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Thursday, December 20,2007

BEEF talk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
impetuous. In the world of beef, it is important to evaluate and ask if our priorities are in the right order. This is true in all businesses and beef is no exception. However, setting priorities is only part of the equation. The next step is to make sure one sets aside enough time to reflect on how to effectively accomplish life among the noted priorities. The facts are very straight forward for all of us. We need to realize that few of us really have adequate resources or unlimited opportunities. However, one common denominator all producers have is time. We all are given exactly the same amount of time every day. Some of us set our priorities and move through the day with noted accomplishments. Others simply let the day pass and allow the passage of time to determine our accomplishments for the day. We all need some of those quiet days, when time is our only companion. The most productive use of time, however, involves acting on a set of priorities to accomplish a positive outcome for the operation. Beef priorities were documented in a recent publication titled “Priorities First: Identifying Management Priorities in the Commercial Cow-Calf Business” by Tom Field, Ph.D., Fort Collins, CO. Field summarized the producer’s need to utilize information to self-evaluate his or her operation. While identification and documentation of priorities are important, action should not be impetuous. Simply doing what the neighbor does may lead only to group auction sales rather than periodic singular auction sales. Rather, as noted earlier, the one resource we all equally have is time. It is important to utilize time to reflect on industry priorities. Use that time to identify and improve your opportunities within your operation. In recent BeefTalk articles, the first priority, herd nutrition, was discussed and the various priorities set by producers were applauded. One red flag was raised when bull nutrition was ranked alongside dry-cow nutrition. Both would represent missed opportunities within a producer’s business. Continuing on down the list, the second priority identified for cow/calf producers and specialists was the category of pasture and range. This probably was not surprising to anyone. The high ranking for range and pasture is very reflective of the nature of the cattle business, which is a land-based business designed to capture and harvest the natural resources bountiful within land-based enterprises. Through the cow, these resources are converted to harvestable value, which primarily is protein for human consumption, along with myriad other products utilized by consumers. The 2006 report by the North Dakota Farm and Ranch Business Management program (www.ndfarmmanagement.com) showed the average cost for summer pasture was $80.30 per cow/calf pair when the herds were sorted on net return per cow/calf pair. The low 20 percent spent $85.08, the middle 40 percent to 60 percent spent $89.96 and the 20 percent that had the greatest net return spent $67.60 per cow/calf pair. In terms of animal unit months (AUMs), the low 20 percent averaged 6.05 AUMs, the middle 40 percent to 60 percent averaged 5.88 AUMs and the high 20 percent averaged 6.05 AUMs. These are interesting numbers and the need to reflect on them is real. Certainly, it is good that pasture and range ranked second behind nutrition as priorities for the beef producer. It is important that 73 percent of the cow/calf producers consider pasture and range as a foundation to the business. However, the utilization of pasture and range resources needs to be thought through. Now is a good time to grab some of that time we all have and ponder on how effective our pasture and range utilization is. This examination should include the short-term and long-term health of grassland resources. More later.

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Thursday, December 20,2007

BEEF talk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
Grass is not free Summer in the beef business is turn out time. If we are not careful, some would conclude that it is the time of year when we don’t need to feed the cows. Summer would seem to be the time when cash costs are less and the pocketbook is not being called upon as frequently to pay the bills. The summer focus is the processing, hauling and storage of next winter’s feed. However, summer can be expensive. The costs of raising crops and forage are working their way into the system. The cow still is eating and those bites of grass in the pasture are not free. The 2006 report of the North Dakota Farm and Ranch Business Management program (www.ndfarmmanagement.com) detailed cow feed costs. The typical producer spent $257.83 feeding the cow. A little more than 31 percent of that total was related to pasture costs. Sorted on net return per cow/calf pair, the low 20 percent spent more on total feed ($292.59), with 29 percent ($85.08) of the bill attributed to pasture costs. The middle 40 percent to 60 percent spent $256.95, with 35 percent ($89.96) of the total feed bill attributed to pasture costs. The 20 percent of herds that had the greatest net return spent a total of $227.31 on total feed, with a little less than 30 percent ($67.60) of the total feed costs attributed to summer grazing for the cow/calf pair. The assignment of a value to pasture is important and relevant to the analysis of the total operation. The costs do influence the bottom line of cattle operations. In terms of cost per animal unit month (AUM) as reported to the North Dakota Farm and Ranch Business Management program, the average cost, based on net return per cow, is $13.23 per AUM. The bottom 20 percent paid $14.06, the middle 40 percent to 60 percent paid $15.30 and the top 20 percent paid $11.17. These numbers are not all based on market demand because not all producers are actively bidding for pasture. Some are assigning a value to their own pasture. An exact cost conclusion is difficult, but cow/calf producers are focused on pasture and range production. This was the second priority for producers, as documented in the publication “Priorities First: Identifying Management Priorities in the Commercial Cow-Calf Business,” summarized and authored by Tom Field, Ph.D., Fort Collins, CO. What is interesting, when it comes to pasture and range, is that the stocking rate was the highest ranking subcategory, followed closely by timing and duration of grazing. Monitoring cattle performance and plant species ranked considerably lower than the first two subcategories. In commercial cow/calf production, the stocking rate is compared with calf weight to feeders. The bottom line is that pounds and stocking rate, at least to the naked eye, are equivalent to the pounds of beef on a given amount of land. The duration of grazing determines how long the pounds will be (not can be) on a given amount of land. This creates a dilemma. While pasture and range are a very high priority, there is no indication of long-term grazing practices being beneficial to the health of the plant community. In the same breath, the associated appropriate stocking rate and grazing duration that produce a realistic quantity of beef need to be in the same equation. In a perfect world, all four subcategories should rank the same. In reality, calf performance and plant species composition are essential for monitoring stocking rate, and timing and duration of grazing. But that is the perfect world. We all know that pasture and range are very complicated fundamental aspects of beef production. It is reassuring that they rank high.

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Thursday, December 20,2007

Beef Talk: The J game–vaccinate

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
The Dickinson Research Extension Center is getting ready to ship some calves. A quick review of the vaccination efforts at the center notes that the calves were vaccinated for viral and bacterial invaders in the spring during branding. The calves will be vaccinated again prior to weaning and at weaning. The development of a vaccination program involves consulting with a veterinarian. The goal is to prepare calves so they will be better able to withstand the rigors of weaning, marketing and subsequent comingling at the new feed yard. There are many products that produce the “desired response” when administered according to label directions. The phrase “desired response” is a mouthful. Although memory can be very misleading and, over time, the relevancy of older thoughts and technology can change, the term “J” always comes to mind when a “desired response” is sought for a particular vaccination program. Back in graduate school days, actually back before much of the molecular genetics world was known, the J game was at work. The reason for the J game was to add diversity to living organisms so they could respond to the many viral and bacterial invaders that are constantly trying to put us down. That doesn’t include several other pathogenic classes of organisms that are not our friends. The terms were simpler and perhaps easier to understand. One of the more interesting, yet difficult, sessions utilized a text titled “Biochemistry” by Lubert Stryer. This particular edition, published in 1981, provides some understanding of what the “desired response” looks like. The “desired response” is a functional protein given the broad name of “antibody.” These antibodies, more appropriately called immunoglobulins, are not easy to visualize. One immunoglobulin is generally drawn schematically as a Y. The Y is not just J genes, it actually has several components. Within the Y are two types of chains, heavy and light. There are five types of heavy chains and two types of light chains. These chains may seem simple, but are not. Within the chains, some parts are called constant, which means they change little in how they are made up and some parts are called variable, which means they can vary. The variable chains contain amino acid sequences that are not the same and do not remain constant. This variance adds increased diversity to the structure of the various antibodies. If things are not complicated enough, there are the “J” genes that join the variable and constant segments of the light and heavy chain, in other words, the J game, all adding to the confusion of the ‘desired outcome’ when a set of calves are vaccinated with a particular vaccine or antigen. Without going out on a limb too far, if a producer actually figured all the different ways an antibody can be configured, in other words, how many different ways could you combine the constant, variable and J regions of an antibody, the answer would be in the billions. Sorry if this is confusing, but the bottom line is still true; vaccinate your calves to produce antibodies that will protect them against the handful of commonly known viral and bacterial invaders and then manage your calves so that they will prepare themselves to produce a good antibody response against all those invaders that are not named. The world is not a simple place, but calves are geared up to survive, especially when all the right tools are put in their toolbox. Good luck! And, if you thought tagging calves is difficult, tagging is nothing compared with antibodies.

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Thursday, December 20,2007

BEEF talk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
Now is the time to plan for preconditioned calves The time is fast approaching in the annual cow/calf cycle when thoughts shift from production to marketing. Now is the time to start thinking about preparing calves for market. One might say this is old hat by now, but it really isn’t. The need to provide protection for calves, whether one weans them at home or sells them right off the cow, is a vital part of successful management. At the Dickinson Research Extension Center, the calves receive vaccinations for infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR), bovine viral diarrhea type I and II (BVD), bovine respiratory syncitial virus (BRSV) and bovine parainfluenza 3 (PI3). These viral agents typically are present and can negatively affect calves. Protection from these viral agents is available as a combination vaccine containing all four agents (thus the common saying, four-way) in various product formulations from several vaccine companies. Killed and modified live products are available but need to be administered according to the well-displayed, easy-to-read labels the companies provide.   In addition to the viral agents, the primary bacterial agents that have a likelihood of being present are pasteurella haemolytica, pasteurella multocida and hemophilus somnus. Just as in the viral agents, several formulations combine the bacterial agents with other viral vaccines or common clostridial vaccines. The clostridial vaccines are started at branding and, generally, are the first vaccination the calves receive. Why the thought or expression “old hat?” Well, the discussion of calf vaccination has been front and center in educational programs for well over the average of today’s career. Most veterinarians and animal scientists employed today have grown up with these very effective tools in the tool chest, which primarily are very improved and effective vaccines. The precursor, at least for me, was the North Dakota Beef Cattle Improvement Association’s (NDBCIA) Green Tag program. Recently, I reviewed the Green Tag program brochure that was produced for NDBCIA in the late 1980s. The educational piece says, “Preconditioning includes a complete health management program which prepares the calves to better withstand the stress and adjustment they need to undergo when they leave the home farm or ranch in route to the feedlot. Calves are castrated in most cases, dehorned, vaccinated against common shipping and feedlot diseases, treated for grubs and lice and had the opportunity to accustom themselves to water troughs and feed bunks. Additional practices are encouraged, which include implants that stimulate the natural growth processes, complete herd health programs within the cow herd and strong relationships with professional veterinarians and animal scientists.” Those details are important today, so one could assume not much has changed. The main principle remains protecting calves. This protection for calves is paramount. The protection plan needs to start with a strong calf vaccination program, followed by a pre-weaning vaccination protocol and vaccination again at weaning. With improved vaccinations available and more vaccination programs readily attainable, it is very important that producers follow the labels and protocols developed by the vaccine producers. The end result is calves that can withstand the rigors of life without mom and adapt readily to whatever system the calf ends up in. This is important for everyone connected to the beef production cycle: the calf, the producer, the feeder and, ultimately, the consumer. The NDBCIA has long touted the need for good herd health to sustain the continued production of high-quality meat protein for the consumer. A good vaccination program is a major component of attaining that goal. What’s in your veterinary case?

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Thursday, December 20,2007

Beef Talk: A cow's production needs to cover expenses

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
The recent drought is only the last on a relatively long list of natural calamities that impact agricultural producers. Currently, not only do those involved have little to no moisture, but nature’s wrath and fire are literally burning what remains. The tragedy is exponentially confounded when what stored forage remains is burned. The response is critical, but the correct or even the most appropriate answer generally is not well-known. The bottom line quickly becomes survival, financial survival being the most pressing. There are no easy answers, but there are some wrong answers. Too often, in times of crisis, people tend to focus on the wrong outcomes. Obvious denial will hit, but answers to questions should be based on data. The initial reaction is to save the herd. The cows are endeared to someone’s heart, but the reality is, they are cows. They simply are cows that represent some form of money, depending on current economic values. The real challenge is holding the operation together and having something that produces income when everything settles out. That something is the cowherd, if livestock is the primary operation. A couple of painful reminders are that yesterday was a much better time to enroll in an effective financial management program and today is better than tomorrow. The bottom line is that not all assets generate more income than the annual expenses of having the asset. This is true in cattle as well as land. The challenge during tough times is to know which cows are making you some money and what assets are not. A thought that always has stuck in my mind was a comment a North Dakota Beef Cattle Improvement Association member made following a drought. The producer commented that the drought finally forced him to go through his records and cull half the cowherd. The producer still is in business and doing well. The producer said, in retrospect, the drought had a positive outcome because it forced him to sell those cows that were not profitable. That doesn’t mean droughts are good and it is not a great consolation during the process, but knowing what cows to keep and those to sell is a key component to long term survival. The higher the value of calves, the more forgiving the producer tends to be of poor producing cows. No matter what, cattle prices are not constant, so strive to keep the most productive cows regardless of calf value. As the cattle are rounded up, those cows that have a greater probability of having a negative return, even in a normal year, should be sold and not moved to greener pastures.

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Monday, November 26,2007

BEEF talk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
A burden or opportunity? For the past six years, North Dakota Beef Cattle Improvement Association producers have been involved with age- and source-verification research with North Dakota State University (NDSU) and numerous partners. This partnership led to a successful application to USDA to provide third-party verification for age and source by the North Dakota Beef Cattle Improvement Association. The CalfAID program was named an official USDA-Agricultural Marketing Service Process Verified Program in 2006. Data collected is processed through the cow herd appraisal performance software for nearly 400 North Dakota cow/calf producers, with a typical herd size of 190 cows, as well as beef producers in many other parts of the country. In 2004, 2005 and 2006, 14,432 calves were tagged either by the owner of the calves or NDSU personnel. Combining the three years, 19.5 percent remained on the ranch or farm of birth as replacements. Of the calves offered for sale, 13 percent were traced to backgrounding lots, 29.3 percent were traced to feedlots, and 27.5 percent were traced successfully to the point of harvest. In addition, 10.3 percent never were traced and are considered lost. Despite the enthusiasm and desire for these cow/calf producers to provide the calf and corresponding data as a marketable package, only one in four calves arrived at harvest with the data package. Costs also were documented. Many variables exist in the cow/calf business, such as distance traveled, gathering time, and number of calves worked. Our best estimate per calf is $5 for tags, data management and verification; $7 for working calves, tag placement and documentation; and $8 for data collection and chute fees through the feeding and harvesting segments. The total cost estimate per calf worked on the ranch would be $20 and the total per-calf verified to harvest would be $56, that is if one takes into account that only one in four calves actually made it to the packer with the data intact. The one calf must carry the cost of the other three. In addition, shrink, the lost weight while handling calves, costs the producer. No one debates the need to move, process and work cattle, but it does cost money. Calves are living, changing and growing entities. The dollars are made in growth and meant to be profit, not cost recovery. This weight loss may not seem like much, but it does add up. Our estimates were $10 to $20 from each calf’s income potential. Behind the scenes, several very important components are required for preparing a calf and accompanying data package. Calf-AID provides source and age verification through data management, electronic animal identification and traceback to the extent possible. The need for a calving book that records data points along a calf’s life is essential. Producer data collection in the calving book is verified by CalfAID to separate conforming and nonconforming calves. The efficiency of the process is dependent on technology working in environments that are not technology friendly. New high-frequency technology is appealing to cow/calf producers and others who handle cattle. Recently, high-frequency tags were read with no interference or performance issues at a local livestock auction. A total of 188 calves in 10 different lots sold. The average read time was .338 second per tag, with a 99 percent read rate. This leap forward connects the calf and the data package and opens the door to track comingled and re-sorted lots of calves. Is this a burden or an opportunity? The answer brings a mixed response. The verdict certainly is not in on how the market actually will respond. Premiums are evident, certainly advertised, but the point still remains that only one in four of those calves our producers so painstakingly prepared for the market actually have paved the way. That rate needs to improve throughout the industry.

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Monday, November 12,2007

BEEF talk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
Forward thinkers always needed in the beef industry Organizations come and go, especially organizations formed for a specific purpose. As that purpose or the need diminishes, so does the organization. Some organizations seem to have a purpose or function that extends through time. These organizations are made up of forward-thinking people who have an ability to keep the never ending complex world organized. One such group is the North Dakota Beef Cattle Improvement Association (NDBCIA). I turned to the group for assistance when I was asked to testify before the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC). The request was for information related to a qualitative and, to the extent possible, quantitative analysis of the economic effects of foreign animal health and sanitary and food safety measures on U.S. beef exports. As I pondered what I might contribute, I reflected on NDBCIA’s success. NDBCIA is one of those visionary organizations that gathered dedicated cattle producers in 1963. To this day, the focus remains. If one was to open the original bylaws, the needs of the organization, as defined by the beef producers at the time, were clear. Before getting to all of them, one is reminded that the crispness of the paper and the original typewriter imprints and overstrikes were done some time ago. The nine original incorporators had a vision of what the beef industry needed. They listed seven objectives: Advance the use of practical and scientifically proven information for beef cattle improvement by encouraging research and education related to the total advancement of beef cattle production; Encourage and coordinate herd improvement programs on the farm or ranch; Encourage and/or provide opportunities for recognition of superior beef type and conformation; Provide guidance and supervision of market and breeding animal evaluation programs in cooperation with breed associations; Assist in processing and evaluating records obtained in a herd improvement program; Promote and advertise superior stock based on accurate records; To become affiliated with the American Beef Cattle Performance Registry Association, thereby joining hands with sister state associations in the standardization of procedure in the measurement of the performance of beef cattle and also the recognition of cattle with outstanding productivity. After 44 years, these objectives still are driving NDBCIA and are the very reason that its founders’ thoughts really form the foundation of any comments one might make on behalf of the beef industry in North Dakota. The heart of NDBCIA rests in doing what is good for North Dakota people involved with the beef cattle production chain. NDBCIA experiences can offer guidance to the industry on issues such as age and source verification and what it means to be a North Dakota beef producer. The association is the home of 374 North Dakota producers who rely on the association’s cow herd appraisal performance system to process their production records. NDBCIA also actively supervises more than 850 production record accounts. Those founders should be recognized for what they started and what continues today as grass-roots producer families on the northern prairies. NDBCIA exemplifies the involvement and hard work needed within the beef industry. The earlier organizational pioneers extended themselves to educate and engage fellow producers and consumers on the aspects of beef cattle production. These efforts stand today as exemplary, along with the lessons taught about stewardship of the air, land and water, and care of their animals. The request to testify before USITC on behalf of those producers is truly an honor, but more importantly, it is the opportunity to represent the seven objectives of NDBCIA. The NDBCIA commitment to a better beef industry has set the tone for current members, which is a continued commitment to a healthy, strong beef industry with a vision for the future.

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Monday, November 5,2007

BEEF talk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
Buy a scale The beef industry has been producing beef since the first two cows were domesticated. We hope one cow produced a heifer to be kept as a replacement and the other cow produced a bull calf suitable for harvest. In the early days, calf size would have been noticed, if for nothing else, because of the number of people who could be invited over for pot roast. Through the years, weight and frame still remain critical to the success of a commercial beef operation. Through time, calves and cows got bigger in weight, muscle and frame. The current benchmarks for those who use the North Dakota Beef Cattle Improvement Association CHAPS program would suggest that a typical cow would weigh 1,413 pounds and have a 5.5 frame score. These cows would be producing 566 pound steers at 189 days of age. The heifers would weigh 546 pounds and the bulls would weigh 621 pounds. These calves would be gaining 2.53 pounds per day or have a weight per day of age of 3 pounds as they grazed summer pastures. (The difference between average daily gain and weight per day of age is that weight per day of age includes birth weight.) Watching calves going through the local auction barn the other day, the lots did seem to be somewhat on the light side. The published sale report in the local paper reported a total of 126 lots of steer calves. Fifty-one of the 126 lots had an average weight that was less than the typical weight seen in the CHAPS calves prior to weaning. While this is not a direct comparison and is not intended to be, one notable fact was that 11 lots of calves did not break 400 pounds and 35 lots did not break 500 pounds. Actually, the calf weights were not that atypical of a spread in weight seen at many sales through time. However, producers do need to be careful, especially as they talk about calving later and producing lighter calves. Those 400-pound calves at $1.33 would gross $532 dollars per head. During the same sales, there were 23 lots of calves that weighed in at more than 650 pounds. For a typical 650-pound calf bringing in the neighborhood of $1.14, the gross dollars would be $741 per head, a difference of more than $209 per head gross. If one really knew the expenses and the production data, a stronger statement could be made. Historically, light calves bring great dollars per pound, but the heavy calves bring home the big dollars. There is real merit in calving at a time of the year when the weather is more cooperative, the pressure is taken off the winter feed supply, more cows are calving closer to pasture turnout or cows are on pasture. However, producers must remember that the lack of a management plan with light-weight calves simply hands the opportunities to the next owner. Given the current benchmark for calves grazing on grass with their mothers, simple math (using weight per day of age of 3 pounds) will estimate an approximate weight. If the sale date is Oct. 27, a calf born March 1 would be 240 days old and could weigh 720 pounds. A calf born April 1 could weigh 627 pounds, while a calf born on May 1 could weigh 537 pounds. There are many sides to the equation, but the expense side and income side always seem to be battling. Now is a good time to think through just what generates dollars in the beef business. If one is in doubt, buy a scale.

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Monday, October 29,2007

BEEF Talk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
Load’em up and bring those “doggies” home The fall of the year represents changing times. Colors change, the air becomes crisp, and the growing season comes to a close. It is time to move on. The grain harvest is an early indicator that the time to move from field to bin is here, but the real clincher is the movement of calves. Last week, the Dickinson Research Extension Center started bringing home the calves for weaning and sorting. In the end, cows go one way and calves the other. This activity is motivated by good management principles, which are driven by survival. Soon the water will freeze and any day, the color of white could shut things down. It is time to haul cows and calves. The image of pickups and trailers moving up and down the highways becomes common. A few brief discussions are held to reminisce about the days when all the cattle were herded home, but those mainly are memories. Granted, there are many cattle still herded, but time, labor and the simple availability of efficient transportation make the shift to hauling fairly easy. At 10 miles a day, herding cattle takes time. With many cattle today some 50 to 100 miles from the home ranch, herding cattle just isn’t practical. When hauling, one soon learns to appreciate the good roads in rural America. The North Dakota Agricultural Statistics Service lists statistics indicative of how rural North Dakota is. With a population of 633,837, the most recent census numbers note that about 44 percent of the population still is considered rural. On average, there are 9.2 people per square mile with access to towns by using 106,609 miles of road. There are 30,619 farms in North Dakota with an average size of 1,283 acres. Of the 44,144,595 acres that make up North Dakota, 39,294,879 acres are used for farming. That is what being rural is. The network of rural roads becomes crucial to the daily lifestyle of those who live and make their living in the country, especially as the calves are hauled. Even with that backdrop of rural America, the old days are getting further and further from our thoughts, especially our younger side. The world today is different. Think about all those youth who are at home, in school, at a university or just starting out in the work force. What is their world? The majority of youth are not connected to a rural world. The remnants of being rural are disappearing quickly. Road maintenance and the patience of the county road grader are not witnessed by many. The dilemma of rural versus urban is very real. The scenes are changing, at least from where we sit. The answers often are not apparent and not always welcomed. The scenic view of herding cattle certainly fits with the urban flare, but parking a herd of 300 cows and calves is not as easy today as it was, so we haul. Rural versus town versus city versus metropolitan center creates some interesting lifestyle contrasts. The further one gets from original rural communities, people become more consumers than producers and more energy users than providers. The potential disconnect from the world around us and beyond is real. As a result, if we are not careful, most of those around us like to look, but the feel and smell are best left somewhere else. Perhaps that is why the sights and sounds are better viewed on the big screen with the feel and smell of popcorn outweighing the nitty-gritty impacts of a real cattle drive. In the meantime, load’em up, get those diesels started and bring those little “doggies” home.

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Monday, September 3,2007

BEEF talk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
Animal identification slowly is becoming a maze that goes nowhere At one time, the process of tracking cattle was simple. Cattle did not move far and any transactions that involved swapping cattle were recorded to memory. In fact, prior to the concept of crossbreeding, cattle were moved only between the same types. This was a concept that was put in place by English animal breeder Robert Bakewell during the 18th century. Of course, there were cattle that were rogues, feral in nature, but these were considered inferior to well-bred cattle. Prominent societies were established to track cattle and record offspring and transfer title as needed. Little did those who established the principle of heterosis and promoted the development of crossbreeding programs realize just how badly they upset the applecart. With the commingling of cattle breeds and the outpouring of commercial crossbred cattle, the need and desire to track the origin and parentage of cattle diminished. The need simply was not evident. Today, one would need to go back to the 1960s to find that environment among cattle producers. It goes without saying that most of today’s producers were not involved with cattle in the 1960s. So, we have a new mind-set by cattle producers. For all practical purposes, producers have grown up during the past 50 years. It was a period of time that witnessed the emergence of crossbred cattle and a simultaneous increase in cattle movement across state and national borders. Perhaps that is one of the fundamental issues regarding animal identification and the utilization of that animal number to help in source and age verification. Not only is the concept foreign to many cattle producers, but also to many involved in the numerous aspects of the cattle-producing business. As a case in point, the current operating mode is not only getting more confusing to producers, but the crisscrossing of demands from within the industry is adding a tremendous burden. The bottom line is that cattle potentially are source- and age-verified if there is some form of functional calving notation in the producer’s records. Those calving notes include some form of identification of an address or physical location. The only process required to complete the job is to place a unique ear tag in the calf at birth or prior to shipping and submit the documentation to an appropriate USDA program that provides verification. Such a simple thought. However, in the industry, it has become a quagmire of tentacles that are overlapping, with a total failure to communicate. It is sad that there are cattle that are source- and age-verified and available to the market but are turned away as the marketing chain places more and more certification requirements to offset perceived failures when cattle products reach their end market. As each market end point develops its own voluntary program, the structure bottlenecks marketing the calves the way calves traditionally have been sold. The additional requirements of certification and re-certification through specific Quality System Assessment (QSA) programs add more layers on top of layers, but, of course, all are voluntary. There is one little surprise. Producers who are responsible for the conception, development, birth and rearing of calves are becoming more and more frustrated when they have a calving book and are record savvy, but are denied entrance to the age- and source-verified programs due to lack of compliance. There is a common question that crosses our desk. What are producers who have their cattle source- and age-verified through a USDA process verified program or QSA supposed to do when the marketing chain places more requirements on them to the point that it causes marketing disconnect? There appears to be considerable structure entering the marketplace, but the structure actually limits the breadth of marketing opportunities for producers. Today, Bakewell is still right when he said “like begets like.” However, he would have a hard time proving it. I think he would have gotten lost in the paperwork.

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