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Friday, August 8,2008

Beef Bits

by WLJ
Experts doubt meat/cancer link A panel of government, university and industry experts speaking at a leading food safety conference last week cast serious doubt on widely reported claims of a meat and cancer connection. David Klurfeld, Ph.D., national program leader in human nutrition at USDA, provided an extensive critique of the 2007 World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) report which made dramatic claims about a "convincing link" between red and processed meat and colorectal cancer. According to Klurfeld, the systematic literature review said that, "Overall, mechanisms explaining the data linking meat intake and colorectal cancer are far from plausible biological mechanisms." He also said the literature review found a statistically significant 26 percent protective effect against rectal cancer for the highest meat consumption level—a finding not referenced in the final WCRF report. North Dakota to close beef plant Bismarck, ND-based North Dakota Branded Beef Inc. will close its processing plant in Harvey, ND, for financial reasons and because it now has alternatives to sourcing beef products raised and processed within the state, according to KFYR TV in Bismarck. "Now we have another option that is opening up, that will be to be working with the New Rockford Dakota Farms North Dakota Natural Beef slaughter facility in New Rockford, ND, and then the processing facility that they’re going to be opening up in Fargo, ND," company owner Juanita Braun told KFYR TV. According to the company’s Web site, the two-year-old plant processed fewer than 100 animals per day. Buyers hit spot market for meat With input costs increasingly unpredictable, meat suppliers are balking at locking in prices with long-term contracts with foodservice companies, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. Where six months to a year was a typical contract length just a year or so ago, suppliers such as Tyson Foods Inc. and Pilgrim’s Pride have brought that down to a mere 90 days and have added clauses for additional fuel and feed costs. Restaurant companies are responding by rolling the dice with the spot market for meat and other commodities rather than locking in prices, the Journal reported. Even chains such as Sonic and Buffalo Wild Wings are buying their key ingredients, beef and chicken, on month-to-month contracts or paying floating rates. U.S. beef helps JBS margins JBS S.A., parent of Greeley, CO-based JBS-Swift & Co., said earlier this month that results for its U.S. unit helped offset the fourth straight quarterly loss overall for the Brazilian beef producer. The Sao Paulo, Brazil-based company reported a net loss of $233.4 million for its second fiscal quarter, ended June 30, on expenses related to U.S. acquisitions and currency losses. The loss compares with net income of $24.8 million for the same quarter a year ago. Sales for the quarter, meanwhile, increased more than six-fold, to $4.57 billion, mostly due to the acquisition of Swift & Co. in July 2007. Beef operations earned $132.9 million on sales of $2.63 billion in the second quarter, a turnaround from a loss of $900,000 on sales of $1.98 billion for the business in the first quarter of 2008. Whole Foods reports earnings slide Whole Foods Market Inc., which sells organic and naturally raised meats as part of its broad natural foods offering, reported last week that its third-quarter net income dropped more than 30 percent due, in part, to the cost of acquiring Wild Oats and a tough economy that is hurting consumer spending. Whole Foods earned $33.9 million, or 24 cents a share, for the three months ending July 6, down from $49.1 million, or 35 cents a share, in the same quarter last year. Whole Foods also sharply cut its outlook for 2009, saying it now expects sales growth of 6 percent to 10 percent for the year and it said its comparable-store sales are expected to grow 1 percent to 5 percent, down from the previously anticipated growth of 7.5 percent to 9.5 percent. The company cut all capital expenditure budgets related to new stores by 50 percent. Producers buy Canadian plant Natural Prairie Beef Inc. announced last week that it has purchased a former Winnipeg, Manitoba, meat processing plant and begun to upgrade and redevelop it to produce premium-branded Manitoba beef. Following a new business model for the Canadian beef industry, the producer-owned company will target niche markets and own more parts of the value chain from gate-to-plate. The first phase, which is expected to begin operations by the end of 2008, will employ 15-20 people and focus on processing value-added beef products for local markets. The company plans to renovate and upgrade the plant completely over the next two years to create a federally-inspected beef slaughtering and processing facility that will market premium beef products across North America and into Asia and the European Union. The plant is expected to employ about 80 people when complete.

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Friday, August 1,2008

Carbon credit program generates $8 million for farmers and ranchers

by WLJ
More than 2,300 farmers and ranchers will receive checks in the mail soon for capturing and storing carbon dioxide in their soil through the National Farmers Union Carbon Credit Program. National Farmers Union (NFU) President Tom Buis said total earnings from no-till and seeded grassland offsets generated $5,876,825 in income for 2006 and 2007 practices. To date, $8 million has been earned by producers since the voluntary program began in late 2006. "As conservation leaders, we know agriculture can play an important part in offsetting greenhouse gases in our environment today," Buis said. "Now, through innovative soil stewardship activities and the carbon offsets market through the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX), producers are being rewarded for their environmental stewardship." This pool of enrollments sequestered carbon dioxide from 2.8 million acres using no-till cropping practices and by converting cropland to long term grass stands, as in Conservation Reserve Program acres. After third-party verification of the enrolled acres, the tons were registered and sold on CCX over the last several months. That amount of stored carbon dioxide offsets the estimated annual emissions of 320,000 automobiles. "We believe the role agriculture and forestry can play in combating global warming is enormous. The National Farmers Union and CCX share a common vision in creating market-based incentives that promote long term sustainability of America’s farmland. We are honored and proud to work with them through efforts of NFU to build this environmental market," said Dr. Richard L. Sandor, chairman and CEO of CCX. NFU was approved as an aggregator for CCX to pool and market carbon offsets in 2006 and has since become one of the largest providers of agricultural soil carbon offsets to CCX. CCX is the world’s first greenhouse gas emissions registry, reduction and trading system, trading more than 86 million tons of carbon offsets to date. Over the next three to five years, these farmers and ranchers will receive annual payments based on the acres they have enrolled and the price of the offsets traded. In addition to no-till and seeded grass offsets, credits can also be earned with prescribed grazing on native rangeland, tree planting projects, and methane capture projects. Additional pools of these offsets will be marketed in the coming months, he said. While enrollment is ongoing, the next pool deadlines will be Aug. 1 for the prescribed rotational grazing offsets and Aug. 15 for no-till/seeded grass offsets. The program is entirely voluntary, but contracts are considered legally binding once signed. The NFU Carbon Credit Program is available in all states where various offset projects are determined to be eligible by CCX. More information on the program can be found at www.nfu.org. — WLJ

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Friday, August 1,2008

Nebraska and Iowa producers promote U.S. beef in Tokyo

by WLJ
Two beef producers from Nebraska and Iowa took part in a U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) U.S. Beef Checkoff-sponsored promotion, made possible through the financial support of the Nebraska Beef Council and the Iowa Beef Industry Council, that helped boost weekend sales of U.S. beef tenfold at a key store in Japan’s largest retail grocery chain. U.S. beef producers Bill Rhea of Arlington, NE, the Nebraska Beef Council’s treasurer, and Scott Niess of Osage, IA, and a member of the Iowa Beef Industry Council’s board of directors, witnessed and participated in a large-scale USMEF U.S. beef promotion for Japanese consumers at an Ito Yokado supermarket in Tokyo on July 12. Funded by the Nebraska and Iowa state beef councils, the U.S. beef retail promotion at four of Japan’s major supermarkets—Aeon’s Max Valu outlets, Ito Yokado, Daiei and York Benimaru—were part of USMEF’s continuing campaign to rebuild Japanese consumer confidence in U.S. beef by reestablishing its presence in supermarkets and reacquainting target consumers with its positive attributes—taste, consistency and value. "It is a great opportunity to see this U.S. beef promotion," said Rhea, "and to talk with consumers and buyers in Japan." USMEF is conducting a series of U.S. beef storefront events in its July-August "Beef de GENKI" (energy from beef) campaign at the four supermarket chains. This campaign is tied to USMEF’s strategic "We Care" theme and is targeted toward families with children to show that "We Care" about their health and vitality so they can enjoy life to the fullest. The campaign aims to increase sales, enhance consumer perception of U.S. beef, and rebuild trust by handing out samples, educating customers through information panels, and entertaining families with games. Since Japan reopened its market, the main supermarket chains have started offering U.S. beef one by one. Aeon, Japan’s largest supermarket chain, was the last to do so in December 2007. Its supermarkets have a reputation for high quality products at fair prices. One of the more innovative retailers, Aeon allows its customers to trace the origin of its domestic beef through in-store computers and cell phones. The U.S. producers also joined in the fun by participating in USMEF games with Japanese families. Their particular outlet increased its weekend U.S. beef sales tenfold, selling more than 500 U.S. steaks. The presence of U.S. ranchers showed consumers the real "face of the industry" and allowed them to gain a much deeper understanding of the Japanese market through a market debriefing, meetings with U.S. beef importers/buyers, and a visit to a Japanese Wagyu processing facility. "The customers’ reaction to U.S. beef is very positive," said Ito Yokado’s senior buyer. "This event proved very effective and I’d like to hold it again and expand it." "One of the things that is pretty remarkable about this whole trip," said Niess, "was that it was the first time that the Iowa Beef Industry Council and the Nebraska Beef Council came together in a joint effort to promote beef in Japan. And anyone that we talked to that had tasted or had sold American beef is wanting more—wanting more availability, wanting more volume, to be able to sell more American beef." Besides enthusiastic responses from consumers and supermarket buyers, USMEF garnered even more publicity for U.S. beef by securing articles in three major Japanese publications: Meat Journal, Chikisan Nippo and Nikkei. Chikusan Nippo The Meat Journal jointly quoted Rhea and Niess: "Japan is an important partner for the U.S. beef industry. We visited several retailers and distributors in Japan this time, and they want American beef. We wish the current problems, including age limitation, will be cleared and beef exports to Japan will increase." — WLJ quoted both Bill Rhea—"We’ve received very good reactions from consumers, and felt that U.S. beef was trusted by them,"—and Scott Niess—"Japanese consumers willingly tasted American beef with smiles. The safety, healthiness and reasonable price are the best attributes of American beef products."

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Friday, August 1,2008

Evocative, emotive "marbling"

by WLJ
To start a lively discussion amongst a group of cattlemen, just utter the word "marbling." It’s been called one of the most emotive words in the beef industry. From those who dismiss it as unimportant to the staunch defenders, opinions will vary. A presentation at the American Society of Animal Science annual meeting earlier this month focused on the science behind the word. Larry Corah, vice president of Certified Angus Beef LLC, shared research related to the value of marbling. "Nearly all beef scientists and connoisseurs indicate that there are three key attributes to beef palatability: tenderness, juiciness and flavor," he said. If it’s not met, tenderness is the most important. "It is clearly a threshold trait," Corah said. "The good news it that most researchers agree the beef industry has made great progress in both understanding and improving tenderness issues." Studies show marbling accounts for between 8 percent to 18 percent of the variation in tenderness, but Corah said it’s more significantly tied to juiciness and flavor. Two separate multi-city studies proved that when tenderness was held constant, consumers buy meat based on flavor. "Data out of Texas Tech University tells us that flavor is 2.5 times as important as tenderness when it comes to consumer acceptability," he said. "The taste they look for is a direct result of at least 80 to 90 days on a high-concentrate diet." The consumer preference for marbling isn’t isolated from the market price of beef, said Corah. "In the last 10 years, market differentiation has developed as a result of the demand for enhanced beef quality," he noted. "Colorado State University studies show that if beef tastes great, people are not only more likely to buy it, but more likely to pay more for it." That’s why over 40 percent of all fed cattle are marketed on quality-based grids, and those that make Premium Choice add more than $500 million per year to the industry. "The research not only says that marbling is important, but it’s also complicated," he said, noting factors like genetics, nutrition, breed and environment. "I would argue that there have been three major technologies in the past 50 years in our business: implants, ionophores and beta-agonists," Corah said. None have a positive effect on marbling, and a few—aggressive implants and Beta-II agonists—can be detrimental. "We really need more research to understand the mechanism in which these management practices affect marbling," he suggested. "The National Beef Quality Audit says we’re leaving $26.81 per head on the table in lost quality. That’s a lot. "As we continue to make great strides in tenderness, the ultimate driver for beef demand will be flavor," Corah predicted. — WLJ

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Friday, July 18,2008

GIPSA cites JBS/Swift

by WLJ
GIPSA cites JBS/Swift USDA’s Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) announced two weeks ago that it had cited Greeley, CO-based JBS/Swift and Company with violations of the Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA). According to a release from GIPSA, the company "inaccurately weighed hot carcasses for the purposes of payment to livestock sellers; used a dynamic monorail weighing system which was not accurate; reported inaccurate hot carcass weights to livestock sellers and paid livestock sellers on those inaccurate hot carcass weights; failed to pay the full purchase price for the livestock purchased within the time period required by the Packers and Stockyards (P&S) Act; and failed to pay the full amount due to livestock sellers for hot carcasses weights." According to one industry source, the allegations regarding inaccurate weights benefitted producers. The weights recorded by company scales were reporting weights in excess of actual hot carcass weights, which were used in turn as pay weights by the company. On June 18, 2008, GIPSA filed a complaint against Swift. If the allegations are admitted, or proven in an oral hearing, Swift may be ordered to cease and desist from violating the PSA and assessed a civil penalty. — WLJ

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Friday, July 18,2008

Truck weight laws leave farmers in the lurch

by WLJ
Truck weight laws leave farmers in the lurch Farmers and ranchers hauling their own goods to market across relatively short distances should not be held to regulations intended for commercial long-haul drivers, according to Mike Spradling, president of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau. During a recent hearing before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, the Sand Springs, OK, cattle and pecan producer testified on behalf of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) regarding the negative impact existing truck weight laws and regulations have on farmers and ranchers. "Current weight limits imposed by the Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) burden farmers and ranchers hauling their products to market," said Spradling. "The American Farm Bureau Federation recommends changes to FMCSA’s rules regarding Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMVs) that will make them more workable for some farmers and ranchers while still maintaining the safety of rural roads." The current federal definition of a CMV is a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more. It takes very little to reach that threshold. For instance, a heavy-duty pickup truck can often exceed the 10,001-pound weight limit. This makes interstate travel unreasonable by triggering requirements such as a commercial driver’s license and compliance with hours of service rules. "Establishing a national threshold of 26,001 pounds would begin to eliminate the inconsistent and confusing system currently in place and free small farmers and ranchers from being regulated the same as commercial truck drivers," Spradling said. "Concentration within the agriculture industry has reduced the number of grain elevators, cotton gins and livestock markets, forcing farmers and ranchers to drive longer distances, often across state lines, to sell their commodities," Spradling said. Additionally, the lack of uniformity between states causes confusion and frustration, according to AFBF, which has proposed solutions to ease the burden of trucking regulations on some farmers and ranchers. "Farm Bureau believes there are several changes that need to be made to the agency’s current regulations," Spradling testified. "They include exempting border crossings between states with similar weight restrictions, raising the weight limit for CMVs to at least 26,001 pounds, or exempting state border crossings within the 150-air-mile radius currently recognized by FMCSA [Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration]." — WLJ

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Friday, July 18,2008

Tuberculosis may have migrated from humans to cattle

by WLJ
Tuberculosis may have migrated from humans to cattle Tuberculosis (TB) may call to mind Old West consumptives and early 20th-century sanatoriums, yet according to the World Health Organization, the disease took the lives of more than 1.5 million people worldwide in 2006. In the U.S. alone, thousands of new cases are reported annually, making TB an enduring menace. The need to better understand this disease is becoming critical, note researchers at Arizona State University, especially with the emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains and increasing globalization spurring pathogen migration. Among those trying to decipher the origins and trajectory of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria responsible for TB, are three researchers in Arizona State University’s (ASU) College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Graduate student Luz-Andrea "Lucha" Pfister and associate professor Anne Stone in ASU’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change, and Michael Rosenberg, an assistant professor in the School of Life Sciences, are trying to establish a credible evolutionary timeline for TB. Their research suggests that the disease migrated from humans to cattle—not the reverse, as has long been assumed. The research estimates that the evolutionary leap took place prior to the domestication of cows—more than 113,000 years ago—indicating M. tuberculosis is a much older pathogen than previously believed. This outcome supports that of the French Pasteur Institute’s Cristina Gutierrez, an evolutionary mycobacteriologist whose work first cast doubt on the cattle-to-human TB link and its date range. Gutierrez calls the findings of Pfister’s team confirmation of TB’s ancient origins and human-cattle transmission. This summer, Pfister presented the results of the group’s research at the annual meeting of the Society of Molecular Biology and Evolution in Barcelona. She also presented during the April assembly of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists and subsequently saw the group’s research reported on in the journal Science. With no fossil evidence to consult, studying the deep history of bacteria has only recently become possible. Genomics holds the key. Using DNA, Pfister, Stone and Rosenberg are making inroads into calibrating the watershed moments in TB’s development, such as when it expanded in the human population. Through their work, they also plan to address the biogeography of the disease and what types of TB ancient people had relative to modern strains. Why are scientists interested in TB’s status thousands of years ago? Pfister puts the research into perspective. "An accurate time frame can help us learn about the development between host and pathogen. It can aid in understanding the disease and the way it evolves, how it creates new strains to stay alive." As Stone is quick to point out, "The data we generate can be used by clinicians to study this disease and formulate appropriate treatments. Our work is historical, but the implications are far-reaching." One of the primary goals is to calculate a meaningful mutation rate. The established model for bacteria was developed in the 1980s in regard to E. coli. "This mutation rate has been used as the universal standard, but that is not feasible. TB and E. coli are very different. Bacteria may evolve at different rates. We cannot say that one model applies to all," Pfister noted. Pfister, Stone and Rosenberg worked with 108 genes, compared to just over 20 genes used in the E. coli formula. As a result, they were able to delve deeper than Gutierrez at the time she conducted her ground-breaking research. "The Pasteur Institute looked at a small piece of the genome; the full genome gives a much better idea," says Stone, alluding to the team’s comprehensive approach and its possibilities. "The work we have done so far is only one aspect of a bigger project," explains Rosenberg. "There are different directions we want to go with it. Of course, the main target is to get a better estimate of the rate of mycobacterium evolution, but a lot of things branch off from that." Rosenberg, a computational evolutionary biologist who designed the program to analyze many of the sequences, says the project shows that "as we get more data and complete sequencing of full genomes, we find new ways of looking at issues, which can do away with assumptions. An example is the belief of cow-to-human transmission of TB. That was a long-held notion, but it was just an assumption." "It is the evolutionary way of thinking that has caused us to explore this issue from new and varied angles," states Pfister. "An evolutionary perspective is also important in a contemporary sense because our species’ population is growing dramatically. Soon we will reach carrying capacity. We will start producing pathogens and opportunities for problems at escalating rates." Pfister was born and raised in Chile where TB ran rampant before being subdued by aggressive government health programs. However, as in other parts of the world, Chile is presently facing a resurgence of TB. Still, Pfister is hopeful that someday, the deadly pathogen will be rendered obsolete. "We now have lots of gene data. We can count mutations. There is so much evidence out there; we just need to link it all. If we start looking at the history and essence of TB in a holistic, transdisciplinary way, we can see the big picture and find solutions," enthused Pfister. — WLJ

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Friday, July 18,2008

Red Angus announces new employee

by WLJ
Red Angus announces new employee Mikalena Randazzo has been hired as the commercial marketing specialist for the Red Angus Association of America (RAAA). Randazzo was raised on a commercial cow/calf operation near McAlester, OK. She brings experience from the family operation as well as from her former position as the office secretary of Oklahoma BEEF Incorporated (OBI). While working for OBI, she was responsible for data entry, maintenance of the OBI Web site, data extractions for catalog preparation, and coordinating sale day activities. Randazzo received her Associates Degree in Agriculture from Connors State College and her Bachelors of Science in Animal Science from Oklahoma State University. Randazzo was hired as an RAAA intern receiving training in the Feeder Calf Certification Program’s (FCCP) supplier evaluation process, registration data input, sale catalog data extraction and website content, layout and design. As the commercial marketing specialist, Randazzo will manage the content on the RAAA Web site, handle FCCP enrollment, assist in industry communications, and contribute to commercial marketing and RAAA promotions. "She (Randazzo) expresses an exuberant energy with an eagerness to learn. She is a talented and dedicated young woman with a great future ahead of her," said Clint Berry, Communications and Member Services director of RAAA. She is proud to have earned the opportunity to work with a great breed of cattle and an organization whose focus is on the commercial beef industry and beef production. "I’m excited by the opportunity to join the RAAA staff and am honored to have received this position," said Randazzo. "I’m looking forward to working with the RAAA members and their commercial customers," she added. Randazzo can be contacted at mikalena@redangus.org or 940/387-3502. — WLJ

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Friday, July 18,2008

Feeder cattle markets rev up

by WLJ
Feeder cattle markets rev up —Video sales, special auction market sales garner good demand, prices. The fall in corn prices last week served to add significant support to feeder cattle markets, particularly the action in the video auction last week in Reno, NV. Western Video Market’s (WVM) annual Reno sale saw good prices on offered cattle and moderate to good demand from buyers. Although trucking costs hitting $4 and higher per loaded mile had some buyers restrained, action overall was good, particularly for the heavier classes of cattle and calves which were weaned and pre-conditioned. Interestingly, some of the fly-weight calves in the upper-200 to mid-400 lb. calves bound for grass also met with heavy bidding action and some of the best prices of the week. Nevada calves were in especially high demand at the WVM sale. For example, one 260-head offering of 380 lb. steer calves brought $149.50, while another ranch offering 120 steer calves in the 400 lb. class sold at $147.50. Another Nevada offering of 100 weaned steers with a base weight of 460 lbs. called for $140.50. Although yearlings and heavy calves were predictably fewer in number, their selling prices were also very strong during the sale, particularly for the Plains state offerings. A Nebraska ranch sold a lot of 212 head with a base weight of 975 lbs. for $113.25, while another Nebraska outfit sold 130 head of 830 lb. steers at $115.75. One Wyoming ranch offering 200 steers with a base weight of 740 lbs. sold their cattle at $116. The strength of the fed cattle markets over the past several weeks, at a time when the market is traditionally marking its summer lows, has bolstered demand for feeder cattle and the futures contract level has allowed cattle feeders to lock in some profit potential for next year. The result has been a growing interest in the trade to contract calves for fall delivery and rising prices for offerings on the video sales, private treaty, and the seasonally light auction market cattle. The realization among cattle feeders that there are more tight supplies ahead is also starting to hit the market, bumping prices higher. Heavy cow slaughter, heavy planned marketings of heifers, and low numbers of cattle coming in from Mexico and Canada are all pointing to a shortage of available feeder cattle next year. Already this year, cow slaughter is up more than 8 percent from last year. High cull cow prices as a result of heavy demand for grind product and cow beef and a sharp increase in hay and forage prices is expected by many to continue to keep cow slaughter numbers elevated through this year and into next, translating into a shrinking herd and fewer available calves. As previously mentioned, auction markets continue to run with seasonally light numbers and in places, markets are taking a summer hiatus until calves start to trickle in from pastures next month. One of the few reporting decent runs of cattle last week was West Plains, MO, which reported a run of 4,200 head of steers and heifers started off steady to $2 higher, but quickly moved $2-5 higher, with some spots $6 higher, once buyers got settled and quality and bunches improved. The exception were the offerings of 500-650 weight steers which sold mostly steady to firm with the previous week on moderate supply and good demand, particularly for the yearling steers which have started to appear in this market. At Oklahoma City, OK, a run of more than 9,400 head was called mostly steady with the previous week on the feeder steers, with heifers steady to $2 lower. Calves were only lightly tested during the sale with unweaned kinds still selling at a substantial discount to weaned. Demand moderate with some buying interests not very aggressive. Quality was reportedly not as attractive as recent weeks, with limited numbers of cattle in the mix. At Crockett, TX, last Tuesday, no market comparison was available due to the fact that the sale was just resuming activity after a shut-down, however, prices at the market were good. Steers in the 300-400 lb. class sold in a range of $117-122, while 400-500 lb. steers were in a range of $99-107 with a few reaching $116. Steers in the 600-700 lb. class brought a range of $94-102 while 700-800 lb. offerings brought $93-101. At the annual Bassett, NE, barbeque auction, good numbers of cattle and buyers combined for an excellent sale, with good quality and condition noted on cattle which consisted entirely of yearlings over 600 lbs. Although no trend was applicable, prices were outstanding across the board. The offering of 314 head of cattle in the 800-845 lb. category sold in a range of $111.24-119.60, while 962 head in the 850-890 lb. class brought a range of $110.60 to $119.10 and 1,612 head of 900-945 lb. steers sold in a range of $109.50-118.80. The heaviest class of cattle in the 950-975 lb. range sold between $109.10 and $118.10. Fed cattle markets Feedlot trade started earlier than anyone anticipated last week with all signals pointing lower as the summer slump took hold, at least temporarily. July typically marks the lowest point of the summer market, although it has been unexpectedly strong this year as consumer demand has supported the Choice cutout above the $170 level and kept packer margins up, supporting slaughter volumes. Last Tuesday, trade broke open in the northern Plains and Corn Belt at prices steady to $1 lower than the prior week at $97 live and $154-155 dressed basis. Trade followed Wednesday in the south mostly steady to slightly lower at $98 in Texas and $97 in Kansas following some $154.50 dressed trade there on Monday. Colorado feedlots traded at mostly $97.50 live and $1.55 dressed. Despite the decline in the cutout last week, prices remained good although movement out of cold storage was light to moderate at best. Last Thursday, the Choice cutout slipped 54 cents during morning trade, to $170.39, while Select declined 66 cents to reach $161.43. Although prices are down slightly from the highs notched early in July, they remain historically strong and well above last year’s price levels of $142.26 on the Choice and $136.67 on the Select. The result is a nearly $10 increase in fed cattle prices, which stood at $88.88 during the same week in 2007. As a result of the stronger margins in the fed cattle markets, packers are maintaining incredible margins on their beef operations, estimated at $67.60 per head by HedgersEdge.com last Thursday, down from the highs in excess of $100 and more per head notched earlier in the month. The result has been a willingness among packers to keep chain speeds up as they work to capture as much value from the positive market as they can. Feedlots, on the other hand, have been caught in a tough spot for much of the year. Caught between rising feed and fuel costs and relatively high calf prices, many are reportedly on the market. Some sources note that the number of feedlots on the High Plains being quietly offered for sale could be 60 or higher. Consolidation in the feedlot business could occur rapidly if the market dynamics don’t shift soon. As it is, catle feeding has been a volatile business and heavy losses and increasing risk have dissolved the willingness among producers to retain ownership in cattle, particularly with calf prices remaining high. Unless corn continues its correction, the number of feedlots on the market could continue to rise for some time to come. The cow beef markets continued to shrink back slightly last week, a correction that began after the first week of July and the strong seasonal demand that accompanies the Fourth of July holiday. Robust cow slaughter numbers have had little impact in pushing prices lower and the cow beef cutout last week stood at $143.46 on Thursday, nearly $30 higher than a year earlier. The 90 percent lean market traded at $183.55, up from $141.26 during the same week in 2007. Meanwhile, the 50 percent trim climbed to $97.33, up more than $44 from the 2007 price of $53.81. — WLJ

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Friday, July 18,2008

2008 International Auctioneers Championship crowns winners

by WLJ
2008 International Auctioneers Championship crowns winners C.D. "Butch" Booker of Colfax, WA, and Jodi L. Sweeney of Waukon, IA, were announced the winners of the 2008 International Auctioneers Championship at the 59th International Auctioneers Conference (IAC) and Show in Nashville, TN. This year’s competition had 74 men and 22 women compete for the coveted title. Each champion received a cash prize of $10,000, a trophy, and will now represent the National Auctioneers Association (NAA) as its spokespeople throughout the year. The competitors were judged on their presentation, chant, voice quality, body language and other elements of effective auctioneering. There was also an interview segment of the competition that participants were judged on. C.D. "Butch" Booker Second-generation auctioneer C.D. "Butch" Booker is all too familiar with the IAC competition. Since 1993, Booker has competed in every IAC competition and has eight trophies to show for it. This year, Booker will proudly add the IAC Championship trophy to his collection of four first runner-up and four second runner-up IAC trophies. The owner of Kincaid Real Estate Company in Colfax, WA, Booker is also an active auctioneer in his family auction business, Booker Auction Company. He has conducted over 2,500 auctions in 16 states and specializes in industrial and farm machinery, real estate and purebred livestock auctions. Upon being awarded his trophy, Booker invited his son, Cotton, to the stage to assist him in the IAC Champion auction. With his son standing by his side, Booker said, "When I was a little boy, my friends’ fathers played catch or fished with them. My dad took me to auctions. My son does the same with me. Auctions are our life. It’s what we do for a living. It’s what we love." Booker and his wife, Jennifer, reside in Colfax, WA, with their 6-year old son. Booker is the son of the late NAA Hall of Famer D.L. Booker and Colleen Booker. Jodi L. Sweeney Third-generation auctioneer Jodi L. Sweeney was born to be an auctioneer. At the age of 21, Sweeney is an impressive auctioneer. Raised in the auction house, she started helping with the family auctions at the age of 6 and began selling at age 19. Sweeney specializes in farm machinery, real estate and antique auctions. She holds a real estate salesperson license in the state of Iowa. In August of 2007, Sweeney was the first female to win the Iowa Auctioneers Association State Bid Calling Contest. "This year’s competition was filled with an excellent field of competitors," said Jodi Sweeney. "I was shocked and amazed to have won this year’s competition and I am truly honored to be this year’s champion." Sweeney is currently completing her last year of college and will graduate in May. She is a member of the Iowa Auctioneers Association and lifetime member of the NAA. — WLJ

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