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Thursday, December 20,2007

Retail food prices rise slightly in third quarter

by WLJ
The surveyed items increased $1.18 in the third quarter of 2006, compared to the second quarter when the survey items dropped by 82 cents. Of the 16 items surveyed, nine increased and seven decreased in average price compared to the 2006 second-quarter survey. Red Delicious apples showed the largest increase, up 33 cents to $1.51 per pound. Other items that increased in price: bacon, up 32 cents per pound to $3.39; flour, up 25 cents to $1.88 per five-pound bag; mayonnaise, up 24 cents to $3.37 per 32-oz. jar; toasted oat cereal, up 21 cents to $3.10 per 10-oz. box; whole chicken fryers, up 10 cents to $1.38 per pound; vegetable oil, up four cents to $2.57 per 32-oz. bottle; eggs, up three cents to $1.08 per dozen; and cheddar cheese, up one cent to $3.52 per pound. Items that decreased in price from the first quarter of 2006 were: corn oil, down 10 cents to $2.70 per 32-oz. bottle; bread, down eight cents to $1.44 per 20-oz. loaf; russett potatoes, down six cents to $2.45 for a five-pound bag; pork chops, down five cents to $3.32 per pound; sirloin tip roast, down four cents to $3.70 per pound; and ground chuck and whole milk, each down one cent to $2.65 per pound and $3.03 per gallon, respectively. “Weather-related yield reductions in Washington state, home to nearly 60 percent of U.S. apple production, contributed to the retail price increase for apples,” said AFBF Economist Jim Sartwelle. “Relatively stable retail beef and pork chop prices in the third quarter were not surprising. The supply of cattle and hogs was more than sufficient to satisfy consumer demand,” he said. The share of the average food dollar that America’s farm and ranch families receive has dropped over time, despite gradual increases in retail grocery prices. “If you look back to the mid-1970s, at that time, farmers received an average of one-third of consumer retail food expenditures. That figure has dropped steadily over time and is now just 22 percent, according to Agriculture Department statistics,” Sartwelle said. Using that percentage across-the-board, the farmer’s share of this quarter’s $41.09 Marketbasket total would be $9.04. AFBF, the nation’s largest general farm organization, conducts its informal quarterly Marketbasket Survey as a tool to reflect retail food price trends. According to Agriculture Department statistics, Americans spend just under 10 percent of their disposable income on food annually, the lowest average of any country in the world. A total of 61 volunteer shoppers in 29 states participated in this latest survey, conducted during August.

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Thursday, December 20,2007

Retail food prices up 2 percent in third quarter

by WLJ
October 15, 2007 Retail food prices at the supermarket increased slightly in the third quarter of 2007, according to the latest American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) Marketbasket Survey. The informal survey shows the total cost of 16 basic grocery items in the third quarter of 2007 was $44.03, up about 2 percent, or $1.08, from the second quarter of 2007. Of the 16 items surveyed, eight increased, seven decreased and one stayed the same in average price compared to the 2007 second-quarter survey. Compared to one year ago, the overall cost for the marketbasket items showed an increase of about 7 percent. For the second quarter in a row, regular whole milk showed the largest quarter-to-quarter price increase, up 48 cents to $3.94 per gallon, followed by cheddar cheese, which rose 35 cents per pound to $4.07. Other items that increased in price were: russet potatoes and corn oil, up 23 cents each to $2.57 for five pounds and $3.01 for a 32-oz. bottle, respectively; bacon, up 16 cents to $3.60 per pound; vegetable oil, up 7 cents to $2.73 per 32-oz. bottle; toasted oat cereal and red delicious apples, up 4 cents each to $2.90 and $1.49 for a 10-oz. box and one pound, respectively. Pork chops showed the greatest decrease in price, down 24 cents to $3.39 per pound. Other items that decreased in price were: sirloin tip roast, down 13 cents to $3.86; ground chuck, eggs and white bread, down 4 cents each to $2.81 per pound, $1.51 per dozen and $1.54 for a 20-oz. loaf, respectively; and flour and mayonnaise, down 1 cent each to $1.91 for five pounds and $3.42 for a 32-oz. jar, respectively. One item, whole chicken fryers, stayed the same in price at $1.28 per pound. “Dairy products continue to increase in price,” said AFBF Economist Jim Sartwelle. “Strong competition from overseas consumers for U.S. milk products has helped drive prices to current levels. On the other hand, it was a pretty tough summer for beef and pork demand here at home. This is reflected in the third-quarter price slide for sirloin tip roast, ground beef and pork chops.” As retail grocery prices have gradually increased, the share of the average food dollar that America’s farm and ranch families receive has dropped over time. “In the mid-1970s, farmers received about one-third of consumer retail food expenditures on average. That figure has decreased steadily over time and is now just 22 percent, according to Agriculture Department statistics,” Sartwelle said. Using that percentage across-the-board, the farmer’s share of this quarter’s $44.03 marketbasket total would be $9.69. Americans spend just under 10 percent of their disposable income on food annually, the lowest average of any country in the world. A total of 77 volunteer shoppers in 31 states participated in the latest survey, conducted during August.

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Thursday, December 20,2007

Fed cattle trend lower on oversupply of beef

by WLJ
October 15, 2007 Cash fed cattle trade last week was underway by Wednesday as packers managed to pressure feedlot asking prices lower in the north. Although volume was light in the north and not yet established in the south, prices last week were $2-3 lower in Nebraska at $139-141 dressed, with a few reported live sales at $89.50. In Iowa and Minnesota, prices were reportedly $1-4 lower at $138-141 dressed basis, with the few reported live sales $2 lower at $89. An improving live cattle contract trade gave the market pause last week as fund buying and technical support pushed contract trade higher, giving feedlots reason to hold out for better money on the majority of last week’s trade. On the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, October contracts gained 57 points last Thursday to close the session at $94.67, while December tacked on 115 points and February added 117 to close at $97.77 and $99.57 respectively. Feedlots are likely to have a good opportunity during the corn harvest to lock in lower corn prices. Many industry analysts expect USDA to increase their harvest estimates for this year when the report is released Oct. 12. In addition to an increase in harvest forecasts, the world carryover stocks were increased unexpectedly two weeks ago, which has added more cushion to this year’s estimates and put downward pressure on corn prices. That, combined with weakness in other grains and a rising dollar, has caused corn futures to slump, according to Virginia Tech commodity marketing agent Mike Roberts, who predicts further weakness in the corn market. “It might be a good idea to hold off pricing near-term corn inputs if you can. Corn prices are expected to succumb even more to harvest pressure,” he said. Meanwhile, packers finally followed through on their intended harvest cuts last week, with several dark plants reported or scheduled at mid-week. Their efforts cut last Wednesday’s harvest number to just 123,000 head, down from 128,000 head a week earlier, but still above year earlier numbers. For the week-to-date through last Thursday, packers had harvested 502,000 head, compared to 512,000 the previous week. However, their efforts were doing little to immediately trim the large oversupply of beef available to wholesale buyers at offered prices. Beef supply, given the record-high carcass weights, continues to be a burden to boosting the boxed beef price. Until something changes to boost retail demand, packers are not likely to be able to move the cutout high enough to justify the much higher prices expected later this fall as a result of the tight supply expectations. There were two additional concerns weighing on the market last week as well. The stop and start nature of export markets, South Korea in particular, and the news of beef recalls aren’t doing anything to help improve the movement of beef either in the domestic markets or abroad. Although both problems are likely to be short-lived in terms of their market impact, neither is likely to bode well for improving demand and bolstering beef prices. The boxed beef cutout last Thursday continued its downward trend. Choice cutout prices dropped $1.55 to trade at $144.23 at mid-day Thursday. Select lost an additional 74 cents, to trade down to $134.49. However, those firesale prices spurred bargain hunters at the wholesale level and movement was good with 197 loads of Choice cuts, 100 loads of Select cuts, 27 loads of trimmings and 49 loads of coarse grinds trading hands during the morning. Cow beef markets were mixed last week after a drop in the number of cattle being harvested. The cow beef cutout was down slightly from the previous week at $105, while the 50 percent trim moved more than $1 higher to $51.71 and the 90 percent lean gained $8 from the previous week to trade at $133.53 last Thursday. Competing meats will also add problems to the beef market. Pork, in particular, poses a concern for the beef industry. The September market hog inventory report showed the largest number of market hogs on record since USDA began the data series in 1973. That has led to an ample supply of pork on the market which is favored heavily by retailers as a result of increases in the price of both beef and poultry, which are up 6 and 9 percent respectively from last year, according to Shane Ellis, Iowa State University agricultural economist. “Poultry, in particular, has been expensive enough to drive consumers to the ‘other’ white meat,” Ellis said. “Competition from poultry is likely to continue to grow in the coming months as egg sets and chick placements remain consistently higher than a year ago. Generally, an increased supply of meat leads to lower prices, and a moderation in pork prices in the next quarter will be accompanied by additional consumption.” Feeder cattle Feeder cattle trended lower again this week, following the downward movement in the fat cattle futures, although few analysts believed the price depression in the feeder cattle trade would be nearly as severe as it turned out to be. Demand for lightweight calves that are either unweaned or have been handled a great deal is very light, something USDA Market Reporter Corbitt Wall says is likely to continue. “The spreads between the preconditioned calves and the calves which are of a plainer type or haven’t been weaned is getting pretty extreme and will probably get even worse as we get later in the year. Things are pretty slow demand-wise right now as most farmer-feeders are busy with harvest, but once harvest is over with, there will probably be a little pump-up in the market when these guys start bidding again,” Wall says. “The difference will be that they are only interested in big, black steers for their feeding purposes, which could keep a pretty big price gap between them and the smaller calves,” said Wall. Wall also explained that auction markets are currently flooded with calves in poor condition. “There’s so many guys getting burned by calves coming out of drought areas it’s not even funny; there were so many calves taken off their mothers early in the southeast, and that flood of sick calves has reached the major auctions all over the country now. The one thing buyers are waiting for is a hard freeze when the market for these calves should pick up just a bit, as it’s easier to straighten the cattle out once it gets cold,” Wall said. With a new harvest report due which could drive corn prices further down, Wall believes the fed cattle will slow or stop their downward slide in price, and feeders should follow suit. “There are some guys out there saying the feeders will be bearish after the new corn numbers come out, but I don’t see how that could happen. I think that although the price gap between types and kinds of feeder cattle will stay the same or get bigger, the overall average for a good steer should jump up just a bit. What will likely keep [feeder prices] from getting too much higher is the lack of places to put these stocker cattle. There’s just not going to be any wheat pasture to be had, though there should be extra corn stalks around,” Wall says. Superior Video Auction held a sale on Oct. 5, which set a partial trend for the next week’s offerings at auction markets around the country. A total of 34,200 head were offered, and moderate trade and demand was observed. Prices continued to be strongest in the north and south Plains states, and weaker in the western regions where distances and drought tend to have a price-depressing effect. At the Oklahoma National Stockyards in Oklahoma City last week, 8,940 head sold in the Monday feeder cattle sale and compared to the previous week, most feeder cattle and calves were $3-5 lower, with some instances of $6-7 lower on fleshy unweaned calves. The demand was moderate, at best, for all classes of cattle with buyers very selective for kind, flesh and weighing conditions. The best action continued to be for calves which have been weaned for longer periods. Much of the wheat in Oklahoma is already planted and some areas have received rain, but there is not a great deal of interest in calves to go on wheat pasture. One lot of 625 lb. feeder steers sold for an average of $117.41, and a similar lot of the same weight heifers sold nearly 10 dollars lower at $108.63. Further east in Joplin, MO, at the Joplin Regional Stockyards, 4,400 head of feeders were sold at last Monday’s sale. Compared to the week previous, steers under 750 lbs. and heifers under 600 lbs. were steady to $3 lower, with the heavier weights mostly steady.  Demand and supply were moderate, with the calf trade being best on weaned, vaccinated offerings. One lot of heavy 900 lb. steers sold at $108.60, with no heifers for comparison of the same weight range. Last week at Winter Livestock’s sale in La Junta, CO, 4,656 head sold where steer and heifer calves under 400 lbs. were steady, while calves over that weight brought $3-5 less compared to the previous week. Trade was active, with calves being in moderate to heavy flesh. Some steers weighing 570 lbs. brought an average of $111.10, and a heavier lot of steers weighing an average of 862 lbs. were sold for $107.86. In McCook, NE, last week, steers and heifers under 700 lbs. were steady to $4 higher, and the trend was higher with good demand for the 2,700 head sold at Tri-State Livestock Auction’s Monday sale. One bunch of steers weighing 578 lbs. brought $119.35, while heifers of a similar weight and type sold six lower at $113.32. A special feeder calf sale was held last week at the Stockland Livestock Auction in Davenport, WA, where the 4,410 head offered were selling on moderate demand, with 668 lb. feeder steers bringing $103.44, while heifers of approximately 620 lbs. were sold for $96.18 in one example.

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Thursday, December 20,2007

University of Colorado President HankBrown named 2008 Citizen of the West

by WLJ
The National Western Stock Show named University of Colorado (CU) President Hank Brown its 2008 Citizen of the West. Brown will accept the prestigious award at a dinner on Jan. 16, 2008, at the Adam’s Mark Hotel. The Citizen of the West, selected by a committee of community leaders, is an annual award given to a person who embodies the spirit and determination of the Western pioneer and is committed to perpetuating those Western ethics. “Hank has it all,” said former Sen. Alan Simpson, who also was the 1990 Citizen of the West recipient. “He’s the epitome of the old phrase, ‘If you have integrity, nothing else matters; and if you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.’” A Colorado native and former U.S. senator, Brown entered CU in 1957 on a football scholarship and helped pay his way through school by working 30 hours a week.  Academically, he was on the faculty honor roll for four semesters and participated in the honors program. While at CU, as student body president, he secured the passage of the first complete reorganization of student government since the late 1930s. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting, a juris doctorate degree from the University of Colorado Law School, and a master of law degree from George Washington University. After serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, Brown was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1990, becoming Colorado’s 30th senator. He was chairman of the Middle East Subcommittee on Foreign Relations and chairman of the Constitutional Law Subcommittee on Judiciary. Numerous bills were passed with his leadership, but among legislation most pertinent to the American West, Brown was the prime sponsor of Colorado’s only Wild and Scenic River and the only Heritage area designation, the 1994 Colorado Wilderness Bill, and the American, Santa Fe and Oregon Trails bills. “I’m delighted at Hank Brown’s selection into this important fellowship of effective leaders who have had a major impact on the quality of life in this region,” said Wayne Hutchens, president of the CU Foundation. “His rare blend of experiences of corporate and public life have provided him with an uncommon perspective on what’s important to balance and maintain the priorities that are unique to the American West.” Brown served as president of the University of Northern Colorado from 1998 to 2002, and as president and CEO for the Daniels Fund, a billion-dollar foundation, from 2002 to 2005, when he was asked by the CU Board of Regents to serve as interim president. A short time later, he was appointed CU’s 21st president. Typifying the hometown loyalty and leadership he is recognized for, Brown’s tenure at CU has marked a renaissance for the school. Enrollment, donations, and student diversity have celebrated sharp increases since Brown took the reins, and the university recently received its largest increase in state funding in its 131-year history. “If you were able to boil down and distill the values and ethics of our Western heritage,” said Pat Grant, National Western president and CEO, “you’d get Hank Brown. He sets the citizenship standard, not only for Westerners, but for all Americans. We are very pleased to have the opportunity to honor this great American in 2008.” Born in 1940 in Denver, Brown is a highly decorated veteran of the U.S. Navy. He was a forward air controller along the coastal areas outside DaNang during the Vietnam War. Among other awards for his military service, he is the recipient of the Air Medal with two Gold Stars and the Naval Unit Citation. In 1967, he married Nan Morrison of Springfield, CO. The couple has three children and three grandchildren. The Browns make their home in Denver.

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Thursday, December 20,2007

U.S. Cattlemen launch campaign to amend Beef Act

by WLJ
At a meeting held in Lewistown, MT, on Tuesday, Sept. 25, the United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) launched a nationwide initiative seeking changes to the mandatory Beef Checkoff Program that will permit a portion of checkoff funds to promote domestic beef. Leo McDonnell, USCA director emeritus, Columbus, MT, was the featured speaker at the Lewistown meeting. McDonnell told participants that the time is right for U.S. producers to ask Congress for modifications to the Beef Act that will permit development of national and international marketing programs supporting domestic beef actually derived from cattle born, raised and processed in the U.S. “Never before have producers had so much opportunity on Capitol Hill,” noted McDonnell. “There are many positive things happening. We are on the cusp of seeing mandatory country of origin labeling implemented. It only makes sense for U.S. producers to direct their checkoff dollars towards supporting their domestically born and raised product. It is important that we let Congress know the changes we are seeking and this initiative is the method to accomplish that.” USCA’s proposal would earmark a portion of checkoff funds collected from U.S. cattle producers for use in promoting products from cattle specifically born and raised in the U.S. The beef checkoff was established in 1986 and has had little significant modification since then. As written, the Beef Promotion Act does not currently allow checkoff funds to distinguish U.S. born and raised beef from imported product. Only beef in a generic sense can be promoted, regardless of what country the cattle originate in. USCA Director and Checkoff Committee Chairman Jim Hanna, Nebraska, said the initiative seeks changes to the law that producers overwhelmingly support. “We have bulletproof survey results that show over 92 percent of cattlemen nationwide support this concept.  We want to back those results up with boxes of letters with producer signatures that we can show to Congress when we press for changes in the Beef Act,” noted Hanna. “We have a number of other important changes that need to be made to the program, but the born and raised concept is the most critical at this time.” “No one should construe this as an attack on the checkoff,” continued Hanna. “In fact, it’s far from it. USCA has policy that clearly shows our support for the program. Our goal is to simply make the checkoff more responsive to those who pay the dollar per head fee.” “Participating is easy,” said Hanna. “All we’re asking is that producers across the nation sign on to a letter addressed to Congress seeking this simple change in the Beef Act.” For information, contact USCA at usca@uscattlemen.org or call Jim Hanna at 308/748-2233.

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Thursday, December 20,2007

Demand is primary market driver

by WLJ
The cash fed cattle market last week was at a standstill Thursday with trade expected to slide lower by as much as $4 when it finally got underway. There was light trade reported in Nebraska at mid-day Thursday at $144-145 dressed basis, which was $3-5 lower than the prior week. However, most feedlots were still holding out for better money in hopes of at least steady trade, although it appeared unlikely. Prior week trade occurred at $96-96.50 live in the south. Live sales in Nebraska and Colorado came in a range of $95 to $96.50 and dressed sales were at $150.  Iowa/Minnesota live sales traded from $93 to $95 and dressed sales ranged from $147-150, with good numbers changing hands in all areas. The downside to the cattle markets continues to be weak demand at the retail level. Competing meats are value priced and far more attractive for retail features than beef right now. A tightening of consumer belts in the wake of rising household expenses has made beef less attractive and more difficult to move. The result has been lackluster movement at the wholesale levels and has made it difficult to push the beef cutout higher than the $147 level since early in the summer. Last Thursday, the Choice cutout stood at $147.28 at mid-day, up slightly from the previous day, while Select was up 50 cents at $136.78. Movement of product was slow. According to Dow McVean at McVean Trading, there is more downside risk to the market ahead. “Cattle futures have lost $2 thus far for the week and the thoughts of sluggish beef demand against competitive meats is starting to gain some traction in the trade which, up till now, has been pretty much ignored with higher cash cattle and big kills by the packers,” he said. “Packer margins are a negative $100 a head at current levels. We think the big kills to gain market share by individual packers will be a game too expensive to continue and we’ll see kills cut back.” Despite the ongoing packer woes and mounting losses, slaughter volume remained robust last week and rumored packer cutbacks have either been short-lived or failed to develop at all. The result has been slaughter levels which continue to run above year-ago levels, making it difficult to convince retailers to pay up for product. The week-to-date kill through last Thursday was estimated at 512,000 head, up from 505,000 head a week prior and 12,000 head greater than the same period in 2006. Cow beef markets were down again last week although they remain above year ago levels. The cow cutout slid more than $1 from the previous week to trade at $104.71 last Thursday. The 90 percent lean dropped to $124.50. The 50 percent trim market however, bounced nearly $2 higher to hit $53.06, well above prior year prices of $36.87, largely as a result of consumer demand for ground beef over whole muscle cuts. Adding to the downside of the fed cattle market equation are carcass weights that are even with last year’s record high numbers. The October live cattle contract on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, trading at a significant premium to the August contract, caused many cattle feeders to hold market-ready cattle longer, adding weight and contributing to overall beef supplies when cutout levels were already difficult to maintain as a result of production levels. However, instead of cutting back on harvest, packers last week reportedly began implementing discounts for heavy carcasses, a trend which could continue until the heavy cattle are through the production chain. Despite the disappointing cash trade and retail picture, there is still good news ahead for the industry. The supply picture going into the end of the year continues to look tight and if retail demand can be improved, $1 fed cattle remain a good possibility in late 2007 and early 2008. However, the key is going to be the demand side of the equation, which must be a focus for the industry. Adding to optimism is the likelihood of harvest pressure on corn prices, said Virginia Tech Commodity Marketing Agent Mike Roberts. “Good weather and good yields are being reported across the Corn Belt. This news served to put a lid on corn prices even though they were supported by a good showing in wheat and consistent good demand. The December chart shows that is it trying to go back and fill the bullish gap established week before last,” he said. “Cash bids for corn in the U.S. Midwest were steady to firm across most locations as producers were reluctant to let go of their corn. Opening bids for cash corn in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic States found weakness in prices ranging from 6 cents per bushel to 14 cents per bushel last Monday.” He said it might be a good idea to hold off pricing near-term corn inputs due to expected downward movement in corn prices. Feeder cattle Northern Livestock Video Auction (NLVA) held a sale on Sept. 28 in which nearly 16,500 head of cattle were offered, giving a good gauge of the feeder market in northern areas. NLVA Manager Joe Goggins said that prices were good overall, but certain factors were having a small negative impact on demand. “The really light calves took the hardest hit I think. The four-weight and low five-weight calves were quite a little cheaper than they have been. The 500-600 lb. calves sold better, but in all the lighter feeder calves, there was a really big difference between the reputation calves, or preconditioned calves, compared to the mediocre and plain-Jane groups,” said Goggins. Goggins said there were no significant shake-ups, and that he sees things remaining strong in the feeder cattle market for some time to come. “The big feeders were really steady, but you could feel some resistance. A lot of the calves we sold are going to the Midwest, but I think local demand and demand form the farmer-feeder is what got hurt recently. All the farmers are in the field right now and are pretty busy at this time of year, so they just aren’t buying. Once they get done with harvest and field work and everything else, I think they’ll get back into the market and wonder where all of the good stuff went,” Goggins said. “I think the market will remain strong for a long time because we just don’t have enough calves to satisfy demand. The difference is that corn is still kind of up right now, so I see some good opportunities in the very near term to get in on calves that will be well worth the money. If you were to take 30 cents off of corn though, the market would get pretty jazzy again,” Goggins explained. Most lots in the Sept. 28 video auction came from Montana and Wyoming, with some coming from the Dakotas, Idaho and Nevada. A large number of the feeder cattle offered qualified for natural beef programs and were age/source verified. Good examples of continued strong prices included a 1,198-head group of feeder steers weighing an average of 563 and selling for $124.84 with an October delivery date attached. A similar group of heifers weighing 570 sold at $116.19 with similar delivery terms. In auction markets around the country last week, demands for cattle similar to what was offered by NLVA were seen, with the market demanding more quality out of the feeders as an abundance of unweaned calves are coming up for sale. At the Joplin Regional Stockyards in Joplin, MO, last week, 5,124 head sold and compared to the last sale, steer calves were $1-2 lower, with heifers following them down and going $2-3 lower. Demand and supply was moderate, with a few of the calf offerings being weaned with shots, though most were right off of the cows. Buyers at the sale had mixed feelings on the downward fed cattle futures, which added pressure to the feeder cattle trade. Five-weight feeder steers weighing nearly 575 sold for an average of $116.93, with heifers of a similar weight trading nearly $15 lower at an average of $101.99. At the Oklahoma National Stockyards in Oklahoma City, 8,783 head were seen last Tuesday, where feeder steers and steer calves were steady to $1 higher, with an advance on six-weights suitable for the feedlot. Feeder heifers were lightly tested but steady, with calves as much as $3 lower. Demand was good for steers but light to moderate for heifer calves, with buyers being very selective for kind and conditions. In this season in between grass and wheat pasture, middle weight, fleshy un-weaned calves, especially heifers, are in light demand. Some feeder steers weighing an average of 683 brought $123.16, with heifers of a similar weight and condition bringing approximately $10 less. Further west in La Junta, CO, last Wednesday, an offering of 2,115 head was seen, and demand followed a familiar trend. Steer and heifer calves of good quality and condition were steady to $1 higher, while plain fleshier calves were $2-3 lower. Yearling feeder steers and heifers were mostly steady in a light test and active trade conditions. One lot of 820 lb. yearling steers brought $112.25, while $105 was paid for a similar load of 840 lb. heifers. At the Stockland Livestock Auction in Davenport, WA, receipts totaled 2,164 last week. Compared to the previous sale, feeder cattle trended steady to $2 higher, with the most advance on 550-600 lb. steers. Trade was moderate with moderate to good demand. Five to six weight steers sold between $107.50 and $114, with heifers following mostly between $96-105. A total of 1,586 head were seen at the Western Stockman’s Market in Famoso, CA, last week, where prices were steady for stockers and mostly $2 lower for feeder cattle. Demand was strongest for quality lots, and was strong on heifers of 700-800 lbs. Crossbred steers of 600-700 lbs. sold between $90-100, with choice heifers of the same weights selling $90-95.75.

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Thursday, December 20,2007

BEEF talk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
Is it ever too dry to grow a plant? Now that we’ve had a frost, it’s time to reflect on our previous growing season. With the prices being offered for crops, most producers have to ask themselves if they could have squeezed out a little more production. Ranchers involved in animal production can look over the fence and see what farmers (those more involved in plant production) are up to. The Dickinson Research Extension Center (DREC) used that principle when Roger Ashley, Extension Service agronomist, and Dickinson State University student Wesley Messer investigated the possibility of double-cropping. Ashley and Messer presented their findings at the 2007 DREC field day in July. Messer began the report by noting that forage production has been limited to one crop per year by producers in past years. For many of us, that is very true. We convince ourselves that one crop is as good as we are going to get and that is it. Again, high prices and increased values certainly would beg the question of more production. “Due to land use constraints and the need to remain economically viable, producers need to strive for new ways to remain productive,” Messer said. “It may be possible with improved no-till equipment and management to harvest two forage crops in one year.” Allowing one’s mind to wonder and recalling various management decisions and operations that allow us to get a second crop off a piece of ground, Messer and Ashley turned to historical weather data at DREC. Their objective was “to look at 100 years of data and determine the theoretical potential to grow two forage crops in one year.” Using temperature and precipitation data available from 1905 through 2005 and the remaining data from a 15-year summary of the North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network station in Dickinson, Messer and Ashley were able to accomplish their objective of calculating the daily evapo-transpiration and crop water use based on the Penman equation. “The Penman equation requires daily maximum and minimum temperatures, precipitation, average wind speed, solar radiation, dew point and relative humidity,” Messer said. Using peas and sorghum, Messer was able to calculate an estimate of the number of years that the crops would have been stressed (soil water equivalent was less than 4.4 inches of water in silt loam soil) or when the plants would have hit a point of no return, which is referred to as permanent wilt point (soil water equivalent was 0). When water stress occurs, yield will be proportional to the water deficit. The crop dies when water stress becomes extreme (permanent wilt point). Interestingly, in the 100 years of weather data examined, they estimated that field pea forage in the Dickinson area hit the permanent wilt point seven years. Sorghum, the second crop in the proposed double-crop scenario, was projected to be more difficult to produce because 18 years in the 100 years studied resulted in the crop hitting the permanent wilt point. On coarse, textured soil, the stress and wilt points will occur more often. “With proper management, advanced equipment and available soil water, it may be possible to successfully harvest two forage crops in one year,” Messer concluded. With prices the way they are, that sounds good and worth pondering as next year unfolds. Ashley said a producer from the Manning area whom he and David Twist, Dunn County Extension agent, are working with, provided an update on his second cut of alfalfa from a field toured during the DREC field day. “Earlier this summer, the producer harvested 2.1 tons dry matter (DM) of hay per acre for the first cutting,” Ashley said. He harvested an additional 1.4 tons DM per acre the week of Sept. 3. July and August were dry in the Manning area (about 1.5 inches total), so the added production was great.” The bottom line is to take some time to review the old concepts, but check into new ideas because technology keeps changing. Even if rain is scarce, with the right crop, techniques and an open mind, there is a chance the cattle will eat.

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Thursday, December 20,2007

Mustang event fetches $50,000 adoption fee

by WLJ
October 1, 2007 When trainer Ray Ariss went off pattern during the “horse course” of the Extreme Mustang Makeover, giving him a zero for that portion of the competition, his hopes for representing his hometown of Norco, CA, and displaying the talents of his American mustang Hail Yeah were dashed, or so he thought. That was until Hail Yeah was adopted for $50,000 during the Extreme Mustang Makeover adoption process, taking the high-adopted horse of the adoption and the highest-adopting mustang in the history of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) adoption program. “It was totally my fault that I missed the pattern,” said Ariss, who, in only 100 days, had conditioned 3-year-old Hail Yeah to perform at dressage, pull a cart and in mounted shooting. “I hated that I didn’t have the opportunity to show the judges what this horse could really do. I’ve been in a lot of competitions and this one was different because it was definitely not about me. I knew there was some really good horsemen here and that I would need to step up and compete.” But the gelding’s adopters knew the horse’s abilities, so offering the adoption fee was, well, a no brainer. Partnering on the fee was the City of Norco, CA, represented by Mayor Harvey Sullivan and the Mustang Heritage Foundation (MHF). Ariss had a lot riding on the exhibition of his horse. Sullivan had seen the first episode of the Extreme Mustang Makeover on RFD TV and approached Ray about representing Norco in its marketing focus as Horsetown USA. “I thought this competition was so unique and Ray is an outstanding trainer,” said Sullivan, who traveled to Fort Worth, TX, to support Ariss and Hail Yeah. “When I return to Norco, we will be naming Hail Yeah the official mascot of the city and he will represent our message as Horsetown USA.” Norco registered Horsetown USA as a trademark to introduce and encourage specific types of businesses and vendors to the city that, in turn, will support and complement the community’s animal-keeping lifestyle and values. “With this partnership, Hail Yeah will serve as an incredible example of what the American mustang is and can be to people interested in owning a great horse,” said MHF Executive Director Patti Colbert. “The city of Norco doesn’t just call itself Horsetown USA, it is Horsetown USA, and having Hail Yeah there in Norco and traveling the country with Ray Ariss will do so much to raise the awareness of the value of mustangs.” The second highest adopting horse was a Calico Mountain mustang named Larry, trained by Dave Schaffner. Schaffner tragically suffered a serious riding accident on another horse shortly before the competition and was not able to compete. As a result, Larry was shown by Shaffner’s son Tyler and was adopted for $10,000 by Mustangs Forever Inc.’s Randy Olson of Kerrville, TX, who was also the high-money adopter purchasing two horses for a total of $13,100. The after fee funds received for Larry will be donated to the Schaffner family to assist with medical bills. Seventy-five mustangs were adopted for a total of $233,100 for a sale average of $3,108. BLM received $125 per head as the minimum adoption fee while the remainder was allocated for the development and programs of the Mustang Heritage Foundation. Trainers also received a 15 percent adoption commission for any horse adopted for a fee higher than $250. The Extreme Mustang Makeover will also become a six-episode series on RFD TV’s Wide World of Horses through December 2007. The show will share the stories of the mustangs and trainers as they learn to trust in one another and gain competitive confidence. The show will air future episodes Sept. 24, Oct. 22, Nov. 19, Dec. 17 and Dec. 31. Air times for the series will be Mondays at 10:30 p.m., with additional airings on Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. and Mondays at 4:30 p.m. All times are Eastern.

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Thursday, December 20,2007

COMMENTS

by WLJ
It looked like we were going to get some big news on reopening beef trade with Japan last week. Prime Minister Koizumi was in the U.S. attending the United Nations meetings in New York City, and took some time to visit with President Bush about getting beef trade restarted. Chandler Keys, lobbyist for NCBA said that Koizumi is taking this beef issue back to his parliament for further guidance. The White House has been aggressive on beef trade and U.S. cattle producers should feel very fortunate that these talks are getting the President's personal attention, which is unprecedented. This issue has become very frustrating because the Japanese aren't responding in what seems a reasonable way. The up side is that the talks are at the top of both governments and there shouldn't be many other elements to influence the decision. Keys said he expects to see something happen sometime later this week, but if it doesn't, we may be waiting a while. He also points out that there are no safe bets at this point. Trade on the northern border saw a new twist last week. The National Meat Association (NMA) filed court documents to gain intervener status in a lawsuit that includes an injunction that R-CALF received in order to keep the Canadian border closed to additional meat products and cattle. NMA is wanting live cattle exports to resume so their 500-plus members can keep their plants operating at near profitable levels. Boxed beef imports from Canada are up from a year ago, in the neighborhood of 25 percent. Sounds like its up pretty big, but when you look at the real number, of around 535 million pounds of beef, year- to-date, it all of sudden looks fairly small. Total Canadian imports are less that than one week's beef production in the U.S., when plants are running near capacity. NMA's legal action drew a quick response from R-CALF, with a convoluted lesson in beef economics that attempted to point out that there are plenty of cattle available for U.S. packers to slaughter, even though National Beef Packing Company turned their lights out last Wednesday, and Northwest beef plants are struggling to maintain a 40-hour week. R-CALF President Leo McDonnell responded to NMA's intervention and said, "with over 80 percent of our export market shut down there are still ample supplies of beef, and although industry analysts have reported beef demand as being up six percent, live cattle prices have fallen each of the past three months to a point, two weeks ago, where U.S. cattle producers were receiving less than they did one year ago. Certainly, such market indicators show a very ample supply of U.S. cattle, even with the near record retail prices consumers are paying for beef." If we had all those market indicators during the same week, he may be right, but demand index figures are four months old, retail price numbers are two months old and fed cattle prices used to make this illustration are two weeks old. Figures like these make it impossible to draw realistic market conclusions, so go figure, because it isn't that easy. McDonnell went on to say that cattle producers are receiving a smaller share of the consumer beef dollar than they were three years ago. Retailers are charging consumers record prices for beef, which is up 16 percent above the average price three years ago. He said consumers should be concerned by this beef industry activity, but, more than that, they should be cautious of meat packers present tactics of trying to elicit public sympathy while trying to relax standards for importing Canadian cattle and beef from a country with BSE in its native herd. Seeing things in NMA's perspective may not draw a lot of sympathy from some cattle people. Maintaining a balanced perspective in this business is a difficult task. There are a lot of elements that make a market, and throwing around a few loosely associated numbers doesn't tell any story at all. Hopefully, Japan will be on line in the next several weeks and NMA has a legitimate concern over opening the Canadian border but R-CALF continues to play producers as a victim in this business. And I would have to say that with producers still selling $130 calves, and a $110 yearlings, I'm not sure I see a lot of victims. — PETE CROW

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Thursday, December 20,2007

Full House to hear ESA changes

by WLJ
After several months of speculation, U.S. Rep. Richard Pombo, R-CA, last Monday introduced legislation that would reauthorize the Endangered Species Act (ESA), but with some changes that would make the legislation more compatible with the interests of ranchers and other private land owners. The House Resources Committee acted quickly on the proposal passing it by a vote of 25-12 last Thursday, which means it will next go the full House for debate and a vote. Among the changes approved under the Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act of 2005 (TESRA), is a plan to financially compensate private property owners for losing use of their land because of a species being protected under the ESA. Contrary to previous reports, compensation would not require 50% of the land or land use being taken under the guise of “critical habitat” or other ESA protocol. The new law would also increase the amount of input from state and local governments and individual land owners regarding the listing of new species and of new critical habitat to the ESA. An incentive program for voluntary conservation efforts has also been proposed. According to Pombo, changes to the current act have been too long in coming, because the law has not been successful in reviving many populations of species considered to be in danger of becoming extinct. “After three decades of implementation, ESA has only recovered 10 of approximately 1,300 species on its list,” said Pombo, who is the chairman of the House Resources Committee. “What it has done instead is create conflict, bureaucracy and rampant litigation. Without meaningful improvements, the act will remain a failed managed care program that checks species in but never checks them out. Under this bill, the impediments to cooperation will be removed and we can start achieving real results for species recovery, the goal that was set over 30 years ago.” Ranching and other land rights organizations have put their full support behind TESRA, especially after the threat of the 50% compensation trigger was removed from the final proposal. Most groups welcome Pombo’s action because it allows the people most knowledgeable about the land and the flora and fauna that inhabit it to have proper input. Among those land owners are ranchers, particularly those on large tracts in the western half of the country. Ranchers are outside on the land everyday,” said Jim McAdams, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “We have an important role to play in species and habitat protection and we know that local partnerships and on-the-ground practices can achieve better results than federal mandates.” Other land owner organizations said the legislation is a huge step forward toward having environmental and conservation decisions based on sound science and common sense and not based on political views or litigation. The Resources Committee held a hearing regarding ESA last Wednesday, with Democrats sharing their concerns that the bill doesn’t focus enough on science-based decisions from the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) or the National Marine Fisheries Service, the two federal agencies responsible for ESA decisions. Officials with FWS indicated that they are given enough discretion and ability to conduct science-based reviews, but that they aren’t staffed enough to conduct them in a timely and/or efficient manner. When full House debate on the issue will happen was not known last week. — WLJ

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