Monthly Archives: February 2008

Baxter Black: Molasses Calf

Baxter Black:  Molasses Calf

Cattle Today

You gotta feed cows in the winter in the San Luis Valley of Colorado. Liquid molasses is a common supplement. But Annie (an alias) was not prepared for the sticky surprise she found in their molasses tank. Standing withers deep in the rectangular container was a four-day old bull calf!

She went to work trying to cajole and lift the calf over the edge. It was so slippery, no grip could be had. Taking the bull by the horns, so to speak, Annie delicately stepped into the tank. The molasses was cold and came up to her knees. Ignoring the discomfort and slime, she tried to lift the calf. Her attempts were fruitless; he was just too slick to hold.


HSUS Lawsuit To Ban Veterinary Discretion In Evaluating Animal Health

HSUS Lawsuit To Ban Veterinary Discretion In Evaluating Animal Health

 “Today, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), emboldened by the alarmist and unfounded food safety  concerns that they’ve generated, is now asking a Federal court to prohibit veterinarians in federally inspected meat plants from exercising medical judgment to determine whether some livestock are fit for consumption.

In meat plants, all livestock must be evaluated by federal veterinarians before they are processed.  Animals that cannot walk may not be processed.  However, some livestock can walk when they arrive, but after passing inspection, may become non-ambulatory.  In those very small instances in which this occurs, USDA permits veterinarians to determine whether these animals cannot walk due to an ailment like a broken leg or simple exhaustion or whether there is a different cause that would require these animals to be euthanized.  This is appropriate discretion to give these veterinarians.


K-State Economists Find ‘Stark Differences’ Between Countries Regarding Beef Risk Perceptions

K-State Economists Find ‘Stark Differences’ Between Countries Regarding Beef Risk Perceptions

WorldThe saying goes “You are what you eat,” but perceptions about what you’re eating when it comes to beef can vary widely from one country to another.

Using data from more than 4,000 consumers surveyed across four countries, agricultural economists from Kansas State University, Michigan State University and Maastricht University (Netherlands) found that consumers in Japan and Mexico have more concerns about beef food safety than do consumers in the United States and Canada.


Embryo Transfer Can Maximize Best Genetics

Embryo Transfer Can Maximize Best Genetics

Heather Smith Thomas

Cattle Today

A growing number of breeders now use advanced reproductive techniques such as embryo transfer (ET) to maximize the genetics of their best cows. This is a way to produce many more calves from an outstanding cow than she could ever raise in her lifetime. As pointed out by Russ Princ at Genex (a company that does custom semen collection, much of which is used for ET), this is also a way to get more calves from a pair of animals that nick well. “A good cow may have only 10 to 14 calves during her life, but with ET you can raise dozens of calves from her. People are selling rights to flushes, selling embryos, and confirmed sexed pregnancies (in recip cows) from a flush,” says Princ.


Analyzing The Cost Of A Bull

Analyzing The Cost Of A Bull

With the steady increase in input costs for cow-calf operations, beef producers will look to save money and cut costs in multiple fashions.  One area often targeted for cost-cutting measures is money spent on bulls.  Often producers focus on the initial cost of a sire, and realize “sticker shock” when purchase prices move upward.  Considering that the herd sire has significant impact on numerous of traits with economic importance (coat color, calf vigor, weaning weight, carcass grade), an individual sire has a pronounced impact on profitability. Bull purchase price needs to be put in perspective by evaluating price relative to years of useful service the cost per cow exposed.  Table 1 compares the cost per cow or a bull with a $2500 purchase price and one with a $1500 purchase price.  Assumptions are as follows:  4 years of service, salvage weight of 2000 lbs, salvage price of $50 cwt.  Cost per cow exposed is shown for each purchase price given the number of cows exposed. 


Research leading to tools for managing bovine respiratory disease complex

Research leading to tools for managing bovine respiratory disease complex


Bovine respiratory disease complex has multiple causes. It’s sometimes hard to classify and predict. It also costs the beef industry more than any other disease — an estimated $690 million in 2006, according to one report.

That’s why a team of Kansas State University researchers is stepping in. Using a three-year, $375,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the team is analyzing data from feedlots to develop decision-making tools that will make it easier for producers to manage the health of their cattle.


Feeders Gather to Learn Ways to Produce Better Beef

Feeders Gather to Learn Ways to Produce Better Beef

Cattle Today

Efficiency and quality are two important words in the beef industry. Both were covered during the Feeding Quality Forums, Nov. 13 in Garden City, Kansas, and Nov. 15 in South Sioux City, Neb.

Robert Strong, editor of Feedlot magazine, kicked off the programs by stressing the importance of continually building on the beef industry’s body of knowledge.

“In the future, we will use more information and technology, which will make life more interesting, predictable and profitable for all of us in the cattle industry,” he said.

Feedlot co-sponsored the meetings with Pfizer Animal Health, Land O’Lakes Purina Feeds LLC, and Certified Angus Beef LLC (CAB). Topics fit what were on cattle feeders’ minds.


The ethanol bust

The ethanol bust

The ethanol boom is running out of gas as corn prices spike.

By Jon Birger


Cargill announces it’s scrapping plans for a $200 million ethanol plant near Topeka, Kan. A judge approves the bankruptcy sale of an unfinished ethanol plant in Canton, Ill.. And that was just Tuesday.

Indeed, plans for as many as 50 new ethanol plants have been shelved in recent months, as Wall Street pulls back from the sector, says Paul Ho, a Credit Suisse investment banker specializing in alternative energy. Financing for new ethanol plants, Ho says, “has been shut down.”

How can the ethanol industry be slumping only two months after Congress passed an energy bill most experts consider a biofuels boon? The answer is runaway corn prices.

Spurred by an ethanol plant construction binge, corn prices have gone stratospheric, soaring from below $2 a bushel in 2006 to over $5.25 a bushel today. As a result, it’s become difficult for ethanol plants to make a healthy profit, even with oil at $100 a barrel.


Organic beef serves up more than dinner

Organic beef serves up more than dinner         

by Linda Read Deeds

North Platte Bulletin

Remember the old song, “Dry Bones,” in which “the knee bone is connected to the thigh bone”?

For injured athletes, soon that knee bone may be connected by a cow bone.

Advances in medicine have created an increased demand for surgical supplies, including glue, bone screws, collagen and artificial skin.

That demand has increased the use of xenografts – the use of animal products, including cow bones, to repair the human body.

One use of bovine bone is the production of screws used to repair a common athletic injury – a torn anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL.


AMI says HSUS assertions in lawsuit don’t hold up

AMI says HSUS assertions in lawsuit don’t hold up

Julie Harker

Brownfield Network

The president of the American Meat Institute says assertions made in the lawsuit filed against USDA by the Humane Society just don’t hold weight. Patrick Boyle told reporters Thursday that USDA should NOT reconsider its very narrow exception for allowing downer animals to be reinspected and reevaluated and then processed for food. He says there is not an increase in BSE risk as HSUS claims, “A Texas A&M expert says the risk of an animal in the circumstances when it has passed antemortem inspection and subsequently goes down in that brief period thereafter is Zero.”


Harkin: Meat safety requires ID program

Harkin: Meat safety requires ID program


DesMoines Register

Washington, D.C. — Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Ia., says this month’s massive beef recall shows that it’s time to have a national animal identification system.

Harkin, the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said today that a lot of meat could have been saved if inspectors had been able to trace some suspect cows slaughtered by a California packing plant. Instead, the processor was forced to recall 143 million pounds of beef, a full two years’ worth of production.

Harkin said his panel would pursue the ID issue once work on the farm bill is finished, but he stopped short of saying that Congress should make the program mandatory. Many cattle producers strongly oppose being required to participate in an ID system.

“This is a matter of public safety, and we’ve got to get to it very soon,” Harkin said.


Another TB infected beef herd found in Minnesota; state prepares for status downgrade

Another TB infected beef herd found in Minnesota; state prepares for status downgrade

The Pilot Independent

ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Board of Animal Health announced that a Beltrami County beef cattle herd has tested positive for bovine Tuberculosis (TB).

This is the fourth positive herd detected since October 2007, and it will likely result in the downgrade of Minnesota’s bovine TB status from Modified Accredited Advanced (MAA) to Modified Accredited (MA), as required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Code of Federal Regulations.

Since bovine TB was discovered in a northwest Minnesota beef cattle herd in July 2005, the disease investigation has found 11 infected beef cattle herds, all in Roseau and Beltrami counties. USDA regulations prescribe a downgrade in status when more than three herds are discovered within a 12 month period.


Agriculture Dept. Vows to Improve Animal Welfare

Agriculture Dept. Vows to Improve Animal Welfare


New York Times

WASHINGTON — Under sharp criticism for failing to detect animal abuse at a big California slaughterhouse, the Department of Agriculture promised on Thursday to step up its efforts to see that animals are treated humanely.

The Westland/Hallmark Meat Packing Company in Chino, Calif., a slaughterhouse where animals were mistreated.

For instance, inspectors have been told to make their review of animal welfare more random, so workers cannot prepare for their arrival by hiding evidence of abuse, and to pay special attention to plants where older or potentially sick animals are slaughtered, like veal and dairy cow slaughterhouses.


Storm of factors depress cattle numbers

Storm of factors depress cattle numbers

Weak domestic demand, surge in corn prices hit cattlemen

Scott A. Yates

Capital Press

SPOKANE – “Think globally, act locally,” might be a good motto for Northwest cattlemen who, a U.S. Department of Agriculture report reveals, are part of an intricate dance of market forces.

The Economic Research Service’s Livestock Outlook released Feb. 15 cites a combination of factors – besides feed costs – influencing what is expected to be a continued downsizing of the national cattle herd. Among ingredients out of ranchers’ hands:

• “Domestic economic weakness” combined with a lackluster retail sales outlook.

• “Abundant pork and poultry supplies” that are less expensive and have a much quicker cycling time than beef.

• Increased foreign demand for corn and other grains which “exacerbate the domestic cattle-grain sector picture.”

• The falling value of the dollar that “effectively raises the price of foreign beef” and decreases the demand for imports.


USDA Rejects ‘Downer’ Cow Ban

USDA Rejects ‘Downer’ Cow Ban

Agriculture Secretary Finds Existing Meat-Processing Rules Adequate

Washington Post

Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer told Congress yesterday that he would not endorse an outright ban on “downer” cows entering the food supply or back stiffer penalties for regulatory violations by meat-processing plants in the wake of the largest beef recall in the nation’s history.


Trent Loos: Stop the fallout

Trent Loos:  Stop the fallout

As the fallout continues from the largest U.S. Department of Agriculture beef recall in history, I find it interesting to read and contemplate the future of meat consumption in this country based on the comments our urban neighbors have posted on media websites after reading the news of the recall. Sadly, our competition, those with an anti-meat agenda, have done a very good job of positioning the story and using it to garner support for their fund-raising campaigns and legislative initiatives.

While there is no excuse for the reprehensible actions of the packing plant employees that were caught on the video released by the Humane Society of the United States, there are many who are using it to their benefit.


BeefTalk: Bull Buying Basics – The Package Counts, Not the Wrapping

BeefTalk: Bull Buying Basics – The Package Counts, Not the Wrapping

By Kris Ringwall, Beef Specialist, NDSU Extension Service

A well-wrapped package sells well, but don’t forget, it’s what’s in the package that counts.

Buying bulls can be simple if we can separate the wrapping from the package. The package is what counts, but many times we get all “wrapped up” in the way the package looks.

This is very similar to buying the perfect gift and then spending hours picking out the wrapping paper. We spend a lot of time on the wrapping paper, so much in fact that we may run out of time buying the right gift.

In reality, we don’t keep the wrapping in the beef business. What is inside the wrapping is what gives the package real meaning.

The industry today has adopted and implemented a genetic selection process called expected progeny differences (EPDs). EPDs are based on a thorough statistical evaluation of actual data. The data started appearing in bull catalogs years ago.


Minimizing Calf Losses

Minimizing Calf Losses

Calving can be a rewarding time, with each new birth helping justify the time, effort, and financial inputs invested in the cowherd. But unacceptably high – and possibly preventable – death loss among calves can be economically devastating.

Nationwide, calf death losses run an average of 5-7%, with similar patterns emerging in studies done in Colorado, Kansas, Montana, and other states. USDA numbers estimate the total number of preweaning deaths near 2.7 million per year, with a value of nearly one billion dollars annually. One study showed that these ‘typical’ losses equated to taking 35 pounds off of each calf sold at weaning. The greatest concern, of course, is a jump in the death rate; a herd with a serious scouring problem, for example, can lose half their calf crop.


Make Your Vet An Asset

Make Your Vet An Asset

W. Mark Hilton

Beef Magazine

When you look at the balance sheet for any business, every item is classified either as an asset, a liability or owner’s equity. As a veterinarian, it bugs me just a bit that we are listed as liabilities.

Yes, vets are an expense, just like feed or fence, but with due respect to vet and cowboy poet Baxter Black, I don’t like being “out there” as a liability. I think most vets want to be an asset, and on many farms or ranches, the herd-health vet actually is a true asset to the business.


Make Sure your Operation is Run Like Other Businesses

Make Sure your Operation is Run Like Other Businesses

John Alan Cohan, Attorney at Law

Cattle Today

In hobby loss audits, the IRS sometimes views various types of ranching activities as a means of generating tax losses, rather than a profit-oriented venture. That was the issue in the Tax Court case, Ralph Wesinger, Jr., v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue [T.C. Memo 1999-372].

Mr. Wesinger owned a lucrative computer servicing business in San Jose, California. He purchased two parcels of unimproved land and started a cattle ranch. He had some experience helping out occasionally on two dairy farms near where he grew up.

He did not seek any professional assistance at the time he purchased the ranch as to its suitability for cattle ranching. He had no formal business plan detailing how a profit was to be made from the ranching operations. His plan was to buy, raise and sell cows. However, he learned that the grasses on the land would not support the cattle.