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Friday, September 5,2008

Annual directory connects hay producers and buyers

by WLJ
As a service to hay producers and buyers, the Colorado Department of Agriculture publishes the Colorado Hay Directory annually. The 2008 edition of the directory is available to the public at no cost. "Hay continues to be one of Colorado’s top crops," said Wendy White, marketing specialist for the Colorado Department of Agriculture. "The directory helps Colorado’s hay producers market their hay, and is a valuable resource for buyers across Colorado and the nation." The 22nd edition of the Colorado Hay Directory features more than 100 producers and brokers of hay as well as companies that provide hay-related products and services. Categorized by region, each listing includes the type and amount of hay available, bale type and size, whether or not laboratory analysis is available, certified weed free status and identifies organic hay. The Colorado Hay Directory is published by the Colorado Department of Agriculture in cooperation with participating Colorado hay producers, the Colorado Hay and Forage Association, Colorado State University Extension, and with support from Anderson Alfalfa, Dr. Fish Fertilizer Co., Hutchinson Western and Wagner Equipment Co. In 2007, Colorado produced nearly 4.4 million tons of hay valued at $597 million. Production of hay in Colorado for 2008 is estimated at 4.2 million tons. The directory is available online at www.coloradoagriculture.com and at www.coloradohay.org. For more information or to request a copy of the 2008 Colorado Hay Directory, call the Colorado Department of Agriculture at 303/239-4115. — WLJ

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Friday, September 5,2008

Texas cow/calf producers being squeezed

by WLJ
Even though the cattle industry continues to round up good prices for cattle, Steve and Morita Schoeneberg of Louise, TX, wrestle with higher input costs in their operation. The Schoenebergs operate a 600-head cattle ranch on about 1,800 acres along the Texas Gulf Coast, southwest of Houston. While they grow most of their own forage, they feel the effects of high fuel and fertilizer prices. "More and more with the cost of everything, I feel we are just spinning our wheels," said Morita, who attended the 54th annual Texas A&M University Beef Short Course while her husband stayed home to work the ranch. The Schoenebergs feel the effects of the three Fs—feed, fuel and fertilizer—as Texas cattle ranchers deal with lower profit margins despite higher cattle prices. That theme was repeated several times during the beef course held on the central Texas campus Aug. 4-6. According to the Standardized Performance Analysis (SPA), a program administered by Texas A&M to examine the financial health of ranches, the total cost to maintain each female in a herd in 2007 was $590.33, and the 2007 cost per cwt. of weaned calves was $116.90. Stan Bevers, professor and extension economist for Texas A&M based in Vernon, TX, said costs accelerated since 2002, and he believes costs will rise more in 2008. "You look at the increasing costs of inputs over the last six months or so, especially if you look at corn prices, and we most likely will have over $600 costs per cow for 2008," Bevers said. In an analysis of 71 herds in eastern Texas and the Panhandle completing the SPA program since 2003, the largest cost for cow/calf producers is purchased feed. Feed averaged $80.38 per breeding female, or about 14.5 percent of total operating expenses in 2007. This includes supplements, forages and minerals purchased. The cost is influenced considerably by high corn prices, he said. Corn’s price is viewed much differently by cow/calf producers than by corn farmers in the Midwest. While many cow/calf producers blame ethanol and its boom for higher prices, other factors affect feed prices, said Steve Amosson, professor and extension economist with Texas AgriLife Extension. "Ethanol seems to get all the headlines of why we have higher prices, but oil prices, exchange rates and speculative funds all also have an effect on increased feed costs," Amosson said. Oil prices are by far the number one problem that faces all of agriculture, he said. To the cattlemen, ethanol represents a thorn in their side. But what could be ethanol’s saving grace, at least to the cattle industry, is distillers grain. With more corn going to ethanol production, there will be more distillers grain for the cattle industry. Other livestock feeding enterprises, such as hogs and poultry, cannot use the product as readily as cattle feeders. "Distillers grain is a positive part of the game for cattlemen," Amosson said. Fertilizer prices doubled Another input that affects ranches’ bottom lines is fertilizer. Most fertilizer prices for Texas cattlemen have at least doubled in the last several years. These costs are set to increase, with little hope for a significant decline in the immediate future, said Vincent Haby, Texas A&M System Regents Fellow and professor of Texas AgriLife Research located in Overton, TX. Diammonium phosphate (18-46-0), the basic fertilizer used in many blends for grass in Texas, retails for as high as $1,300 a ton, and potash (0-0-60) fertilizers costs up to $825 a ton, Haby said. Even sulfur (S) has recently increased by $350 to sell for $725 a ton and is expected to increase in the third quarter of 2008. "The rising price of fertilizer has some Texas cattle producers deciding they can no longer afford to apply them to their grass," he said. Ranchers can eliminate or reduce fertilizer used on grass to cut input costs, but that can reduce land productivity. Haby suggested producers carefully consider the economics of not fertilizing. Use soil test recommendations to fertilize at an efficient level without over-fertilizing. If producers do reduce the fertilizer application rates, they should be ready to reduce livestock numbers. "You just have to lower the number of cattle on that grass if you reduce the application rate; there is no way around this," he said. Stockpiling feed As with many ranching operations in the eastern part of Texas, the Schoenebergs stockpile winter feed. They plant ryegrass and allow the cattle to winter graze this forage. This eliminates feed, mainly hay, costs. Part of their land includes grass and hay land that is under center pivots. She said they are at the point of not wanting to run the pivot because of the ever-increasing cost of fuel. They also debate whether to continue to fertilize their grass as they had in the past. Every year, the cost to fertilize their pastures increases and they have to do something to cut into their rising input costs. "I think in the long run, we will have to reduce our cow numbers," Schoeneberg said. "I know it seems backwards, but if you reduce some of your production, you are going to do better to make a profit and ... that is what we are trying to do." As for the future, Schoeneberg hopes as they alter how they operate the ranch, they will survive a challenging time to ranchers. Raised a city girl and married into the ranching business, she has tried to learn as much as possible about the industry to operate as efficiently as they can. The Schoenebergs have three adult sons, but all three have jobs away from the family ranching business and show no interest in returning to the ranch someday. She understands why they would want to pursue other careers, given that cattle ranching in Texas is not a very easy job, especially now with such high input costs. "I have hope for the future, but the way it is going currently, we are heading down one spooky trail," she said. — WLJ

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Friday, September 5,2008

Researchers awarded grant to study link between E. coli, distillers grains

by WLJ
A research team headed by Kansas State University (KSU) E. coli O157:H7 expert T.G. Nagaraja has been tapped by USDA to study both the connection between feeding distillers grains and E. coli 0157:H7 in cattle and several strategies to reduce the presence of the naturally occurring pathogen in the animals. The group has received a $939,220 National Research Initiative in Food Safety grant. Nagaraja, a university distinguished professor of microbiology, said the issue of meat safety is receiving full attention from both researchers and the meat industry and is being addressed. "This research project will greatly enhance our understanding of the exact relationship between dietary distillers grains and E. coli 0157:H7 in cattle, as well as provide us with an opportunity to look at novel ways to mitigate the potential risks of feeding this valuable co-product," Nagaraja said. Distillers grains are a byproduct of ethanol produced from cereal grains that are used in cattle feed. They are rich in fiber, energy and protein. The research team will look at ways to reduce the amount of E. coli O157:H7 present, such as administering a probiotic, an experimental vaccine, and feeding brown seaweed, a plant shown to have an effect in reducing E. coli O157:H7 prevalence in cattle. In addition, they also will study whether feeding varied amounts of the distillers grain or making it dry or wet has an effect on the prevalence of E. coli O157:H7 detected in the feces. Along with Nagaraja, the research team includes KSU professors David Renter, Mike Sanderson and Dan Thomson, and doctoral student Megan Jacob. The grant builds upon the long history of KSU researchers focusing on food safety. An example of that work that has direct application to the consumer comes from meat scientist Melvin Hunt. "Despite care in food processing and provision, there is a possibility that food can become contaminated with potentially harmful bacteria," Hunt said. "Occasional recalls of potentially contaminated ground beef in recent years are a sign that safety checks are working—hamburger lovers do not need to give up their favorite food." Consumers need to be mindful that recommendations for cooking ground beef have changed. Generations have been brought up to think that when ground beef browns, it’s cooked. That’s no longer true, Hunt said. In the mid-1980s, KSU meat science researchers were asked to study the possibility of reducing the percentage of fat in ground beef without compromising taste and texture. As the KSU researchers studied ground beef with differing proportions of fat, they observed how the meats cooked and noted that some ground beef browned prematurely, before it had reached the safe-to-eat temperature of 160 F. The color of meat depends on the oxygen in the muscle cells, Hunt said. As an example, he explained that fresh ground beef is bright red because oxygen is incorporated into the meat as it is ground. As the meat ages, it loses oxygen, which causes the color to change. The oxygen in the muscle is carried by myoglobin, which is similar to hemoglobin that carries oxygen in humans. Observations during the study prompted researchers to recommend that temperature—not color—should be used as a test for doneness, Hunt said. In a restaurant, consumers are advised to order a ground beef patty cooked to at least medium, or 160 F. At home, they are advised to check end-point temperature with a meat thermometer. "Using a meat thermometer is the only sure way to tell if meat is properly cooked," Hunt said. The KSU researchers are among the more than 150 KSU experts working in the arena of food safety, animal health and agricultural health. More than $70 million has been dedicated to research in these areas since 1999. — WLJ

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Friday, September 5,2008

Beef Bits

by WLJ
Beef growing globally Emphasizing the need to invest in foreign marketing aimed at the 95 percent of people who live outside the borders of the U.S., the Cattlemen’s Beef Board has chosen to increase the total dollars invested in marketing U.S. beef abroad. Export volumes of U.S. beef and beef variety meats worldwide advanced 30 percent year-on-year to 445,036 metric tons during the first half of 2008, while value jumped 39 percent to nearly $1.6 billion—compared to $1.8 billion during the same period in 2003. And while Mexico and Canada continued to be the top-performing export markets for the U.S. during the first half of 2008, export volumes of U.S. beef to Japan are rebuilding dramatically this year, thanks in part to a new beef cuts program funded by the Beef Checkoff. Beef Bucks Golf Tournament a success A good cause brought a large number of people together Aug. 22 for the sixth annual Beef Bucks Golf Tournament. Forty-six teams comprised of 184 golfers turned out at the Dells Rocky Run Golf Course in Dell Rapids, SD. "This was the largest tournament ever," says JoAnne Hillman, president of the South Dakota Beef Bucks, Inc. board of directors. "We had to turn people away. It’s wonderful to see how people in this industry come together for this event to have fun and raise money for an industry that means so much to South Dakota." South Dakota Beef Bucks is a non-profit organization that operates South Dakota Beef Bucks checks and VISA debit cards, both used for purchasing beef products or entrees at restaurants and retail stores throughout the U.S. 2008 Nebraska Beef Backer chosen Over the past couple of months, Nebraska restaurants have been competing for the title of the "Best Beef Restaurant in the State." The Nebraska Beef Council has recently named Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse the 2008 Nebraska Beef Backer Award winner. To compete in the Nebraska Beef Backer contest, restaurants first had to be nominated by a Nebraska beef producer or industry partner. After receiving nomination, the restaurants then completed an official application which was evaluated by a committee and results were based upon beef promotion programs, beef menu applications, and overall quality. Foodservice accounts for approximately half of the beef sold in this country, and commercial restaurants make up 61 percent for that sector. Agriprocessors appeals to Supreme Court Agriprocessors Inc., whose Postville, IA, plant was recently raided by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, is seeking to take its argument that workers have no right to unionize the company’s Brooklyn distribution center to the highest court in the land. A vote among employees in September 2005, who are mostly Mexican-born workers, sought to join the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which Agriprocessors has refused to recognize. The vote spawned a case in which the company claimed that most of the workers were undocumented immigrants and had no right to unionize. The National Labor Relations Board has ordered the company to recognize the union, citing a 1984 Supreme Court decision which affirmed the right of illegal immigrants to join unions. Beef from clones may enter food supply Recent reports indicate that meat from the offspring of cloned livestock is indeed entering the U.S. food supply, which is a cause of alarm to some consumers and advocacy groups. Though only a tiny portion of the U.S. beef supply could come from clones, which number in the hundreds or thousands of the country’s nearly 100 million head of cattle, USDA’s Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Bruce Knight recently admitted that he can’t rule out the presence of clone offspring in the food supply. Knight noted, however, that consumers are "highly unlikely" to receive beef from the offspring of clones. In January, the Food and Drug Administration deemed products from cloned cattle, pigs, goats and their offspring as safe to eat. Maximizing market cow and bull value Cattle producers have taken an active role in improved animal care, management practices and nutrition, but there’s always room for improvement. According to a checkoff-funded 2007 audit, cattle had fewer bruises as compared to 1999, less hide damage, and an overall improvement in animal welfare and handling practices. Nonetheless, the condemnation rate from down cattle, incidence of antibiotic residues, bruising, and lameness continue to warrant further attention. Producers can take the initiative to be proactive to ensure product safety and integrity, monitor herd health and market cull cattle in a timely manner, use appropriate management and handling practices to prevent quality defects, and recognize and optimize the value of market cows and bulls.

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Friday, September 5,2008

Plant identification important in range monitoring

by WLJ
Range monitoring requires a working knowledge of plant identification. But acquiring the knowledge can be a daunting challenge that often prevents producers from implementing important aspects of range monitoring. "However, one does not have to be a plant identification expert," says Chuck Lura, Extension rangeland specialist at the North Dakota State University (NDSU) Central Grasslands Research Extension Center near Streeter. "Simply knowing a few key species and monitoring their abundance can provide producers with valuable information." Accurate monitoring helps rangeland managers determine whether their grazing management strategy is working. Key species are species in a pasture that can serve as indicators of management effectiveness. They generally are species that are abundant, productive and palatable, and were dominant plants in the historical climax community of a particular ecological site. A historic climax community is a plant community that existed at the time of European immigration and settlement in North America and was best adapted to the unique combination of environmental factors associated with a particular site. Lura recommends rangeland managers select one to three key species for monitoring on a particular ecological site. For example, a key area in much of the Missouri Coteau in North Dakota is the loamy ecological site. The key species on this site likely would be some combination of western wheatgrass, slender wheatgrass, green needlegrass and needle-and-thread. Collectively, these grasses may account for up to one-half of the total forage production. Monitoring the response of a few key species on key sites will help rangeland managers judge whether the management within a pasture has been successful. "Generally, when range management principles are properly used, the entire pasture may be considered correctly used," Lura says. The Central Grasslands Research Extension Center has a program to assist producers in implementing and maintaining range monitoring procedures. The program is made possible through funding from NDSU, the North Dakota Natural Resources Trust, and Ducks Unlimited. — WLJ

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Friday, September 5,2008

World Livestock Auctioneer Championship starts in Miles City, MT

by WLJ
The road to Livestock Marketing Association’s (LMA’s) 2009 World Livestock Auctioneer Championship (WLAC) begins in Miles City, MT, Sept. 9 for 32 contestants. Miles City Livestock Commission LLP is hosting the first 2009 WLAC quarterfinal competition. Three titlists will be named at each contest, and the top eight scorers will qualify for next June’s WLAC, set to be at Fergus Falls Livestock Auction Market Inc., Fergus Falls, MN. The other WLAC quarterfinals will be Oct. 29 at Texhoma Livestock Auction LLC, Texhoma, OK; Nov. 18 at Muskingum Livestock Auction Co., Zanesville, OH, and Dec. 2 at Kingsville Livestock Auction, Kingsville, MO. LMA, the national trade association for livestock marketing businesses, created and conducts the annual WLAC. The championship in Minnesota will be the 46th annual. Miles City Livestock Commission co-owner Rob Fraser said, "September ninth will be a special day for all of us at the market. We’ll be welcoming some of America’s best livestock auctioneers who will be selling top-quality cattle from some of the best producers in this area." He expects about 4,000 head of cattle, mostly yearlings, for the sale. And, he said, he wanted to invite "anyone who enjoys listening to the sound of a good auctioneer to join us on the ninth." The sale will start at 9 a.m. (MT), with the contest getting under way at 10 a.m. This is the third year LMA has used the four-contest format to qualify contestants for the June championship. The annual WLAC, Fraser continued, brings two things into focus: that competitive livestock marketing is "the best way to get the best price for your livestock" and the "continuing importance" of the auctioneer in that process. Contestants must be at least 18 years old and employed and sponsored by a livestock market. Each contest is an actual sale, with buyers on the seats. The three titlists in the June WLAC—world champion, reserve and runner-up world champion—will receive thousands of dollars in cash and prizes. — WLJ  

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Friday, September 5,2008

Extended grazing can reduce feed costs

by WLJ
By extending the grazing season into the fall and winter, many producers can reduce their harvested feed costs, said a University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) specialist. Although winter or dormant season grazing of pasture and feeding of a protein supplement is a common practice, several other strategies can work well for producers in other parts of the state, said Jerry Volesky, range and forage specialist at UNL’s West Central Research and Extension Center in North Platte. Producers can start now to prepare for extending the season by planting annual forages such as oats and turnips to use later, he said. They can also stockpile perennial grasses. "We’ve done some research on stockpiling cool season perennial grasses," Volesky said. "We graze those grasses in the spring and early summer, then let them accumulate the rest of the season’s growth for the fall and winter." Volesky found that even into November and December, the stockpiled forage maintained its nutritional value with protein levels as high as 12 percent. It wasn’t until January and February that crude protein and digestibility decreased significantly. "But even at the end of February, nutrition was still relatively high and we were meeting the nutritional needs of most grazing animals," Volesky said. Producers have also used windrow, or swath grazing. It involves swathing forages in late summer or early fall, then leaving the windrows in the field to feed in late fall or winter. That allows the producer to capture the quality of forage at the time of harvest. Grazing the windrow is possible even with snow cover. That strategy saves money because it eliminates the cost of baling, hauling the bales off the field, and then feeding them. In addition, grazing the hay in the field returns nutrients back to the soil. There is an outside chance that there will be too much snow to use these feeds, Volesky said. Unless the snow is very deep, though, more than six to eight inches, it won’t matter. Ice is much more of a problem. Barring unusual weather, then, extending the grazing season can help cattle producers save money and increase their profits. — WLJ

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Friday, August 29,2008

Distillers grains for grazing yearlings

by WLJ
Distillers grains for grazing yearlings Nebraska researchers wanted to know what use these products might have for growing cattle on pasture. They used yearling British-Continental crossbred steers initially weighing about 650 pounds. A treatment group (TRT) had free-choice access to dried distillers grains (DDG) on Sandhill pasture from early June to early August. Controls (CON) were not fed. Consumption of DDG averaged 11 pounds/day. TRT gained 2.8 pounds/day and CON gained 1.9 pounds/day. Forage consumption was estimated to be about 30 percent less by TRT. So, for every CON animal, about 1.4 TRT animals could be run on the same pasture area. After grazing, all animals went to a feed yard. TRT were harvested 14 days before CON. There were no statistically significant differences between the two groups in final weight, average daily gain, or carcass characteristics. There was a tendency for TRT to have more Choice (67 percent vs. 51 percent). The economic value of DDG was 17 percent over its cost for grazing and 11 percent over cost for finishing. The authors stressed that the use of DDG in this manner would depend on pasture cost, DDG cost, feeder cattle price, and fed cattle price. — Texas A&M University Ag Extension

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Friday, August 29,2008

Producer meetings addressing trich, COOL and high input costs

by WLJ
Producer meetings addressing trich, COOL and high input costs The series of issue update meetings for cattle producers, hosted by Nebraska Cattlemen (NC) and University of Nebraska Extension, that began Aug. 18 in Hebron will continue through Nov. 1 at Tecumseh (visit www.nebraskacattlemen.org to see NC’s master calendar). Priority topics addressed at the meetings include trich, Country of Original Labeling (COOL) and dealing with high input costs. Most ranchers are aware that they do not want trichomoniasis, or trich, in their herd. The greatest threat comes from across the fence, neighbor to neighbor. Cattle don’t just get trich; it must be introduced into a herd. Most likely, this will happen in one of these two ways. Either your bull jumps the fence and breeds a trich-positive cow, then is put back into the proper pasture where he infects your cows. Or, a positive bull will jump into your pasture with your cows and infect them prior to you putting him back where he belongs. Bulls don’t infect bulls and cows don’t infect cows; it’s transmitted by sexual contact. Trich causes significant economic loss. The interim final rule on COOL was published in the Federal Register on Aug. 1 and will become effective Sept. 30. NC will present information that answers questions such as who is covered, who is not, record keeping for producers, as well as questions which remain unanswered by USDA. Rising input costs for ranchers and feeders and price volatility has changed standard business practices. University of Nebraska specialists will address options cattle producers have for dealing with the economic challenges. Meetings are scheduled for: • Sept. 5—Trich, 7:00 p.m., Gordon Livestock Market. Contact Melody Benjamin at 308/760 6464. • Sept. 8—Trich, 7:00 p.m., Crawford Livestock Market. Contact Melody Benjamin at 308/760 6464. • Sept. 9—COOL and Beef Quality Assurance, 6:30 p.m., North Platte Livestock. Contact Drew Gaffney at 308/872-1105. Sponsored by Schering Plough/Intervet. • Sept. 15—NC Region 7 Roundup, Wonderlich’s in Columbus, 6:00 p.m. social, 7:00 p.m. dinner. Program: COOL and NC updates, market outlook, and dealing with the high input costs. RSVP for meal by noon Sept. 12. Contact Chad Settje at 402/285-9013 or 402/784-3153. • Sept. 16—COOL and dealing with the high input costs, Wisner Community Center. Contact Melody Benjamin at 308/760-6464. Sponsored by Global Animal Management. • Sept. 16—COOL, trich and dealing with the high input costs, Neligh, Imperial Steakhouse, 7:00 p.m. Contact Melody Benjamin at 308/760-6464. Sponsored by Global Animal Management. • Sept. 17—COOL, trich and dealing with the high input costs, noon, Elyeria, Country Neighbor. Contact Melody Benjamin at 308/760-6464. Sponsored by Global Animal Management. • Sept. 17—COOL, trich and dealing with the high input costs, Box Bar in Lexington, 6:30 social. Contact Melody Benjamin at 308/760-6464. Sponsored by Global Animal Management. • Sept. 18—COOL, trich, dealing with the high input costs, noon at Chances "R" in York. Contact Melody Benjamin at 308/760-6464. Sponsored by Global Animal Management Three additional meetings are being planned for Sept. 23 in Thedford, Oct. 2 in North Platte, and Nov. 1 in Tecumseh. Location and times for these meetings will be posted to www.nebraskacattlemen.org as soon as possible. — WLJ

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Friday, August 29,2008

AngusSource offers producers an opportunity for COOL

by WLJ
AngusSource offers producers an opportunity for COOL With mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) on the horizon, USDA has announced that producers who enroll cattle in AngusSource can use the program to substantiate COOL claims. The COOL law provides for the use of qualified producer affidavits on which packers can rely to initiate the origin claim, according to Jim Riva, chief of USDA’s audit, review and compliance branch. Riva says participation in USDA Quality System Verification Programs that contain a source-verification component can also be used to substantiate COOL claims. AngusSource, a USDA Process Verified Program (PVP) for Angus-sired calves, verifies source, age and a minimum of 50 percent Angus genetics. It is the source-verification component that provides traceability to the ranch of origin that can be used by the industry to meet COOL requirements. "The goal of the AngusSource program is to add value to Angus-sired calves," says Sara Moyer-Snider, director of AngusSource. "As the industry has evolved, AngusSource has adapted to help producers meet marketing requirements. The ability to substantiate claims for COOL with source-verification is the newest addition to the list of services AngusSource offers." "The PVP status of AngusSource adds integrity to the program and has opened doors to export markets and branded beef programs," explains Jim Shirley, American Angus Association vice president, industry relations. "Assisting producers with COOL is the next logical step," he says. Age-verification through AngusSource qualifies cattle for export markets like Japan. In 2007, Certified Angus Beef LLC became the first branded-beef program to utilize AngusSource genetic-verification to qualify supply for the brand. Since then, more than 14 other Angus-based programs have included AngusSource as part of their live animal requirements. "We’re glad that AngusSource has been able to serve commercial Angus producers in these ways," Moyer-Snider says. "We will continue to work with USDA and plan for the future to ensure that we are able to help our customers meet emerging industry requirements." — WLJ

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