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Thursday, December 20,2007

Marston joins AHA

by WLJ
The American Hereford Association (AHA) and Hereford World (HW) is proud to announce Andee Marston, Manhattan, KS, has joined the Hereford team. Marston will join the AHA/HW staff in August as the southeast region field representative. In this position, Marston will attend Hereford sales and events as well as assist breeders with marketing and genetic selection. He will also assist in educating members and commercial producers about AHA programs and other beef industry opportunities. He will serve as the communication link between AHA and breeders in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. “We are extremely pleased to be able to hire a high caliber young man like Andee as the southeastern field representative,” says Joe Rickabaugh, AHA director of field management and seedstock marketing. Marston has been involved in the beef industry since birth. His family has a registered Shorthorn operation near Manhattan. While growing up, he was active in the Shorthorn junior association and graduated from Kansas State University with an animal science degree. Since graduation, he has been involved in the seedstock industry, including assisting Jensen Bros., Courtland, KS, with show cattle management and its bull management and collection service. Most recently, he has been manager of Bohi Land & Cattle Co. Butler Division. Marston will be relocating to the Nashville, TN, area.

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Thursday, December 20,2007

Six U.S. cattle operations win environmental awards

by WLJ
The members of the 2007 National Environmental Stewardship Award Program (ESAP) Selection Committee announced the winners of this year’s regional awards at last week’s mid-year meeting of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). The winners hail from diverse family cattle operations from across the U.S. The six regional winners have made extensive efforts to work closely with their local communities and government agencies, including the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), to implement conservation programs that benefit everyone. They have seen the value in utilizing conservation programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) on their operations. “We are also proud to announce that 2007 marks the 17th year of the Environmental Stewardship Award Program. Over the years, we have seen an exceptional number of applications, and we look forward to the continued growth of this prestigious award program. We thank Dow AgroSciences LCC and the NRCS for their dedication to sponsoring this award program, which honors environmental innovation and perseverance among U.S. cattle producers,” said ESAP committee members in a statement. The 2007 Regional ESAP winners are: Sunrise Club Calves, Shippenville, PA Sunrise Club Calves represents NCBA’s Region I, which includes nine states spanning from Kentucky to New York. They were nominated by Pennsylvania Cattlemen’s Association. The cow/calf operation specializes in producing club calves, which are calves purchased to be shown as project animals. The farm has been in the family since 1942, when it was operated by Paul Wingard’s parents. In 1978, Paul and Beth purchased the operation and began to implement innovative conservation practices. As of today, the farm dedicates around 125 acres for grazing and has 200 leased acres for hay production and 25 acres of woodlots. Seventy cow/calf pairs and about 10 yearlings graze on the 125 acres, which are intensively managed with a small heard of boer goats utilized for weed control. Dee River Ranch, Aliceville, AL Located on the Alabama-Mississippi line, Dee River Ranch was nominated by the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association. Dee River Ranch is a family owned and operated farming operation run by Mike Dee and his sister Annie. The ranch includes 10,000 acres: 2,500 acres for forages and cattle; 4,000 acres in the Conservation Reserve Program; and 3,500 acres devoted to corn, wheat, and soybeans. In 1989, the Dee family sold their Florida ranch to the state of Florida as part of the “Save the Rivers” program and purchased their current operation. Maintaining productive soils is a top priority on the Dee River Ranch, which is witnessed in the three components of their ranch: cropland; highly erodible, environmentally sensitive land; and hay/grazing land. Improvements in pasture management and implementation of erosion control practices have maintained valuable resources while maximizing production. On-surface water monitoring now indicates little if any soil erosion from pastures. In cooperation with NRCS and Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Mike developed a comprehensive plan to reduce sedimentation and erosion and improve water quality that served as an example for fellow producers. Mike identified three types of high-use problem-causing areas: gates, water troughs, and working facilities. A combination of geo-textile cloth and gravel was applied around all water troughs and under all gates. In 2006, Mike completed construction of new working facilities away from surface water. Dee River Ranch’s experience in preventative moisture loss conservation practices has especially proved valuable this year, due to the severe drought in the southeastern U.S. Oak Knoll Ranch, Salem, MO Located in south central Missouri, Oak Knoll Ranch was nominated by the Top of the Ozarks. Leon and Helen Kreisler own and operate Oak Knoll Ranch, a 100 head cow/calf operation which runs on 360 owned acres and 120 acres on long-term lease. Their commercial Angus herd is run on 380 acres of grass, and the remaining 100 acres are in timber production. In addition to the cattle and timber production, the Kreisler’s also provide limited hunting leases. A partnership with the Missouri Department of Conservation provided the initial funding to set up a grazing system years ago. They have spent years utilizing NRCS technical assistance in designing a water system and prescribed burns. The Kreislers became one of the organizing members of the Advanced Graziers Group, a multi-county producer-driven network. Leon and Helen have solicited the knowledge of guest speakers and implemented a farm tour program within this group to actively learn more about potential conservation practices. Roaring Springs Ranch, Frenchglen, OR Located in southeastern Oregon, Roaring Springs Ranch was nominated by the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association. Roaring Springs Ranch was purchased in 1992 by the Bob and Jane Sanders and Rob and Carla Sanders families. They have operated the ranch as a cow/calf-stocker operation which sustains more than 6,200 head cow/calves, 150 horses, and harvests 2,500 acres of meadow hay and 1,200 acres of alfalfa. Roaring Springs Ranch’s operations utilize a total of 1,011,792 acres of diverse lands, including 249,798 deeded acres, 735,359 acres lease from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), 22,000 acres of private leases, and 4,640 leased from the state of Oregon. The Sanders’ family main goal for the operation, as implemented by Stacy Davies, ranch manager, is to be economically, ecologically and socially sustainable. The vast size and elevation variance of the ranch provides high-quality forage for year-round grazing. By matching the livestock production cycle with the native plant nutrition provided by stewardship efforts, they eliminate the use of stored feeds. With a diverse ecosystem of forage and wildlife, Roaring Springs Ranch initiated and implemented the nationally recognized Catlow Valley Fishes Conservation Agreement which sought to remove threats to the native fish species and reestablish them to their native range. Creating partnerships and cooperative agreements has become a major focus of the operation in stopping the spread of evasive species, improving wildlife habitat, educating future agriculturalists, and implementing proper management techniques. Roaring Springs Ranch has managed environmental challenges that come with utilizing multi-use public lands. In cooperation with BLM, the Roaring Springs Ranch instituted a prescribed fire program on over 100,000 acres to restore upland watershed health. This partnership has not only benefitted the watershed, but has increased forage for wildlife and livestock. Yolo Land & Cattle Co., Woodland, CA Located on the outskirts of Sacramento, CA, the Yolo Land & Cattle Co. is a family-owned limited partnership. This cow/calf, stocker, and registered cattle operation was nominated by the California Cattlemen’s Association and the California Rangeland Trust. Formed in 1976, Yolo Land & Cattle Co. was a partnership between Henry Stone and John Anderson. In 1983, the partnership was dissolved and Henry retained the headquarters, and soon after, his sons joined him in further developing and diversifying the operation. Yolo Land & Cattle Co. runs on deeded, leased and Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres that encompass more than 12,000 total acres. The cattle division includes cow/calf, stocker, and registered cattle. They also operate a farming division including rinse water management and the production of wheat, corn and hay crops. A sampling of the projects that Yolo Land & Cattle Co. has implemented include: a Vegetative Management Plan (VMP), rotational grazing, grazing on CRP lands, and invasive weed control. Partnering with the California Audubon Society and the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection created the largest VMP in the state of California for the purpose of conducting annual spring grass burns and fall brush burns on a total 45,000 acres. The Stone family has a long tradition of conservation work with the Yolo County Resource Conservation District and with USDA’s NRCS, as well as many other agencies and conservation organizations. They also have a long tradition of opening up their ranch for tours and conservation education opportunities. Alexander Ranch, Sun City, KS Located just a few miles north of the Oklahoma-Kansas line, the Alexander Ranch was nominated by the Comanche Pool Prairie Resource Foundation. The ranch covers 7,000 acres and has flourished as a custom grazing operation for the past 23 years. Often stocking between 500-700 cow/calf pairs or 2,500 yearlings, the operation runs on a rotational grazing method. When beneficial to the management of the stockpiled forage, cattle are custom grazed during the winter months. Environmental enhancements to the land include removal of invasive eastern red cedar trees, development of livestock water sources, improvement of forage productivity, and increasing the native plant and wildlife diversity. The ranch is divided into three grazing cells, each consisting of smaller paddocks of acreage. Partnering with several agencies, the Alexander Ranch leveraged resources to optimize the land’s environmental capabilities. The ranch works with NRCS and recently utilized EQIP to install a water system to expand the grazing system. Additionally, a cooperative effort with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks is key to many of Alexander Ranch’s accoplishments. The ranch is home to many wildlife and aquatic species that are candidates for protection under the Endangered Species Act. As a result of the partnership, the Alexander Ranch was able to enhance water developments, incorporate native forbs on the old cropped areas, and expand the grazing system. The culmination of the Alexander Ranch’s grazing lands management practices has contributed to an increase in stocking rates of over 100 percent from the 1984 level, maintained individual animal performance, and increased the pounds of beef produced per acre while upholding the management goals to improve water quality, water quantity, soil health and native rangelands. The 2007 ESAP Selection Committee consists of past award winners, university faculty, federal and state government agencies, and conservation and environmental organizations. The program is administered by NCBA and sponsored by Dow AgroSciences LCC and NRCS. The 2007 National Winner will be selected from one of the six ESAP Regional Winners and revealed at the 2008 Cattle Industry Convention in Reno, NV, next February.

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Thursday, December 20,2007

USDA expands emergency haying and grazing

by WLJ
Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres eligible for emergency haying and grazing in Alabama, Indiana, Mississippi, Montana, Ohio, Oregon and Tennessee have been expanded to include land in an area radiating 210 miles out from all counties previously approved for emergency haying and grazing, USDA announced last week. “We are closely monitoring the drought and providing assistance when we can,” said USDA Secretary Mike Johanns. “Emergency haying and grazing is a helpful tool for livestock owners and I’m pleased to make it available to more farmers and ranchers.” CRP is a voluntary program that offers annual rental payments and cost-share assistance to establish long-term resource-conserving cover on eligible land. The expansion permits approved CRP participants to cut hay or graze livestock on CRP acreage, providing supplemental forage to producers whose pastures have been negatively affected by drought. To be approved for emergency haying or grazing, a county must be listed as a level “D3 Drought- Extreme” or greater, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, http://drought.unl.edu/dm/monitor.html, or have suffered at least a 40 percent loss of normal moisture and forage for the preceding four-month qualifying period. USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) state committees may authorize emergency haying or grazing of CRP land in counties currently listed as level D3 drought. CRP participants who want to apply for emergency haying and grazing to their local FSA office must wait until after the nesting season for certain birds. Only livestock operations located within approved counties are eligible for emergency haying or grazing of CRP acreage. CRP participants who do not own or lease livestock may rent or lease the grazing privilege to an eligible livestock farmer located in an approved county. Producers with CRP acreage that is hayed or grazed will be assessed a 10 percent reduction in their annual rental payment. Maps relating to this announcement and more information on emergency haying and grazing are available at local FSA offices and online at: www.fsa.usda. gov/FSA/webapp?area=home&subject=copr&topic=crp-eg.

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Thursday, December 20,2007

BeefTalk

by WLJ
August 1, 2005 The cattle business is considered mature in many respects, but maturity does not imply an absence of change. The Dickinson Research Extension Center (DREC) recently invited several individuals in to review and discuss the current state of animal waste systems. In particular, the DREC needs to address the situation, not only from a research perspective, but also from the pure management view. Research centers also are production units that need to follow the rules of play. Federal and state governments, or a local governing board, generally set these rules. What was interesting about the discussion, and perhaps very indicative of where the world is going, was the array of terms discussed. A normal cow/calf operation certainly would have a well-thought-out plan for feeding the cowherd and managing it through calving. A typical discussion may involve the feeding method, hay quality or perhaps the addition of grain in the ration. If something like grain is fed, then how should it be fed and where would the feed bunks be located? Water placement would be critical, especially as the cattle head into the Northern winter winds. This all sounds generic and are common discussion points for an afternoon of cow talk. At the review, none of these points even surfaced. A completely new list of terms for today’s cow/calf producer was brought up. Critical to the placement of a cowherd in today’s environment are issues such as water runoff and manure analysis. These new terms percolate through the discussion, broadening the discussion beyond just the immediate location of the cows. Last week, the definition of an animal feeding operation (AFO) was noted. AFOs include cows and calves that remain in one location for more than 45 days throughout the year and affect the normal growth of desirable plants. How many winter-feeding yards produce an excellent crop of weeds the next summer? That makes your location an AFO and means you need to determine if you need a permit from the Department of Health to operate your existing cow/calf enterprise. That statement causes some to cough. There is no grandfather clause. What you see is what you will be. The discussion moved on with more questions. Is the location of the winter-feeding grounds impacting ground water or air quality? What is the effect of compaction? Do all those cows and calves compact the soil such that springtime plant growth is inhibited? What about pathogens or antibiotic residues? Is there any indication the nitrogen cycle is impacted? If a cowherd has the potential to affect the environment, a permit will be required, along with appropriate managerial or facility changes, to assure the environmental impact is negligible. Not only the physical aspects of the cow/calf operation entered the discussion. The plans to accommodate waste removal also need to be evaluated. What is the nutrient availability of the manure ,and how should it be composted and spread on designated fields? Is there enough land to accommodate the volume of waste produced? Are there compositing sites available? If the word “runoff” came up, the next series of discussions centered on the need for adequate retaining dikes for composting sites and good grazing and cropping systems to assure appropriate utilization of the waste once applied to the fields. Perhaps precision agricultural techniques need to be evaluated. A heavy sigh! Whatever happened to feeding hay bales and just watching the cows eat? Do you know what a VAPS is? More next time. May you find all your NAIS-approved ear tags. — Kris Ringwall (Kris Ringwall is a North Dakota State University Extension beef specialist, director of the NDSU Dickinson Research Center and executive director of the North Dakota Beef Cattle Improvement Association. He can be contacted at 701/ 483-2045.)

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Thursday, December 20,2007

Black Ink

by WLJ
August 1, 2005 Once a cow is pregnant, the role of genetic selection is finished. Now it’s up to nature and management to determine if the calf will live up to its potential. Cow nutrition and weather play leading roles in the months before calving, but gestation is a fixed term. Given the breeding date, you can look up when the calf is due. After it hits the ground, however, management can vary the milestones. You can take your time, balancing use of resources with the need for sales revenue and beef quality. A century ago, if you didn’t like the market for two-year-olds, they often became threes. Today, we know that the longer you take to raise a calf to a finished endpoint, the more can go wrong. Younger finished cattle may also open doors to a billion-dollar export market. Weaning can profitably take place at less than 90 days of age to nearly a year in some herds. Most ranchers aim for an industry standard of about seven months, but there is a trend toward earlier weaning. Researchers have found weaning at less than five months allows calves to adjust while under the protection of maternal antibodies. It also lets spring calvers regain condition before winter, and makes feeding more efficient for all. Ohio and Illinois studies show calves that start on a grain-based diet earlier in life develop the type of rumen bacteria more likely to let each potential fleck of marbling bloom within muscle tissues. That’s compared to calves that remain on a forage-based diet until they are yearlings. Nebraska trials indicate beef from yearlings tends to be tougher, too. Up to 70 percent of the feed cattle consume goes to body maintenance—and that’s every day. No wonder more producers see greater efficiency in resource use to aim for harvest of finished cattle at 13 to 14 months rather than placement on feed at 16 to 18 months. As interest rates inch higher, the economic reasons for faster finishing grow. Producers who wean early do not generally sell lighter calves. Rather, they retain ownership and maintain the plan of nutrition as calves get used to independent life. Then they step up to higher daily gains. Any setbacks to slow-grow or maintenance diets risk lower beef quality, especially on calves with growth implants. Given the right combination of genetics and nutrition, implants are not harmful to beef quality, but strategy is important. Tradition rules much of cattle country, partly because of the “disconnect” between cow/calf, stocker, feedlot and packer segments. Land and resource control is another factor. It’s easy to stick with a program of grazing calves that should be in a feedlot because a landlord only allows yearlings. Indeed, there is a widespread bias among non-farm landlords. What their fathers told them is true: It is easier to deal with yearlings. cow/calf pairs require a longer season and may graze less evenly. Bulls can cause problems with fences and neighboring herds. However, producers who see merit in the calf-fed route should begin negotiations to evolve new grazing plans with such landlords. Heifers could be an option, or the pasture could be part of a larger pasture rotation of cow/calf pairs, resulting in fewer grazing days and the same income as yearlings provided. The trend toward calf-fed beef may gradually affect supply and demand on the range. Grass pastures are often hard to find because of long-term relationships, but if yearlings continue to lose the quality edge, they will become less profitable, and then, less numerous. A few custom grazers have already begun to offer contracts with cow/calf pairs as a grass-harvesting alternative to yearlings. While the role of genetic selection ends at conception, expression and evaluation of calf genetics and those of the cow are keys to adapting any herd to a calf-fed program. Observation and measurement may lead to different selection decisions down the road. Producers may add to their balanced trait criteria with rapid early growth and the ability to deposit marbling at an early age. Next time in Black Ink, we’ll look at what’s on your grill. — Steve Suther (“Black ink” is a cattle management column written by Steve Suther, industry information director for Certified Angus Beef. The column is not designed for strictly Angus producers, and does not necessarily represent the views or opinions of WLJ or its editorial staff.)

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Thursday, December 20,2007

Comments

by WLJ
August 1, 2005 I t came and went without a lot of fanfare—I’m referring to R-CALF’s mid-year meeting in Reno, NV. I suppose they had a lot to talk about at the meeting, but the perplexing part of this episode is that it was kept pretty quiet. Here at WLJ, we didn’t run anything about the upcoming meeting because we had no clue about it, and, trust me, we pay attention to what R-CALF is up to. Their quest to slam the USDA over its handling of the Canadian border situation may not be over after all. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals did indeed hand U.S. District Court Judge Richard Cebull his head over his decision to grant R-CALF a temporary injunction, and gave a fairly lengthy list detailing his lack of judgement. R-CALF obviously didn’t like the ruling from the appellate court and they are contemplating their options. The three-judge panel outlined their logic in a 56-page document. They said that Cebull never referred to any case law to justify his decisions to favor R-CALF’s expert testimony. The judges said that Cebull must consider USDA’s decisions and justifications as fact, and then attempt to prove them wrong. Even though USDA has bungled a few items on this BSE deal, the court maintained they are still the authority. Some of the highlight comments from the court’s decision included, “They will reverse only where the district court abused its discretion or based its decision on erroneous legal standard or clearly erroneous findings of fact.” That may give R-CALF some wiggle room to pursue the case further. “The district court failed to abide by this deferential standard,” the ruling said. “Instead, the court committed legal error by failing to respect the USDA’s judgement and expertise. Rather than evaluating the Final Rule to determine if USDA had a basis for its conclusions, the district court repeatedly substituted its judgment for USDA’s, disagreeing with USDA’s determinations even though they had a sound basis in the administrative record, and accepting the scientific judgments of R-CALF’s experts over those of the USDA.” “The district court, in this instance, impermissibly substituted its judgement for that of the USDA. The USDA, in its final rule calculated Canada’s BSE prevalence rate to be between .03 and .04 per million head of cattle. The district court gave no reason for departing from this calculation and, instead, adopting the calculation of R-CALF’s expert wholesale, of 5.56 cases per million head.” I spoke with Leo McDonnell about R-CALF’s intentions and he said that the Ninth Circuit didn’t shut them down on the entire case and that they intend on playing this thing out. He said they are still considering their legal options. He said that they won’t try and change venues, and they won’t go to the Supreme Court. He did say that Cebull did indeed get spanked by the Appellate Court, and they are not sure that he will even agree to hear the case on a permanent injunction request against Canadian beef and cattle. R-CALF’s contention still is that USDA opened the Canadian border and then tried to justify their actions. He said that USDA’s BSE scientific working group said in 2003 that USDA shouldn’t open the border and USDA disbanded the group because they didn’t support USDA’s goal of resuming trade with Canada. The thought that the U.S. has never imported beef from a BSE country may be true. But, prior to the U.S. having BSE, even though it was a Canadian case, USDA has been trying to change the perspective on BSE. The overlying thought ever since Canada had their first cases was, when the U.S. gets a case—not if—the U.S. should start to change its mind set on BSE world wide. The World Animal Health Organization (OIE) has always left wiggle room in their recommendations on beef trade from countries that have had BSE. Right now it’s the under 30 months of age rule and specified risk material removal, prevalence rates, surveillance programs and a host of other recommendations that are allowing other countries to even consider buying U.S. beef. Frankly it’s in every cattle producer’s best interest to work to support the perspective that the disease is still insignificant. At this stage of the game, it’s not that we have it, it’s all about what we do about it. — PETE CROW

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Thursday, December 20,2007

Canada focused on beef research

by WLJ
The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC), a division of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), is offering industry affiliates and producers more information on research and development that has been undertaken on behalf of the Canadian beef cattle industry. Several research projects have been completed that provide insight and benefit the industry. Fact sheets have been developed on each project to provide accessible and easy to read information. “The goal of the fact sheets is to provide information on the projects the BCRC is undertaking in order to advance industry knowledge through research and technology development,” says Andrea Brocklebank, research manager for CCA. “Thirteen project fact sheets have been completed to date and they are an effective way to provide an overview of the detailed research that went into each project. The full reports are quite in-depth and scientific—which many people find difficult to read; however, we feel it’s important that this information be public knowledge and available to industry. Readers should appreciate and find the fact sheets very useful.” As the beef cattle industry moves into the future, it is becoming increasingly important to have a strong foundation supported by research and development. The BCRC was established in 1997 to determine research and development priorities for the beef cattle industry, and to administrate the research funding allocation of the National Check-off. A portion of the funds collected from the National Beef Cattle Research, Market Development and Promotion Agency (National Check- off) are directed towards BCRC to sponsor development. Any individual or organization, including academic institutions, private industries, government or non-government from Canada or elsewhere, with a proven ability to carry out research projects in areas that could be useful to the Canadian beef industry are eligible to apply for research. Research proposals are evaluated on their relevance to research and development priorities, their scientific merit, and their likelihood in succeeding to help the Canadian beef industry remain competitive and sustainable. The BCRC has funded 45 projects and initiatives since its inception. Research topics range from bluetongue and anaplasmosis risk to best management practices improving environmental sustainability of grasslands. The fact sheets are located on the CCA website at www.cattle.ca/research%20and%20development/bcrc/factsheets.htm. Additional fact sheets will be made available upon completion of new research projects.

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Thursday, December 20,2007

Market holds steady

by WLJ
News last week that South Korea had shut off beef trade, at least temporarily, presented the market with a potential setback, and perhaps enough reason to stall fed cattle trade. The news of banned materials being found in a shipment from Cargill’s Friona, TX, plant gave traders on the floor at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) reason to cash in their chips last Wednesday, taking profits from over-bought contracts, sending the market lower. Live cattle contracts and feeder contracts had run up impressively over the prior week, so it appeared the sell-off would be likely anyway. Whether it would have been as steep a drop without the unfortunate news from South Korea was difficult to determine, however, after setting new life-of-contract highs, some profit taking was inevitable. Regardless, that reversal brought an end to last week’s upward momentum and stalled any action in the cash market until later in the week. Analysts last week said they expected trade to develop at steady to slightly higher money despite the pullback in the futures market and the bad news from overseas. As of mid-day last Thursday, asking prices were holding firm at $94 and up in the southern Plains and at $148 plus in the north. Prior week sales averaged $90-91 live basis in the north, with dressed trade at $140-143; in the western Corn Belt, live sales traded at $88-90 and dressed sales ranged between $140-142. In the southern Plains, live sales traded at $91-91.50 and dressed sales in Kansas were in a narrow range of $143-143.50. Despite the problems in Korea last week, the domestic market showed signs of life and packers were able to move the cutout values higher on good product movement. As of mid-day last Thursday, the Choice boxed beef cutout was up at $144.66 while Select was higher at $138.90. There were reports last week that beef shipments to Canada and Mexico have picked up in recent days as a result of the slipping U.S. dollar against foreign currency. Forward contracting by domestic buyers is also adding support to the cutout as demand begins to pick up seasonally at home. Depending on the results of the Korean investigation, the boxed beef markets should continue to strengthen as we progress into the fall. That strength will be critical if the industry is to maintain fed cattle prices at expected levels in the fourth quarter. Packers last Thursday processed 124,000 head, down 1,000 from a week earlier, but up substantially from 105,000 head last year. For the week to date tally through last Thursday, packers had killed 497,000 head, 1,000 fewer than the same period a week prior and 57,000 more than the same period in 2006. Feedlots remain in a very current condition, with reports of some pulling cattle forward. However, premiums in the futures markets for the final quarter of this year are likely to limit that practice soon, if they haven’t already. CME live cattle contracts ended last Thursday’s session in the red across the board. August live cattle issues declined 50 points to settle at $92.92, while October fell 62 points to $98.15. December 2007 and February 2008 contracts dropped back below $100, dropping 32 cents on the December contract, which ended at $99.95, and 57 cents on the February contract, which closed the day at $99.45. Feeder cattle Corn markets gained some strength last week after private analysts began releasing crop projections that proved to be bullish for the market. That forecast, which predicted a 148 bushel per acre average yield, added to the positive tone for the corn market and amounted to a 12.644 billion bushel production forecast for U.S. corn. This was much lower than current expectations for a crop near 13 billion bushels. December new crop corn traded higher last Thursday following the report to end the Chicago Board of Trade session five cents higher at $3.41. That prediction, coupled with a tough couple of trading days in live cattle markets, sent feeder cattle contracts sharply lower, dropping them from contract record highs set early last week. The August contract fell $1.05, closing last Thursday’s session at $115.92. September was down the same amount, closing at $116.35, and October dropped 87 points, ending the day at $117.32. Cash trade last week was a different matter altogether, particularly for those cattlemen selling yearlings on Superior’s Winnemucca, NV, video sale. Prices being paid for yearling cattle were very good. For example, 190 head of 780-785 lb. steers sold in a range of $113.60 to $118.75, while 238 head of 800 to 840 lb. steers sold in a range of $115.10 to $117.25. In addition to solid prices being paid for heavyweight feeder cattle, lighter weights, particularly those for later delivery, sold well, such as 160 head of 600 lb. steers which brought an average of $127.50 or 200 head of 500 lb. steers which brought an average of $141. Country auctions were also strong last week as a result of a good mixture of positive news, from continued good grazing conditions in many areas keeping cattle on grass to the run in contract trade. For example, at Oklahoma City, OK, compared to the prior week, feeder cattle and calves sold firm to $2 higher, with some instances of $3-4 higher on 500-650 lb. steers. According to market reports, demand was extremely good for light receipts. Meanwhile, to the north in West Plains, MO, steers under 450 lbs. and heifers under 500 lbs. were $2-5 higher. Heavier weights sold steady to $2 higher, with the advance mainly on weights over 600 lbs. In particular, steers over 800 lbs. and heifers over 700 lbs. sold $2-3 higher on moderate to heavy supply and good demand. According to market reports, some producers in the area are selling calves somewhat lighter than usual because of a lack of recent rainfall. In Hub City, SD, feeder steers and heifers sold mostly $2-3 higher on a light test, typical for most markets in the north and western portions of the country where runs were still seasonally light last week. Hot, dry conditions in the northern Plains are also preventing some cattle producers from moving cattle. There have been several consecutive weeks of hot conditions from Idaho and Montana east through the Dakotas and into the upper Midwest. Farther west, along the coast, and particularly in California where producers have been suffering the impact of a very dry year, sale prices remain strong for offered cattle. In Cottonwood, CA, last week, stocker and feeder cattle under 600 lbs. were $1-2 higher, while those over 600 lbs. sold steady. According to market reports, smaller and single lots sold for prices $7-10 below top offerings.

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Thursday, December 20,2007

Tyson posts larger-than-expected profit

by WLJ
Tyson Foods Inc., the world’s largest meat processor, reported a bigger-than-expected profit for its third fiscal quarter last week and raised its profit forecast for the year as it rebounds from last year’s losses. Tyson credited higher average sales prices for chicken, beef, pork and prepared foods, export growth and a cost-cutting program that is ahead of a target of saving $200 million this year. Those factors more than offset higher feed prices for animals, boosted by demand for corn for producing the alternative fuel ethanol. Analysts said chicken, Tyson’s second largest business by sales after beef, drove the quarter’s gains on higher profit margins under the cost-cutting program, higher shelf prices in stores, and export demand led by China. Springdale, AR-based Tyson said that it earned $111 million, or 31 cents a share, for the three months ended June 30 versus a loss of $52 million, or 15 cents a share, a year earlier. “I feel great about the progress we’re making,” chief financial officer Wade Miquelon said in a conference call. For the quarter, sales rose to $6.96 billion from $6.38 billion a year earlier. Tyson raised its forecast for the fiscal year ending in September to between 82 cents and 92 cents per share from an April estimate between 65 cents and 90 cents. It was the third profitable quarter after three quarters of losses last year that yielded a net loss of 17 cents per share in fiscal 2006, which ended last September. Export sales jumped 31 percent to $661 million, including a $70 million increase in chicken leg quarters to China, other Asian markets, Africa and the Middle East. CEO Richard Bond said antibiotic-free chicken launched in the U.S. market in June is already a hit among consumers and retailers and promises to boost growth in fresh chicken sales. Sales and operating income improved from the previous quarter and from a year ago in all four segments—chicken, beef, pork and prepared foods. Bond said the cost management program launched last year had already beat its goal of saving $200 million this year, helping reduce general costs by 12.4 percent for the first three quarters. Bond said he expects more than $250 million in savings this fiscal year from the effort. Tyson said the volume of meat sold fell, as expected, after the plant closings and because of higher prices for its products. But the average sales price for all its meats increased, allowing it to book higher revenues. Feed costs were higher as corn soared because of demand to make the alternative fuel ethanol. Tyson said in its chicken business, the second largest segment by sales after beef, net grain costs were up $113 million in the quarter from a year earlier.

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Thursday, December 20,2007

Montana finds first 2007 case of equine West Nile

by WLJ
Montana’s first clinical cases of West Nile virus (WNV) in horses this season have been confirmed in Blaine and Phillips counties, according to Montana acting State Veterinarian Dr. Jeanne Rankin. Neither horse had been vaccinated against WNV. The virus is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected by feeding on infected birds. The virus does not appear to spread from horse to horse or from horse to person. Person to person spread, though extremely rare, may occur by means of organ transplants or from infected mothers to their infants through breastfeeding. Horses appear to be affected by WNV much more often than any other domestic animals. Infection can cause encephalitis, affecting the nervous system, and can cause severe complications and death in horses. The disease also affects humans. Many horses infected with WNV do not develop any illness, but of horses that become ill, about one-third will die or need to be euthanized. Although WNV has been documented in the U.S. since 1999, the first case of WNV in Montana was confirmed in a horse in Yellowstone County in 2002. During that season, 134 equine cases were reported in 26 Montana counties and 38 of the horses died or were euthanized. In 2003, WNV was confirmed in 193 horses in 34 Montana counties. A total of 70 horses died or were euthanized. Only 17 of the 193 confirmed horse cases were fully vaccinated. In 2004, WNV was confirmed in 11 horses in seven Montana counties and five horses died or were euthanized. Only one of the 11 horses was fully vaccinated, and that horse survived. In 2005, WNV was confirmed in 10 horses in eight Montana counties. A total of four horses were euthanized. None of these horses were vaccinated. In 2006, WNV was confirmed in 26 horses in 11 Montana counties. A total of seven died or were euthanized. None of these horses were vaccinated. Montana also confirmed two human cases of WNV in 2002, 228 cases in 2003, six cases in 2004, 19 cases in 2005 and at least two cases in 2006. To diagnose WNV in equines requires a serology test that can be conducted at the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Bozeman, MT. Clinical signs of encephalitis in horses include loss of appetite and depression in addition to any combination of weakness or paralysis of hind limbs, muzzle twitching, impaired vision, incoordination, head pressing, aimless wandering, convulsions, inability to swallow, circling, hyperexcitability, or coma. “These are also clinical signs of Western and Eastern Equine Encephalitis, viral diseases that affect the nervous system and can cause severe complications and death in horses,” Rankin said. In addition, rabies cases may also present with similar neurological signs and should always be considered as a differential diagnosis. These diseases also affect humans. Vaccination and mosquito control continue to be recommended as methods to help protect horses against the virus. For mosquito control, thoroughly clean livestock watering troughs on a regular basis, remove any potential sources of water in which mosquitoes can breed, dispose of water-holding containers such as discarded tires, and do not allow water to stagnate. If possible, horses should be stabled inside from dusk to dawn to reduce contact with mosquitoes. “There are USDA licensed vaccines available to help prevent equine cases of WNV encephalitis. For horses not previously vaccinated, two initial doses given three to six weeks apart are recommended,” said Rankin. Following the two initial doses of vaccine, the vaccine manufacturers also recommend an annual booster and some veterinarians recommend two boosters each year, particularly in high-risk areas. Combination vaccines are also available. Combination products provide protection against multiple diseases including West Nile virus, Eastern, Western or Vene-zuelan equine encephalitides, and tetanus. For horses that contract WNV, an equine-origin antibody product that aids in the treatment of horses is also available. Supportive veterinary treatment such as anti-inflammatories, administering fluids, and the use of a sling to keep the animal upright have also been used in equines diagnosed with WNV. Horse owners are encouraged to contact their local veterinarian for more information regarding WNV vaccine and treatment. More information is also available at the Montana Department of Livestock website at www.mt.gov/liv.

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