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April 16, 2014
Livestock and Ag Credit News

Weather Will Dictate Cattle Trends This Year

By John Maday, Drovers CattleNetwork, 04/15/14—Commercial cow slaughter has run at historically low levels so far this year, partly due to short supplies but also indicating ranchers intend to stabilize or expand their herds. The situation remains volatile though, and with drought appearing to be expanding in the West and Southwest, weather conditions will help determine the direction of herd numbers, according to the April Livestock, Poultry and Dairy Outlook report from USDA.

The report also notes that first–quarter commercial steer and heifer slaughter is on track to be the lowest since 1965. Slaughter weights have helped offset some of that loss of numbers, and first–quarter beef production will likely be the lowest only since 2005.

Cow–calf producers should continue to see attractive cow prices for the near term because of low cow inventories and continued demand for ground beef products from culled cows. Those cow prices could be tempting to producers concerned with drought.

Feeder–cattle prices could decline in the short term as grass–fever ebbs and fed–cattle values likely move lower seasonally, but short supplies suggest continued high prices calf and feeder prices later in 2014 and 2015.

U.S. beef exports were up 4 percent through February 2014, while imports of beef were down 6 percent. The report increases the forecast for U.S. beef exports to 2.515 billion pounds due to strong demand for beef in Asia.

GIPSA NEWS: 04/16/14

GIPSA NEWS: 04/10/14

Livestock and Ag Credit News

Beef Prices Hit 27-Year High

By Matthew Rocco, FOXBusiness, 04/15/14—Thanks to dwindling herds and strong export demand, beef prices in the U.S. have soared to levels not seen in nearly three decades.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the average price of fresh beef jumped to $5.28 per pound in February, or 5% higher compared to the prior month. Prices are at their highest point since 1987. Americans may turn to alternative protein sources to avoid paying record beef prices, the USDA noted.

"High prices for all meats and poultry could drive grilling season away from the higher priced beef cuts toward ground beef, pork and poultry," the agency said in a report released Tuesday.

Tight domestic supplies of cattle have contributed to the sharp increase. The total cattle herd in the U.S., the largest beef producer in the world, is at a 63–year low, partly as a result of the rough winter. A freak October blizzard killed thousands of cattle in South Dakota.

"We’ve seen smaller cattle numbers in terms of herd size in recent years," said Darin Newsom, a senior commodities analyst at DTN. Commercial cow slaughter for the first quarter is on pace to be the lowest since 2008, and beef production is expected to hit a nine–year low. In an effort to replenish their herd, ranchers will continue to hold onto more cattle if pasture conditions develop, according to the USDA.

"We should see a rebuilding of the herd size. We're in the process now," Newsom said.

But consumers shouldn't expect any relief at the grocery store. Newsom believes it could take until sometime in 2015 to see the domestic cattle herd return to normal levels.

Opinion: Why Carbon Flows Underpin Sustainable Beef Production

By Alan Lauder, BEEF Central, 04/15/14—As the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef moves to develop global agreement on a definition for sustainable beef, grazier and founder of the 'Carbon Grazing' principle Alan Lauder discusses here how future graziers should see themselves as 'managers of carbon'.  The Carbon Grazing principle focuses attention on the short period after rain which is when the level of carbon flowing through the paddock is set, something many producers are currently applying through various management systems but others are paying the price for failing to manage.

The information package around Carbon Grazing supplies some information and understanding around carbon flows that is currently not supplied by other extension processes. This is an extract of a broader discussion paper that appears on Mr Lauder’s Carbon Grazing website. Read the full article by clicking here.

The Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef is looking to define the Principles and Criteria that must be addressed in order to achieve sustainable beef production systems and value chains around the globe. This discussion paper supplies another angle for the Roundtable to consider in defining sustainable beef production. The roundtable has stated that because of the broad range of ecosystems in which beef can be produced, it makes a "one size–fits–all" global standard unrealistic. However there is one aspect of sustainable beef production that is common to every country and every farm and this relates to the proper management of "carbon flows".

There are many different aspects to sustainability. Producers need to be able generate enough production and cash flow to remain viable. The resource base they manage needs to be maintained in a healthy and resilient state for future production. The environmental outcomes have to be consistent with the expectations of the rest of society. These different aspects all relate directly to carbon flows. The carbon flows concept is the package of knowledge that provides an understanding of why there has to be adequate carbon flowing through the paddock to ensure beef and other agriculture production is sustainable.

Understanding Beef-Cattle Lameness Takes Knowing Where to Look

Drovers CattleNetwork, 04/15/14—Beef cattle are naturally adept at hiding signs of weakness, and as a result, lameness prevalence in beef cattle is often underestimated.

"We see people that come out and say, 'We don't have issues with lameness.' But generally speaking if you say that, you're not looking," said Dan Thomson, DVM, and Director of the Beef Cattle Institute at Kansas State University. "The experiences from veterinary school and veterinary practice prove that you miss more by not looking than by not knowing."

Thomson said that it takes getting out with the crews and spending the time to watch the animals to see what’s really going on.
Dr. Dee Griffin, University of Nebraska, Great Plains Veterinary Educational Center, explained that time spent with the animals is necessary, because lameness may not be observed on a day–to–day basis due to the instinctive nature of the animals. "A steer will stand there with a clearly painful injury, and it will look at you and act like nothing is wrong. Cattle are prey animals and they can hide the worst symptoms in the world."

Griffin explained that spending time with the cattle helps develop trust. After trust has been established, one can get a true picture of how the animals walk, which can provide clues about lameness and other ailments.

Trich Conference Attendees Discuss National Control Plan

Farm Futures, 04/15/14—Participants at the Trichomoniasis Standards Forum discuss options for aligning states in a nationwide control program: At the National Institute for Animal Agriculture and the U.S. Animal Health Association's Trichomoniasis Standards Forum held earlier this month in Omaha, Neb., veterinarians, beef industry leaders and research personnel gathered to discuss best options for disease management.

More than 140 industry stakeholders attended the forum, where they discussed ways to improve harmonization of trich control methods among states. Trichomoniasis is a venereal cattle disease.

Dr. Carl Heckendorf, co–chair of the forum, said most states have a trich control program in place, are formulating a program or are interested in developing a program.

"While we realize a one–size–fits–all program won't work, the consensus is that standardization––or at least harmonization––of state regulations, collection of samples prior to shipping, shipping and handling of samples and laboratory procedures can help eliminate confusion and benefit all involved."

In addition to agreeing that elements of a trich control program must be based on science coupled with practical application, Forum attendees pinpointed several areas where harmonization among states could have significant value.

Defiant Nevada Rancher Wins ‘Range War’ with Fed—For Now

By Angela Bowman, Drovers CattleNetwork, 04/14/14—
A tense, week–long showdown between the federal government and supporters of a Nevada cattle rancher came to a close over the weekend.

Over the last several weeks, rancher Cliven Bundy and his cattle garnered national headlines––and numerous supporters––in what some have called "showdown on the range." This range war is the latest development in a long–standing battle between Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

The BLM claims Bundy owes around $1 million in back fees owed to allow his cattle to graze on federal land. Bundy, however, counters that he has the right to graze his livestock on open range. The Associated Press reports the situation came to a head on Saturday as 1,000 of Bundy's supporters, many armed, faced down BLM officials as they shut down a 1,200–square–mile area to round up the rest of Bundy's cattle herd. The BLM had previously rounded up several hundred head of Bundy's cattle earlier in the week.

Bundy's son, Ammon, told Reuters in an interview an armed standoff was necessary to stop the government.

"We were dedicated to opening those gates and peacefully walking through to retrieve those cattle," he said in an interview. "The presence of weapons was needed in order to intimidate them."

To avoid violence, restore order and keep officials safe, the BLM announced an end to the standoff. It also released the cattle previously rounded up.

Twin Beef Calves Can Challenge Even The Savviest Producers

Beef Producer, 04/14/14—A set of twins could be viewed as a bonus calf to some beef producers, but when the set is comprised of one female calf and one male calf, there could be problems.

Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension emeritus animal scientist, says if born as the other half of a mixed–gender set of twins, a heifer calf could be what's called a freemartin, possessing "reemartinism"– a condition that causes infertility.

Freemartinism is recognized as one of the most severe forms of sexual abnormality among cattle, Selk says. That's why it's a good rule of thumb to never retain a heifer as a replacement female if she is born as a twin to a bull. Keep or cull? OSU's Glenn Selk says it's better not to retain heifers born with a twin brother.

"When a heifer twin shares the uterus with a bull fetus, they also share the placental membranes connecting the fetuses with the dam," Selk explains. "A joining of the placental membranes occurs at about day 40 of pregnancy, and the fluids of the two fetuses are mixed thereafter."

This causes exchange of blood and antigens carrying characteristics that are unique to each heifers and bulls. When these antigens mix, they affect each other in a way that causes each to develop with some characteristics of the other gender.
Although the male twin in this case is rarely affected by reduced fertility, the female twin is completely infertile in about 90% of cases, Selk said.

Who Wouldn’t Want Sustainable Beef?

By Miranda Reiman, Farm and Ranch Guide, 04/12/14—Sustainability means different things to different people. "If we’re not sustainable in what we do, we’re out of business," said Nebraska cattleman Bill Rishel. "Many of us in the cattle business grew up thinking of sustainability as making enough money to keep ranching the next year. Of course that meant we had to care for our natural resources and manage them in a responsible way.

"That's not as obvious to today's consumer," he said, "so we need to be part of this movement to redefine the concept."

To some, it's about increasing efficiency, to others it centers on land management. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCAB) did an assessment on the topic, and issued a comprehensive report last year.

"We define sustainability as balancing environmental responsibility, economic opportunity and social diligence," said NCBA's Kim Stackhouse–Lawson. "To the producers at home, this is really about continuing to leave ranches from generation to generation, improving their livelihoods and contributing and providing for local communities."

Still, it’s hard to reconcile the way each industry segment defines the buzzword and its perception for consumers.

Global Livestock News

Statement by NCBA President Bob McCan on the Announced Bilateral Trade Agreement Between Australia and Japan

Beef USA, 04/07/14—In response to the announcement of a Bilateral Trade Agreement reached between Australia and Japan, National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) President Bob McCan, a Victoria, Texas cattleman issued the following statement:

"NCBA is deeply concerned that the Bilateral Trade Agreement between Japan and Australia does not call for full tariff elimination. This Bilateral Agreement undermines the long–standing goals and principles that are the base of the Trans–Pacific Partnership (TPP). This development only pushes the high–standing ideals of TPP further out of reach for all countries involved, and it is not a move that U.S. beef producers can support. The TPP has been referred to as a 21st century agreement, but this Bilateral Agreement is from the 20th century playbook and will not serve to foster open trade and certainly will not benefit consumers and producers globally."

Cattle Leader Says Deal Undermines U.S. Beef

By Julie Harker, Brownfield Ag News, 04/11/14—
A member of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association board of directors from Missouri says the Japan/Australia trade deal seeks to undermine U.S. trade in the Trans Pacific Partnership which is under negotiation.

Chuck Massengill of Missouri says the U.S. is looking for ZERO tariffs for beef trade with Japan, "We're looking for zero. We're not looking for kind of close to zero or something less painful than we have now."

The deal with Japan will reduce the current 38–and–a–half percent tariff on Australian beef to 19–and–a–half percent in 18 years. Chilled beef from Australia going into Japan will be levied at 23.5 percent.

The agreement with Australia set a precedent for Japan to negotiate with the U.S. on sensitive items like beef, according to Kent Bacus, with the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

"I hope that our negotiators are a little more successful, because deal that was struck with Australia is not even close to anything that would be acceptable to us," said Bacus on Friday, during an interview with Brownfield Ag News.

But, Massengill tells Brownfield, Australian beef does not come close to what U.S. beef offers to consumers, "Australian grass–fed, or short fed beef, does not anywhere compare to the U.S. grain fed beef (which is) just a standard of quality all over the world. So, we certainly we don't want to be brought in and held to the same standards as what the Australians trade for."

Global Livestock News

USDA Helps Open and Expand Export Markets for U.S. Agriculture through 2014 Farm Bill Programs

USDA News Release, 04/16/14—2014 Funding Supports More than 60 Organizations; Applications Now Available for 2015 Export Development Programs: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) awarded funding to more than 60 U.S. agricultural organizations to help expand commercial export markets for American products. The funding was made available through the 2014 Farm Bill. USDA will begin accepting applications for 2015 export development program funding on April 17, 2014.

"Now that Congress has passed the Farm Bill, USDA is moving quickly to implement our trade promotion programs to help open and expand opportunities for farmers, ranchers, and small businesses and build on the past five years of record agricultural exports," said Vilsack. "These programs are an important investment in rural America. Every dollar we invest in trade promotion provides $35 in economic benefits."

Through the Market Access Program (MAP), FAS partners with U.S. agricultural trade associations, cooperatives, state regional trade groups and small businesses to share the costs of overseas marketing and promotional activities that help build commercial export markets for U.S. agricultural products and commodities. The program, which focuses on consumer promotion, including brand promotion for small companies and cooperatives, is used extensively by organizations promoting fruits, vegetables, nuts, processed products, and bulk and intermediate commodities. Through MAP, FAS will provide $171.8 million to 62 nonprofit organizations and cooperatives. Participants contribute an average 171–percent match for generic marketing and promotion activities and a dollar–for–dollar match for promotion of branded products by small businesses and cooperatives.

The Foreign Market Development (FMD) Program focuses on trade servicing and trade capacity building by helping to create, expand and maintain long–term export markets for U.S. agricultural products. Under FMD, FAS will allocate $24.6 million to 22 trade organizations that represent U.S. agricultural producers. FAS partners with U.S. agricultural producers and processors, who are represented by non–profit commodity or trade associations called cooperators. The organizations, which on average contribute nearly triple the amount they receive in federal resources, will conduct activities that help maintain or increase the demand for U.S. agricultural commodities oversea.

Sign-Up Begins Today (April 15) for USDA Disaster Assistance Programs Restored by Farm Bill

USDA News Release, 04/15/14—More than 2,000 Farm Service Agency Offices Across the Country Stand Ready to Assist: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that starting today, eligible farmers and ranchers can sign up for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) disaster assistance programs restored by passage of the 2014 Farm Bill.

"We implemented these programs in record time and kept our commitment to begin sign-up today," said Agriculture Secretary Vilsack. "To ensure enrollment goes as smoothly as possible, dedicated staff in over 2,000 Farm Service Agency offices across the country are doing everything necessary to help producers that have suffered through two and a half difficult years with no assistance because these programs were awaiting Congressional action."

Depending on the size and type of farm or ranch operation, eligible producers can enroll in one of four programs administered by the Farm Service Agency. The Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP), and the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) will provide payments to eligible producers for livestock deaths and grazing losses that have occurred since the expiration of the livestock disaster assistance programs in 2011, and including calendar years 2012, 2013, and 2014. The Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) provides emergency assistance to eligible producers of livestock, honeybees and farm-raised fish that have suffered losses because of disease, severe weather, blizzards and wildfires.

NLPA News Brief

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