and carbohydrates. As a result, we’re sick, undernourished, overfed, and wondering what to do next.

READ: 7 ways Dr. Oz is lying to you about red meat

A recent article in the New York Times highlighted the growing popularity of a $26,000 weight-loss surgery, which is being called “medically sanctioned bulimia” because it’s a thin tube that is inserted into the stomach which ejects food from the body before all calories can be absorbed. Now, does that sound healthy to you?

How about a simpler solution? Sarah Hallberg and Osama Hamdy for New York Times write, “It is nonsensical that we’re expected to prescribe these techniques to our patients while the medical guidelines don’t include another better, safer and far cheaper method: a diet low in carbohydrates. Once a fad diet, the safety and efficacy of the low-carb diet have now been verified in more than 40 clinical trials on thousands of subjects.

“There’s another, more effective way to lower glucose levels: Eat less of it. Glucose is the breakdown product of carbohydrates, which are found principally in wheat, rice, corn, potatoes, fruit and sugars. Restricting these foods keeps blood glucose low. Moreover, replacing those carbohydrates with healthy protein and fats, the most naturally satiating of foods, often eliminates hunger. People can lose weight without starving themselves, or even counting calories.

“Most doctors — and the diabetes associations — portray diabetes as an incurable disease, presaging a steady decline that may include kidney failure, amputations and blindness, as well as life-threatening heart attacks and stroke. Yet the literature on low-carbohydrate intervention for diabetes tells another story. For instance, a two-week study of 10 obese patients with Type 2 diabetes found that their glucose levels normalized and insulin sensitivity was improved by 75% after they went on a low-carb diet.”

READ: Before you spend $26,000 on weight-loss surgery, do this

Nutritional experts who have made their living promoting a low fat, high carbohydrate diet continue to try to squash the rumblings about the benefits of a low carbohydrate diet that centers around animal proteins; however, the voices singing the praises of a diet rich in meat and low in sugars are getting louder. I, for one, am excited to be a part of the conversation and look forward to the return of a more traditional, wholesome diet that focuses on real food and ditches the junk.

The New York Times article summarizes my thoughts on the subject best with this closing statement, “We owe our patients with diabetes more than a lifetime of insulin injections and risky surgical procedures. To combat diabetes and spare a great deal of suffering, doctors should follow a version of that timeworn advice against doing unnecessary harm — and counsel their patients to first, do low carbs.”

Beef producers, we have a unique opportunity to change perceptions, promote our product and lead the charge in getting beef back at the center of the plate. The Cattlemen’s Beef Board Operating Committee is meeting this week to discuss the budget and determine the best places to spend our checkoff dollar. I know there is currently work being done to promote beef to physicians as part of a heart-healthy diet, and I hope information on how beef can help manage diabetes will also be included in upcoming promotions.

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

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6 Trending Headlines: Oklahoma lawmakers tell California ranchers to come back, PLUS: Retail beef prices trending lower

Oklahoma hopes to capitalize on California’s anti-agriculture antics. Iowa cattle producers to vote on state checkoff. That and more news awaits you in this week’s Trending Headlines.

Do they get overtime?

While overtime rules look simple on paper, applying them in the real world can often be difficult. Consider these three typical scenarios, each of which requires a compensation decision. Do you answer each one correctly?

Scenario 1: You require Sue, a nonexempt clerk, to attend a convention in a distant city. Is her travel time compensable?

Answer: Maybe. If Sue travels during normal work hours her time is compensable. If she travels during off hours, her time is not compensable and does not have to be counted as overtime. The exception, though, is if Sue works while she travels, even if the nature of that work differs from her usual principle work activity. “As long as someone is performing work related to their job, their time is compensable and you have to pay them,” says James B. Sherman, President and CEO of Wessels Sherman, a Chicago-based employment law firm ( 

Scenario 2: You require Bob, a nonexempt sales person, to attend a four-hour educational seminar one evening. Because Bob is only required to sit and listen to what the speakers say, his attendance does not seem to directly relate to his principal work activity of selling. Are those four hours compensable?

Answer: Yes. “If you mandate that Bob attend, then the time is compensable because the employee is doing the bidding of the employer,” says Sherman. “It makes no difference whether the activity seems to be directly related to the employee’s principal work activity.”

Scenario 3: Rodriguez, a nonexempt administrative assistant, volunteers to go to a business seminar, attendance at which is not required by his employer. The seminar is held outside his hours of work. Is Rodriguez’s time compensable?

Answer: Maybe. “If the seminar is related to the employee’s position, then it’s compensable,” says Sean F. Darke, a senior attorney at Wessels Sherman. If the topic of the seminar is not related, and the employee did not perform any productive work during the seminar, then attendance is not compensable.

If seminar time is deemed compensable, then the individuals must be paid overtime if attendance puts them over their 40-hour weekly limit. “You can avoid paying them overtime, though, by having them reduce their usual work schedule by four hours during that week, so that total weekly hours worked stay below 40,” says Sherman.

Sherman offers one caveat: Always check your state wage and hour laws. California, for example, requires that overtime be paid if an employee works more than eight hours on any one day, even if the total weekly hours remains under 40.

Avoid costly penalties for overtime violations

Who qualifies for overtime? More people than ever, thanks to new rules from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), mandating which employees are entitled to extra pay when working more than 40 hours a week. If you’re like most retailers, you are experiencing a resulting surge in your “nonexempt” workforce—and in your payroll. Moreover, you may find it difficult to decide who is exempt from overtime.

“The topic of overtime is challenging for most employers,” says James B. Sherman, President and CEO of Wessels Sherman, a Chicago-based employment law firm ( “The law is not as simple as it looks, and there is a lot to learn about what is required when determining which employees are exempt. It’s not just a matter of who is salaried and who is not.”

Maybe the law’s confusing, but you ignore it at your peril. “The penalties for violating wage and hour laws can be severe,” says Matthew C. Heerde, a New York City-based employment law attorney ( “They can be devastating for a small business. I have dealt with employers who contemplated bankruptcies after being caught.”

Bear in mind, too, that you are responsible for supporting your exemption decisions. “The law assumes everyone is entitled to receive overtime pay unless the employer can show that certain employees are exempt,” warns Ann F. Kiernan, a New Brunswick, NJ-based employment law attorney and lead trainer at Fair Measures, a management practices consulting firm in Denver (

More workers qualify

Federal overtime provisions are contained in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The big news is that new regulations from the DOL escalate the risk of making employee classification errors. The qualifying salary floor has been raised to $913 per week (up from a former $455). Employees paid less must be classified as “nonexempt” (that means “nonexempt from overtime”), and must be paid time-and-a-half when working more than 40 hours per week. Individuals paid more than $913 weekly are exempt from overtime—maybe. They also have to meet strict—and often confusing--standards about just how they are paid and what job duties they perform.

“A more than doubling of the salary level required for exempt status means employers must make some pretty tough decisions as to whether they want to bump up salaries or reclassify employees,” says S. Libby Henninger, a shareholder in the Washington, DC office of San Francisco-based Littler Mendelson, the nation’s largest employment law firm ( “It can mean not just the paying of more overtime but also a change in how the business operates.”

For example, businesses may have to mandate that employees newly classified as nonexempt cease doing any work at home, including the answering of email, as such activities may push them continually over the 40-hour weekly work limit, leading to significant increases in payroll costs.

The new regulations have a significant impact on retailing, which tends to be a lower wage industry, says Henninger. “Retailers tend to have a lot of managers and assistant managers who are making less than the new salary floor for exempt status.” Converting these individuals to nonexempt status will be costly.

The lower the average pay scale in any business or region, the higher the number of people subject to reclassification under the new rules. “Some of the biggest impact is being felt by smaller businesses, and those in less urban areas where hourly wages and salaries are lower,” says Henninger. “Many of these businesses are reclassifying a third of their workforce.”

Are you covered?

What should you do now? Your first step is to determine if your business is covered by the law. Here’s the rule: The FLSA covers any business that generates over $500,000 in annual gross revenue and is engaged in interstate commerce. Sounds simple, right? In practice, though, things get complicated fast. Smaller enterprises often find themselves subject to wage and hour law.

Take that interstate commerce requirement. Maybe you think your business activities are well contained inside your state lines. Fact is, that’s pretty rare. Your retail operation can be deemed as engaged in interstate commerce through acts as seemingly innocuous as receiving goods from out of state, mailing letters to addresses in another state, participating in telephone conversations or email communications across state lines, or even making credit card transactions involving distant financial institutions. “It’s the rare business that is not involved in some way with interstate commerce,” says Heerde.

Too, the $500,000 revenue limit will not necessarily save your very small store from the need to follow wage and hour law. “A business which does not generate $500,000 in annual revenues can still be subject to FLSA on a ‘per employee’ basis,” cautions Heerde. Here’s how: If a substantial part of an employee's work is related to interstate commerce, that employee is likely covered individually. Suppose your employee Andy makes frequent telephone calls to prospects or customers in another state. Or regularly receives merchandise that have been delivered from another state. Or regularly processes credit card transactions with out-of-state financial institutions. Andy is likely covered by the FLSA, even though other employees in your workplace might not be.

And even the tiniest of retailers are at risk: “State wage and hour and overtime laws often apply to businesses with annual revenues of under $500,000,” says Heerde.

Employers face penalties

Failure to meet overtime obligations can spark costly penalties, says Heerde. These start with back pay, which includes underpayment in wages and overtime. If the underpayment is deemed to be willful you may also be subject under Federal law to what is called “liquidated damages,” which amount to a doubling of the back pay amounts. If your actions have violated your state’s wage and hour laws your employees may be awarded additional damages. “You can end up paying damages simultaneously under federal and state law,” says Heerde. Finally, you will also likely need to pay reasonable attorney’s fees incurred by an employee who has brought a lawsuit.

If violations are deemed to be willful, investigators can go back three years when checking your records, notes Kiernan. And you could be penalized for all of the accumulated overtime, plus liquidated damages and attorney fees. “Willful violations can also be prosecuted criminally, and with a second conviction you might go to jail. You might be fined as well.”

Worse yet, owners and even managers can be personally liable for back wages, overtime and attorneys’ fees. “Anyone is at risk who sets work hours, supervises, and is responsible for hiring and firing,” says Sean F. Darke, a senior attorney at Wessels Sherman. “While most states require businesses to indemnify individuals, if the employer goes bankrupt the individuals can be chased by attorneys.”

That brings up an important rule: Don’t try to pretend you don’t know certain employees are working overtime. “You cannot be willfully blind to overtime that is being worked,” says Kiernan. “Suppose, for example, that you leave your office at 5:00 PM and a clerical worker named Sally is still laboring on a project which ends up sitting on your desk when you arrive the following morning. It should be obvious to you that Sally worked overtime.”

One final thing: What happens if federal and state law conflict? “The federal law does not have an exemption for state law,” says Darke. “That means the law with provisions most favorable to an employee is deemed to have control.”

Exempt workers

To be exempt from overtime an employee must meet certain standards regarding salary and duties. “An exempt employee must be paid on a salary basis,” says Kiernan. “And that salary must be for the same amount every week, no matter how much or how little the person works, or whether that person’s work was of good or bad quality. Finally, the salary must be at least $913 weekly.” If any condition is missing, the employee is nonexempt from overtime.

But salary’s not the whole story. To qualify as exempt, an employee must also perform duties of a certain nature. While there are a number of exempt categories, for most readers of this magazine the important ones are executive and administrative.

“Executive employees are exempt if their duties are exclusively management in nature, if they supervise at least two people, and if they have the ability to hire and fire--or at least contribute substantially to such decisions,” says Kiernan.

As for the administrative exemption: The person must perform office or non-manual work related to the general operations of the business, and must exercise discretion or individual judgement with respect to matters of significance. “This person cannot be an assistant,” says Kiernan, “but must be a high level person who exercises independent judgment in making decisions. An example would be the power to rewrite the employee handbook.”

Keep in mind that individuals qualifying for an administrative exemption need to be involved in high level duties such as budgeting, committing money for new initiatives, and project managing. “The administrative exemption is a difficult one for retailers,” says Henninger. “Employees tend to do a lot of nonexempt work such as stocking shelves, placing orders, and running cash registers.”

How much managerial decision-making is enough to qualify for exemption? Sometimes the answer is elusive, says Kiernan. “When deciding who is exempt, one good question to ask is this: ‘Is the person just following a cookbook?’ If so, the person is likely nonexempt and qualifies for overtime pay.”

Morale problems

If you’re like most employers, the new regulations are throwing a significant number of employees into your nonexempt pool, making them subject to overtime. That can create a significant morale problem. “For many professional people there is a negative connotation about being deemed an hourly worker,” says Henninger. “Reclassifying them as nonexempt may make them feel they are being demoted, and that a lot of their flexibility is being taken away since they have to start tracking their hours.”

What to do? “Our advice is to emphasize to people that they are not being demoted, and that the change does not speak to the importance of their position,” says Henninger. “The fact is that more employees are becoming overtime eligible because of a change in the federal law.”

Here’s another idea: “Consider having everyone in the company, from the president on down, start recording their hours worked,” says Kiernan. “That can be easily done by signing in and out of a computer.” Attorneys, she points out, have been doing this for years.

“You can also continue to pay salaries to people who are moved into nonexempt status, even though they must start tracking their hours worked,” says Kiernan. “That’s perfectly legal, as long as the salary is equal to or higher than they would be paid if the amount were calculated on an hourly basis.”

On a related note, people need to understand that overtime should only be worked with the permission of management. “Keep in mind, though, that if someone works overtime and failed to get permission, you still have to pay them,” says Kiernan. “In such a case you might fire them for insubordination, but the overtime amount must be paid.” (For several challenging overtime scenarios, see the quiz in the sidebar, “Do They Get Overtime?”)

The challenge for employers

Wage and hour law is a complicated topic that can be challenging for any employer to handle properly. And the regulations can be vague: Sometimes it will be tough to figure out whether a certain worker is exempt. When a particular case is ambiguous, follow this rule: It is always legally safer to classify the worker as nonexempt and pay overtime.

“Wage and hour law compliance may be the last thing on your mind as you run your business,” says Heerde. “But keep in mind it can be a nightmare if one of your employees finds an attorney who realizes the individual is owed money, or if a federal or state agency shows up at your door. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Autogenous vaccine is another pinkeye control option

While pinkeye is often thought of as a summer disease it can occur yearround Its effects both in terms of the pain it causes animals and the hit it puts on the bottom line can be significant
While pinkeye is often thought of as a summer disease, it can occur year-round. Its effects, both in terms of the pain it causes animals and the hit it puts on the bottom line, can be significant.

It happens every summer, it seems, even if you vaccinate. And the discomfort it causes you and your cattle can add up in a hurry. What’s more, pinkeye is not just a summer problem. It can crop up any time of the year. So if you battled pinkeye this summer, it’s time to prepare now for next year.

Pinkeye is a common problem that is painful for the affected animal and costs the beef industry thousands of dollars. This money pit is due to poor weight gains in affected animals, a drop in milk production, the cost of drugs and labor in treatments, price docks at sale time because of eye damage or blindness, or even calves cut back at sale time.

There is a commercial vaccine, but it only addresses one of the pathogens that cause eye problems. Because there usually are several different pathogens at work, it doesn’t always prevent problems from occurring.

Ralph Walton, a veterinarian with Cross Street Veterinary Clinic, Tulare, Calif., uses autogenous vaccines to add another layer of protection for his cow-calf clients. “The advantage of an autogenous vaccine is that it is made for the specific organism causing problems in your cattle. The disadvantage is that it takes time to make it. You can’t just run down to your farm supply store or veterinary clinic to buy some. We have to find the isolate, grow it and make the vaccine,” he explains.

“If the pinkeye outbreak starts in June, you are looking at August by the time you get the vaccine. So in some instances, we may be talking about next year before it can really help us. When weather cools off in the fall and flies go away, you won’t have much problem with new cases,” he says.

“This is the frustrating aspect, though the autogenous vaccine works as well or better than commercial vaccine since it targets the specific pathogen in your herd,” Walton says. If the commercial vaccine isn’t fully protecting the cattle, this gives you another option.

Taking samples

Gary Spina, national sales manager with Hygieia Biological Laboratories, Woodland, Calif., says that if a herd has a pinkeye issue, the veterinarian can swab the infected eye and send the swab to the lab for culture. But some vets make the mistake of taking the sample from the corner of the eye near the tear duct.

“That’s the wrong place, because you can end up with a lot of mixed flora that may have nothing to do with the infection. It should be taken from the center of the eye, over the pupil — where you are less likely to get mixed flora,” Spina says.

If a herd has a pinkeye issue, the veterinarian can swab the infected eye and send the swab to the lab for culture. But be sure to swab the center of the eye instead of the edge, near the tear duct. This gives the lab a better opportunity to isolate the different bacteria causing the problem. Photo by Gary Spina

Further, samples must be taken early, when the disease first strikes. “By the time you see an obviously painful eye, you may be past the point of isolating the bacterium. You need to look at other cattle that are not showing all the symptoms yet, and take samples from them as well — such as individuals just starting to get a runny eye. A veterinarian may have tried to get the bacteria in a sample and missed it, checking eyes that are already damaged and past the initial infection,” he says.

“When samples are sent to the lab, they’ll do the isolation and typically find Moraxella bovis, but often find M. bovoculi also — which is not in the commercial vaccine. [We] make a number of vaccines with bovoculi and bovis or bovoculi only — whatever is needed in that particular herd. The vaccine needs to be administered to the animals, allowing a long enough time for them to start developing immunity,” says Spina.

Establishing immunity

Vaccines stimulate the animal’s immune system to build resistance to the pathogen, which is not instantaneous. “You give one shot and then follow it up with a booster,” says Spina. One shot alerts the immune system, and it’s the second injection that stimulates the body to build immunity.

Even though a booster is recommended, many producers have good luck preventing pinkeye with only one vaccination. “I’ve never had any animals break with pinkeye after they were vaccinated with the autogenous vaccine,” says Scott Steinert, DVM, Steinert Veterinary Clinic at Enid, Okla.

Ranchers he vaccinates for are giving pinkeye shots at branding time, before the cattle go to grass, and that’s the only chance they get. One dose seems to protect the cattle all summer.

Gary Spina Vaccine“The M. bovoculi can affect cattle year-round; it’s what we call winter pinkeye. A lot of ranchers here buy small calves to put on wheat pastures later in the year, so we vaccinate them, too. I use it on cows and calves in the spring, and they only get the one dose. I’ve never boostered any of them,” Steinert adds.

Ken Vroman, DVM , Fayette, Mo., has been using autogenous pinkeye vaccines for about 25 years. “Vaccines are not a panacea; they go hand in hand with good management and seem to help,” he says.

Vaccination also seems to have an additive effect. “When you go through a herd and give them all an autogenous vaccine for one or both bacteria strains, you have better pinkeye control the second year that you use the vaccine than the first year. It’s like a booster, and it seems to build herd immunity,” he explains.

Multiple pathogens

“With a pinkeye vaccine, we have to determine whether to include Mycoplasma as well,” says Vroman. “The eye disease can be worse when this pathogen is involved.” 

Steinert says his practice has been using autogenous pinkeye vaccine for four years. “We started because the only commercial vaccine was for Moraxella bovis, and about 50% of the isolates we find in our clients’ cattle are actually Moraxella bovoculi instead,” he says.

“We decided to see what our options were to have better coverage, and had a lab develop a vaccine for us. We collected samples from several herds, and found a lot of those cross-react. From our last submission we had two different M. bovis isolates and three M. bovoculi,” says Steinert.

Does it work?

Paul Cotterill, a veterinarian with Cherryvale Veterinary Clinic, Cherryvale, Kan., has used autogenous vaccines for 15 years. “We have given over 100,000 doses of pinkeye vaccine. This gives a pretty good idea regarding efficacy,” he says.

“In certain situations, we know we’ve had a challenge for vaccinated animals — with cattle next door to our client and fence-line contact over a wire fence. There was facial contact, as well as flies going back and forth. The cattle on the other side of the fence had horrible cases of pinkeye, and our client’s cattle did not. In one situation like this, there wasn’t a single bad eye in the cattle that were vaccinated,” he says.

“Cattle are moved around a lot today, so we are seeing more strains of bacteria that cause pinkeye. As we get an outbreak or a new case crops up, we might take a swab, especially if it’s a significant outbreak. The lab cultures those samples to see what we have, and genetically tests them to see what the variance is, using a dendrogram. Once it reaches a high enough variance from the ones we have in our vaccines, they call it a non-like strain and add it to the vaccine if possible. That way we continue to update the vaccines we are using,” says Cotterill. “Some of the strains are so close, we figure there will be a little cross-protection, since you can only get so many different isolates in a vaccine.”

If you battled pinkeye this summer, consider having your veterinarian develop an autogenous vaccine specific to your herd. Your cattle will thank you.

Heather Smith Thomas is a rancher and freelance writer based in Salmon, Idaho.

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

5 principles for millennial ranchers to follow

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of participating in a panel discussion at the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association’s 2016 Cattle Producer’s Forum in Billings, Mont. The panel focused on the next generation of beef producers and how we can be profitable in the 21st century. I shared my own personal experiences in going back to my family’s ranch in 2009 with my husband Tyler and some key principles we try to follow in our operation.

Check out images from the 2016 Cattle Producer's Forum by clicking here.

Here are five principles that millennial ranchers should keep in mind as they begin their careers in production agriculture:

1. Patience

BEEF Daily Editor Amanda Radke speaks to Northern Ag Network about the next generation of beef producers. Photo Credit: USCA

It’s unlikely you’ll transition to managing the ranch fresh out of school, particularly if there are still a couple of older generations involved. You may feel like the ranch is your birthright, but it won’t make you successful right out of the gate. Don’t sit around and wait for your inheritance. Know that it took decades for the ranch to be built to its current level, and it will take time for you to achieve your ranching goals, as well.

2. Discipline

The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Know when to take advantage of opportunities and when to pull back. The average farm family living expense is close to $90,000 per year. Be willing to make sacrifices, face scrutiny from friends and neighbors and make do with current equipment to avoid falling into financial pitfalls. With discipline, you'll also be better prepared to move on opportunities as they come along.

READ: Young beef producers might learn from grain farmers' pain

3. Out-of-the-box thinking

When you come home to the ranch, don’t divide the income that is currently there. Instead, add to the operation by diversifying. This can be in the form of additional crops, a second breed of cattle, a hay enterprise, working remotely in an agri-business position, or doing side jobs to make ends meet. This can alleviate some pressures of the ranch enterprise and allow for more consistent cash flow. Remember that 70% of ranches rely on off-farm income, so be willing to work hard on and off the ranch to advance your pursuits.

4. Communication

Communication isn’t a cliché; it’s the cornerstone of success for ranchers. Talk with your spouse and make sure your goals align. Talk with your parents and grandparents and know where they stand on transitioning the ranch. Talk with your banker, lawyer and other industry professionals who can help you succeed. And talk with consumers who will ultimately determine the way you do business.

READ: 8 tips from an old timer on how to succeed in ranching

5. Networking

Get involved. Attend cattlemen’s meetings. Introduce yourselves to folks. Develop your network within the industry. Join a group that is active in policy development and lobbying for the industry. Be at the table for important discussions. The people you meet in the beef cattle industry are a great source of support and learning opportunities.

What would you add to the list? Share your advice in the comments section below.

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


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Images from USCA's 2016 Cattle Producer's Forum

The United State's Cattlemen's Association (USCA) hosted the 2016 Cattle Producer's Forum in Billings, Mont. The event was held on Sept. 9-10 and brought more than 200 ranchers together to discuss profitability tips, cattle markets in peril, export opportunities and trade, the beef checkoff and more.

Photos courtesy of USCA.