Daily Archives: February 27, 2006

Date set for boxed-beef price trial

Date set for boxed-beef price trial

by John Gregerson on 2/27/2006
for Meatingplace.com

A federal jury trial date has been set to consider allegations that four of the U.S. beef industry’s largest packers misreported boxed-beef prices to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2001.

The case, to be tried on April 3, 2006, was first filed two and a half years ago by cattle producers Herman Schumacher, Michael Callicrate and Roger Koch, who all sold cattle to the defendant packing companies — Tyson Fresh Meats, Cargill Meat Solutions, Swift & Co and National Beef Packing.

District Court Judge Charles Kornmann certified the case as a class action on behalf of all cattle producers who sold fed cattle on the cash market, and the trial follows motions by the defendants to have the case dismissed, which Judge Kornmann denied in January.

Under boxed-beef reporting laws, packers have to report twice daily to USDA certain cattle-price information. During the period in question, the packers are alleged to have underreported the price they were receiving for boxed beef, which had the effect of depressing the prices cattle producers received for fed cattle sold to the packers during the same time period.

Beef Trivia – Questions & Answers

Beef Trivia – Questions & Answers

Cattle Network.com
by Minnesota Beef Council Today 2/25/2006 8:24:00 AM

Beef Trivia – Questions & Answers

1. Q: Top quality leather basketballs are made from cowhides. How many basketballs can be made from 1 cowhide?

A: Eleven, according to the Wilson Sporting Goods Company

2. Q. How many cowhides does it take to supply the National Football League with enough leather to produce footballs for one season?

A. About three thousand.

3. Q: What is the average daily consumption of meat per person in the United States? a) 10 ounces per person per day b) 6 ounces per person per day c) 3.4 ounces per person per day?

A: According to the latest from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the correct answer is (c) 3.4 ounces per day. Of that, 1.8 ounces per day is the average beef consumption.

4. Q: What mark on the surface of the beef carcass indicates that the beef is wholesome and safe to eat?

A: The inspection stamp or inspection mark is a purplish mark found on the surface of the beef carcass, which indicates that the beef animal was healthy and processed under sanitary conditions?

5. Q: What mark on the surface of the beef carcass indicates the eating quality of the beef?

A: Look for the grade shield or grade mark to tell you how tender, juicy and flavorful the beef should be. (Examples are USDA Prime, USDA Choice and USDA Select).The grade shield or mark is found on carcass beef and normally isn’t visible on retail cuts.

6. Q: What body-building nutrients does beef supply?

A: Beef is an excellent source of iron, vitamin B12, zinc and protein.

7. Q: Which mineral supplied by beef is most likely to be missing from American diets?

A: Beef is one of the best food sources of iron, a mineral lacking especially in the diets of many women and children.

8. Q: Small flecks of fat found in lean red beef are an indication that the beef should be tender, juicy and flavorful. What are these flecks called?

A: The small flecks of fat are called marbling. The higher the grade of beef, the more marbling you will find.

9. Q: A popular steak sold in restaurants is listed as a “filet mignon”. What is the standard retail name for this steak?

A. “Filet Mignon” is just a fancy name for a beef tenderloin steak.

10. Q: Leather and feed additives are not the only by-products of cattle and beef production. Name a few of the medical by-products?

A: Epinephrine is derived from the adrenal glands and used to treat asthma and allergies; thrombin, obtained from cattle blood is used in helping clot blood; liver extract is used in treating anemia; and insulin can be taken from the pancreas of cattle for treatment of diabetes.




by: Wes Ishmael

There’s good reason that bulls are ultimately worth exactly what someone is willing to pay for them, no more and no less. Fact is, calculating the true value of a particular bull is akin to bottling a blizzard, given the vagaries of predicting precisely the added performance a bull will pass along to his progeny, let alone assessing the value of that added performance at least 18 months down the road.

Randy Perry, a beef cattle specialist at the University of California Fresno, sums up the common bull appraisal approach as well as anyone can: “Most buyers have an idea of the type of quality they want to buy and will pay what it takes to get that quality.”

That means prices cow calf producers are receiving for calves, the availability of feed and a host of other production and marketing factors have as much to do with the price of bulls as bulls’ intrinsic value.

Sure, there are at least as many rules of thumb for calculating bull value as there are bull buyers. Some say a bull is worth four or five weaned steer calves or three yearlings. Others say a bull’s price should be equivalent to some number of bred heifers. Still others begin the process by calculating how many calves it will takes to buy a new pickup …the rules of thumb and variations on them are endless.

Over time, there have also been a fair number of attempts at making price calculations for bulls more sophisticated. For instance, a good decade ago, extension specialists at the University of Florida suggested that one way to begin assessing the economic differences between bulls and therefore price was to subtract the herd average weaning weight from that of the prospective sire, divide by two and divide by the heritability of weaning weight. The result is an estimate of the difference in weaning weight the bull should make to the calves he sires in a herd, relative to existing herd performance. Multiply that difference by the going rate of feeder calves and you have the potential economic value, again based solely on the impact of weaning weight.

For perspective, say your herd average weaning weight is 500 lb. Using the above formula, you’d calculate a bull with a 600 lb. weaning weight (in a breed with a heritability for weaning weight of 0.30) to serve up an increased average weaning weight in your herd of 15 lb. per calf sired. At 25 calves, that’s 375 lb. per year. If you use him four seasons, that’s 1,500 lb. Multiply that by the price of a 550 lb. calf and you’re talking at least $1,500 or so based on today’s market. That’s the added value of the bull in question, compared to one holding the herd average weaning weight steady.

Others have developed spreadsheets that account for the total cost of a bull, relative to predicted added returns, coming up with an estimated net cost per pregnancy as a benchmark to use for comparing potential bull purchases.

Any of these methods can have value. Ultimately, though, market fundamentals and the distance between bulls purchased today and their first calves marketed two years down the road means that cash in hand, hope in heart is still the most popular, and arguably, the most rational approach.

However producers tackle the challenge, Jason Cleere, an extension beef cattle specialist with Texas A&M University (TAMU) says, “I encourage producers to think about bulls more as an investment rather than as an expense. Think about what you can invest economically, relative to what that investment can return.”

In fact, Cleere developed an online spreadsheet that enables producers to quickly estimate the net cost of a bull including purchase price, interest and salvage value along with the predicted value of additional weaning weight the bull might deliver (http://etbeeftamu.edu {go to Beef Cattle Information, then to Genetics and look for “Bull Power”}).

After all, whether calves are sold at weaning time or are retained through a stocker phase and then the feedlot, pounds still drive returns as much or more than the actual selling price.

That’s why buyers reward and discount feeder calves on weight potential as much as anything. For instance, in 2001 University of Arkansas extension specialists evaluated auction receipts in the state to determine value factors and impact. In that study, compared to Muscle Score (MS) 1 calves, buyers discounted MS 2 $4.72/cm.; MS 3 $13.40/ cwt.; and MS 4 $22.65/cwt. Similarly, using USDA Frame Score grades, relative to USDA Large, buyers discounted Medium $0.96/cm. and Small $19.53/cwt.


After bird flu, France fears ‘mad sheep’ disease

After bird flu, France fears ‘mad sheep’ disease

Sun Feb 26, 3:56 PM ET

France, which last week became the first European Union country to register the deadly bird flu in its commercial poultry sector, now fears it might have an outbreak of a rare strain of “mad sheep” disease, the agriculture ministry said.

Two suspected cases of a rare strain of the brain-wasting disease, which is also called scrapie and ovine spongiform encephalopathy, have been identified on two different farms in central France, the ministry said in a statement issued on the second day of France’s annual agricultural show.

“We will have more details in a few days,” a source at the ministry said, while the ministerial statement said that a year of tests would be needed before a final assessment could be made.

The source said that given that the strain was “unknown it is important to know exactly what the consequences are and in what conditions it is transmissible.”

A representative of the national ovine federation stressed that there was no risk to consumers.

“There is no risk for human consumption because since ‘mad cow disease’, whether it be for cattle or sheep, all risk materials, like brain, the bone marrow and the spleen are systematically removed before they are put on the market,” Emmanuel Cost, the federation’s deputy president, told AFP.

He said that neither of the sheep — which had originated in the adjoining central departments of the Cher and the Nievre — had been put on the market and the herds from which they came had been isolated and placed under surveillance.

However officials in the Cher later denied a case of scrapie had been detected in their region.

Scrapie was common in France in the 19th century, but only one case of the rare strain was publicly announced in a goat in 2004, an official for the French meat information centre said.

France’s national flock has been in decline to eight million head today, from 9.4 million in 2000 to 11.5 million in 1988.

Fill ‘er up: Rural residents forced to city taps

Fill ‘er up: Rural residents forced to city taps



Eagle Staff Writer

The drought of 2005 introduced a whole new meaning to the term “running water” for McDonough County farmers.

Ken Dallefeld of rural Macomb is of those farmers. He adds one more hour to his day each morning by driving into Good Hope to fill up on water for his cattle.

Dallefeld has been doing so since July, when the drought dried out his retention pond and the 25-foot well he has for livestock. He estimates the water table throughout McDonough County is at least nine inches below normal

In the summer he used a 1,200-gallon tanker every other day, but now, due to a smaller herd and to prevent any surplus from freezing, he fills up a 450-gallon tank in the back of his truck each day.

“It takes more time than just the hauling, it takes extra time to dispense it, too,” he said. “The actual cost of the water is minimal, but the labor and the cost of equipment … I’ve got a truck tied up that I could normally use for other things.”

Records at the waterworks station in Bushnell indicate Dallefeld is not alone.

In January 2005 the plant sold only 6,500 gallons of water out of its coin-operated dispenser. This year it had a more than 600 percent increase, to 40,500 gallons. In fact, the overall sale of water through its dispensing system increased from 141,600 gallons in 2004 to more than 340,400 gallons in 2005. The increase hit at the same time as the drought in June and July.

Dan Roberts, superintendent of water and sewer for Bushnell, said there’s been a considerable increase because of the drought, and there are several other communities with water works that have seen this, as well.

Matt Heisner, manager of the McDonough County Farm Bureau, said the farmers who use shallow wells for their livestock are the ones getting hit this winter.

“A lot of the farmers that use pasture for beef cows, sheep and horses have to haul water in. There’s just a lot of creeks and watering holes that over the last summer are drying up,” he said. “They just haven’t refilled due to the lack of precipitation.”

Drying up

That is the case with Dallefeld. Several years ago he built a retention pond on his property rather than dig a deeper well; the pond was one-third of the cost. But now he has to reduce the number of cattle he keeps on hand.

“Usually I’d have bought replacement cattle by now,” he said. “I’m not going to buy any until the ones that I’m feeding now are gone. Normally I have some big ones and some little ones. I’m starting next year’s crop, but I feel with the water situation right now, I will get rid of my bigger ones then buy some little ones.”

Dallefeld also farms corn and soybeans, and as concerned as he is about the state of his livestock, he is more so over the future of his crops.


South America special: A short drive from Buenos Aires, pull on your cowboy boots

South America special: A short drive from Buenos Aires, pull on your cowboy boots

The Independent

Ride a horse across the pampas – it’s one of those essential travel experiences. And you don’t need to own an estancia to get in the saddle. There are plenty of farms offering excursions to give you a taste of the wild Argentina style. Chris Moss hits the trail
Published: 26 February 2006

Buenos Aires hides the surrounding pampas, its high-rise towers creating an illusion of urban sophistication. As successful as this fantasy is, sometimes you positively ache to see the horizon. My well-heeled friends own small farms and every few weeks they let out a weary sigh of hedonistic overload and announce: “Me voy al campo.” I’m off to the country. It’s all quite 19th century and very enviable.

For those of us who are not landed, the gaucho way of life can be accessed at dozens of estancias within an hour or two’s drive of the city centre. All offer a Dia de Campo (lunch, horse-riding, use of the gardens and usually a pool) and many do overnight stays as well. I spent a day at La Encantada in the pretty town of Capilla del Señor, about 50 miles from Buenos Aires. The house, built in 1856 and once used for cattle auctions, has a plain, colonial façade and is nothing like as flash as some of the historic estancias. But the manageress Marcela Grinberg and her staff lay on a natty combination of several pampas themes.

The day kicks off with an open-air asado or barbecue, expertly prepared by the resident gauchos. Once the aromas of charred meat begin to rise from the grill, you get into the swing of things. Swing here means: idleness, eating, drinking and lots of bucolic chatter. First, there’s a vermouth or cocktail. Then empanadas and chorizo sausage sandwiches are handed out, along with glasses of oaky Malbec. I sat down to take on the sweetbreads, black puddings, chinchulines (intestines) and massive cuts of beef, with cattle, sheep and horses looking on and hawks wheeling overhead. It feels utterly organic.

Some people went riding before lunch. I went afterwards. Tipsy enough to delude myself that I was a bit of a cowboy, I climbed on to an admittedly mellow little horse. While trotting round the estancia, I kept an eye on the gaucho’s riding style, leaving one arm free, with my back upright, and shouting “dale” and “ugh-ah” sounds.

It’s very macho, but it works. My horse weaved politely through the stands of Alamo and cantered down the dirt roads.

There aren’t many native trees, so eucalyptus trees provide much of the shade. But at La Encantada and its neighbouring estancias, you can see examples of the awesome Ombu. An icon of the Argentine plains, it’s a vast triffid of a bush with impossibly long, tentacular branches that mirror the sprawl of its water-seeking roots. The grassland and lagoons are alive with birds. Until writer and twitcher WH Hudson gave his London lectures in the early 20th century, naturalists thought Latin America was full of squawking parrots. But the pampas are a songbook of ovenbirds, thrushes, chingolo sparrows and great kiskadees.

In the afternoon, I was treated to tea and home-made pastries and jams. Argentines still like to think we ingleses do this every day, but the fact is country folk in the province of Buenos Aires are far more genteel than old-time farmers in Britain. Even the estancias that are close to the city belong to a parallel universe; the rhythm is slower and there’s lots of time for reading, reflection and repose.

All serious gauchos respect the rite of the siesta and when the cicadas begin to shriek like chainsaws, it’s time to grab a hammock or go inside. La Encantada’s main house is decked out in the so-called criollo (as in creole) country style – elegantly rustic, with lots of wood, horseshoes, cowskins and brands. Like most estancias, it was built long before electricity and air-con (some still depend on their own generators), so the small bedrooms are cold, dark and somniferous. By the time I rose again, the sun was low and cooler and it was teatime once more – I joined a round of yerba mate, sipping from the gourd and letting the bitter herb and caffeinated hit gently rouse me.

Ten minutes later, I was told the wind was right for a hot-air balloon ride. As I rose above the house, the light was fading quite fast. I could still make out Argentina’s not very wild beasts dotted on the open plains – Herefords, Anguses, milk-loaded Charolaises, flocks of sheep. The dark green was broken by mirrors of crystalline wetlands where the herons and southern screamers hang out. An impossibly pink roseate spoonbill rose towards the balloon, and when the burner was silenced I thought I could hear the beating of stork wings. The landscape took on a new dimension, with its tidy tapestry of corn and soya fields and dead straight roads that seemed to go on and on for ever. A huge orange sun sunk slowly towards Chile.

Unlike most of Argentina’s tourist draws, the pampas are unspectacular. There’s no jagged glacier, teeming cataract or volcanic cone to photograph, and if you go for two or three days you’ll find there’s really not much to do. That’s the point. The skies are vast, the calm is tangible and substantial, and the planet tilts away whether you are in a balloon or on horseback. In Hudson’s famous phrase, it feels very “far away and long ago”. Yet the estancias are a short hop from the traffic and turmoil of one of the world’s most excitable cities. If peace could be quantified, I suspect they’d all be world heritage sites.


Demand spikes for organic beef

Demand spikes for organic beef

Local farmers question feasibility of certification requirements

Yvonne Teems
DBJ Staff Reporter

Bob Harris thinks he has all his cows in a row. He feeds his herd of 55 beef cattle organic hay, corn and wheat, and avoids using pesticides, chemicals and herbicides on his 160 acres of farmland near Oxford in Butler County. Harris is trying to get the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s stamp of organic approval on his cattle by summer and open new markets to his beef. But even if an area farm abides by most organic methods, as Harris is doing, obtaining that certified organic label may be just out of reach.

There aren’t any producers in southwest Ohio that are certified by the OEFFA. Those who do produce beef with organic methods, but aren’t certified — and there are few of them — usually sell to individuals such as neighbors, friends and anyone else out of their homes or farms.

But demand for organic beef is starting to spike in supermarkets and restaurants, said Sylvia Upp, OEFFA certification coordinator. And if local producers want to meet that demand in the coming years, they’ll have to get certified because supermarkets want that official approval. Certified organic beef sales in 2003 were $10 million nationwide, and they’re expected to grow at least 30 percent each year from 2004 to 2008, said Barbara Haumann, senior writer for the Organic Trade Association, a Greenfield, Mass.-based business association focused on organic trade.