Close
Home  All Articles
 
 
Thursday, December 20,2007

GUEST opinion

by WLJ
—Congress needs to repair several flaws before COOL’s 2008 effective date. Congress passed a mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) law for many fresh meat products as part of the 2002 Farm Bill. Its implementation has been delayed a number of times, mainly because of the logistical nightmares it will create for the livestock industry. NCBA (National Cattlemen’s Beef Association) members do not oppose the concept of COOL. We raise the safest and best beef in the world, and we are proud to put a USA label on it. But specific flaws in the 2002 law are harmful to cattlemen, which is why NCBA has made several efforts to fix the statute. Unfortunately, we’ve been unable to do so, and we are all out of reprieves. Mandatory COOL is going into effect in September of 2008—there’s just no way around it. This gives us very little time to persuade Congress to address the shortcomings of this law. But that’s exactly what we need to do, and we need your help. How is the law flawed? There are numerous deficiencies with the current COOL law, but let’s focus on the major problems: Poultry is completely exempt That’s right—our number one protein competitor is totally exempt from COOL. Proponents will say the United States does not import a lot of fresh poultry. That’s true, but that’s not the issue. By exempting all poultry, we allow the industry with which we compete most fiercely to completely avoid the costs and regulatory burdens of COOL. In terms of enjoyment and flavor, Americans have repeatedly expressed a preference for beef over chicken. But we all know it’s difficult for beef to compete with chicken on the basis of price. This gets even harder when we are saddled with the additional regulatory burdens and costs of COOL, from which poultry escapes completely. Foodservice is exempt Over half the beef consumed in America is not prepared at home—but rather in restaurants, hotels and cafeterias. For imported beef, the percentage is drastically higher. So where is the logic in having a grocery store meat case in which almost every single package of beef is labeled “product of USA,” while none of the beef served in a steakhouse, fast food drive-thru, or the local bar-and-grill is labeled at all? If COOL is really all about informing consumers, this law falls woefully short by exempting the venues in which most imported beef is sold. Record-keeping nightmares for cattlemen Proponents of mandatory COOL would have you believe this law places a burden to prove origin on importers, but not on domestic producers. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite. The requirement is placed squarely on retailers to prove that any product with a USA label is legitimately born, raised, processed within our borders. The retailer has no choice but to push this burden downstream to the processor, and the processor will do likewise to the cattle producer. Already we’ve seen information emerging from the packing and retail sectors about the paperwork required to market cattle under this law, and it’s not a pretty picture. It’s extensive and expensive—and it starts now, because there is no exemption for cattle born before the effective date of the law. So calves born this spring—if they are to be slaughtered in the fall of 2008—are included. They can’t make me do that…can they? It’s easy to go on the defensive and say that packers and retailers can’t impose extensive paperwork requirements on you just to prove the origin of your cattle. Well that’s true, they can’t. But they can refuse to buy them. Or they can offer you a much lower price than they pay for cattle that meet all the requirements. NCBA supports voluntary efforts by cattlemen to source-verify their cattle, but has worked hard to keep mandatory animal ID from being forced on the nation’s cattle producers. But unless Congress takes steps to fix it, this flawed COOL law could end up being a back-door route to mandatory animal ID. If someone tells you this can’t happen, ask them to show you the part of the mandatory COOL law that protects you. There is none—it doesn’t exist. COOL does not equal food safety A number of food safety issues have emerged recently involving imported products, and this is sometimes used as a justification for the COOL law. But COOL does not improve food safety, and it is misleading to suggest otherwise. Food that does not meet U.S. health and safety standards should not be sold here—period! Putting a label on an unsafe product doesn’t help the consumer one bit. These products must be taken off the shelves and discarded, not given some sort of an “eat-at-your-own-risk” label. These are the major reasons Congress must revisit and amend the mandatory COOL law. In its present form, it is simply too flawed to be beneficial to cattlemen or the consumers we serve. Nor can these problems be adequately addressed through agency rules and regulations. USDA has re-opened a comment period on COOL, but a regulatory agency is very limited in its ability to fix problems through regulations, when an underlying statute is so badly written. As we try to persuade Congress to fix the COOL law, time is short and opportunities are limited. The House version of the 2007 Farm Bill may be our only hope. House Ag Chairman Collin Peterson is a staunch supporter of COOL, but he does recognize many of the shortcomings in the current law. As House committees begin their markups of the Farm Bill, we need the House leadership to step up and make the necessary corrections. Surprisingly, NCBA won’t have a lot of help in getting this law fixed for cattlemen. Some groups that claim to support cattle producers are so infatuated with the idea of seeing COOL take effect, they are choosing to ignore the numerous problems in the law. They just want a COOL bill—and, apparently, any bill will do. The misinformation they spread on this issue—and their misleading denial of this law’s flaws—won’t make fixing it any easier. So we need you to reach out to your congressman, and it must happen soon. Visit www.beefusa.org for more details on how you can help fix COOL. — Steve Fogelsong [Steve Foglesong is a cattle producer from Astoria, IL, and chairs the Policy Division of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.]

Read more
Thursday, December 20,2007

—New law provides labeling, while reducing record keeping requirements and

by WLJ
As a part of its enormous 2007 Farm Bill proposal, the House Ag committee passed a modified mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) law two weeks ago after a late night session. The revised program put forward by the committee creates a labeling program similar to that required by the school lunch program. According to the COOL language in the bill, it provides for three categories of labeling. One that indicates the product was born, raised and slaughtered in the U.S.; one that indicates product was not exclusively born, raised and slaughtered in the U.S.; and one that includes products entirely from other countries. For ground meat, products can be labeled with a list of countries where product may have originated. In addition, the regulations provide a grandfather clause for cattle in the U.S. prior to Jan. 1, 2008, omitting them from any required COOL documentation. Perhaps most importantly, the modified version doesn’t create any additional record keeping for livestock producers.  What remains to be seen is what language will be required on the actual label itself if the program makes it intact through to the president’s desk for a signature. However, the proposal still has a long way to go before becoming law, including a full debate and vote in the House of Representatives and a conference committee where the House and Senate will hash out a program that will likely be a compromise between two Farm Bills. The Senate Ag Committee is running behind schedule and announced last week that it will not be ready for a vote on a Farm Bill proposal until September. Senate Ag Committee Chair Tom Harkin, D-IA, said last week that he envisions a very different version of the bill coming from the Senate, which could include different plans for COOL. Harkin expressed surprise at the House’s version of COOL following its passage. Other senators also took action on COOL last week. In fact, last week, Sen. Tim Johnson, D-SD, managed to pass an amendment to the fiscal year 2008 ag spending bill which includes a provision that establishes benchmarks for USDA’s implementation of mandatory COOL and reaffirms the program will take effect on Sept. 30, 2008. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) members, who were attending the groups’ mid- year meeting in Denver, CO, when the House compromise was struck, expressed at least partial satisfaction with the new requirements after arguing that the version passed as part of the 2002 Farm Bill was too cumbersome for the industry. “We support the concept of country-of-origin labeling, but NCBA has contended for many years that a poorly written COOL law will be harmful to the U.S. cattle industry,” said Jay Truitt, NCBA vice president of government affairs. “Our top priority from the beginning has been that the benefits of COOL must outweigh the costs for cattle producers. We took some major steps in that direction last night.” He cautioned, however, that the latest version of COOL is far from perfect. Poultry is still completely exempt from all requirements imposed on beef, pork and lamb. This is a major disappointment for cattlemen because poultry is beef’s primary protein competitor in the consumer marketplace. “Perhaps when COOL takes effect, consumers will wonder why beef is labeled, but not chicken. Cattlemen have been wondering that same thing throughout this process,” Truitt said. NCBA’s final objection to the COOL law is the misconception that it will address food safety issues. NCBA President John Queen, a North Carolina cattle producer, said labeling is not a solution to recent safety problems with imported foods.  “Any product that does not meet the health and safety standards of the United States should not be sold here—period,” Queen said. “Don’t put an ‘eat-at-your-own-risk’ label on it. It has no place on our stores shelves. Turn it away at the border, or throw it out.” Not suprisingly, R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America also welcomed the passage of the program. After the announcement, R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard also noted the improvement in the bill which eliminated the burdensome record keeping requirement for the industry. This has been a key sticking point for producers and packers alike. “Only cattle born, raised and slaughtered in the United States will qualify to receive the ‘Product of the U.S’ label, and there is no doubt that our members have played a significant role in defending country-of-origin labeling, so it’s a tremendous victory for R-CALF,” Bullard said. “This combination of grassroots lobbying and national attention quickly eroded the anti-COOL efforts of meatpacker trade associations.” Bullard said passage of the bill despite strong opposition from packing industry lobbying groups, as well as others who opposed the program in its original form, was the direct result of the efforts of National Farmer’s Union and R-CALF membership as he thanked Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-MN, and leaders of the National Farmers Union, who Bullard credited with helping to craft the legislation.  Although the House Farm Bill package was still being debated on the House floor last week, Peterson said last week he did not foresee that challenges to the package forwarded by the Ag Committee would be successful, saying that his committee had worked closely with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, in crafting the proposal. “The speaker is involved in this,” he said during a press conference, July 20. “There may be amendments offered, but I don’t think they will be successful.” — John Robinson, WLJ Editor  

Read more
Thursday, December 20,2007

Marston joins AHA

by WLJ
The American Hereford Association (AHA) and Hereford World (HW) is proud to announce Andee Marston, Manhattan, KS, has joined the Hereford team. Marston will join the AHA/HW staff in August as the southeast region field representative. In this position, Marston will attend Hereford sales and events as well as assist breeders with marketing and genetic selection. He will also assist in educating members and commercial producers about AHA programs and other beef industry opportunities. He will serve as the communication link between AHA and breeders in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. “We are extremely pleased to be able to hire a high caliber young man like Andee as the southeastern field representative,” says Joe Rickabaugh, AHA director of field management and seedstock marketing. Marston has been involved in the beef industry since birth. His family has a registered Shorthorn operation near Manhattan. While growing up, he was active in the Shorthorn junior association and graduated from Kansas State University with an animal science degree. Since graduation, he has been involved in the seedstock industry, including assisting Jensen Bros., Courtland, KS, with show cattle management and its bull management and collection service. Most recently, he has been manager of Bohi Land & Cattle Co. Butler Division. Marston will be relocating to the Nashville, TN, area.

Read more
Thursday, December 20,2007

Six U.S. cattle operations win environmental awards

by WLJ
The members of the 2007 National Environmental Stewardship Award Program (ESAP) Selection Committee announced the winners of this year’s regional awards at last week’s mid-year meeting of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). The winners hail from diverse family cattle operations from across the U.S. The six regional winners have made extensive efforts to work closely with their local communities and government agencies, including the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), to implement conservation programs that benefit everyone. They have seen the value in utilizing conservation programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) on their operations. “We are also proud to announce that 2007 marks the 17th year of the Environmental Stewardship Award Program. Over the years, we have seen an exceptional number of applications, and we look forward to the continued growth of this prestigious award program. We thank Dow AgroSciences LCC and the NRCS for their dedication to sponsoring this award program, which honors environmental innovation and perseverance among U.S. cattle producers,” said ESAP committee members in a statement. The 2007 Regional ESAP winners are: Sunrise Club Calves, Shippenville, PA Sunrise Club Calves represents NCBA’s Region I, which includes nine states spanning from Kentucky to New York. They were nominated by Pennsylvania Cattlemen’s Association. The cow/calf operation specializes in producing club calves, which are calves purchased to be shown as project animals. The farm has been in the family since 1942, when it was operated by Paul Wingard’s parents. In 1978, Paul and Beth purchased the operation and began to implement innovative conservation practices. As of today, the farm dedicates around 125 acres for grazing and has 200 leased acres for hay production and 25 acres of woodlots. Seventy cow/calf pairs and about 10 yearlings graze on the 125 acres, which are intensively managed with a small heard of boer goats utilized for weed control. Dee River Ranch, Aliceville, AL Located on the Alabama-Mississippi line, Dee River Ranch was nominated by the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association. Dee River Ranch is a family owned and operated farming operation run by Mike Dee and his sister Annie. The ranch includes 10,000 acres: 2,500 acres for forages and cattle; 4,000 acres in the Conservation Reserve Program; and 3,500 acres devoted to corn, wheat, and soybeans. In 1989, the Dee family sold their Florida ranch to the state of Florida as part of the “Save the Rivers” program and purchased their current operation. Maintaining productive soils is a top priority on the Dee River Ranch, which is witnessed in the three components of their ranch: cropland; highly erodible, environmentally sensitive land; and hay/grazing land. Improvements in pasture management and implementation of erosion control practices have maintained valuable resources while maximizing production. On-surface water monitoring now indicates little if any soil erosion from pastures. In cooperation with NRCS and Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Mike developed a comprehensive plan to reduce sedimentation and erosion and improve water quality that served as an example for fellow producers. Mike identified three types of high-use problem-causing areas: gates, water troughs, and working facilities. A combination of geo-textile cloth and gravel was applied around all water troughs and under all gates. In 2006, Mike completed construction of new working facilities away from surface water. Dee River Ranch’s experience in preventative moisture loss conservation practices has especially proved valuable this year, due to the severe drought in the southeastern U.S. Oak Knoll Ranch, Salem, MO Located in south central Missouri, Oak Knoll Ranch was nominated by the Top of the Ozarks. Leon and Helen Kreisler own and operate Oak Knoll Ranch, a 100 head cow/calf operation which runs on 360 owned acres and 120 acres on long-term lease. Their commercial Angus herd is run on 380 acres of grass, and the remaining 100 acres are in timber production. In addition to the cattle and timber production, the Kreisler’s also provide limited hunting leases. A partnership with the Missouri Department of Conservation provided the initial funding to set up a grazing system years ago. They have spent years utilizing NRCS technical assistance in designing a water system and prescribed burns. The Kreislers became one of the organizing members of the Advanced Graziers Group, a multi-county producer-driven network. Leon and Helen have solicited the knowledge of guest speakers and implemented a farm tour program within this group to actively learn more about potential conservation practices. Roaring Springs Ranch, Frenchglen, OR Located in southeastern Oregon, Roaring Springs Ranch was nominated by the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association. Roaring Springs Ranch was purchased in 1992 by the Bob and Jane Sanders and Rob and Carla Sanders families. They have operated the ranch as a cow/calf-stocker operation which sustains more than 6,200 head cow/calves, 150 horses, and harvests 2,500 acres of meadow hay and 1,200 acres of alfalfa. Roaring Springs Ranch’s operations utilize a total of 1,011,792 acres of diverse lands, including 249,798 deeded acres, 735,359 acres lease from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), 22,000 acres of private leases, and 4,640 leased from the state of Oregon. The Sanders’ family main goal for the operation, as implemented by Stacy Davies, ranch manager, is to be economically, ecologically and socially sustainable. The vast size and elevation variance of the ranch provides high-quality forage for year-round grazing. By matching the livestock production cycle with the native plant nutrition provided by stewardship efforts, they eliminate the use of stored feeds. With a diverse ecosystem of forage and wildlife, Roaring Springs Ranch initiated and implemented the nationally recognized Catlow Valley Fishes Conservation Agreement which sought to remove threats to the native fish species and reestablish them to their native range. Creating partnerships and cooperative agreements has become a major focus of the operation in stopping the spread of evasive species, improving wildlife habitat, educating future agriculturalists, and implementing proper management techniques. Roaring Springs Ranch has managed environmental challenges that come with utilizing multi-use public lands. In cooperation with BLM, the Roaring Springs Ranch instituted a prescribed fire program on over 100,000 acres to restore upland watershed health. This partnership has not only benefitted the watershed, but has increased forage for wildlife and livestock. Yolo Land & Cattle Co., Woodland, CA Located on the outskirts of Sacramento, CA, the Yolo Land & Cattle Co. is a family-owned limited partnership. This cow/calf, stocker, and registered cattle operation was nominated by the California Cattlemen’s Association and the California Rangeland Trust. Formed in 1976, Yolo Land & Cattle Co. was a partnership between Henry Stone and John Anderson. In 1983, the partnership was dissolved and Henry retained the headquarters, and soon after, his sons joined him in further developing and diversifying the operation. Yolo Land & Cattle Co. runs on deeded, leased and Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres that encompass more than 12,000 total acres. The cattle division includes cow/calf, stocker, and registered cattle. They also operate a farming division including rinse water management and the production of wheat, corn and hay crops. A sampling of the projects that Yolo Land & Cattle Co. has implemented include: a Vegetative Management Plan (VMP), rotational grazing, grazing on CRP lands, and invasive weed control. Partnering with the California Audubon Society and the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection created the largest VMP in the state of California for the purpose of conducting annual spring grass burns and fall brush burns on a total 45,000 acres. The Stone family has a long tradition of conservation work with the Yolo County Resource Conservation District and with USDA’s NRCS, as well as many other agencies and conservation organizations. They also have a long tradition of opening up their ranch for tours and conservation education opportunities. Alexander Ranch, Sun City, KS Located just a few miles north of the Oklahoma-Kansas line, the Alexander Ranch was nominated by the Comanche Pool Prairie Resource Foundation. The ranch covers 7,000 acres and has flourished as a custom grazing operation for the past 23 years. Often stocking between 500-700 cow/calf pairs or 2,500 yearlings, the operation runs on a rotational grazing method. When beneficial to the management of the stockpiled forage, cattle are custom grazed during the winter months. Environmental enhancements to the land include removal of invasive eastern red cedar trees, development of livestock water sources, improvement of forage productivity, and increasing the native plant and wildlife diversity. The ranch is divided into three grazing cells, each consisting of smaller paddocks of acreage. Partnering with several agencies, the Alexander Ranch leveraged resources to optimize the land’s environmental capabilities. The ranch works with NRCS and recently utilized EQIP to install a water system to expand the grazing system. Additionally, a cooperative effort with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks is key to many of Alexander Ranch’s accoplishments. The ranch is home to many wildlife and aquatic species that are candidates for protection under the Endangered Species Act. As a result of the partnership, the Alexander Ranch was able to enhance water developments, incorporate native forbs on the old cropped areas, and expand the grazing system. The culmination of the Alexander Ranch’s grazing lands management practices has contributed to an increase in stocking rates of over 100 percent from the 1984 level, maintained individual animal performance, and increased the pounds of beef produced per acre while upholding the management goals to improve water quality, water quantity, soil health and native rangelands. The 2007 ESAP Selection Committee consists of past award winners, university faculty, federal and state government agencies, and conservation and environmental organizations. The program is administered by NCBA and sponsored by Dow AgroSciences LCC and NRCS. The 2007 National Winner will be selected from one of the six ESAP Regional Winners and revealed at the 2008 Cattle Industry Convention in Reno, NV, next February.

Read more
Thursday, December 20,2007

USDA expands emergency haying and grazing

by WLJ
Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres eligible for emergency haying and grazing in Alabama, Indiana, Mississippi, Montana, Ohio, Oregon and Tennessee have been expanded to include land in an area radiating 210 miles out from all counties previously approved for emergency haying and grazing, USDA announced last week. “We are closely monitoring the drought and providing assistance when we can,” said USDA Secretary Mike Johanns. “Emergency haying and grazing is a helpful tool for livestock owners and I’m pleased to make it available to more farmers and ranchers.” CRP is a voluntary program that offers annual rental payments and cost-share assistance to establish long-term resource-conserving cover on eligible land. The expansion permits approved CRP participants to cut hay or graze livestock on CRP acreage, providing supplemental forage to producers whose pastures have been negatively affected by drought. To be approved for emergency haying or grazing, a county must be listed as a level “D3 Drought- Extreme” or greater, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, http://drought.unl.edu/dm/monitor.html, or have suffered at least a 40 percent loss of normal moisture and forage for the preceding four-month qualifying period. USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) state committees may authorize emergency haying or grazing of CRP land in counties currently listed as level D3 drought. CRP participants who want to apply for emergency haying and grazing to their local FSA office must wait until after the nesting season for certain birds. Only livestock operations located within approved counties are eligible for emergency haying or grazing of CRP acreage. CRP participants who do not own or lease livestock may rent or lease the grazing privilege to an eligible livestock farmer located in an approved county. Producers with CRP acreage that is hayed or grazed will be assessed a 10 percent reduction in their annual rental payment. Maps relating to this announcement and more information on emergency haying and grazing are available at local FSA offices and online at: www.fsa.usda. gov/FSA/webapp?area=home&subject=copr&topic=crp-eg.

Read more
Thursday, December 20,2007

BeefTalk

by WLJ
August 1, 2005 The cattle business is considered mature in many respects, but maturity does not imply an absence of change. The Dickinson Research Extension Center (DREC) recently invited several individuals in to review and discuss the current state of animal waste systems. In particular, the DREC needs to address the situation, not only from a research perspective, but also from the pure management view. Research centers also are production units that need to follow the rules of play. Federal and state governments, or a local governing board, generally set these rules. What was interesting about the discussion, and perhaps very indicative of where the world is going, was the array of terms discussed. A normal cow/calf operation certainly would have a well-thought-out plan for feeding the cowherd and managing it through calving. A typical discussion may involve the feeding method, hay quality or perhaps the addition of grain in the ration. If something like grain is fed, then how should it be fed and where would the feed bunks be located? Water placement would be critical, especially as the cattle head into the Northern winter winds. This all sounds generic and are common discussion points for an afternoon of cow talk. At the review, none of these points even surfaced. A completely new list of terms for today’s cow/calf producer was brought up. Critical to the placement of a cowherd in today’s environment are issues such as water runoff and manure analysis. These new terms percolate through the discussion, broadening the discussion beyond just the immediate location of the cows. Last week, the definition of an animal feeding operation (AFO) was noted. AFOs include cows and calves that remain in one location for more than 45 days throughout the year and affect the normal growth of desirable plants. How many winter-feeding yards produce an excellent crop of weeds the next summer? That makes your location an AFO and means you need to determine if you need a permit from the Department of Health to operate your existing cow/calf enterprise. That statement causes some to cough. There is no grandfather clause. What you see is what you will be. The discussion moved on with more questions. Is the location of the winter-feeding grounds impacting ground water or air quality? What is the effect of compaction? Do all those cows and calves compact the soil such that springtime plant growth is inhibited? What about pathogens or antibiotic residues? Is there any indication the nitrogen cycle is impacted? If a cowherd has the potential to affect the environment, a permit will be required, along with appropriate managerial or facility changes, to assure the environmental impact is negligible. Not only the physical aspects of the cow/calf operation entered the discussion. The plans to accommodate waste removal also need to be evaluated. What is the nutrient availability of the manure ,and how should it be composted and spread on designated fields? Is there enough land to accommodate the volume of waste produced? Are there compositing sites available? If the word “runoff” came up, the next series of discussions centered on the need for adequate retaining dikes for composting sites and good grazing and cropping systems to assure appropriate utilization of the waste once applied to the fields. Perhaps precision agricultural techniques need to be evaluated. A heavy sigh! Whatever happened to feeding hay bales and just watching the cows eat? Do you know what a VAPS is? More next time. May you find all your NAIS-approved ear tags. — Kris Ringwall (Kris Ringwall is a North Dakota State University Extension beef specialist, director of the NDSU Dickinson Research Center and executive director of the North Dakota Beef Cattle Improvement Association. He can be contacted at 701/ 483-2045.)

Read more
Thursday, December 20,2007

Black Ink

by WLJ
August 1, 2005 Once a cow is pregnant, the role of genetic selection is finished. Now it’s up to nature and management to determine if the calf will live up to its potential. Cow nutrition and weather play leading roles in the months before calving, but gestation is a fixed term. Given the breeding date, you can look up when the calf is due. After it hits the ground, however, management can vary the milestones. You can take your time, balancing use of resources with the need for sales revenue and beef quality. A century ago, if you didn’t like the market for two-year-olds, they often became threes. Today, we know that the longer you take to raise a calf to a finished endpoint, the more can go wrong. Younger finished cattle may also open doors to a billion-dollar export market. Weaning can profitably take place at less than 90 days of age to nearly a year in some herds. Most ranchers aim for an industry standard of about seven months, but there is a trend toward earlier weaning. Researchers have found weaning at less than five months allows calves to adjust while under the protection of maternal antibodies. It also lets spring calvers regain condition before winter, and makes feeding more efficient for all. Ohio and Illinois studies show calves that start on a grain-based diet earlier in life develop the type of rumen bacteria more likely to let each potential fleck of marbling bloom within muscle tissues. That’s compared to calves that remain on a forage-based diet until they are yearlings. Nebraska trials indicate beef from yearlings tends to be tougher, too. Up to 70 percent of the feed cattle consume goes to body maintenance—and that’s every day. No wonder more producers see greater efficiency in resource use to aim for harvest of finished cattle at 13 to 14 months rather than placement on feed at 16 to 18 months. As interest rates inch higher, the economic reasons for faster finishing grow. Producers who wean early do not generally sell lighter calves. Rather, they retain ownership and maintain the plan of nutrition as calves get used to independent life. Then they step up to higher daily gains. Any setbacks to slow-grow or maintenance diets risk lower beef quality, especially on calves with growth implants. Given the right combination of genetics and nutrition, implants are not harmful to beef quality, but strategy is important. Tradition rules much of cattle country, partly because of the “disconnect” between cow/calf, stocker, feedlot and packer segments. Land and resource control is another factor. It’s easy to stick with a program of grazing calves that should be in a feedlot because a landlord only allows yearlings. Indeed, there is a widespread bias among non-farm landlords. What their fathers told them is true: It is easier to deal with yearlings. cow/calf pairs require a longer season and may graze less evenly. Bulls can cause problems with fences and neighboring herds. However, producers who see merit in the calf-fed route should begin negotiations to evolve new grazing plans with such landlords. Heifers could be an option, or the pasture could be part of a larger pasture rotation of cow/calf pairs, resulting in fewer grazing days and the same income as yearlings provided. The trend toward calf-fed beef may gradually affect supply and demand on the range. Grass pastures are often hard to find because of long-term relationships, but if yearlings continue to lose the quality edge, they will become less profitable, and then, less numerous. A few custom grazers have already begun to offer contracts with cow/calf pairs as a grass-harvesting alternative to yearlings. While the role of genetic selection ends at conception, expression and evaluation of calf genetics and those of the cow are keys to adapting any herd to a calf-fed program. Observation and measurement may lead to different selection decisions down the road. Producers may add to their balanced trait criteria with rapid early growth and the ability to deposit marbling at an early age. Next time in Black Ink, we’ll look at what’s on your grill. — Steve Suther (“Black ink” is a cattle management column written by Steve Suther, industry information director for Certified Angus Beef. The column is not designed for strictly Angus producers, and does not necessarily represent the views or opinions of WLJ or its editorial staff.)

Read more
Thursday, December 20,2007

Comments

by WLJ
August 1, 2005 I t came and went without a lot of fanfare—I’m referring to R-CALF’s mid-year meeting in Reno, NV. I suppose they had a lot to talk about at the meeting, but the perplexing part of this episode is that it was kept pretty quiet. Here at WLJ, we didn’t run anything about the upcoming meeting because we had no clue about it, and, trust me, we pay attention to what R-CALF is up to. Their quest to slam the USDA over its handling of the Canadian border situation may not be over after all. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals did indeed hand U.S. District Court Judge Richard Cebull his head over his decision to grant R-CALF a temporary injunction, and gave a fairly lengthy list detailing his lack of judgement. R-CALF obviously didn’t like the ruling from the appellate court and they are contemplating their options. The three-judge panel outlined their logic in a 56-page document. They said that Cebull never referred to any case law to justify his decisions to favor R-CALF’s expert testimony. The judges said that Cebull must consider USDA’s decisions and justifications as fact, and then attempt to prove them wrong. Even though USDA has bungled a few items on this BSE deal, the court maintained they are still the authority. Some of the highlight comments from the court’s decision included, “They will reverse only where the district court abused its discretion or based its decision on erroneous legal standard or clearly erroneous findings of fact.” That may give R-CALF some wiggle room to pursue the case further. “The district court failed to abide by this deferential standard,” the ruling said. “Instead, the court committed legal error by failing to respect the USDA’s judgement and expertise. Rather than evaluating the Final Rule to determine if USDA had a basis for its conclusions, the district court repeatedly substituted its judgment for USDA’s, disagreeing with USDA’s determinations even though they had a sound basis in the administrative record, and accepting the scientific judgments of R-CALF’s experts over those of the USDA.” “The district court, in this instance, impermissibly substituted its judgement for that of the USDA. The USDA, in its final rule calculated Canada’s BSE prevalence rate to be between .03 and .04 per million head of cattle. The district court gave no reason for departing from this calculation and, instead, adopting the calculation of R-CALF’s expert wholesale, of 5.56 cases per million head.” I spoke with Leo McDonnell about R-CALF’s intentions and he said that the Ninth Circuit didn’t shut them down on the entire case and that they intend on playing this thing out. He said they are still considering their legal options. He said that they won’t try and change venues, and they won’t go to the Supreme Court. He did say that Cebull did indeed get spanked by the Appellate Court, and they are not sure that he will even agree to hear the case on a permanent injunction request against Canadian beef and cattle. R-CALF’s contention still is that USDA opened the Canadian border and then tried to justify their actions. He said that USDA’s BSE scientific working group said in 2003 that USDA shouldn’t open the border and USDA disbanded the group because they didn’t support USDA’s goal of resuming trade with Canada. The thought that the U.S. has never imported beef from a BSE country may be true. But, prior to the U.S. having BSE, even though it was a Canadian case, USDA has been trying to change the perspective on BSE. The overlying thought ever since Canada had their first cases was, when the U.S. gets a case—not if—the U.S. should start to change its mind set on BSE world wide. The World Animal Health Organization (OIE) has always left wiggle room in their recommendations on beef trade from countries that have had BSE. Right now it’s the under 30 months of age rule and specified risk material removal, prevalence rates, surveillance programs and a host of other recommendations that are allowing other countries to even consider buying U.S. beef. Frankly it’s in every cattle producer’s best interest to work to support the perspective that the disease is still insignificant. At this stage of the game, it’s not that we have it, it’s all about what we do about it. — PETE CROW

Read more
Thursday, December 20,2007

California water may be privatized

by DTN
That’s 15 percent of the federally controlled water in California, which would make it the largest grant to irrigators since the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation was created in 1903, agency officials said. The Westlands Water District, a coalition of giant agribusinesses in the fertile San Joaquin Valley, draws its water from the Central Valley Project, a vast irrigation system that also supplies drinking water to about 1 million households. If drought-like conditions persist in the West, a deal would guarantee the farmers’ irrigation pumps will flow, even if that means some cities in the San Francisco Bay area will get less drinking water. “Can a proposal that appears to put a small group of farm operations ahead of the taxpayers and our fish and wildlife resources be justified because it may help one federal agency deal with a specific drainage problem?” said Hal Candee, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council who is participating in the negotiations. Westlands declined to comment, saying Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, had asked participants to refrain from speaking about the negotiations in advance of last Wednesday’s meeting. Feinstein said in a statement that the purpose of the meeting is “to examine whether the serious drainage issues facing the Valley can be resolved.” The proposed settlement, documents for which were obtained by The Associated Press, would give the Westlands farmers a stake in a massive reservoir, millions of dollars in pumps and pipes, and permanent rights to enough water to serve 8 million people. It is one of two settlements being considered. The second proposal would offer landowners a contract for less water, but would still ensure that Westlands farmers get their water before cities in Santa Clara and Contra Costa counties. Westlands is the nation’s largest water district and its members include Harris Farms, one of California’s biggest farming operations, and Tanimura & Antle, the nation’s top lettuce grower. More than a decade ago, the district sued the government after a botched federal project left thousands of acres of cropland tainted by salty, polluted runoff, and caused the death or deformation of thousands of birds. The proposed water-rights deal would settle that lawsuit. Westlands recently hired two former Bush administration officials, one who is helping to negotiate the deal with the Bureau of Reclamation, a division of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Susan Ramos, a former assistant regional director at the Bureau of Reclamation, and Jason Peltier, former water policy adviser at the Interior Department, both took management posts at the district. Either plan would need congressional approval. Bureau officials say the proposals would be cheaper than an official plan registered with the courts that would cost $2.6 billion to retire almost 200,000 acres of tainted Central Valley cropland and clean up salty runoff from surrounding areas.

Read more
Thursday, December 20,2007

Canada focused on beef research

by WLJ
The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC), a division of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), is offering industry affiliates and producers more information on research and development that has been undertaken on behalf of the Canadian beef cattle industry. Several research projects have been completed that provide insight and benefit the industry. Fact sheets have been developed on each project to provide accessible and easy to read information. “The goal of the fact sheets is to provide information on the projects the BCRC is undertaking in order to advance industry knowledge through research and technology development,” says Andrea Brocklebank, research manager for CCA. “Thirteen project fact sheets have been completed to date and they are an effective way to provide an overview of the detailed research that went into each project. The full reports are quite in-depth and scientific—which many people find difficult to read; however, we feel it’s important that this information be public knowledge and available to industry. Readers should appreciate and find the fact sheets very useful.” As the beef cattle industry moves into the future, it is becoming increasingly important to have a strong foundation supported by research and development. The BCRC was established in 1997 to determine research and development priorities for the beef cattle industry, and to administrate the research funding allocation of the National Check-off. A portion of the funds collected from the National Beef Cattle Research, Market Development and Promotion Agency (National Check- off) are directed towards BCRC to sponsor development. Any individual or organization, including academic institutions, private industries, government or non-government from Canada or elsewhere, with a proven ability to carry out research projects in areas that could be useful to the Canadian beef industry are eligible to apply for research. Research proposals are evaluated on their relevance to research and development priorities, their scientific merit, and their likelihood in succeeding to help the Canadian beef industry remain competitive and sustainable. The BCRC has funded 45 projects and initiatives since its inception. Research topics range from bluetongue and anaplasmosis risk to best management practices improving environmental sustainability of grasslands. The fact sheets are located on the CCA website at www.cattle.ca/research%20and%20development/bcrc/factsheets.htm. Additional fact sheets will be made available upon completion of new research projects.

Read more
 
 
User Box (click to open)
 
SEARCH IN WLJ
Sign up for our newsletter!
   
 
S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17* 18* 19* 20*
21 22* 23 24* 25* 26* 27*
28* 29* 30
 
 

© Crow Publications - Any reprint of WLJ stories, except for personal use, without permission, written consent and appropriate attribution is prohibited. 2008 Crow Publications. All rights reserved.