Daily Archives: February 23, 2006

Cows need help with calving distribution

Cows need help with calving distribution

By Fred Knop,
Drovers Journal

(Wednesday, February 15, 2006)

I’m intrigued by the beef cow. She’ll run you over a fence in defense of her calf. She’ll warm your heart with her motherly affection. She’ll produce to her utmost within the genetics and conditions chosen for her. And if she could converse, she would probably request that you do everything possible to help her serve you optimally.

What a smart cow! She may have already read the section on calving distribution in

the Guidelines publication of the Beef Improvement Federation, which gets at the genetic component of managing for early calves. This section contains a meaningful calving-distribution table based on a herd of 225 cows. The table shows the percentages of cows calving in 21-day periods, with the third period extended to include late calves. The percentages of cows calving in each period are as follows: First — 48, second — 31, third — 21 (includes late calves).


Comment: Mad Cows and Market Controls

Comment: Mad Cows and Market Controls

Random 10 blog

I admit I have only a very limited understanding of Mad Cow disease. The group of diseases termed transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) is believed by most researchers to be acquired by eating a misfolded cell surface glycoprotein termed a prion. Most researchers believe this “infectious protein” is sufficient to cause disease, however, there are skeptics and I am not completely convinced a deformed variant of a normal cell structure explains the entire story.

What is clear is that Mad Cow Disease scares almost everyone in both government and the agriculture industry. The Wisconsin State Journal expresses concern about this potential problem and calls for increasingly stringent government standards.

Improve Safeguards Against Mad Cow Since 1997, the centerpiece of the government’s policies to defend against mad cow disease has been regulation of what goes into cattle feed. Because mad cow disease is believed to be spread by eating infected material, the regulation focuses on banning cattle remains from cattle feed. However, the Jan. 23 confirmation of a Canadian case of mad cow disease in a 6- year-old cow, born after the current U.S. and Canadian cattle feed policies went into effect, demonstrated the importance of tightening the standards.

The Editorial Board must have had a sudden flash back to the government mandated mass slaughter of British herds several years ago, and trembled at the thought of those deep pits and merciless bulldozers across the Wisconsin landscape. I wonder if the editors considered that it was the environmentalist movement that may have triggered those tragic events by altering industry practices.

Prion Proteins and Acquired Dementia By far the largest epidemic of human transmission of prion disease has its roots in the industrialization of livestock production. High protein feed supplements produced from the bone and offal of sheep, pigs, chickens, and cattle have been in widespread use since the 1950s. Collectively called meat and bone meal (MBM), the supplements were first rendered (heated) and extracted with hydrocarbon solvents to recover the valuable animal fats. Although not understood at the time, these steps probably helped to denature any prions in the rendered MBM and eliminated its ability to transmit disease. The initiation of this epidemic, widely known as the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) crisis or mad cow disease, came when environmental groups in Britain successfully pressured the feed industry to abandon hydrocarbon solvent processing of MBM in the early 1980s.

I’m not saying that government should not have guidelines to regulate free markets, but it is important to keep in mind that even policies of “good intention” can distort markets into unintended consequences.

Washington state reaches accord reached on animal ID

Washington state reaches accord reached on animal ID


The Legislature has reached a compromise on the touchy topic of how much information will be available to the public when a National Animal Identification System takes effect, possibly as early as 2009.
Proprietary business information, such as herd size, pricing and marketing strategies, would be exempt from the state public disclosure law under a national system unless a serious, contagious disease breaks out, prompting an investigation by the state veterinarian. In that case, the results of the investigation would be public.
The compromise is contained in House Bill 2651, which has passed the House and was recommended Tuesday by the Senate Agriculture and Rural Economic Development Committee.
National cattle groups are developing a privately run identification system to trace the history of diseased animals within 48 hours of an outbreak. The identification system was under way before mad cow disease discovered in December 2003 in Mabton. But it gained traction after that event, which closed a host of export markets to U.S. beef.
Industry and news media lobbyists said the bill would allow the state to join the national animal identification effort without compromising a producer’s trade secrets. So far, participation in the program statewide has been low because cattlemen fear of sharing private business information with governments.
Reportable diseases are infectious, contagious, communicable or otherwise dangerous and include Lyme disease, Avian influence and foot-and-mouth disease. In an outbreak, information would be made public upon completion of an investigation and would include ownership, location and number of animals affected.
“We’re obviously very supportive of this bill and hope it moves quickly,” said Jim Jesernig, lobbyist for Boise, Idaho-based AgriBeef, which owns AB Foods, the former Washington Beef plant, in Toppenish and a feedlot in Moses Lake.
Roland Thompson of Allied Daily Newspapers opposed the original version of the bill, saying news media would have been hampered in their ability to hold government regulators, including the state veterinarian, accountable for public health.
But Thompson also said the public doesn’t want proprietary information, and he praised the compromise. “This bill addresses our concerns. We think it’s a good law,” Thompson told the committee. The hearing was broadcast by cable television station TVW.org.
Jack Field, executive vice president of the Washington Cattlemen’s Association, said producers want their business activities protected from the scrutiny of competitors. But when it comes to a disease outbreak, livestock owners are among the first to want information to protect their own herds, he said.
Five other states have exempted from public disclosure laws information collected for an animal identification system.
* Leah Beth Ward can be reached at 577-7626 or lward@yakimaherald.com.

Tyson Foods Brags On Brand Push

Tyson Foods Brags On Brand Push

By The Morning News, Springdale, AR

Tyson Foods CEO John Tyson said Wednesday that consumer awareness of their chicken products is up 99 percent.

He credited the company’s “Powered by Tyson” marketing campaign for the increase during a Wednesday presentation to the Consumer Analyst Group of New York.

“We’re number one in brand awareness in chicken and beef and number two in pork. Before the Powering campaign started, consumers didn’t connect the Tyson brand to beef or pork. We’ve gone from nothing to a 72 percent brand awareness of Tyson beef and 71 percent with Tyson pork,” Tyson said.

The company said it is the second leading bacon processor in the United States and the fastest growing national retail brand of bacon.

The company also announced that it is the official chicken, beef and pork sponsor of the U.S. Olympic Team and an official supplier to the athletes’ training centers.

Safeway Forms Animal Welfare Committee

Safeway Forms Animal Welfare Committee

By Drovers news source
(Tuesday, February 21, 2006)

Safeway, one of the country’s largest retail grocers, will form an animal welfare committee.

Brian Dowling, a representative for Pleasanton-based Safeway, says the committee would consist of both company employees and outside experts, including Temple Grandin, animal welfare expert and professor at Colorado State University. He also says that Safeway will post its animal welfare policies on its Web site.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the animal welfare group that has 192 shares of Safeway stock, has lobbied Safeway officials to promote a method of slaughtering poultry called controlled-atmosphere killing, commonly called CAK. They announced they would withdraw a proposal to gain shareholder support for Safeway to support CAK.

Silicone Valley Business Journal

Opinion: An ambitious, yet attainable goal

Opinion: An ambitious, yet attainable goal

By Greg Henderson, Drovers Journal (2/15/2006)

A dozen years ago, America’s beef industry was in trouble. Consumer demand was in steady decline, and producer profitability was nearly non-existent. In the midst of those dark days, a task force of cattlemen was charged with developing a plan to stop the erosion in beef demand and create strategies to improve producer profitability. The result was the first Beef Industry Long Range Plan, unveiled in December 1993.
That first plan was both aggressive and controversial. Aggressive in the strategies that were outlined to stop the erosion in beef demand; controversial because of a bold recommendation that one organization be formed to replace the four that then served the industry. The task force adopted the following vision statement: “A dynamic and profitable beef industry, which concentrates resources around a unified plan, consistently meets consumer needs and increases market share.”
Fast forward to San Antonio, Texas, February 2005. The folks at the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association were positively giddy with the latest news about consumer beef demand. The 2004 data saw a sharp increase in demand, with the Beef Demand Index climbing 7.74 percent. That meant the Beef Demand Index had increased more than 25 percent since 1998.
The past dozen years have produced quite a success story. Improved genetics and management have produced higher-quality beef, and numerous new product offerings have brought American consumers back to beef  in supermarkets and at restaurants. But the lessons of those dark days in the 1980s and early 1990s have not been lost. Our industry must continually evaluate where it stands, and where it wants to go.
An updated Long Range Plan announced five years ago set a goal of increasing demand 6 percent by 2004, a mark the industry wildly exceeded. A new Long Range Plan, announced last month, has set a realistic, yet ambitious goal for the next five years. Few believe our industry can sustain the growth that has been measured since 1998, yet they believe steady growth is possible. Therefore, the new goal is to increase beef demand by another 10 percent by 2010. It aims to do that by creating value through beef production, creating growth through consumer markets and creating opportunity through global competitiveness.
Increases in consumer demand are important — Cattle-Fax reports increases in demand since 1998 have added $22 per hundredweight to the value of fed steers — but consumer demand is just part of the new Long Range Plan. This new plan also seeks to create profitability for cattlemen.
“The Long Range Planning Group has worked hard to identify opportunities for profitability for everyone in the production chain, while recognizing the challenges of competing in an ever-changing marketplace,” says Dee Lacy, group chair and whose family ranches near Paso Robles, Calif.
In addition to demand increases, the new plan calls for growing beef’s share of the U.S. protein market to 32 percent, and increasing U.S. beef exports 400 percent to 2.5 billion pounds by 2010.
“Chicken continues to pressure beef amid changing demographics,” Lacy says. “The Long Range Plan is a call to action for cattlemen to draw together and agree to strengthen beef’s position as the No. 1 protein.”
The goals of the new Long Range Plan are ambitious, to be sure. But if the past decade is any measure, the goals are certainly attainable. The Long Range Plan, and its specific strategies to achieve measurable objectives, provides solid industry support for your business and your livelihood — and for the success of future generations of cattlemen.



Cattle Today Online

by: Stephen B. Blezinger

The last decades have proven quite prolific in the area of beef cattle nutritional and management research. Both corporate America and academia alike have generated tremendous amounts of data which have been highly useful in improving performance, efficiency and profitability in the beef industry. Particular interest has been shown to the host of feed additives which are now commonly available to the cattleman. Feed additives fall into many different forms and can be helpful in improving feed efficiency, rate of gain, heat suppression and bloat control to name a very few. When properly used in a well managed environment, many of these additives can improve performance and profitability substantially. They cannot, however, take the place of good management. Unfortunately, under many circumstances, many additives will be used as a “band-aid” to attempt to cover poor management practices. In situations such as these, the cost of the additive is exactly that, a cost to the program and not an investment as many are designed to be, producing a positive return. In many situations, cattlemen have become frustrated with the apparent lack of response after they have spent added dollars on one or more additives. They often come away from the situation with a bad taste in their mouth and a poor perception of a given product. This perception is often not deserved because circumstances were not appropriate for the product to work as it was designed.

This section will discuss some of the more common additives available on the market, some basic background on the product and what they are designed to do. This article is not designed to be an exhaustive summary of all products available but a guide to some of the more common. Keep in mind that the products outlined here are those which have been repeatedly proven by research and practice. Many products exist in the market place which are aggressively marketed and are in use on many operations although little, if any, scientific data is available to support the effectiveness of these products.


Wild Thang I think I’ll Cull You

Wild Thang I think I’ll Cull You

Mid-February issue
Beef Today
Becky Mills

It is hard to put a price on the aggravation factor of a heifer who throws up her head and takes off right when she gets to the corral—and naturally takes the rest of the heifers with her. Or the idiot steer that makes sorting and loading one truck an all-day affair. Not to mention the certifiable nut case that wrecks your holding pen and/or puts you in the hospital. But lo and behold there are actual dollar figures to show that crazies cost you money.

“We have new data that shows docile calves are worth $62 a head more in the feedlot than aggressive calves,” says Darrell Busby, Iowa State animal scientist. Since the late 1980s, Busby and his crew have been disposition scoring the calves in the Tri-County Steer Carcass Futurity when they work and weigh them. In the last four years they have scored more than 8,000 calves using the Beef Improvement Federation disposition score of one (docile) to six (aggressive). Iowa State and the feeders in the futurity also routinely keep complete feedlot and carcass data on the futurity calves, making it possible to link disposition and performance data. Disposition counts in a big way in heifer marketing, too.

The cost of bad apples. University of Georgia animal scientists use the same scoring system on the heifers in the Heifer Evaluation and Reproductive Development (HERD) program. In the fall, producers across the state bring their heifers to one of two central locations. Gain and reproductive tract scores are taken along with disposition scores. The heifers are bred to calving ease bulls and the ones that meet the requirements are sold in two special HERD sales in the spring. Producers can also opt to take their heifers back to their home farms.

“When we sort this data, the heifers with higher disposition scores, on the average, bring a few hundred dollars less,” says University of Georgia animal scientist Robert Stewart. “Now that the buyers understand what the disposition scores mean, they treat them like bull buyers do EPDs. They won’t even look at the ones with higher scores. Even in the first sale, the fours were not in demand.”

There have now been six sales in the south Georgia location and five in north Georgia.

The Northwest Georgia experiment station in Calhoun is headquarters for one of the HERD programs. Station superintendent Phil Worley agrees with Stewart.

“The figures from the HERD sale are dramatic when they are sorted by disposition score and selling price,” Worley says. “The heifers with bad disposition scores just don’t sell. Consignors learn quickly; and the heifers in the HERD program have tremendously better disposition scores now.” So, disposition does affect the bottom line. Granted, handling is a part of the equation, but Kent Andersen, executive vice president of the North American Limousin Foundation (NALF), says disposition can be improved genetically.

NALF has more than 10 years of data to prove it. Actually, their story started 15 years ago with a symposium in Kansas. “We took a real hard look at the breed and its strengths and opportunities for improvement,” Andersen says. “We knew there was a lot to improve with temperament.”

The association developed a chute scoring system with a score of one (docile) to six (aggressive). Sound familiar? It is the same one adapted by BIF. On the advice of Colorado State animal behavior expert Temple Grandin, the association members scored calves at weaning. Andersen says at that stage the calves are old enough to show their temperament, but probably haven’t had enough trips through the chute for a bad experience to influence the score.

“In the first two years, we collected 50,000 records and found the scoring system does a pretty good job of identifying genetic differences,” Andersen says. “We also found disposition has a heritability of 0.4.”