Daily Archives: January 8, 2006

Some displaced Katrina cattle grazing in Alabama

Some displaced Katrina cattle grazing in AlabamaBy CONNIE BAGGETTMobile Register
With thousands acres of pasture flooded and winter feed stores lost along the Mississippi and Louisiana coast, several hundred surviving cattle displaced by Hurricane Katrina are gaining weight on farms in south Alabama.”We got 128 head of cattle straight off a truck from south Louisiana,” said Escambia County resident Rodney Rhodes. “They had been stranded on levees with no water and no feed for a couple of weeks before they were rounded up and shipped. They got here on Oct. 1 in pretty bad shape.”As farmers in Louisiana and Mississippi struggle to repair homes and recover from fierce tropical storms that killed up to 80 percent of cattle in some areas, surviving cattle are grazing on pastures in northern Louisiana, Mississippi and even in Alabama. Area Extension Agent Buck Farrior estimated some 250 cattle from the storm strike area are wintering in Escambia and Conecuh counties.Rhodes said he got involved after hearing that Katrina’s impact was horrific on cattlemen like Earl Armstrong in the parishes south of New Orleans.”They didn’t get any of the calves out,” Rhodes said. “Mr. Armstrong had 1,000 head of cattle on islands at the mouth of the Mississippi, and they found 130 they needed to send to grazing some where. They found some they corralled up where they were and sold at auction. We got 128 that survived.”Armstrong said the cattle, mostly brood cows, had survived brutal conditions and arrived starved. Several orphaned calves were so near death, the farmer told Rhodes that if they lived, he could have them outright. For the cows, Rhodes said, he will get paid a per-pound fee for weight gained by them and any calves born between now and August, when Louisiana farmers hope to be far enough along in the recovery process to bring cattle home or buy new herds.Jason Rowntree, Louisiana State University Extension Service beef specialist, said the cattle industry in Plaquemines Parish, where the cattle Rhodes is tending came from, “is just gone. The pastures, the barns and farms — it’s just gone. Flat. Any farmers still here are trying to get their homes repaired and cleaned up. We estimate in the worst areas we lost 10,000 head in Katrina, then 10,000 more in Rita.”Katrina made landfall on the Mississippi-Louisiana border Aug. 29 as a strong Category 3 storm. Rita hit Texas and Louisiana on Sept. 24, also as a Category 3.Rowntree said farmers with enough operating capital could be back in production by spring as fences and barns are repaired or replaced. With a good amount of rainfall, pastureland could recover by spring, he said.But, he added, most farmers already had loans to pay off, and “losing this much at once will make it difficult. Some moved their surviving herds to north Louisiana, but most just liquidated their animals. Trying to make things work now – it just doesn’t pencil up. The smaller farmers are the ones that need help, and they are falling through the cracks.”Rowntree said he estimates a $50 million loss for the cattle industry in the state from the storms. Last year, the industry was a booming $405 million in the black.”The industry in the South will never be the same,” he said. “It’s scary.”In Mississippi, cattle farming along the coast didn’t fare much better, though the mortality rate due to the storm was lower, according to Jane Parish, a Mississippi State University Extension Service beef specialist.Parish said saltwater intrusion from storm surge damaged some pastureland, but a lack of rainfall after Katrina was just as damaging. Many farmers had already planted rye grass for winter grazing and the dry days after the storm delayed the growth.”We don’t have good numbers yet, but many cattle have never been located,” Parish said. “We are advising farmers to look hard at their herds and decide if they can afford to feed them through the winter. They can cull some and reduce their herds. It’s a hard choice. They all have fences to repair and the feeding will be a large upfront expense. Most are concerned with getting their homes repaired first.”William H. “Bill” Nungesser, a cattleman in Plaquemines Parish, said his house is one of only about 10 farms left standing in his area. He guessed that about 6,000 homes in his community were washed away.”We are waiting on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to restore the levees,” Nungesser said. “I helped Earl Armstrong round up a few hundred of his cattle. He lost at least 50 percent of his herd.”Before Katrina, Nungesser said, he had 60 elk that he raised so that he could harvest velvet from their antlers. After the storm, he found 43 and brought them home. He said farmers used airboats, borrowed oil booms and even had help from Blackhawk helicopters to round up cattle stranded in the floodwaters.—Information from: Mobile Register,

Rustlers mean big losses for ranchers

Rustlers mean big losses for ranchers
Producers resist branding because it can lower marketability of hides
The Associated Press
MARIONVILLE, Mo. – A lot of things were said about cattle rustling in Bob Herndon’s garage, but it was a lawman’s remarks that drove home just how bad the problem is in the Ozarks. Eighty-seven thefts. Twenty-nine counties. Almost a half-million dollars in stolen property. “They’re pretty bold individuals,” said Sgt. Dan Nash, a Missouri Highway Patrol detective who’s been investigating the thefts for more than a year. For the first time, Nash explained Thursday to ranchers – many of whom have awakened to a smaller herd in recent months – that an “organized group” is behind the ongoing thefts. The crooks are stealing the cattle under cover of darkness and then selling them at local stockyards and barns within a few days, he said. “I’m confident we’ll arrest 10 or 15 people for stealing cows,” Nash told dozens of farmers seated on wooden planks perched atop plastic crates. The lengthy investigation has been a frustrating one, the sergeant said. The main hang-up: There’s no way to prove a cow is stolen unless it has been branded or the owner has a blood sample. Most cattle farmers can’t pick their calves out of the hundreds that go through regional sale barns each day, Nash said. And most keep dismal records, he added. “It’s like catching a piece of straw in a haystack. It all blends together.” Since October, Herndon and his wife, Sara, have been holding informal meetings in their two-car garage – a cozy, cedar-lined headquarters for the resistance. On Oct. 16 – as the Herndons slept – someone snipped through four wire fences, drove onto their land and coaxed 25 calves into a trailer using their corral, which lies only a few hundred feet from busy U.S. 60. The Herndons have since taken the steps to register a brand with the Missouri Department of Agriculture, but Bob Herndon is still reluctant about taking the bureaucratic route. Cattle producers have traditionally resisted branding because it can lower marketability of hides and injure the animals if not done correctly. But with so many thefts, many farmers are rethinking their stance. About 5,000 brands have been recorded in Missouri, and it is the only legal identification method that stands up in court. “The No. 1 deterrent is branding,” said Sgt. Loren Pope of the Christian County Sheriff’s Department. Pope recently returned from two days in Oklahoma, where he trained with an investigator who deals solely with cattle and farm equipment thefts. Changing daily schedules to throw off cattle thieves and carrying a pen and pad to jot down vehicle descriptions and license plate numbers were other tips offered by Pope.
© 2006 The Joplin Globe.

Leaning into the mainstream: Local beef entrepreneur has 20 years of success

Leaning into the mainstream: Local beef entrepreneur has 20 years of success

Laura Freeman, president and CEO of Laura’s Lean Beef, may have started her career 20 years ago as an idealist.But sitting on top of a major beef company, with more than $100 million in projected sales for 2005, and products in more than 4,700 stores throughout the United States, has changed Freeman’s perspective.
“I’m very much a realist,” said Freeman, who attributes her success, stemming from her family farm in Clark County, to “sheer doggedness” and “hiring talent.”“I didn’t know I couldn’t. I’ve always been a risk-taker – never taken no for an answer,” she said.But bringing a health foods product into the mainstream did prove to be a challenge.Founded in 1985 and now headquartered in Lexington, Laura’s Lean Beef began with the goals of improving nutrition and stabilizing the industry for mid-sized cattle operations.Freeman envisioned the idea of raising lean beef after her pregnancy required her to embrace a special low-fat diet in her early 20s.She worked with meat and food science experts at the University of Kentucky and began producing naturally-raised lean beef products without the use of hormones or antibiotics, all the while asking a lot of questions, she said.“Even though I didn’t understand the business very well, I knew a lot of good farmers. … You just get hooked on this.”But Freeman doesn’t drive any tractors.She began selling her product locally and broke out into major chains by cornering what was then a niche health foods market. Since she introduced her products to Kroger in 1986, Laura’s Lean Beef has grown about 20 percent a year and become a staple product in many major grocery store chains.Today the company describes itself as “the most successful natural lean beef company in the country.”“My original vision was to service all the grocery stores in Kentucky,” Freeman said. “But you couldn’t do that with the structure of the grocery industry, which I super didn’t understand. But you know, you just kind of pay your money and take your chances.”The company’s goal of promoting sustainable farming practices has led Laura’s Lean Beef to work with over 750 family farms, including her own 1000-acre spread on Schollsville Road, where she raises about 200 head of cattle.Although Freeman said she has never wondered if starting the business was the right move, the company’s growth over the last several years has surprised her.“One of the biggest changes has been in the grocery industry itself,” Freeman said. “The structure of the industry has changed very drastically.”Obesity has become more widespread, and the baby boomer generation has grown older with more disposable income, all of which has worked in the company’s favor, she said, and helped transition the product into the mainstream.“I’ve always fought to get out of that niche,” Freeman said.Now Laura’s Lean Beef is sold in 44 states with a product list ranging from ground beef to steak and tenderloin. The company also has integrated into the convenience foods aisle with precooked entrees such as shredded beef in barbecue sauce and pot roast.“We just have to deal with the fact that nobody has any time,” Freeman said, adding that the new products are going over well.The company’s next step includes getting into restaurants, she said.Meanwhile, Freeman, who is single and has a daughter, said she is “really having fun.” She enjoys the outdoors and traveling to cities like New York, Boston and San Francisco. But until recently, she said she hadn’t taken a day off for 20 years.In fact, she attended a cattle industry function in Houston this week, where Freeman said she was probably the biggest realist in the group – a characteristic she picked up after years of functioning in the day-to-day business environment.“All of which the idealists don’t understand,” she said.

Kentucky Beef Conference

Kentucky Beef Conference
Jan. 24, Lexington
The University of Kentucky College of Agriculture will host the conference from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Fayette County Cooperative Extension office in Lexington.
The event is geared toward helping producers plan for future markets. Speakers include Randy Blach, executive vice president of Cattle-Fax, and Harlan Hughes, professor emeritus at North Dakota State University. In addition, participants will also hear about animal ID, value added marketing programs and more.
Registration is $10 and can be paid the morning of the conference. For more information or to preregister, contact a county Extension office by Jan. 20.

Heart of America Grazing Conference

Heart of America Grazing Conference
Jan. 25-26, Cave City, Ky.
The Heart of America Grazing conference, which moves annually from state to state, targets producers in Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Missouri. This year’s conference will take place at the Cave City Convention Center.
Conference topics include extended grazing to lower animal feed costs, the potential for year-round grazing, hay and silage quality, and information on improved grazing strategies for livestock.
The conference begins at 6 p.m. Jan. 25 and continues throughout the following day. Registration, which includes dinner, lunch and proceedings, is $15 per person for one day and $25 for both days. Preregistration is encouraged.
For more information or to register, visit www.uky.edu/Ag/Forage or contact Garry Lacefield at (270) 365-7541, Ext. 202.

Small Farm College

Small Farm CollegeJanuary-March, Ohio
Ohio State University (OSU) Extension is offering a nine-week short course on starting and managing a small farm, including business planning, production options and marketing of products.
Featured topics will include goal setting, resource inventory, business planning, identifying sources for financial assistance, natural resource management, legal issues, recordkeeping, crop and animal production options, and marketing alternatives.
The course will be offered one night per week, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., at three separate locations. Courses will be offered Jan. 16-March 13 at the Ross County Extension office in Chillicothe; Jan. 18-March 15 at the Der Dutchman restaurant in Waynesville; and Jan. 19-March 16 at Morgan Local High School in McConnelsville. A field day highlighting successful small farms is scheduled for March 11.
The course costs $150 per person and $50 for each additional family member. The fee includes a Small Farm College notebook of coursework materials.
For more information or a registration form, contact the Clinton County Extension office at (937) 382-0901.

Cattle Markets Start 2006 With Considerable Optimism

Cattle Markets Start 2006 With Considerable Optimism

From Cattlenetwork.com

The first couple of weeks of January are always a bit hard to read after the holiday disruptions of markets. However, 2005 certainly ended on a strong note across the board for cattle and beef markets. The New Year starts with a significant challenge to meet or top 2005 but there seems to be good prospects of doing so.

Cattle supply fundamentals will certainly continue to be supportive on average although the timing of production through the year could add some additional volatility. Although the annual cattle inventory report will not be released until January 27, it seems clear that the cow herd and calf crop grew some in 2005, likely around one percent. Moreover, the feedlot inventory at the end of 2005 was up around three percent from a year ago. However, most of the increased feedlot inventories at the end of 2005 were in lieu of winter stocker production in the southern plains which means that feeder supplies going into 2006 will likely show little or no increase from January 2005. Early placements into feedlot and continued heifer retention likely accounted for most of the increased calf crop. The question is really more of timing with the possibility that feedlot cattle are somewhat bunched up for the middle of 2006. However, a wide range of cattle weights were placed in late 2005 and winter weather will likely spread them out more before spring arrives. Many of the cattle currently on feed are lighter and younger than typical and this will require more days of feed and result in more variation in grading than would older cattle.

Beef production in the U.S. is expected to increase by 3 – 4 percent in 2006 with most of that increase due to more Canadian cattle processed south of the border. This will be partially offset by moderating imports, a trend that started in late 2005, and increased exports with the result that domestic beef consumption will only show a slight increase in 2006. Feeder cattle imports are likewise expected to show only a modest increase as additional Canadian feeder cattle imports will likely be offset by smaller Mexican cattle imports, a trend which also began in late 2005.

Beef demand will certainly hold the key to whether cattle and beef markets can meet or exceed 2005 on average. Beef demand appeared somewhat stronger in late 2005, buoyed by moderating energy prices. So far, winter weather has been less cold than earlier fears but weather will be a key factor on the demand side as well as the supply side in the next two months. Other demand factors that are uncertain but important for beef markets include the competing meat situation, general economic conditions and international trade. Pork and poultry are not expected to add significant additional pressure to domestic meat markets in the coming year. Perhaps the biggest unknown is how much and how fast will U.S. beef exports markets recover. At this time it is not clear how fast exports to Japan will grow nor when and under what conditions South Korea will open.

Source: Dr. Derrell Peel, OSU Extension Livestock Marketing Specialist