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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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Friday, August 29,2008

Competing proteins pose renewed concerns for beef

by WLJ
Competing proteins pose renewed concerns for beef —Trade issues could flood the U.S. market with lower-priced pork and poultry, limiting beef gains in the fourth quarter. Fed cattle trade wrapped up early last week at mostly steady money despite weakness in the boxed beef complex and a steady decline in the futures market. In Texas and Kansas, cattle traded at $99 live with good volume moving ahead of the holiday. Corn Belt trade was in a spread of $154-156 dressed, with most trade reported at the top of that range. Beef cutout values last week were moving lower for much of the week with disappointing movement out of cold storage warehouses. Midweek trade was light with only 96 fab loads trading, according to last Thursday’s mid-day report. Choice boxed beef was steady with the previous day at $160.98 while Select cuts were off slightly at $154.23. Slaughter volume last week remained robust with 505,000 head processed for the week through Thursday. That number was down from the previous week’s harvest, but it remained above the year-earlier level of 500,000 head. Cow slaughter numbers for the year remain well above year ago totals, indicating that the current downward slide in calf production and total domestic herd size is likely to continue for at least the next year. For the week ending Aug. 9, cow slaughter stood at 132,292 head, sharply higher than year earlier totals of 106,950 head. High input costs are pinching producers and strong cull cow and calf markets are making liquidation and heavy culling an attractive option. The strong cow and cow beef markets are largely the result of a sharp decline in the amount of beef being imported to the U.S., making domestic cull cows a more attractively price option for ground beef producers. Last week’s cow cutout value stood at $139.38, down slightly from the previous week as a result of a decline in demand after buyers met their pre-holiday needs. The 90 percent lean traded at $174.23 while the 50 percent trim was also down slightly from the prior week at $92.71. Most of the wholesale fabricated cut trade for the holiday weekend demand had been filled the previous week, so the light movement was of little surprise to analysts last week. The next key factor in determining market direction will be weekend clearance levels. There have been some excellent beef feature prices advertised recently which should help support retail sales and future packer buying interest. If movement at the retail level is strong, it could provide support going into the fourth quarter. Of particular concern during the last three months of the year will be competing meats. Pork and poultry supplies are expected to surge for the last few months of 2008 and pork especially will pose a significant threat to beef prices. There were reports last week that Russia and China, both large importers of U.S. pork and poultry, will sharply curtail purchases. That could flood the domestic market with cheaper protein options for U.S. consumers who will be the key to sustaining beef prices during the expected tight supplies later this year. Exports have been highly supportive of the domestic beef market this year when consumers have slowed their discretionary spending as a result of a weak economy. Exports have largely picked up the slack with an increase of 31 percent in volume for the first half of the year, totaling 831 million pounds. If consumers, faced with higher living expenses, turn away from beef in favor of pork and poultry, the improvement in cutout prices needed to sustain profit margins in the beef industry could falter. News that China and Russia would cut back their pork buying was adding to the gloom in the hog trade last week and futures markets were trading limit down. To make matters worse, the delisting of several processing plants in Mexico by USDA was adding to trade concerns last week. Analysts noted that the request to block exports from plants that did not meet U.S. standards could cause Mexico to curtail purchases of product from the U.S. As the largest buyer of U.S. beef, Mexico’s withdrawal from the market could have severe consequences for beef prices in the U.S. Feeder cattle Last week’s cash feeder cattle market marked the first time in recent weeks that feeder cattle prices have slipped lower, even as lower corn futures made buyers more optimistic. The trend towards placing heavier feeder cattle continues, with yearlings continuing to be in heavy demand, although quality runs of lighter weight calves have also become a source of appeal to many buyers at local auction markets. "This marks the first time in over two months that the weekly nationwide yearling trend came in lower," points out USDA Market Reporter Greg Harrison. "In fact, several markets noted that the buyer demand for calves was actually better than the yearling feeder demand for the first time in recent memory." Harrison noted that good rains in southern winter grazing regions have given many operators reason to get back into the market for lighter weight calves which can be backgrounded and resold as heavy, placement-ready feeders come spring. "Heavy rains across the southern Plains have perked up the late grass that many backgrounders will use to warm-up lightweight calves before turning them out on early wheat pasture, which should have a good start this year from ample subsoil moisture," he said. Potential feeder cattle buyers are beginning to get used to the roller coaster corn markets, which Wall says now draw less attention than they have during recent periods of high grain futures. "However, drastic grain market volatility is now the norm where only a few years ago, a nickel change would stir attention," said Harrison. "The CBOT [Chicago Board of Trade] September corn contract has settled with more than a 10-cent move on every August trading session but one this month. This has feedlot owners shaking their head in confusion on when is the best time to secure feed inventories." Last week’s auction at the Oklahoma National Stockyards in Oklahoma City, OK, saw 8,583 head of feeder cattle available for sale. Compared to the previous sale, feeder steers and heifers were $1-2 lower, with steer and heifer calves steady with good demand. Recent rains across most of the region, along with cooler temperatures, have revived the grass and improved wheat pasture prospects. Quality of the feeder cattle offered continued to decline with several full or lighter muscled cattle included. Steers weighing an average of 679 lbs. sold for $113.44, while heifers weighing 654 lbs. sold at $108.75. The Joplin Regional Stockyards near Joplin, MO, received 4,900 head for sale last week where steers remained steady and heifers under 500 lbs. were $2-5 lower. Heifers weighing 500-700 lbs. were $1-3 lower, with weights over 700 lbs. steady. Demand and supply was moderate, with the bulk of the offerings being weaned calves and yearlings. Feeder steers weighing 682 lbs. sold for $115.04, while 674 lb. heifers brought $104.40. There were 2,627 head of feeders received last week at the Winter Livestock Feeder Cattle Auction in Dodge City, KS, where compared to the week prior, steers and heifers from 700-950 lbs. sold $1-3 lower, mostly $2 lower. There were not enough steers and heifers of 700 lbs. and under for a good market test, though a lower undertone was noted. Buyers paid $113.22 for steers weighing an average of 738 lbs., and $105.32 for heifers weighing 711 lbs. To the north in McCook, NE, at the Tri-state Livestock Exchange, there were 1,850 head of feeders offered for sale last week, though no comparison was available due to no recent sale. Steers weighing 704 lbs. brought an average of $116.25, while feeder heifers weighing 669 lbs. sold at $113.94. Last week’s sale at the Winter Livestock Auction in La Junta, CO, saw receipts of 1,187 head where trade was active on calves and yearlings and included good demand for both classes. No price comparison was available as the last covered auction was in July. Steers weighing an average of 687 lbs. sold for $116.75, while 669 lb. heifers brought $102.70. There were 961 head available for sale in a light run last week at the Stockland Livestock Auction in Davenport, WA, where feeder cattle were firm in the light test. Trade was active with moderate to good demand. Steers weighing 739 lbs. sold for $100 at this sale, while 731 lb. heifers sold for $98.19. — WLJ

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Friday, August 29,2008

Beef Checkoff revamps, revitalizes and relaunches BSE Web site

by WLJ
Beef Checkoff revamps, revitalizes and relaunches BSE Web site Oftentimes, information is outdated by the time it reaches the mailbox. In an effort to provide the latest facts about bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, commonly called "mad cow disease"), the Beef Checkoff-funded Web site BSEInfo.org recently was overhauled to include new and updated content and an easy-to-search Web structure. Although the U.S. hasn’t had a case of BSE since 2006, this disease remains important to the beef industry and the scientific community and frequently receives media attention. "The latest update to BSEInfo.org reflects the industry’s commitment to providing the most current, scientifically valid information about these diseases. The Beef Checkoff is dedicated to investing in educational tools such as the site in order to eliminate confusion and misinformation among numerous audiences," says cow/calf producer Austin Brown III, Cattlemen’s Beef Board member from Beeville, TX. "The site also explains the measures we take to protect beef safety. We rely on our industry and media partners to share the facts about beef, and want to be sure to provide credible and complete information about how animal health and public health are protected from this disease." A highlight of the site is the Scientific Resource, which was reviewed by nine leading international experts in BSE and related diseases. These transmissible spongiform encephalopathy experts served as scientific reviewers for sections about prions, BSE, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, scrapie and chronic wasting disease. "The validation from these folks not only lends credibility to the site among external audiences, but also speaks to the standing of this resource within the scientific community," continues Brown. Media partners worldwide covering BSE can locate the best resources, determine who to contact to arrange an interview, and find the foremost experts through this site. In addition, the revised Web site now contains updated BSE basics; information about BSE in the news; beef industry statements; answers to frequently asked questions; and beef industry facts. BSEInfo.org also serves as a portal to other government, international and industry Web sites, and interactive maps highlight the geographic distribution of BSE cases. A premiere Web site in its subject area, BSEInfo.org continues to be one of a very few sites to offer a comprehensive range of scientific information about BSE and related disease, typically hosting more than 2,000 unique visitors per week, many from other countries. Visit the revised site at www.BSEInfo.org. For more information about checkoff-funded programs, visit www.MyBeefCheckoff.com. — WLJ

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Friday, August 29,2008

Costa Rica, Belize, Qatar and Ghana open to U.S. beef

by WLJ
Costa Rica, Belize, Qatar and Ghana open to U.S. beef Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer last week reviewed the success from recent openings of U.S. beef markets into Costa Rica, Belize, Qatar and Ghana recognizing international trade standards for U.S. beef and beef products from cattle of all ages. "The opening of these diverse markets demonstrates the global appetite for U.S. beef and the understanding and confidence nations place in America’s science-based international standards for safety," said Schafer. "I think it is important to review this pattern of opened markets for their strategic placement in the world marketplace where surrounding nations and world travelers can once again enjoy the quality of American beef." Officials from the USDA and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative have made a concerted effort to restore markets for U.S. beef and beef products from cattle of all ages in line with international standards of the World Organization for Animal Health. More than 100 countries currently allow the entry of U.S. beef and beef products. Costa Rica and Belize are both Central American countries with strong tourism sectors. In addition, Costa Rica is an important port and gateway to other Latin American markets. In calendar year 2003, the U.S. exported more than $2.6 million in beef and beef products to Costa Rica. Belize, the second smallest and least populated country in Central America, relies on foreign imports from countries such as the U.S., Belize’s number one trading partner. Qatar, bordering the Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia, has one of the highest per capita income levels in the world and blossoming hotel and tourism industries. Exports of U.S. beef and beef products to Qatar topped $1.2 million in 2003, and strong growth is expected. The West African nation of Ghana has become an important trading partner in Africa due, in large part, to a stable and vibrant democracy, and economic reform. The Ghanaian market is a relatively new one for U.S. beef. — WLJ

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Friday, August 29,2008

Grazing wheat likely offers profits this winter

by WLJ
Grazing wheat likely offers profits this winter With grain and harvested forage prices likely to stay quite high throughout the next few months, producers looking for profitable opportunities should take a good look at grazing winter wheat, say experts. Though the costs of grazing cattle are higher than in recent years due to elevated wheat prices, feeder cattle prices have kept in step and may still offer attractive profit margins to good managers. Derrell Peel, ag marketing specialist with Oklahoma State University, said that uncertainty abounds in both the wheat and cattle markets. This makes it difficult to predict how good the wheat grazing prospects look, but for those with sharp pencils, good opportunities will surely appear. "The situation’s pretty volatile right now with all there is going on in the futures markets," he said. "In general, it’s more expensive to do everything now, but that shouldn’t keep producers from looking for opportunities. Even though it costs more to grow the wheat for farmers, the forage is worth more as well." Nervous bankers, along with wheat farmers who might not want to take chances with their valuable wheat crops, could put a dent in the number of acres available for grazing, Peel said. "A lot of wheat farmers, and particularly their lenders, are suffering from sticker shock when they look at the input costs as planting rolls around," he said. "But, by the same token, the value of grazing is high and there are some real opportunities. The budgets that we’ve run show that it looks good for both the farmer and the cattleman to graze the wheat." Ranchers must pay attention to the futures markets to reduce the risk of buying feeders just for winter grazing, and farmers must decide whether revenue from grazing is worth risking lower yields. "There’s definitely a way to pencil in some profits, because the margins are there, but the question becomes whether either party is willing to take the risk," Peel explained. "Is the farmer willing to put up with the additional fertilizer costs and decreased yields, and is the cattle producer willing to go out and buy expensive feeder cattle to graze the wheat with?" Just as all input costs have risen over recent years, so has the cost of grazing wheat, but not without an equal rise in cattle prices—and potential profits. "We used to look at the cost of grazing wheat on a per-pound of gain basis in the area of 30-35 cents," he notes. "Now we’re at least up around 40-45 cents per pound of gain just to pay the production costs. On the other hand, the value of that gain is potentially up around 80-85 cents. Those figures are based on March feeder futures that were up around $115. Since we figured those numbers out, the futures have dropped, but it shows that there are definitely opportunities to lock in some profits if you jump on the futures at the right point." Peel said not using the futures market to reduce the risk of purchasing feeding cattle is unlikely to lead to disaster, but that playing the markets to your advantage is helpful when deciding whether the venture is worth it. "The lesson is it’s one thing to notice futures being elevated to a certain price point, but it’s quite another to act on it. You have to look for opportunities in the market and take them when you can," said Peel. "If you just go out and buy feeders to put out on wheat and don’t hedge them, it’s unlikely that prices will drop significantly by the time you market the cattle. If you can live with that much risk, maybe you don’t need to hedge, but it’s better to just lock something in when you get the chance." The increased costs of grazing wheat are not limited to the cattle producer, notes Peel, who says farmers face additional risk along with discouraging lenders. "Wheat farmers, once they figure in the cost of fertilizer, loss of yield and other factors, are looking at spending about an extra $80 per acre to graze the wheat, but that doesn’t mean they can’t recoup that much and more," he explained. "It costs more money to play the game nowadays, and neither the farmers or the ranchers should ignore an opportunity just because it seems too expensive." Peel said that because of the way the feeder cattle market is rewarding heavier cattle with equal or better price-per-cwt. numbers than lightweight calves, there may not be a large demand for wheat grazing this winter. "We’re also not sure how many calves we will even have out on wheat this year because when you look at the incentives to retain ownership, we really may not see a very big calf run," noted Peel. "In many cases it’s paying for producers to just background the calves and put a couple extra hundred pounds on them rather than to sell them after weaning." Higher input costs may make wheat grazing seem riskier than ever, says Peel, but the tools to manage those risks are still around for good managers to use. "There is opportunity in the wheat pasture situation. The costs may scare some people, but the input costs and your gross revenues are unimportant. The margin is what’s important, and that’s what you need to look for to take advantage of today’s market," he said. "Business as usual is something different than what it used to be." — Tait Berlier, WLJ Editor

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Friday, August 29,2008

47BeefBits2

by WLJ
ICE wants to work with meat packers Addressing the meat industry on the thorny issue of illegal immigration and the difficulty for employers of securing a legitimate workforce, Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Julie Myers said the agency and industry need to partner to ensure compliance with the related laws. Though she acknowledged that effective immigration law is lacking in the U.S., Myers said companies are best to approach ICE and demonstrate the intent to cooperate and legalize their labor forces prior to potential enforcement actions. Thus far in fiscal 2008, ICE has issued more than 1,000 individual criminal charges related to illegal employment, including 121 against either employers or managers. AMS to educate on COOL USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will spend the first six months following official implementation of mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) on Sept. 30 conducting outreach at retail establishments rather than focusing on enforcement. AMS Associate Deputy Administrator Bill Sessions told attendees at National Meat Association’s summer conference that his agency will not enforce the law during the first six months. The goal, rather, will be to educate retailers about its requirements. Sessions said AMS has been writing up guidance documents, which should be distributed soon. USDA schedules hearing on irradiated beef The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has scheduled a public meeting on a three-year-old petition requesting the approval of irradiation for use on the surface of chilled beef carcasses. FSIS will hold the meeting Sept. 18 at a location yet to be announced. The petition was submitted in 2005 by the American Meat Institute in an effort to further improve beef safety. Irradiation is a safe and simple process that uses energy to destroy E. coli O157:H7, salmonella, listeria and other harmful bacteria on food products. The energy passes through the product the same way as in a microwave oven. Food irradiation has been intensely studied and scrutinized for safety. The energy does not leave any residue nor does it cook the product or alter taste in any demonstrable way. Wyoming Beef Council names USMEF rep Wyoming Beef Council members have reappointed Irv Petsch as the Wyoming representative to the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). Petsch will serve a three-year term representing Wyoming on the USMEF Board. Contributions of Wyoming checkoff dollars provide for a Wyoming director to serve on the USMEF board. Petsch served the last three years as Wyoming’s representative to USMEF. During his first term, he was appointed to a USMEF steering committee developed to determine market availability and how to best use Beef Checkoff dollars to access foreign markets. In his role as USMEF director, Petsch will work to increase the value and profitability of the U.S. beef industry by enhancing demand for U.S. beef and beef products in targeted export markets. New technology predicts tenderness Fresh meat tenderness may be predicted using hyperspectral imaging, according to new research. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln project uses a combination of video image analysis and spectroscopy to determine the muscle profile and biochemical properties of a steak in order to predict how tender it will become during aging. The system, consisting of a digital video camera and a spectrograph, captures multiple images at hundreds of wavelengths with regular intervals, predicting with 77 percent accuracy which of three categories (tender, intermediate and tough) steaks would fall into once cooked and tested. The technology, still two or three years away from commercial application, would mean a boost to the beef industry as it would allow retailers to charge a premium for "guaranteed tender" meat. FSIS launching new food safety assessments USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is rolling out a new methodology of conducting food safety assessments at 5,300 Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point meat processing plants aimed at improving the consistency of inspections and documenting findings. Under the new program, those plants can expect a random food safety assessment at least once every four years, creating a set cycle for all plants, which had not been the case in the past. A new set of questions will also provide a structure by which enforcement, investigations and analysis officers can better collect data for input in a database.

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Friday, August 29,2008

Grazing workshop offers classroom and hands-on opportunities

by WLJ
Grazing workshop offers classroom and hands-on opportunities Livestock and wildlife producers, land managers, and others interested in learning about managing and optimizing their grazing lands are invited to attend a USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative (GLCI) workshop in Cresson, TX, on Sept. 10, 2008, at the Bear Creek Ranch. The "My Piece of Texas" grazing workshops are a series that will teach attendees how to estimate forage production, determine grazeable acres, set proper stocking rates, and other grazing management principles. This workshop is one of five in the grazing workshop series. There is a $25 registration fee which includes lunch and a copy of the newly published handbook titled Managing My Piece of Texas. The handbook was peer reviewed by ranchers throughout Texas after being developed by grazing specialists from the Texas GLCI, Texas AgriLife Extension Service, and NRCS. Attendees can expect to receive valuable information about managing grazing lands through classroom instruction during the morning session. After lunch, outdoor demonstrations will provide hands-on instruction targeting forage production and management presentations in the field. "Balancing animal demand with forage supply has long been a cornerstone principle of grazing management," said Jeff Goodwin, NRCS rangeland management specialist in Corsicana, TX. "This grazing workshop will not only reinforce those principles, but will cover an array of grazing topics that a rancher can take home and implement right away." Sponsors for the grazing workshop are NRCS, Texas GLCI, Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Parker Co. Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), and Texas Section of Society for Range Management. For those who plan on attending the grazing workshop, please call the Parker Co. SWCD at 817/594-4672 and RSVP by Sept. 5, 2008. For more information, please contact Jeff Goodwin at 903/874-5131 Ext.3, or Randy Henry at 817/467-3867. GLCI information can be obtained at http://www.glci.org or Texas NRCS Web site at www.tx.usda.nrcs.gov. — WLJ

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