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Friday, August 22,2008

Angus influence affects efficiency, carcass merit

by WLJ
Angus influence affects efficiency, carcass merit Successful producers have always tried to raise high-quality, high-performing cattle, but may have felt compelled to choose one ideal over the other. That’s not necessary, according to a recent analysis of data from the Iowa Tri-County Steer Carcass Futurity (TCSCF). What is the effect of percent Angus genetics on performance in the feedlot and on carcass merit? Mark McCully, supply development director for Certified Angus Beef LLC (CAB), worked with colleagues Larry Corah and Mike King at CAB, and Iowa Extension beef specialist Darrell Busby to present a research summary. The data came from 18,250 steers and heifers consigned to TCSCF from 2002 to 2007, and categorized into quartiles by their degree of Angus influence: Low, Half, Three-quarter, or Straightbred Angus (Table 1). After a minimum 28-day preconditioning period before arrival at any of 10 TSCSF feedlots, cattle were weighed and given initial implants, vaccinations and body scores within their first four days on feed. All were given similar implants and health treatments and fed the same energy level. McCully presented and discussed the data earlier this year at the Southern Section, American Society of Animal Science meetings in Dallas, TX. The results may have revealed the solution to producers’ dilemma. Research showed that Angus influence had a positive effect on a number of performance and carcass factors. "For years, breed composition has been recorded on cattle enrolled in the futurity," McCully says. "These data are now some of the most comprehensive available where genetics are quantified." Straightbred Angus cattle showed better feedlot health and lower treatment costs than cattle with less Angus influence. The straightbred average treatment cost of $4.60 per head was $3 less than that for the lowest-Angus-influence cattle. Moreover, that was less than the treatment costs for the typical crossbreds in the middle quartiles. Overall health significantly improved with increased Angus influence. Straight Angus cattle had a sickness rate of 14.8 percent, while cattle with low influence had a rate of 22.8 percent. "This is one of the most interesting findings in the analysis, but one we don’t have a thorough explanation for," McCully says. "The data showed less sickness and reduced treatment cost as the percent Angus increased, but pre-feedlot health protocols were prescribed to be the same for all cattle. So, this appears to be a genetic effect." Some of the earliest data on breed-type effect on health came from a 1984 doctoral dissertation on the effects of pre- and post-transit potassium levels, receiving diets and deworming on highly stressed calves, by Frank Brazle at Kansas State University. The published table referred to "Breed Combination," but the four descriptions noted only color, not uncommon for public research. "We can safely assume that the medium-frame solid blacks we noted back then were predominantly Angus," Brazle says now. In that study, the 2.79 percent mortality rate in groups of straight blacks compared to 18.39 percent in black baldies of the same frame size, 12.93 percent in all black baldies, and 6.34 percent in mixed-color lots. McCully adds there has been recent data showing that respiratory disease is genetically influenced. He says it is possible that an unintentional selection for respiratory disease resistance may have occurred through popular Angus sire lines. "It is certainly an area that needs more research," he says. The TCSCF study also noted relatively fewer days on feed for straight Angus, and the highest average daily gain of all groups. Finally, ability to earn premiums for carcass merit increased with Angus influence. Marbling scores trended higher in a direct correlation with percentage Angus influence. While nearly a third of straight Angus cattle achieved CAB acceptance or USDA Prime, the low-influence cattle made only 9.3 percent CAB and only 0.3 percent qualified for Prime. On the other hand, less than 1 percent of the straight Angus cattle were discounted as USDA Standard, compared to more than 5 percent of the low Angus. "Angus cattle are known for their carcass merit and marbling ability, specifically, so the improvement in quality grade due to increased Angus genetics came as no surprise," McCully says. Whether the data reinforced knowledge or revealed something new, he says, "We hope it will benefit producers when they are making genetic selections for their next calf crop." He notes that the numbers say producers can expect both higher performance and quality grades from straight Angus cattle. "Wise cattlemen will make sure they are looking at all the facts when they make decisions on genetics," McCully says. For the complete abstract and slide show, see http://www.cabpartners.com/news/EducatorMailing/SSAbstractEffectPercentageAngus.doc and http://www.cabpartners.com/news/EducatorMailing/SSEffectAngusMcCully.

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Friday, August 22,2008

Emerging clostridial disease targets calves

by WLJ
Emerging clostridial disease targets calves Clostridium perfringens "There are as many questions about this disease syndrome as there are answers," says David Van Metre, DVM, College of Veterinary Sciences, Colorado State University (CSU). "It’s a multifactorial disease. No one has found the complete set of factors that cause it." C. perfringens Type A is the most commonly isolated infectious agent in abomasitis cases, according to Van Metre, who presented to attendees during a symposium at the Western Veterinary Conference in Las Vegas, NV. Abomasitis occurs with an acute onset of gas accumulation in the abomasum. It typically occurs in calves less than two weeks of age. Clinical signs can include rapid progressive bloat and shock, colic, hypersalivation and a distended abdomen. Treatments may include penicillin, antitoxin serum, fluid support, oral adsorbents and oral antibiotics. "Unfortunately, most calves die acutely," says Doug Scholz, director of veterinary services for Novartis Animal Health. "Most times, the calf appears fine in the morning. When you come back that evening, you find a dead bloated calf." Van Metre recommends focusing prevention measures on enhancing immunity and using feeding practices that inhibit proliferation of C. perfringens in the gut. He recommends using good colostrum and milk/milk replacer hygiene; keeping consistent feeding schedules for dairy calves and maintaining consistency in milk/milk replacer composition and temperature; and avoiding feeding long-stem forage too early. Whenever possible during severe weather, encourage calves and dams to stand up to limit milk engorgement by the calf after the weather passes. Make sure animals have adequate copper and selenium status. If you are experiencing significant calf losses, vaccination may be an option to consider. Van Metre shared results of a trial he conducted with Clostridium Perfringens Type A Toxoid in a commercial dairy herd. The CSU researchers randomly assigned cows and pregnant heifers to a control or vaccinate group. Vaccinates received two doses of Clostridium Perfringens Type A Toxoid in late pregnancy. The study goal was to measure C. perfringens Type A alpha toxin titers in vaccinated dams and the calves fed that colostrum. "The cows and heifers receiving two doses of the vaccine generated significantly higher antibody titers to alpha toxin one week after the second immunization than did controls," says Van Metre. "Additionally, the calves ingesting colostrum from vaccinated dams had significantly higher serum neutralizing antibody titers to alpha toxin than calves born to controls." Scholz adds that vaccination with Clostridium Perfringens Type A Toxoid is anticipated to work best when you vaccinate the dam and get antibody into the calf through the cow’s colostrum. "If you are experiencing an outbreak and have significant death loss, you may also want to vaccinate the calf," advises Scholz. "The important thing is to involve your veterinarian and call as soon as you suspect a problem. If you aren’t tuned in to watch for clinical cases, you will likely be calling for a necropsy rather than a treatment." — WLJ Type A continues to garner researchers’ attention as a potential emerging pathogen. It’s often associated with severe calf disease, such as abomasitis, with fatality rates varying from 5 percent to 50 percent.

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Friday, August 22,2008

46BeefBits

by WLJ
FSIS releases new E. coli study USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has published a report titled "Results of Checklist and Reassessment of Control for Escherichia coli O157:H7 in Beef Operations," a study that stemmed primarily from an increase in the number of E. coli O157:H7 positives and recalls in 2007. This report details the results and analysis of information received in response to an FSIS notice that instructed FSIS inspectors to collect data about establishments’ reassessment of their Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points plans. Inspectors also had to complete a checklist, collecting information about the practices at several types of raw beef operations. FSIS is seeking comments from stakeholders over a 30-day comment period. FSIS said it believes this report will help it develop additional risk mitigation actions to control for E. coli. Beef first choice of tailgaters One of the earliest stories about tailgating stems from the 1869 Rutgers-Princeton game when picnics were served from a carriage at the "tail end" of a horse. As pickups and other vehicles replaced horses around the football field, the term "tailgating" stuck. It’s now a fall phenomenon, with some 70 million Americans expected to host or attend at least one of these ultimate parking lot parties this fall. Beef was cited as the favorite food for al fresco stadium dining by 62 percent of avid tailgaters in a recent survey by Grill Freedom Inc. and www.tailgating.com. Steak reigns as king, chosen by 34.4 percent of tailgaters, while burgers ranked second, preferred by 27.7 percent of parking lot grill masters, according to the survey. Japanese officials visit U.S. beef plants Japan began inspection at U.S. meat packing plants recently after Washington concluded that human and computer error caused recent shipments of banned beef to Japan. The Japanese government was to send farm and welfare ministry officials to the U.S. for on-site inspections at 10 meat processing plants, according to ministry officials. The inspection will continue until Aug. 31 and reports indicate that Tokyo may lift a suspension of imports from the plants as early as mid-September, based on inspection results. Japan recently announced that USDA had sent reports to Tokyo on the cases, saying one of the two shipments of banned beef resulted from human error in the packing process in April. Brazilian beef exports to rise sharply Despite a loss of pastureland, Brazilian beef shipments will rise by 32 percent, to 2.9 million metric tons, by 2017, according to agribusiness consultancy Agra FNP. Higher Brazilian beef production will facilitate the rise in exports, Agra FNP said. It forecasts that cattle numbers will rise from 169.7 million head in 2008 to 183 million by 2017. However, during the same period, pastureland area is expected to fall by 42 million acres. Offsetting that loss, according to Agra FNP, will be gains in productivity due to improvements in feed practices (fattening time will fall from 30 months to 26 months within the next four to five years), expansion of feedlots (which will more than double to 6 million animals by 2017) and genetic improvements. Economy’s impact on meat purchases studied According to a study done by consumer products company Unilever using data from more than 47,000 Nielsen homes, a majority of shoppers are willing to pull frozen dinners from their grocery carts, but not fresh meat. The study showed that fresh meat and seafood ranked among the 12 categories that shoppers are least willing to abandon even in the face of a troubling economy. The only other food product to make the list of necessary grocery items was canned vegetables. Other priority items included deodorant, batteries and pet food. The study also found that more than 30 percent of consumers are eating at home more and dining out less, though when consumers are in the grocery store, they will continue to seek out trusted brands and will not switch to private labels to save money. Korean news agency apologizes for BSE snafu Seoul-based Munhwa Broadcasting Company (MBC) has issued a public apology over its erroneous report on the danger of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) which triggered massive protests against the government’s resumption of U.S. beef imports earlier this summer. MBC admitted it made six translation errors in the reporting of a story on the death of a young American woman. The story involved an interview of the girl’s mother who suspected, according to MBC’s translation, that her daughter succumbed to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, the human form of BSE. The network also conceded it mistakenly identified images of non-ambulatory cattle as animals infected with BSE. The apology followed an order by the Korea Communications Commission, the country’s communications watchdog.

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Friday, August 22,2008

Cargil reports quarterly profits

by WLJ
Cargil reports quarterly profits Cargill Inc. reported a 67 percent rise in fiscal fourth-quarter net income amid a divestiture as the firm survived "the most volatile agricultural and energy markets in decades." The world’s largest agribusiness company by sales, and one of the nation’s largest privately held companies, said high demand for crops has led to growth in multiple segments. A portion of the increase also comes from the firm’s grain business, an industry that has been reaping huge profits in recent months as the prices of corn, wheat and soybeans have all soared on the back of increased demand for grain and rising demand for biofuels made from food crops. But the soaring profits have not come without criticism, as many say a worldwide food crisis looms thanks to rapidly inflating prices and depleting stocks. Worldwide grain stocks sit at a 35-year low, Cargill said, blaming weather and low yields for the soaring prices. But it added the market should be allowed to fix itself. Meanwhile, the company reported net income for the quarter ended May 31 of $1.05 billion, compared to $628 million a year earlier. The latest quarter was boosted by a $310 million gain from selling some operations. Income from continuing operations rose 18 percent, to $744 million. The company did not report revenue for the quarter. Revenues for the full year, however, rose 36 percent, to $120.4 billion. Cargill’s wide range of businesses have a hand in almost every stage of food production, from farm feed to meat and poultry products, while providing financial services along the way. The latest quarter saw the firm’s fertilizer production soar as worldwide crop production increases. Other segments, including food and agriculture, also reported growth. Recent months have been turbulent for Cargill, as it shuttered an Arkansas meat plant in April after a March explosion and had to temporarily close some Midwest plants due to June floods. April also saw the Agriculture Department cite a California meat plant for violations in the slaughtering of cattle. And as higher grain prices have sent food prices soaring, riots and protests have broken out in places where many can no longer afford staple items. European antitrust enforcers have begun investigating the inflation, leading to a review of the Italian offices of Cargill in July. Cargill says it is cooperating fully with any investigations. Cargill Chairman and Chief Executive Greg Page said last Tuesday the world has the means to give agriculture the chance to catch up with demand. "If markets are allowed to work, today’s prices can spark a supply response from farmers. A rekindling of public and private investment in agriculture and in rural infrastructure will drive productivity gains." — WLJ

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Friday, August 22,2008

Sweet potato better than corn for ethanol production

by WLJ
Sweet potato better than corn for ethanol production In experiments, sweet potatoes grown in Maryland and Alabama yielded two to three times as much carbohydrate for fuel ethanol production as field corn grown in those states, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists report. The same was true of tropical cassava in Alabama. The sweet potato carbohydrate yields approached the lower limits of those produced by sugarcane, the highest-yielding ethanol crop. Another advantage for sweet potatoes and cassava is that they require much less fertilizer and pesticide than corn. Lew Ziska, a plant physiologist at the ARS Crop Systems and Global Change Laboratory in Beltsville, MD, and colleagues at Beltsville and at the ARS National Soil Dynamics Laboratory in Auburn, AL, performed the study. The research is unique in comparing the root crops to corn, and in growing all three crops simultaneously in two different regions of the country. The tests of corn, cassava and sweet potato were in the field at Beltsville and in large soil bins at Auburn. For the sweet potatoes, carbohydrate production was 4,692 tons an acre in Alabama and 6,353 tons an acre in Maryland. Carbohydrate production for cassava in Alabama was 4,940 tons an acre, compared to 1,434 tons an acre in Maryland. For corn, carbohydrate production was 1,692 tons an acre in Alabama and 2,760 tons an acre in Maryland. The disadvantages to cassava and sweet potato are higher start-up costs, particularly because of increased labor at planting and harvesting times. If economical harvesting and processing techniques could be developed, the data suggests that sweet potato in Maryland and sweet potato and cassava in Alabama have greater potential than corn as ethanol sources. Further studies are needed to get data on inputs of fertilizer, water, pesticides and estimates of energy efficiency. Overall, the data indicate it would be worthwhile to start pilot programs to study growing cassava and sweet potato for ethanol, especially on marginal lands. The additional research could help develop new biofuel sources without diverting field corn supplies from food and feed use to fuel. — WLJ

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Friday, August 22,2008

Key sites aid in range management

by WLJ
Key sites aid in range management Monitoring can help range managers better understand rangeland ecology and health. "As a result, management decisions can be made to improve or maintain the productivity and sustainability of rangelands," says Chuck Lura, Extension rangeland specialist at the North Dakota State University (NDSU) Central Grasslands Research Extension Center near Streeter, ND. Because monitoring all the ecological sites and plant species in a management unit is not feasible, monitoring techniques may involve the selection of areas or species that are key to understanding what is happening to the entire unit. A key site is a portion of the range that serves to indicate the ecological condition, trend or degree of use for an entire pasture because of its location, grazing value and/or use. A key site is often on an extensive ecological site within a pasture that receives representative utilization. The specific location of a key site must be chosen carefully because the information gathered while monitoring these sites will be used to represent conditions on the entire management unit, Lura says. Selecting key areas away from water, salt/minerals, trails, corners of pastures or other areas that are not representative of the grazing pressure is important. Accessibility is also a consideration. Some range monitoring manuals recommend setting up two replications of two different key sites in each pasture. That may not be realistic for many managers, but it underscores the fact that the more managers monitor, the more likely they will have reliable information upon which to base their management decisions, according to Lura. Monitoring key sites can serve as valuable indicators of management effectiveness. Once key sites have been chosen for monitoring, managers can observe what is happening on them and use that information to infer what is happening to the entire pasture. When proper range management principles are applied, the entire pasture may be considered correctly used. The Central Grasslands Research Extension Center has established a program to assist producers to implement and maintain range monitoring procedures. This effort is made possible through funding from NDSU, the North Dakota Natural Resources Trust, and Ducks Unlimited. — WLJ

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Friday, August 22,2008

Use of ultrasound when EPDs are unavailable

by Maria E. Tussing - WLJ Correspondent
Use of ultrasound when EPDs are unavailable The pile of sale catalogs glued, stapled, or wrapped in the monthly breed publications can get a bit overwhelming in the peak sale seasons, regardless of your breed preference. However, the real confusion sets in when one puts on their bull-buying cap and tries to find "the one" that will take their herd in the right direction. Expected Progeny Differences (EPDs) are still the only selection tool that truly allows a buyer to compare one sale catalog to the rest in the stack. Unfortunately, Carcass EPDs are not always readily available as you flip the pages from one lot to the next. So what do you do? First of all, there are a number of reasons why some Carcass EPDs are not printed. Some breeders choose not to provide carcass information if they believe their buyer clientele ignores the numbers. If carcass or ultrasound data is important to you or your customers, simply throw that catalog in the trash and go to the next one in the stack. However, you may also be looking at a breed or composite that does not have Carcass EPDs yet. In many cases, since seedstock are scanned close to a year of age, individual records cannot be taken before the catalog goes to print; some of the animals are simply too young to be age-adjusted. Instead, a supplement sheet is printed for sale day or posted online as soon as it’s ready. Regardless of where you choose to buy your next herd sire or replacement female, it’s important to understand how to properly evaluate the ultrasound information available. The rising price of diesel makes one quickly re-evaluate how many sales one really needs to drag the trailer to in order to find the herd’s needs. A few extra hours of homework can save considerable time and effort; keep in mind, one tank of diesel is now worth at least one more bid on the bull or heifer you really want. If ultrasound data is used as a buying or sorting tool and Carcass EPDs are not provided, here are some sound steps to follow: Ask the breeder(s) or sale manager for a complete list of ultrasound data as soon as it’s available. Email attachments or electronic copies may work better, allowing you to sort, rank, and identify animals that may be of special interest to you on sale day. Remember, an "interim" or "pedigree estimate" EPD gives you more information about the genetic potential of an animal than any individual record. Always look for EPDs first and foremost, followed by ratios, age-adjusted values, and then actual records, in that order. Review the printout for within-herd ratios. Second only to EPDs, ratios are the best tool to assess and rank animals within a trait. Ratios are calculated from age-adjusted values which "level the playing field" between older and younger animals in the sale. The power of a ratio increases when contemporary groups are held intact, encouraging breeders to scan the entire crop of bulls and heifers. In other words, the bad ones make the good ones better. Remember, a Fat Ratio over 100 means the animal will add more backfat to their offspring than the average of the contemporary group. Buyers looking to increase retail yield should select heavy muscled bulls with Ribeye Area (REA) Ratios over 100 and/or Fat ratios below 100. Next, if ratios are not printed, look for age-adjusted values for each trait. Using this data, one can calculate a ratio within a contemporary group by simply dividing the trait value of each animal by the average trait value, then multiplying the answer by 100. Some electronic supplement sheets allow you to rank the adjusted values, which essentially sorts the cattle within a trait. Age-adjusted values are extremely important. They keep buyers from flocking to the oldest animals in the sale which often have the heaviest yearling weight, biggest REA, or highest Percent Intramuscular Fat (%IMF) value. For this reason alone, younger bulls and heifers can become "sleepers" in the sale order, allowing you to buy a better beast for far less money. Finally, actual scan figures can still be used as an effective selection tool, but one must proceed with immense caution. Unfortunately, auctioneers and sale managers often like to highlight actual scan data as a major selling point. The most likely place to find actual ultrasound data without ratios or age-adjustments is a consignment sale. Breeders may select their very best individual animals to go to this sale, but his or her cow herd may not be large enough to justify scanning all the offspring as yearlings for submission to the breed’s genetic evaluation. As a buyer, you are left with a bunch of one-head contemporary groups of varying pre- and post-weaning management techniques. If you take nothing else from this article, please remember this: Do not directly compare the actual ultrasound data from one lot to the next in a consignment sale! Some individuals may have been "pampered" since the day their mothers licked them off. Other consignors stalled right next to them may grow their bulls or heifers on limited feed and labor resources. Obviously, one would expect the pampered animal to out-weigh and out-scan the other raised with a cheaper feed bill. There are a number of ways to analyze actual ultrasound data, though comparing results will be difficult at best. The first involves assessing muscle from the REA scan. Simply divide the actual REA by the animal’s body weight and multiply the answer by 100 to get REA/cwt. However, if the animal was scanned yesterday for REA, but weighed six weeks ago, this simply will not work. If using an adjusted yearling weight, you must also use an age-adjusted REA. Fatter, more highly-fitted animals, as well as older, sexually mature animals, are at a disadvantage using this cowboy math. As well, ultrasound data from 2-year-old bulls sounds very impressive at the coffee shop, but has very little value when trying to buy a bull. The fat, lazy 2-year-old bull will out-scan the aggressive bull that ran the fences all winter bawling for cows. Even though both may have scanned identical as yearlings, actual ultrasound data prior to the sale would lead most buyers to select the wrong bull. As a general rule, 1.1 REA/cwt is a solid starting point; expect more out of terminal sire breeds. The analysis of actual %IMF and Backfat thickness can get even trickier. Some sales will adjust bull %IMF data to a "steer equivalent" to offset the testosterone effect of the intact male. A standard inflation of %IMF is a great marketing tool, but very misleading to buyers, especially when backfat data is not inflated to the same "steer equivalent." Be sure to ask sale management if an adjustment of any kind was used. My best advice is to keep it simple and rely on some beef industry standards to help you. The Preliminary Yield Grade equation from basic meats judging is helpful: 0.2in. Backfat = USDA YG 2.5 0.4in. Backfat = USDA YG 3.0 0.6in. Backfat = USDA YG 3.5 Next, use the following %IMF benchmarks: 2.0% = USDA Low Select 4.0% = USDA Low Choice 9.0% = USDA Low Prime Then, simply ask yourself a series of questions about the individual. Would you buy or breed a High Select, YG 4 heifer? If a bull has a 1,000-pound yearling weight and scans with 0.6 inches backfat (YG 3.5), are you worried about potential YG 4 discounts from his offspring? The individuals that combine the optimal combination of Quality and Yield Grade should begin to surface much like they do in a packing plant. Bulls that scan Select, but are still lean, should be given more consideration than fatter bulls in the same quality grade. This method will also indirectly steer you away from animals that may have been overfed or have potential problems with longevity, rebreeding, milk production, etc. The vast array of technology and selection tools available to cattle producers can make the heifer and bull buying process much easier and more comfortable than in years past. However, it’s key to set a goal of what you are looking for in your next purchase before you start the truck and head to the auction barn. My best advice is to find the bulls or heifers that fit your program needs on paper first, then look at them. This is not to downplay the importance of phenotype, structure, and visual appraisal, but more to save you time and effort looking at animals you do not need or want. For decades, cattle producers looked at phenotype first, then performance and ultrasound data as it became available. Reversing the process can make cattle buying so much easier and it prohibits buyers from making excuses for cattle they like visually, but may take their herd in the wrong direction. To illustrate, I’ll use an example based on true events: Brothers A and B attend a 200-head bull sale with catalog in hand. After arguing for two hours in below-zero wind chills, they settle on 10 bulls and head to the sale arena for a warm cup of coffee. While eating the complimentary lunch, each grabs the ultrasound supplement sheet and sale order sitting ringside. After further investigation, they discover three bulls are feature lots and will be way out of their price range, four have problematic %IMF scores, and two have smaller REAs than they hoped. Each tried to talk the other into sticking with bulls they insisted make the final list, but in the end, they bundled up again and started over. With five minutes to sale time, they finally had a list of potential herd sire prospects they could be happy owning. Brothers Y and Z asked for a copy of the ultrasound data three days before the same bull sale. Nineteen bulls met the goals of their operation with a few stars by the really good ones. After a 30-minute visual appraisal of only 19 head, the list was cut to 12. Two had a course, potentially hard-calving shoulder, three had incorrect rear leg structure, and the other two were just the wrong frame size for their cows. As you can tell, brothers A and B had to plow through far more information at the last minute to reach their decision and were sometimes selecting or culling bulls for the wrong reasons. Brothers Y and Z got a better seat for the sale. Consumers rarely invest in expensive products without a free trial or a test drive. It’s taken decades for the beef industry to allow buyers to look underneath the hood, or hide in this case, before making a buying decision. Determining the "sticker price" becomes much easier when one understands how to read the label. — Patrick Wall, Director of Communications, The National CUP Lab

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Friday, August 22,2008

"Slick" gene helps cattle beat the heat

by WLJ
"Slick" gene helps cattle beat the heat Pinpointing the chromosomal location of the Aslick@ gene identified by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists could help breeders develop cattle with shorter, slick hair that helps keep them cool in the subtropical heat. In central Florida, excessive summer heat can take its toll on cattle, leading to reduced milk production from dairy cattle and higher death rates among beef cattle. But the discovery of the slick gene by scientists at the ARS Subtropical Agricultural Research Station (STARS) in Brooksville, FL, should help deal with these heat-related issues. Breeders could move the gene into other economically important breeds, such as Holstein or Angus, to improve their heat tolerance. The black-and-white Holstein is the world’s top-producing dairy animal. The typical Holstein herd produces more than 21,000 pounds of milk, 775 pounds of butterfat, and 683 pounds of protein per year. Angus is the most popular beef breed in the U.S., with more than 350,000 Angus cattle registered. They are hardy, undemanding and adaptable, and have a high carcass yield of marbled meat—the amount of intramuscular fat that gives the meat its marble pattern appearance—a highly sought trait in the meat industry. Studies at Brooksville led by animal scientist Chad Chase have shown slick-haired animals to have internal temperatures about 1 degree Fahrenheit lower during the summer than other cattle with normal hair coats. Mapping the gene’s location on the chromosome is the first step towards identifying the mutation responsible for the shorter, slick hair. Chase and his STARS team have found a strong association between at least two closely positioned markers on chromosome 20 and the slick-haired phenotype. Microsatellite markers were used in these studies. These results suggest a role for marker-assisted selection to identify bulls that will produce only slick-haired progeny. Some Senepol bulls were tested using these markers, and the results indicated excellent potential for identifying bulls that will produce only slick-haired offspring. The same gene also appears to be responsible for the slick hair coat in Romosinuano cattle. — WLJ

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Friday, August 15,2008

Basin Angus Ranch acquires Stevenson Basin Bull Center

by WLJ
Doug Stevenson, president of Basin Angus Ranch, announced last week the purchase of Stevenson Basin Bull Center, LLC near Hobson, MT. The Bull Development Center and Sale Facility, located on Highway 87 just east of Hobson, is a modern cattle handling and feeding facility and sale barn constructed in 2003 to develop the bulls and market the registered Angus seedstock raised by the Stevenson family ranches. Stevenson Basin Inc., the joint marketing agency for the Doug Stevenson, Clint Stevenson and Keith Stevenson families’ Angus genetics for over 24 years, is being dissolved. Basin Angus Ranch, the largest registered Angus operation in Montana, was started in 1972 by Marian and the late Wayne Stevenson. Basin Angus Ranch and Stevenson Angus began selling their cattle together in 1976, officially forming Stevenson Basin, Inc. in 1984 to jointly market the registered Angus seedstock and Angus semen produced by the Stevenson family ranches. While Stevenson Basin marketed their livestock together, the family’s three ranches, Basin Angus, Stevenson Angus and Stevenson’s Diamond Dot, continued to manage their cow herds independently. "The three operations have reached a point that we are not dependent on joint marketing," said Doug Stevenson, son of Wayne and Marian and a fourth generation Hobson rancher. Buying out the interests of the other two partners in the Bull Center will allow Basin Angus to effectively and efficiently produce, manage and market Angus seedstock under one brand and one owner. For both the commercial cattleman and the registered producer, this means a guarantee of higher predictability, stricter standards and the same superior level of customer service Basin Angus is recognized for, built upon the foundation of the country’s premier Angus genetics. For further information about Basin Angus genetics or to contact Doug Stevenson, log on to www.basinangus.com or call 406/423-5800. — WLJ

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Friday, August 15,2008

Fed cattle prices move higher

by WLJ
Fed cattle sales last week were being called $1-2 higher ahead of any significant trade volume at mid-day Thursday. Strong demand ahead of the Labor Day holiday, strong boxed beef prices, good export sales and tighter supplies ahead were all playing a role in boosting cash expectations among feedlot operators last week. The clearance levels of beef from packers and out of cold storage were good, with retailers taking deliveries of product for holiday sales and also booking advanced purchases of beef to lock in prices before they go up as we head into the fourth quarter. Trade was largely expected in a range of $101-102 live and $160-162 dressed, with a few dressed sales in the Corn Belt being reported at midweek at the $160 dressed level. The very current state of feedlot inventories after strong trade volume the prior week was adding some optimism to the market last week as well. Choice boxed beef last Thursday was reported at $164.58, down 2 cents from the previous day while the Select cutout rose 31 cents to reach $157.81 on good demand and movement. Packers were reportedly seeing good margins on harvested cattle, with HedgersEdge.com reporting packer profits in the neighborhood of $30 per head last Thursday. Understandably, packing interests were working to take advantage of the positive conditions by harvesting increasing numbers of cattle ahead of the expected tighter supply in the fourth quarter. Slaughter volume through Thursday last week was estimated at 512,000 head, 9,000 more than the previous week and 23,000 more than the same period in 2007. On the Chicago Mercantile Exchange at mid-day last Thursday, live cattle contracts were trading mixed to slightly lower ahead of cash trade for the week. The August contract was down 12 points to $103.05, while October was unchanged at $107.45 and December was down 20 points to trade at $107.95. The export markets continue to be a strong point for the beef industry, with first half of 2008 numbers up more than 30 percent in volume and 39 percent in value over the same period in 2007, the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) reported last week. For the first six months of 2008, total beef exports reached 445,036 metric tons with a total value to the industry of $1.58 billion, more than 87 percent of the value achieved during the first six months of 2003, the peak year for U.S. beef exports. Mexico and Canada remain the two largest outlets for U.S. products with exports to Mexico up 18 percent through June to 199,890 metric tons valued at $678.1 million. Exports to Mexico set a new record in June—surpassing the July 2003 volume and reaching 36,619 metric tons. Meanwhile, first half exports to Canada rose 41 percent to 78,790 metric tons valued at $365.8 million. In Asia, U.S. exports continue to rebuild their former foothold, with shipments to Japan rising 66 percent over last year’s level to 34,339 metric tons with a market value of $177 million. According to USMEF figures, U.S. beef is also gaining prominence in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Through June, year-to-date exports to this region rose 380 percent in volume over last year to 24,454 metric tons valued at $67.1 million. Vietnam led the way with 18,092 metric tons, followed by the Philippines at 4,992 metric tons. Beef exports to Russia are well on their way to surpassing 2003 levels—the last year this market was open to U.S. beef. Russia has imported 11,194 metric tons of beef and beef variety meats so far this year, valued at $25 million. But even more significant is the impact Russia’s demand is having on selected cuts. "Liver prices increased dramatically as Russia started bidding against Egypt for the limited supply of U.S. beef livers," said Erin Daley, manager of research and analysis for USMEF. "Liver prices have risen to more than 70 cents per pound, compared to less than 20 cents per pound last year. This has added roughly $7 per head on a live animal basis." Daley said that while this year’s beef exports won’t be able to match the peak levels achieved earlier in this decade, the beef industry is getting close to reaching the same level of value. While beef exports exceeded $3.8 billion in 2003, she forecasts that this year’s exports could total as high as $3.5 billion—assuming no major disruptions in trade.Feeder cattle Sustained losses in the corn markets have given cattle feeders reason to be optimistic, the same of which can be said about USDA’s most recent corn progress report which expects high yields exceeded only by the crop average in 2004. Many analysts, however, have doubts in the accuracy of the report, which they feel is overly optimistic and may come down come harvest time. Farmer feeders, which have seen new crop prices tumble over the past month since their all time highs, now have reason to get back into the cattle feeding business and market their corn through cattle, though fed cattle have also taken a hit as they follow corn prices down. Cash feeder cattle prices have been bolstered by the return of profitability to many feeding operations which have been running in the red for quite some time. As more buyers enter the market in search of quality feeder cattle to place on the newly-cheapened feed, competition is increasing for the tight supply of heavier program cattle. Marketings continue to be light during this portion of the year and in light of falling corn prices, some buyers have returned their attention to lighter, six- and seven-weight cattle. "According to reports from all of the feeder cattle production areas, demand for feeders showed a significant increase last week when corn prices took a healthy dip and finished cattle took a major raise," said DTN analyst Walt Hackney. "Feed costs—while still in orbit because of high-priced corn in the inventory—are becoming more manageable with cheaper ingredients going into the averages. Unless something unforseen causes an explosion in the corn market, cheaper rations and subsequent cheaper costs of gain are imminent with the devaluation of the CBOT [Chicago Board of Trade] corn prices." Hackney also made note of the trend towards farmers in the Corn Belt getting back into cattle feeding as a way to increase their returns on corn production. Cash prices in the major corn production areas are lower than board prices, which gives farmers added reason to consider holding off on selling their harvest. "Several reports last week in the western Corn Belt indicated cash corn was purchased below $4.30 per bushel, leading to much more incentives for feeding it to cattle than earlier opinions of marketing it into the cash market at $6 and above levels," he points out. Due to the late corn crop, which was hampered by spring flooding and subsequent replantings, Darrell Mark of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln cautions that feedlot operators may not want to jump into the corn buying game just yet. Instead, he says it may be prudent to wait for the crop to progress further and yield estimates to possibly go up further. "Corn crop progress is clearly lagging behind normal yet. As of Aug. 10, 93 percent of the corn crop was silking, compared to 98 percent last year and 96 percent on average. Only 30 percent of the corp was in dough stage, compared to 59 percent last year and 50 percent on average. So, livestock feeders should continue to watch the corn market carefully for signs of a potential bottom," he explained. In the cash markets, last week’s sale at the Oklahoma National Stockyards in Oklahoma City, OK, saw a total of 9,276 cattle received for sale where compared to the week prior, feeder steers were steady to $2 higher, with the most advance coming on 800-900 lb. steers. Much of the advance was lost late in the sale as orders were filled, and the market closed mostly steady. Steer and heifer calves were steady to $3 higher. Heavy rains in the area improved interest for calves on sale day. Cattle quality at this sale was noted as mostly average to plain, including several consignments of No. 2 cattle. Steers weighing an average of 726 lbs. brought $115.15, while fleshy heifers weighing 718 lbs. sold at $106. The Joplin Regional Stockyards near Joplin, MO, received 3,500 head last week where compared to the previous sale, steers and heifers sold steady to $2 higher. Demand was good for the moderate supply, with the quality of calves and yearlings being good. Buyers paid an average of $111.28 for steers weighing 724 lbs. and $106.53 for heifers weighing 730 lbs. There were a total of 2,423 head of feeder cattle received last week at the Winter Livestock Feeder Cattle Auction in Dodge City, KS, where steers from 300-600 lbs. and heifers weighing 350-600 lbs. were steady in a light test. Steers from 600-1,050 lbs. were steady to $3 higher, with the bulk of the trade happening at prices steady to $2 higher. Heifers from 600-850 lbs. were steady to $1 higher in a light test. Feeder steers weighing 717 lbs. sold for $117.24, while heifers weighing 708 lbs. averaged $110.83. Last week’s sale at the Huss Livestock Market in Kearney, NE, saw a total of 1,615 head received, where compared to the last sale, steers and heifers trended fully steady to $3 higher. Demand was very good for an overall attractive offering of feeders. Trading was noted as moderate to active. Steers weighing 726 lbs. brought $116.44, while heifers weighing 728 lbs. sold at $104. The Sterling Livestock Commission Company in Sterling, CO, offered 1,413 head of feeders for sale last week where demand was good, with the best demand being for cattle weighing over 700 lbs. No trend could be established due to no recent sales. Steer calves weighing 737 lbs. sold for $117 while heifer calves weighing 730 lbs. sold for $109.75. A total of 811 head were received last week at the Stockland Livestock Auction in Davenport, WA, where compared to the last sale, feeder cattle sold $1-3 higher. Trade was active with good demand. Steers weighing 724 lbs. were good for $105.89 at this sale, while 707 lb. heifers brought an average of $97.97. — WLJ

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