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Change our thinking on cull cows

Geni Wren, Bovine Veterinarian Magazine
Cull dairy cattle provide the meat industry with beef but the cull cow industry is not without its challenges. At the 2011 American Meat Institute conference in Kansas City, Mo., last week, meat industry consultant Jerry Karczewski, Karczewski Consulting, spoke about the culture change in the packing industry over time and the need for further change.
“Previously, we asked animals to think like humans and facilities were designed from a human perspective,” he said. “But livestock think differently; they are visual thinkers with points-of-balance and flight zones.”
Now, he says, we have learned to think like animals. “Facilities are designed to minimize animal stress. Employees are trained to understand principles of animal behavior and calm handling.”
However, dairy beef, though a valuable meat resource, presents one of the most visible animal welfare issues today, Karczewski noted, especially in light of the Hallmark/Westland cattle abuse situation. “This is a dichotomy that must be resolved.”
Karczewski says there were three levels of failure in the Hallmark/Westland incident. “The meat plant failed to develop an animal care culture. The trucker failed to refuse transport of cattle unfit to travel, and the dairy failed to cull or euthanize cattle in a timely manner.”
There are negative consequences of failure to change, he stressed. “Loss of dairy cattle as a meat source and companies not wanting to risk negative press. A poor public image bleeds over to other meat sources as well.

What feedyards are looking for in feeder cattle they buy

Ohio State University Extension
During the Ohio Cattlemen's Association's Summer Roundup held in Gallia County this past August, attendees heard presentations from industry leaders on various cattle industry topics. One of the more interesting presentations was delivered by Tom Brink of Five Rivers Cattle Feeding based in Greeley, Colorado. His presentation was titled "What Feedyards Are Looking For in Feeder Cattle They Buy."
In case you are not familiar with Five Rivers, they have a combined feeding capacity of more than 900,000 head of cattle with 12 feedyards located in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Idaho. In an average week, they buy 35,000 feeder cattle and use two million bushels of corn. While these numbers are a bit overwhelming to the typical cow-calf producer, it definitely gives Five Rivers a unique perspective on the cattle industry. Data collected from cattle fed through their feedyards also gives them strong opinions as to the type of cattle they prefer to feed.
Mr. Brink's presentation is now available to individuals that were unable to attend the OCA Roundup. It has been posted in the "Library" on the OSU Extension Beef Team's web site at and will also be available at the OCA web site at . The presentation is approximately 45 minutes long and provides the audio and slides used in the presentation. Even with a high speed internet connection, it may take up to two minutes to download this presentation, but once downloaded it will play in a program called Camtasia which will offer quality similar to that experienced when it was presented live. The primary topics covered include feedlot performance and harvest weights, health, breed composition, and steps to creating more valuable feeder calves.
The opinions given by Mr. Brink by no means represent the only target that the cow-calf producer needs to shoot for. Every cow-calf producer needs to establish their production goals to fit the marketing end point that fits their operation the best. However, this presentation gives you the chance to hear the unique perspective of a major buyer of feeder cattle in this country and provides you insight into today's ever-changing cattle market. Take a few minutes to check it out.
Source: John F. Grimes, OSU Extension Beef Coordinator

Cowboys: If they are making money, here’s how

Stu Ellis, FarmGate
If you are raising cattle, you are involved in one of many dynamics currently underway in the beef industry.  Fewer head, more headed to feedlots, and more being shipped overseas.  The industry is having difficulty with its identity.  It certainly wants to be profitable, but how does it do that in the wake of the dynamics that are pushing and pulling?
The recent October Cattle on Feed report indicated that feedlots grew by 4.9% after deducting the marketings during September and the number of cattle entering feedlots.  While that may seem bearish, the two futures trading sessions following the release of the report went in different directions.  On Monday, prices headed higher, outweighing concerns that recent high prices for cattle futures aren’t justified by beef-demand fundamentals.  But on Tuesday, futures fell with profit taking, as some traders continue to remain cautious that underlying fundamentals might not support historically high prices.
Last Friday’s CoF report was expected to show placements down by 3.5%, but they were up by 0.2%.  Not much, but certainly a different direction than expected.  Cattle of all sizes and shapes continue to move out of the drought-impacted area, which is centered on Texas and radiates out to all contiguous states.
The continuing liquidation has now reduced the US beef herd by 12% from the latest bump in 2007, says Purdue economist Chris Hurt. Much has been written about the impact of the drought on the southwest livestock industry, as numbers of cattle keep dropping.  The two dynamics involved are the high price of feed due to commodity demand, and the shortage of forage.  Both are forcing cowboys to take action whether they want to or whether they can afford to do so.
Purdue economist Chris Hurt calculates that the scarcity of forage, whether pastures or bales, has pushed prices above the cost of corn, and feedlot numbers are growing because corn is cheaper than grass.  With corn prices falling during most of September, many more bushels of corn were pumped through cattle than forage.  With a 14% increase in the number of lightweight animals entering feedlots, they will be there longer than usual as operators are counting on finding more corn and DDGS around than grass.
In his opinion, Hurt says the cattle market is being driven by:
1) The anticipation of very limited 2012 domestic beef supplies;
2) Foreign buyers of US beef who are willing to pay the high prices; and
3) A more optimistic tone for the world economy.
Regarding the dynamic involving exports, Hurt says, “Foreign markets are buying a record amount of beef at record high prices. USDA now expects a record 2.7 billion pounds of beef to be exported this year, representing a record ten percent of domestic production. A new record is expected to be set next year with 11% of production moving to foreign consumers.”  That compares to only 5% in 2007.  (In a related note, the pork industry is also expecting a record amount of pork being exported when the books are closed on 2011.)
Continued foreign demand for US beef will create a strong demand and keep bids high.  While the recently implemented South Korean trade agreement will not have an immediate impact, the Koreans and other Asian consumers have been strong fans of the US beef.  The strength of their economies will help support that demand, and the price of beef.
What the cowboys and pork producers will have to watch in coming months is the amount of grain being fed.  If there is more corn fed than USDA’s numbers predict, then usage will grow faster than expected, and corn prices will gain upward momentum.  And higher prices will not only change the dynamics on pork expansion, but also on financial strategies around cattle feedlots.
An increasing number of cattle continue to enter feedlots, pushed by shortages and high prices of forage, and the relatively economical price of corn.  A substantial amount of cattle being marketed is diverted to the export market, which has remained a strong bidder and kept prices high in the wake of listless domestic prices.
Source: FarmGateBlog

Limusín: las pruebas de testaje de la temporada 2010-2011

El último número de la revista “Limusín”, editada por la Federación Española de Criadores de esta raza, destaca los resultados de las pruebas de testaje realizadas la última temporada.
FEAGAS.- La Federación Española de Criadores de Limusín finalizó el pasado 30 de junio la temporada de testajes 2010-11, que arrancó el 1 de julio del pasado año. En el balance global de esta nueva campaña, en la que se ha vuelto a probar las aptitudes productivas de terneros con edades entre ocho y nueve meses en su entrada al centro, destaca que se han presentado un total de 233 animales, de los que 148 han sido aprobados después de las pruebas correspondientes.

Los datos extraídos de los testajes de esta última temporada, que se han desarrollado en cuatro centros con los que cuenta la raza Limusín repartidos por la geografía española (Aia, Aranjuez, Badajoz y Jerez de la Frontera), muestran que la calidad genética de la raza mejora cada año. De hecho, la calidad media de los terneros ha destacado como muy alta en esta última campaña de testajes, pero la presión de selección provoca que las condiciones para obtener la calificación de ‘aprobado’ también hayan aumentado, lo que contribuye en último término a mejorar la rentabilidad de las explotaciones de los socios de la Federación.

El centro guipuzcoano de Aia ha testado en la campaña 2010-2011, repartidos en cuatro lotes distintos, un total de 58 terneros, de los que 42 han salido con la calificación de aprobados. La Ganancia Media Diaria de los lotes (GMD) ha oscilados entre 1,446 y 1,568 kilogramos, mientras que las medias de peso alcanzadas al final del testaje han estado entre 661 y 697 kilogramos, dependiendo de los lotes.

El madrileño centro de Aranjuez es el que ha tenido una mayor actividad, ya que durante la pasada campaña de testaje entraron un total de 138 terneros, con 84 animales calificados finalmente como aprobados. Las medias en la GMD han sido muy variadas, con datos que van desde los 1,408 kilogramos de un lote hasta los 1,803 del lote en el que se sacó un mayor rendimiento. Respecto a la media de peso final, también ha habido una gran disparidad al variar de 616 a 676 kilogramos.

Por su parte, el centro de Badajoz ha contado con un único lote de 19 animales, con 10 aprobados. La media de GMD fue de 1,410 kilogramos, mientras que el peso final de los animales fue de 579 kilogramos.

Por último, en el centro de Jerez se testaron 18 teneros, con 12 aprobados finalmente. La GMD fue de 1,365 kilogramos y el peso final se situó en 622 kilogramos.

Las pruebas de testaje constituyen la actividad principal del control de rendimiento referido a la selección genética de la raza, lo que facilita una mejora permanente del ganado Limusín. A través del testaje, se puede hacer el seguimiento de los terneros que en las pesadas de campo han mostrado una capacidad destacable de crecimiento y desarrollo. Además, facilita la selección de los ejemplares que han mostrado mejor actitud de crecimiento en cebadero, así como mejores calificaciones morfológicas. El fin último es abastecer de reproductores selectos tanto a los ganaderos que se dedican a la cría en pureza como aquellos que realizan crece industrial para la producción de carne.


Agriculture stays ahead of the curve in caring for land and livestock, but that's too much of a secret, according to a Nebraska Cattlemen environmental specialist.
One of Kristen Koch's first slides at the Feeding Quality Forum in Omaha this August set the tone for her talk with, “Eat our dust, EPA.” She talked about public misconceptions and strategies to rebuild the beef industry image. At the Garden City, Kansas, event a couple of days later, Clayton Huseman of the Kansas Livestock Association (KLA) delivered related comments on regulations.
“I want to arm you with an arsenal of scientific facts so you can feel comfortable and confident talking about the great job the beef industry does managing its environmental impact,” Koch began.
Shooting down bogeys in order, a myth about greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from livestock was first. Noted at 18 percent of the total by a still-quoted 2006 United Nations report, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2009 put it closer to three percent.
Efficiency helps the planet, she pointed out, as we generate more beef with less feed, energy, land, water, fossil fuels and even fewer cattle. Of course, that also decreases the GHG methane and ammonia produced per unit of beef.
“We can talk positively and confidently, with our heads held high,” Koch said. But even though the livestock industry's impact is small and technology is further reducing that impact, “we're one of the most heavily regulated industries.”
Huseman, director of KLA's Feedlot Division, said in Garden City that all those regulations began by targeting issues outside of agriculture. He detailed how the regulatory aim shifted and expanded its impact on the beef industry, especially large confinement operations, and then reviewed current and pending laws.
Koch and Huseman agreed beef producers must become more efficient communicators. They see public misinformation as a big reason for the increase in governmental control, which Huseman said brings even more operational challenges and uncertainties.
As a call to action, he said producers must become more aware of what they are actually doing. “Too many times we obtain permits for production without truly knowing the contents, except for how long it lasts.”
He also stressed the need to look at regulations, in and outside of agriculture, in a new light: Consider not only the effects they could have today but in the future as well.
“We've got to review absolutely everything,” Huseman said. “Even if it's not directed at our industry now, someday it will be.”
Gaining that awareness, producers need to pass the information along.
“I think every single environmentalist, animal activist, scientist, homemaker—anyone in the world—would agree the purpose of animal agriculture is to generate high-quality food at an affordable cost, low environmental impact and in an animal-welfare friendly way,” Koch said. “Find the common ground on the purpose of the industry. Then start speaking up about your practices.”
The Feeding Quality Forums were co-sponsored by Pfizer Animal Health, Certified Angus Beef LLC (CAB), Feedlot Magazine and Purina Land O'Lakes. More information and proceedings are available at

Brown Revolution: Preserving soil quality by changing grazing patterns

The brown revolution is about what the plants are planted in (soil) and not the plants themselves. Ranchers say they can make their land usable longer by mimicking natural livestock patterns.

As environmentalists talk about the need for a Green revolution, ranchers are talking about their desire for a Brown revolution.
And, ultimately, they may be talking about the same thing.
"The brown revolution is to refocus our efforts on the soils, hence brown, rather than focus on the plants that grow on top of the soil," said Jim Howell, Colorado rancher and co-founder and CEO of Grasslands LLC.
According to Howell, the way livestock use the ground now is far too damaging — and it's unnatural too. Wild animals tend to stay in tight bunches, for defense, and they move often, both because of predation and because the tight bunches lead to packed ground covered in animal waste.
But, with domestic animals, there's often more room and little movement which is actually more damaging to the ground, Howell said, because the grass and plants underhoof doesn't have any time to recover.
Brandon Dalton, a rancher and wildlife biologist in South Dakota said these practices can help stave off and even reverse the desertification of grassland that happens after intensive grazing.
"We're trying to prevent the creation of new desert," he said. "Soil is being lost at a rapid pace."
Howell said the key to making this work is to educate people, particularly in the developing world. So far, the majority of his work has involved buying up grazing land in the U.S. and using detailed grazing plans that mimic the behavior of wild animals.
Where the real difference comes in, though, is in the developing world. In those areas, productive land is rapidly disappearing, but these processes could change that, Dalton and Howell said.

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