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Thursday, December 20,2007

Canadian cattle reenter U.S.

by WLJ
injunction hearing vacated July 25, 2005 Canadian cattle started reentering the U.S. last Monday, four days after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned an injunction restricting those animals from crossing the U.S. border. A possible interruption of that movement was averted last week after a federal district court judge temporarily vacated the hearing that was scheduled on a permanent injunction request against Canadian cattle and beef. Judge Richard Cebull, Billings, MT, last Wednesday delayed indefinitely a hearing on the suit that would bar USDA from allowing Canadian cattle and beef imports. In his written order, Cebull said he was awaiting the final opinion from the Ninth Circuit Court concerning the overturning of a previously approved temporary injunction against Canadian cattle. “It is hereby ordered that oral arguments set before this Court on July 27, 2005, is Vacated until further order of the Court. After receipt of the Court of Appeals’ Opinion, this court will determine whether further hearings are necessary,” Cebull’s announcement said. Cebull ordered the vacate order without a motion from either side of the R-CALF United Stockgrowers v. USDA, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and USDA Secretary Mike Johanns lawsuit. The appellate court said on July 14 that it would release its final order on the decision to overturn the preliminary injunction in “an expeditious manner,” and “in due process.” The final order was not yet announced as of press time last Thursday. Attendees at the July 14 hearing in Seattle, WA, told WLJ that the three-judge panel appeared concerned that Cebull didn’t give USDA “just deference,” and that the injunction was possibly granted because of a difference in philosophy between the judge and USDA’s final import rule. The appellate court overturned a preliminary injunction that Cebull granted R-CALF. The cattle producer group sought to bar Canadian cattle from entering the U.S., saying they were a potential threat to the U.S. cattle herd because Canada had three cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy show up in native-born cattle. In addition, a fourth cow of Canadian origin was confirmed with the disease in Washington state in December of 2003. USDA was ready to reopen the border to Canadian fed and feeder cattle March 7, however, Cebull granted the injunction March 2. Both sides of the lawsuit said they were awaiting the Ninth Circuit order and that they would not respond to the court’s decision until the final reasons for the decision were known. Cattle crossing USDA officials said three loads of Canadian fed cattle crossed the border—one at Niagara Falls, NY, and two others through the Port of Entry at Eastport, ID—Monday, July 18, which was the first day live cattle imports from north of the border were allowed. As of press time last Thursday, those were the only reports of cattle crossing from Canada. “Right now the number is 115 animals have entered the United States,” said Ed Curlett, spokesman for USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), last Wednesday. “All came Monday (July 18). Thirty-five through Niagara Falls and 80 through Eastport.” The first load that crossed through Niagara Falls was bought by Cargill, for processing at its Wyalusing, PA, plant. The other two loads that day were bought by Tyson for its Pasco, WA, facility. Overall volume of cattle coming in was considered small, compared to how many could start entering the U.S. later this year, particularly during the fourth quarter. The influx of cattle was very slow due to extra rules in place for them. Officials with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) reiterated that Canadian feeder and fed cattle need to be identified by both an official Canadian eartag and a “CAN” brand on the right hip. In addition, Canadian feedlots need to be certified by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) for shipping only cattle that are 30 months of age or younger that are accompanied by the appropriate paperwork. That paperwork has to include the destination name, address, contact person, and all information regarding the cattle being transported, including lot size, tag numbers, age verification and where cattle are being shipped from. A statement saying the cattle have been kept in Canada the 60 days prior to date of shipment to the U.S. must also be signed. In the case of Canadian feeder cattle, they must be shipped directly to a USDA-certified feedlot who agrees that those cattle will remain at that feedlot until being shipped off for slaughter at the age of 30 months or under. The feedlot must also agree to ship all Canadian cattle for slaughter separate from U.S. cattle. “Canadian bovines must be moved as a group of Canadian bovines to the slaughter establishment,” the final APHIS rule says. “U.S. and Canadian bovines cannot be shipped in the same vehicle to slaughter.” The small volume of cattle entering from Canada last week was said to be the result of CFIA and USDA still certifying feedlots and packing plants for acceptance of Canadian cattle. In addition, CFIA sources said that a lot of the fed cattle for immediate slaughter were not yet “CAN” branded. Feedlots were wanting to wait a few days after that process to ship their cattle due to excessive stress and weight loss. Extra stress can be responsible for an increase of “dark cutters,” which are docked significantly by processors. — Steven D. Vetter, WLJ Editor © Crow Publications - Any reprint of WLJ stories, except for personal use,  without permission, written consent and appropriate attribution is prohibited. ©1996-2005 Crow Publications. All rights reserved.  

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Thursday, December 20,2007

Market Advisor

by WLJ
July 25, 2005 The Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) has modified the way it computes its feeder cattle index. The change will affect the August 2005 feeder cattle futures contracts and all subsequent contracts. Two specific changes were made to the index calculations. First, USDA medium- and large- frame Number 1 and 2 steers have been added to the previous category of medium-and large-frame No.1 steers. Second, the weight range for feeder steers has been expanded to 650 to 849 pounds, from 700 to 849 pounds. The changes were made to increase the total number of price observations available to compute the index. The addition of the 1 and 2 steer category likely will have a downward impact on the index because No. 2 steers usually sell lower than the No. 1 category. However, the addition of 650- to 699-pound steers will tend to have an upward effect on the index because those steers typically sell for more than their heavier weight counterparts. The CME feeder cattle index is important. Instead of actual delivery to settle an open contract, all open contracts after the termination of trading on the last Thursday of the contract month are settled using the index price for that day. The index is a proxy for the cash market. The index and the closing futures price at contract maturity can be expected to be equal or within a few cents per hundredweight (cwt.) of each other. The feeder cattle index is based on all feeder cattle auctions, direct trades, video sales and Internet sale transactions within the 12-state region of Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming for which prices are reported by federal and state market reporters. The seven-day index is calculated Monday through Friday. The change actually was implemented during the first week in June. The new categories were added on June l and by June 7, the index included all observations from the new categories. An important question for producers who may be contemplating using CME futures or options, or the new Livestock Risk Protection insurance, is how the changes will affect the basis for feeder cattle to be sold in the future. Basis is the difference between a local cash market price and the index. I did a quick comparison of the daily observations for the old index with what the new index would have been for 2001 through 2004. The new index averaged 24 cents per cwt higher for that four-year period. The relatively small difference could be expected because of the downward and upward price impacts that were added to the index. Feeder cattle futures contracts are available for January, March, April, May, August, September, October and November, so those average monthly differences also were calculated. The new index averaged 68 cents per cwt higher for January, 73 cents for March, 67 cents for April and 15 cents for May. However, the new index averaged 11 cents per cwt lower than the old index in August, 3 cents in September, 29 cents in October and 6 cents in November. In December, the new index moved back above the old by 15 cents per cwt. Feeder cattle hedgers may see the basis decline about 70 cents per cwt. in January, March and April, with negligible changes likely in other contract months. The quality and geographic location of an individual producer’s feeder cattle still will be more important in estimating the expected basis level than the small differences between the two indexes. For example, the average basis for 700- to 849-pound, medium- and large-frame No. 1 feeder cattle sold at the six markets reported in North Dakota historically has been very close to par (cash = index) at contract maturity. However, the range in cash prices has averaged about $8 per cwt., with higher priced cattle selling $4 per cwt above (plus $4 basis) the index and lower priced cattle bringing $4 per cwt below (minus $4 basis). The challenge for producers is to know how their feeder cattle sell compared with others when they are marketed. Granted, that can be difficult due to the many factors that affect the market prices of feeder cattle. — Tim Petry, Livestock Marketing Economist, North Dakota State University Extension Service

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Thursday, December 20,2007

Feeder cattle contract prices set new highs

by WLJ
The fed cattle market last week was slow to start with many analysts calling for a trend steady to perhaps slightly lower than the prior week’s trade of $90 live basis in the southern Plains and $88-89 live and $140 dressed in the north. There was some light dressed trade last Thursday in Nebraska at $138, but not enough to call a trend and most feedlots were holding firm at $140, while bids in the south were in the $87-88 range. The recently released USDA cattle on feed report provided ample support last week for the marketing of fed cattle at higher prices in the near future. The report shows there continues to be a shortage of cattle which will be ready for marketing in the fourth quarter of 2007. Jim Robb, director of the Livestock Marketing Information Center, pointed out last week that the industry is on track for a new record high annual average fed cattle prices this year, which is a big positive for the industry in light of the surge in corn and calf prices over the past year-and-a-half. With a short calf crop this year and low inventory numbers, it will be important for the industry to maintain those kinds of prices. Last week, news that Swift and Company would be adding another shift at its beef plants and increasing kill levels significantly, perhaps as much as 2,000 head a week, indicated that packers might face increased competition for slaughter-ready cattle in the year ahead as new owners JBS S.A. begin to map out their operations’ plan for the company. The increase in chain speed at Swift will prove to be a boon to feedlots if it comes to fruition. The increase in packer competition for supplies of cattle will certainly provide a boost. What that increase in slaughter will do for boxed beef cutout values will be another matter entirely. Unless JBS can find an export market for the additional beef, it could serve to drive domestic prices lower as it floods onto an already soft U.S. market. The boxed beef values continued to slip lower last week as a result of lackluster beef trade at the wholesale level. Competing proteins at lower prices and a lack of consumer buying interest is pressuring the cutout lower. The end meats, such as the chuck, are moving well into the export markets and providing some support. A weak U.S. dollar is adding encouragement, but the middle meat trade has been soft for several months as consumers opt for less expensive product at the retail level. Analysts now are hopeful that end of summer buying, for school lunch programs and Labor Day grilling, will pick up soon to boost the Choice values which, last Thursday, were trading at $140.32. Select boxed beef was down slightly during the day at $134.53. Cattle slaughter for the week through last Thursday was at 498,000 head, 6,000 fewer than the prior week and 3,000 more than the same period in 2006. Cow beef on the other hand remains the bright spot in the beef trade, with the cutout remaining strong at $114.74 with good movement last week. The 90 percent lean was trading at $141.11 and 50 percent trim at $49.07. Those prices come in the face of heavy beef and dairy cow slaughter this year. The futures markets last week confirmed the strength in fed cattle markets out through the fourth quarter and into next year, illustrating the hedging opportunities available. Live cattle contracts ended the day last Thursday in mixed territory. The spot month August contract closed five points lower at $92.02, while October gained 35 points, closing at $97.20. December was also five points lower, ending the session at $99.02, while February gained 22 points and April added seven points, closing at $99.42 and $99.35 respectively. Feeder cattle Feeder cattle contracts on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange last Thursday were also mostly higher with only the March ’08 contract losing ground. August feeders added 50 points during the session to close at $116.35, while September calves were up 20 points, closing at $117.05. October contracts were 25 points higher, while November added 30 points, closing at $117.27 and $116.80 respectively. Feeder cattle contracts last week set new highs across the board following the release of USDA’s cattle on feed report, July 20. The apparent dip in the number of beef cattle in the U.S., along with a very small 2007 calf crop, added support for the upward movement in contract trade. On a cautionary note, Robb noted that dry conditions which have been resulting in a dip in pasture ratings across the central and northern Plains could send heavy calves and long yearlings to market sooner than normal unless there is an increase in monsoon flow across the area in the next few weeks. “Pastures in western Nebraska and the Dakotas are going to start drying out really fast, and that may force out the cattle that would traditionally come to market in late August and September,” he said. As cattle producers gear up for another round of big video sales this week in Winnemucca, NV, at Superior’s Video Royal XV sale, prices look to be good for cattle on offer. Last week’s cash trade was mostly higher in auction market trade. In Oklahoma City, OK, last week, feeder steers and heifers sold steady to $3 higher. Steer and heifer calves were lightly tested and steady on demand that was called good for all classes. Quality was reported to by typical for a summer sale with several Brahma crosses and light muscled cattle included in the mix. In West Plains, MO, compared to the previous week, steers and heifers sold fully steady, with some instances of $1-2 higher on moderate supply and good demand with most buyers bidding fairly aggressively. At Bassett, NE, last week’s special barbeque sale brought prices which were called fully steady with the previous special sale two weeks earlier. Both yearlings and weaned, fall calves were included in the run and quality and demand were both reportedly good. Meanwhile, In Hub City, SD, compared to the previous week, feeder steers and heifers sold $2-4 higher, with good demand in all classes. According to market reports, offerings were made up mostly of load lots of feeders in larger consignments. Farther north and west, feeder cattle runs continue to be seasonally light, however, in California, good numbers continue to come to market with prices remaining strong for offered lots. In Galt, CA, feeder steers and heifers in all classes trended steady during last week’s sale. At Famoso, CA, stockers and feeders were $2-3 higher last week. Demand for stocker cattle was good for quality greener kinds. There was also lots of demand for quality feeder cattle on offer.

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Thursday, December 20,2007

GUEST opinion

by WLJ
—Congress needs to repair several flaws before COOL’s 2008 effective date. Congress passed a mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) law for many fresh meat products as part of the 2002 Farm Bill. Its implementation has been delayed a number of times, mainly because of the logistical nightmares it will create for the livestock industry. NCBA (National Cattlemen’s Beef Association) members do not oppose the concept of COOL. We raise the safest and best beef in the world, and we are proud to put a USA label on it. But specific flaws in the 2002 law are harmful to cattlemen, which is why NCBA has made several efforts to fix the statute. Unfortunately, we’ve been unable to do so, and we are all out of reprieves. Mandatory COOL is going into effect in September of 2008—there’s just no way around it. This gives us very little time to persuade Congress to address the shortcomings of this law. But that’s exactly what we need to do, and we need your help. How is the law flawed? There are numerous deficiencies with the current COOL law, but let’s focus on the major problems: Poultry is completely exempt That’s right—our number one protein competitor is totally exempt from COOL. Proponents will say the United States does not import a lot of fresh poultry. That’s true, but that’s not the issue. By exempting all poultry, we allow the industry with which we compete most fiercely to completely avoid the costs and regulatory burdens of COOL. In terms of enjoyment and flavor, Americans have repeatedly expressed a preference for beef over chicken. But we all know it’s difficult for beef to compete with chicken on the basis of price. This gets even harder when we are saddled with the additional regulatory burdens and costs of COOL, from which poultry escapes completely. Foodservice is exempt Over half the beef consumed in America is not prepared at home—but rather in restaurants, hotels and cafeterias. For imported beef, the percentage is drastically higher. So where is the logic in having a grocery store meat case in which almost every single package of beef is labeled “product of USA,” while none of the beef served in a steakhouse, fast food drive-thru, or the local bar-and-grill is labeled at all? If COOL is really all about informing consumers, this law falls woefully short by exempting the venues in which most imported beef is sold. Record-keeping nightmares for cattlemen Proponents of mandatory COOL would have you believe this law places a burden to prove origin on importers, but not on domestic producers. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite. The requirement is placed squarely on retailers to prove that any product with a USA label is legitimately born, raised, processed within our borders. The retailer has no choice but to push this burden downstream to the processor, and the processor will do likewise to the cattle producer. Already we’ve seen information emerging from the packing and retail sectors about the paperwork required to market cattle under this law, and it’s not a pretty picture. It’s extensive and expensive—and it starts now, because there is no exemption for cattle born before the effective date of the law. So calves born this spring—if they are to be slaughtered in the fall of 2008—are included. They can’t make me do that…can they? It’s easy to go on the defensive and say that packers and retailers can’t impose extensive paperwork requirements on you just to prove the origin of your cattle. Well that’s true, they can’t. But they can refuse to buy them. Or they can offer you a much lower price than they pay for cattle that meet all the requirements. NCBA supports voluntary efforts by cattlemen to source-verify their cattle, but has worked hard to keep mandatory animal ID from being forced on the nation’s cattle producers. But unless Congress takes steps to fix it, this flawed COOL law could end up being a back-door route to mandatory animal ID. If someone tells you this can’t happen, ask them to show you the part of the mandatory COOL law that protects you. There is none—it doesn’t exist. COOL does not equal food safety A number of food safety issues have emerged recently involving imported products, and this is sometimes used as a justification for the COOL law. But COOL does not improve food safety, and it is misleading to suggest otherwise. Food that does not meet U.S. health and safety standards should not be sold here—period! Putting a label on an unsafe product doesn’t help the consumer one bit. These products must be taken off the shelves and discarded, not given some sort of an “eat-at-your-own-risk” label. These are the major reasons Congress must revisit and amend the mandatory COOL law. In its present form, it is simply too flawed to be beneficial to cattlemen or the consumers we serve. Nor can these problems be adequately addressed through agency rules and regulations. USDA has re-opened a comment period on COOL, but a regulatory agency is very limited in its ability to fix problems through regulations, when an underlying statute is so badly written. As we try to persuade Congress to fix the COOL law, time is short and opportunities are limited. The House version of the 2007 Farm Bill may be our only hope. House Ag Chairman Collin Peterson is a staunch supporter of COOL, but he does recognize many of the shortcomings in the current law. As House committees begin their markups of the Farm Bill, we need the House leadership to step up and make the necessary corrections. Surprisingly, NCBA won’t have a lot of help in getting this law fixed for cattlemen. Some groups that claim to support cattle producers are so infatuated with the idea of seeing COOL take effect, they are choosing to ignore the numerous problems in the law. They just want a COOL bill—and, apparently, any bill will do. The misinformation they spread on this issue—and their misleading denial of this law’s flaws—won’t make fixing it any easier. So we need you to reach out to your congressman, and it must happen soon. Visit www.beefusa.org for more details on how you can help fix COOL. — Steve Fogelsong [Steve Foglesong is a cattle producer from Astoria, IL, and chairs the Policy Division of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.]

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Thursday, December 20,2007

—New law provides labeling, while reducing record keeping requirements and

by WLJ
As a part of its enormous 2007 Farm Bill proposal, the House Ag committee passed a modified mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) law two weeks ago after a late night session. The revised program put forward by the committee creates a labeling program similar to that required by the school lunch program. According to the COOL language in the bill, it provides for three categories of labeling. One that indicates the product was born, raised and slaughtered in the U.S.; one that indicates product was not exclusively born, raised and slaughtered in the U.S.; and one that includes products entirely from other countries. For ground meat, products can be labeled with a list of countries where product may have originated. In addition, the regulations provide a grandfather clause for cattle in the U.S. prior to Jan. 1, 2008, omitting them from any required COOL documentation. Perhaps most importantly, the modified version doesn’t create any additional record keeping for livestock producers.  What remains to be seen is what language will be required on the actual label itself if the program makes it intact through to the president’s desk for a signature. However, the proposal still has a long way to go before becoming law, including a full debate and vote in the House of Representatives and a conference committee where the House and Senate will hash out a program that will likely be a compromise between two Farm Bills. The Senate Ag Committee is running behind schedule and announced last week that it will not be ready for a vote on a Farm Bill proposal until September. Senate Ag Committee Chair Tom Harkin, D-IA, said last week that he envisions a very different version of the bill coming from the Senate, which could include different plans for COOL. Harkin expressed surprise at the House’s version of COOL following its passage. Other senators also took action on COOL last week. In fact, last week, Sen. Tim Johnson, D-SD, managed to pass an amendment to the fiscal year 2008 ag spending bill which includes a provision that establishes benchmarks for USDA’s implementation of mandatory COOL and reaffirms the program will take effect on Sept. 30, 2008. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) members, who were attending the groups’ mid- year meeting in Denver, CO, when the House compromise was struck, expressed at least partial satisfaction with the new requirements after arguing that the version passed as part of the 2002 Farm Bill was too cumbersome for the industry. “We support the concept of country-of-origin labeling, but NCBA has contended for many years that a poorly written COOL law will be harmful to the U.S. cattle industry,” said Jay Truitt, NCBA vice president of government affairs. “Our top priority from the beginning has been that the benefits of COOL must outweigh the costs for cattle producers. We took some major steps in that direction last night.” He cautioned, however, that the latest version of COOL is far from perfect. Poultry is still completely exempt from all requirements imposed on beef, pork and lamb. This is a major disappointment for cattlemen because poultry is beef’s primary protein competitor in the consumer marketplace. “Perhaps when COOL takes effect, consumers will wonder why beef is labeled, but not chicken. Cattlemen have been wondering that same thing throughout this process,” Truitt said. NCBA’s final objection to the COOL law is the misconception that it will address food safety issues. NCBA President John Queen, a North Carolina cattle producer, said labeling is not a solution to recent safety problems with imported foods.  “Any product that does not meet the health and safety standards of the United States should not be sold here—period,” Queen said. “Don’t put an ‘eat-at-your-own-risk’ label on it. It has no place on our stores shelves. Turn it away at the border, or throw it out.” Not suprisingly, R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America also welcomed the passage of the program. After the announcement, R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard also noted the improvement in the bill which eliminated the burdensome record keeping requirement for the industry. This has been a key sticking point for producers and packers alike. “Only cattle born, raised and slaughtered in the United States will qualify to receive the ‘Product of the U.S’ label, and there is no doubt that our members have played a significant role in defending country-of-origin labeling, so it’s a tremendous victory for R-CALF,” Bullard said. “This combination of grassroots lobbying and national attention quickly eroded the anti-COOL efforts of meatpacker trade associations.” Bullard said passage of the bill despite strong opposition from packing industry lobbying groups, as well as others who opposed the program in its original form, was the direct result of the efforts of National Farmer’s Union and R-CALF membership as he thanked Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-MN, and leaders of the National Farmers Union, who Bullard credited with helping to craft the legislation.  Although the House Farm Bill package was still being debated on the House floor last week, Peterson said last week he did not foresee that challenges to the package forwarded by the Ag Committee would be successful, saying that his committee had worked closely with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, in crafting the proposal. “The speaker is involved in this,” he said during a press conference, July 20. “There may be amendments offered, but I don’t think they will be successful.” — John Robinson, WLJ Editor  

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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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