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Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University

Livestock Industry Opinions
Dec 2, 2016
Embedded in that question is the need to control costs. However, the fiscal focus points do change, depending on what phase of the beef system with which an individual is involved. These focus points are very evident when the differences between the acre-based cow/ calf producer are compared with the individual animal based point of harvest.


Livestock Industry Opinions
Jun 24, 2016
“What am I doing?” The question came from a perplexed young student who was part of a schoolsponsored field trip to the Dickinson Research Extension Center. These young people were spending the day in an agricultural environment, walking through our pastures and fields, as well as the farm shelter belts planted in the past decades.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Jun 10, 2016
My thoughts included concepts from the UN report. How exposed should we be to the world around us? That is a very serious and deep question. Why? Simply put, our world is a massive living system utilizing all the living to sustain itself. Living is part of that process, a process of recycling and, ultimately, reclaiming.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Apr 8, 2016
The traditional thought process embedded in generations of beef producers would not acknowledge the countercultural role. Cow/ calf production has been anchored by strong ties to the land, which change very slowly. Those who depend on the land approach life in the same way; “stability” would be a good word.


Livestock Industry Opinions
Feb 12, 2016
Two major improvements this year are ease of use and simplicity of use. Some repetition is involved, especially in going back to breeders one previously has purchased bulls from and the progeny performed up to expectation. The information available continues to gain depth and expands through the many breed databases.


Livestock Industry Opinions
Jan 22, 2016
One fairly new addition to sire summaries is a selection index, available from several breed associations. The selection index allows a producer to select bulls based on multiple traits through a single expected progeny difference (EPD) value. The selection index EPD value can meet maternal cow/calf selection or terminal beef production objectives.


Livestock Industry Opinions
Jan 8, 2016
Let’s change the cow size discussion to a bull size discussion. Generally, the cow herd genetics are changed through the purchase of bulls. On average, genes from an individual calf are as follows: Half come from the sire, one-fourth comes from the maternal grandsire and one-fourth comes from the maternal grand dam.

Livestock Industry Opinions
Dec 18, 2015
This concept is an outcome from the question, “When should I calve?” For the past four years, the center has calved on grass. Initially, the May- and June-born calves at the center were weaned at the traditional early November dates, held in confinement pens for up to a month and then put back out on winter paddocks and supplemented.

Livestock Industry Opinions
Nov 13, 2015
Sometimes I think I’m an average beef consumer. But then in the grocery store checkout line, as I put my items on the conveyer I realize my purchases rarely contain any meat. Not unlike many in the ag community, my family has a deepfreeze full of protein, so during normal weeks we’re dipping into that supply daily.


Livestock Industry Opinions
Oct 9, 2015
Recent discussions of costs and output in the beef cow industry need some of that pondering. As I ponder the concepts that make up the statement “Costs are going up, production is stagnant and prices are falling,” lots of thoughts come up. In this ever-increasing cost environment, let’s talk about production.


Livestock Industry Opinions
Sep 25, 2015
I am not referring to the end product but rather to the weaned calf. The cost per pound weaned per exposed cow has jumped 200 percent since the turn of the century. That is not good news. Cost control is critical in every business. If costs are allowed to run out of control, the next step is liquidation.


Livestock Industry Opinions
Sep 25, 2015
Let’s walk down the direct expense side of the numbers. FINBIN reports increases in expenses: feed supplements (protein, vitamins and minerals) up 294 percent; corn silage up 274 percent; alfalfa hay up 140 percent; grass hay up 165 percent; pasture up 200 percent; and other feedstuffs up 154 percent.


Livestock Industry Opinions
Sep 11, 2015
Crops that were not a success went to the cows, or maybe the sheep. Yes, cows and sheep were prevalent, along with hogs and chickens. Today, Roundup herbicide and anhydrous ammonia fertilizer are utilized extensively throughout agriculture, and calves are weighing in at more than 600 pounds after seven months of grazing.


Livestock Industry Opinions
Jul 31, 2015
Every rancher needs to ask three questions: “How many acres does one need?” “What is the stocking rate or carrying capacity of those acres?” and “How many grazing months are available?” The profitability and sustainability of the ranch are embedded in understanding grazing systems and getting the answers correct.


Livestock Industry Opinions
Jul 17, 2015
Pounds, efficiency and quality are three simple words, but in reality, there is nothing simple about understanding these three words. Many producers see understanding pounds as simple: Produce the maximum possible. But living things do not do well at the extremes, so maximum brings additional problems.


Livestock Industry Opinions
Jun 26, 2015
Growing up on a farm or ranch seemed to be the norm and something everyone did. At least that was the thinking for all those kids who grew up in the middle of the last century. Granted, not everyone wanted to stay on the home place, but regardless of where life led, the memories of those carefree days are real.


Livestock Industry Opinions
Mar 6, 2015
Often enough taxpayers who are audited in connection with their farming or livestock activities are questioned on the issue known in the tax law as the “material participation test.” Under this legal test, you are permitted to deduct losses against outside salary and wages only if, among other things, you “materially participate” in the activity.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Mar 6, 2015
Often enough taxpayers who are audited in connection with their farming or livestock activities are questioned on the issue known in the tax law as the “material participation test.” Under this legal test, you are permitted to deduct losses against outside salary and wages only if, among other things, you “materially participate” in the activity.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Feb 13, 2015
Alfalfa is an excellent choice to feed as a supplement to beef cows that are later in their pregnancy. Seldom do we think of hay as being a supplement, but the right high quality forage, such as alfalfa, certainly can be fed as a supplement to the lower quality forages generally available for the main ration of a beef cow.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Feb 13, 2015
Alfalfa is an excellent choice to feed as a supplement to beef cows that are later in their pregnancy. Seldom do we think of hay as being a supplement, but the right high quality forage, such as alfalfa, certainly can be fed as a supplement to the lower quality forages generally available for the main ration of a beef cow.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Jan 23, 2015
Dollars are the common denominator. Why be in the beef business without a return to labor and management? With current demand for replacement cattle indicative of a positive industry stance to maintaining and expanding the beef business, now is a good time to ponder some fundamental costs of the business.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Jan 23, 2015
Dollars are the common denominator. Why be in the beef business without a return to labor and management? With current demand for replacement cattle indicative of a positive industry stance to maintaining and expanding the beef business, now is a good time to ponder some fundamental costs of the business.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Dec 29, 2014
At the center, values for the current bulls are entered into a simple spreadsheet to allow for easy tracking. The breeding inventory and registration numbers from this past breeding season included five bulls. Their year of birth and registration numbers are: 2013-born bulls, 2790504, 2790544, 2800373 and 2800393; and 2012-born bull, 2669482.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Nov 14, 2014
Even though cow numbers are down, keeping cows that are not likely to produce a worthy calf next year is fruitless. Culling really is a process of drawing a line in the sand, and those cows that cannot cross the line are sent to market. At the Dickinson Research Extension Center, the line is a combination of managerial chute-side judgments and data.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Sep 26, 2014
That is a difficult question producers must answer. Just how many more is not an easy number to grasp because most beef operations actually try to keep their carrying capacity or stocking rates stable. Stocking rate, or the cow/calf pairs that inhabit the ranch, are set based on the carrying capacity of the particular type of land.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Jul 25, 2014
For those who do math, what is $713 minus $537? The answer is $176. Good numbers, especially for the cow/calf producer because the $713 indicates the amount of cash that cows have been able to generate after adjusting for replacements. The $537 indicates the recent costs to keep a cow for the year.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Jun 13, 2014
At the same time, the news media was discussing the need for grass-fed beef. This probably was the source of the question and, if one ponders, one can see why future generations will get confused. As producers, the word beef conjures up images of cattle and associated production and marketing scenarios.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Apr 18, 2014
If the weather can impact calving, the phone will ring and people will want to know how calving is going. For years, I was able to detail the daily struggles and offer words of encouragement. Today, the conversation concerns the needs of others because the Dickinson Research Extension Center will not start calving until May 10.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Mar 21, 2014
Nutritionally, the calf is actively, maybe even aggressively, growing in utero while absorbing the nutrition the cow is consuming and preparing for those first moments of daylight. That daylight will happen when the pregnancy terminates with parturition and, I hope, a live, nursing calf will greet the producer in the near future.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Mar 7, 2014
The Dickinson Research Extension Center is using purebred Simmentals, so we would click on “Purebred Simmentals” to see the 2014 purebred Simmental percentile table, then print the table. The table for other breeds will be about the same but may have different labeling on their respective websites and tables.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Jan 17, 2014
Given the recent cold wave across the country, walking across cold snow is notable. There are several types of snow. The fashionable snowflake is poetic, so we smile at the beauty, shape and the mild weather required to gently layer the land. Soon to follow is Jack Frost, those beautiful ice crystals on a cool but not cold morning.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Dec 27, 2013
Having had to break into the office door because the lock was frozen shut reminded me that not all things work well in the cold. Those who have experienced cold firsthand do not need to be reminded. For others who can skirt the harshness of winter, in this case early winter, one only needs to take a short walk to be reminded.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Nov 8, 2013
An important consideration in audits is Factor No. 4 of the IRS Regulations. This factor is called, “Expectation That Assets Will Appreciate in Value.” The term “profit” in IRS Regulations encompasses appreciation in the value of assets such as land and/or livestock used in the activity, and was discussed in an early case, Engdahl v.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Oct 25, 2013
Properly managed forage supplies have the potential to increase rib-eye area in long yearling steers by 25 percent. Occasionally, data comes across the desk that causes one to sit back and say: Wow, could you repeat that? Yes, properly managed forage supplies have the potential to increase rib-eye area in grass steers by 25 percent.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Aug 23, 2013
Perhaps one is somewhat handicapped in the beef business without a marketing background. Marketing information is continuous and certainly needed. There are processes that allow producers to cover market risk, and given the center’s recent $300 losses in feeding cattle, one comes to appreciate those risk processes.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Jun 21, 2013
The same as having cardiac pads available in human environments, cattle operations should have quick access to a veterinarian for consultation and care in this situation. The two probable causes that came to mind were ketosis (sometimes confused with milk fever at calving) and hypomagnesaemia tetany (commonly called grass tetany or grass staggers).
Livestock Industry Opinions
May 24, 2013
The flashback put me in the seat of an International 806 tractor with no cab, pulling a John Deere combine with a long-forgotten model number. The field was an average field of barley with the windrows running west to east. A strong wind was blowing from the west and the day was a typical hot, late-afternoon harvest day.
Livestock Industry Opinions
May 10, 2013
Missed breeding opportunities are expensive because the next opportunity only comes around again in three weeks. Bulls need to have structural soundness and physical stamina to breed and conceive calves on a daily basis throughout the breeding season. No excuses need be made for questionable bulls.
Livestock Industry Opinions
May 3, 2013
The contrast was stark, but there was a beautiful point. Life survives. In the world of beef production, baby calves need to survive inclement weather with minimal intervention. The desire to survive, seek that first drink and dry place to bed down, and to bond quickly with mother are desires that come from genes that kick in at birth.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Apr 26, 2013
We know that calf death will occur. However, that does not mean we accept the death of a calf. Instead, we see it as a challenge to our management abilities. The recent cold spells and spring snows are a challenge for those who chose to have their cows calve early or, for all practical purposes, at the traditional calving time.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Apr 12, 2013
Regardless of current net returns, the goal of increasing net returns in the cattle operation is always commendable. For those who are struggling with negative net returns, the increase should move the cow/calf operation in a positive direction and provide enough additional dollars to remain in business.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Jan 4, 2013
As far as the heifers go, we have a 96 percent pregnancy rate, but only 85 percent are predicted to calve by June 15. Some would say feelings have limited value when culling cows or replacement heifers. However, there always is that gut twinge when sending a well-grown, well-haired heifer to market.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Dec 28, 2012
The bull’s genes were measured and presented as data at the time of sale. By utilizing that data, bulls may be sorted and selected with considerable accuracy. However, the data does not stop with the purchase of the bull. Breed associations constantly are updating their databases and fine-tuning the expected prog eny.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Oct 12, 2012
For more than 20 years of the CHAPS program, producers have encountered many challenges in the beef business. If the word “optimistic” is correct, the most optimistic year resulted in replacing cattle at more than 21 percent of the herd, while more conservative times are reflected in a low replacement rate of just less than 15 percent.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Oct 5, 2012
However, here is something to keep in mind: If a typical beef producer marketed all the cattle last week that normally would be sold off the operation, approximately 50 percent of the check would be from the value of steer calves, 30 percent from the value of heifer calves, and 20 percent from the value of market cows and bulls.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Jun 8, 2012
In recent years, much discussion has been held regarding grass and beef production. The concept of integrating the two production activities seems like a no-brainer. If it was just the cows visiting with each other, that would be true. However, it is inevitable that people will get in the mix and that’s when the no-brainer starts getting complicated.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Jun 1, 2012
“Those cows can’t catch me now that I don’t have all those heavy coveralls on!” Again, all is good. It has been just more than a year since the Dickinson Research Extension Center initially decided to furlough the bulls for a month by changing bull turnout from early and mid- June to the second week of July.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Feb 10, 2012
In other words, large, medium and small types tend to have the same working parts and, for all practical considerations, in the same proportion as all members of the herd. That being said, the obvious constraints of larger or smaller cattle rest more with the management of the producer’s system than the actual size of the cattle.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Jan 27, 2012
However, one thing about models is that, as new data comes in, the model simply repredicts. If the projections based on various assumptions do not hold true, then the assumptions can be changed and new projections created. This process really has no end and actually creates a lot of news and information that, in turn, drives managerial decisions.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Jul 1, 2011
The future of beef starts with beef systems that generate a per-cow gross margin of $600 and hold direct costs to less than $400 and overhead to less than $100 per cow. After all, the future is what we really desire to know. Unfortunately, much of the future remains hidden behind a wall that we are not given privilege to peek behind.
Jan 21, 2011
One fundamental point often is overlooked among all the charts, trends and rhetoric about the beef business. The beef business does not exist without the business of the cow. The cow business is the foundation of the beef business. Without cows, there is no beef or beef business.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Dec 3, 2010
The Dickinson Research Extension Center utilizes many bulls and always evaluates bulls at the time of purchase and periodically throughout their life span. Perhaps the most challenging evaluation is to ask if the bulls meet the current objectives of the breeding program or expected market for the calves.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Nov 12, 2010
The call came late in the day after most people had left the office. Do you know who the calf carrying the electronic identification number 123123- 123123123 is? Would you have the calf in your database? These questions are asked often and involve the process of verifying a calf and crosschecking the database.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Nov 5, 2010
A common marketing claim is the source and age verification of calves. As producers gather cattle to go to market, they have the option to provide documentation to a third-party verifier that their calves are eligible to be source and age verified. Seems simple, and many producers are offering their calves as sourced and aged.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Sep 3, 2010
If one stands by the fence and discusses calving, most producers are sympathetic to the late- calving cow. At least she has a live calf, is the general response. That is true, but the challenge is to move beyond acceptance and perhaps refocus and rethink this subtle, but real acceptance of late-calving cows.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Jun 18, 2010
Weaning weight has moved up and down through the years, which is more than likely due to environmental factors. However, the most recent data gathered by the North Dakota Beef Cattle Improvement Associations Cow Herd Appraisal Performance System (CHAPS) program indicates a trend of increased 205-day calf weaning weight.
Livestock Industry Opinions
May 15, 2010
Several sets of cows have gone to cool-season grass. In fact, almost all the cows that are keepers at the center are on grass. Latercalving cows will sell at a pair sale in mid-May. This leaves cows that can maintain an early calving date within the herds expected calving season, which means pounds and dollars.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Feb 12, 2010
That is a very relevant point. The art of livestock selection started centuries ago when producers realized that if they kept back a particular animal, the progeny of that animal tended to look like that animal. If both the sire and dam of the progeny were of a desirable type, then the offspring tended to be even more desirable.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Aug 21, 2009
In food production, things are never the same because many variables come into play on a daily basis. The other day I noticed the raspberry bushes were full of raspberries. Most would say that they are supposed to be. However, the real answer is that the raspberries are not supposed to be there because the birds always eat them.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Aug 14, 2009
Four things beef producers might want to think about are food safety, seamless regionalized calf-tofeedlot health connectivity, implementation of improved RFID (radio frequency identification) technology, and value capture for the producer. Realized or not, these four points have a significant impact on the beef industry.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Jul 7, 2009
The first set of cows averaged just more than 1,400 pounds at spring turnout on crested wheatgrass. They are part of a study involving cropping rotations and range systems harvested by grazing cow/calf pairs and early weaned calves. The second set of cows averaged 1,060 pounds when turned on crested wheatgrass this spring.
Livestock Industry Opinions
May 15, 2009
North Dakota Beef Cattle Improvement Association (NDBCIA) members have recorded an average daily gain of 2.52 pounds for calves on summer pasture. This means the 70,000 calves measured through NDBCIAs Cow Herd Appraisal Performance Software (CHAPS) program cumulatively gain on a daily basis 176,400 pounds, 1,764 hundredweight, or roughly 88 tons.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Apr 17, 2009
The other day was difficult. The discussion centered on the horse industry as the Dickinson Research Extension Center was reviewing program costs. As the horse program was discussed, the updated costs were noted. Based on a five-year average, the annual cost (direct and overhead expenses) for maintaining a producing mare and nursing foal was $764.
Mar 6, 2009
There was a pleasant view as I went to the auction barn the other day. The semitrailer truck was sitting in the parking lot with a load of alfalfa hay. Under many situations, no one would really notice, but the long, drawn-out winter has many producers checking their hay inventory as frequently as the weather forecast.
Feb 13, 2009
A troubling event occurred this past week at an auction barn. There was a feeling of ?not wanting,? but also a feeling of ?that is the way it is.? The auction barn is known as a social center and a place to sell cattle. People share stories and experiences that go along with an industry that is speckled with considerable individualism.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Jan 23, 2009
Last week, the report card on bull S48 was to keep him for the 2009 breeding season. This periodic review is used on all bulls at the time of purchase and periodically throughout a bulls life. The first evaluation of older bulls is for soundness, because putting resources into a bull that has limited breeding capacity is impractical.
Jan 16, 2009
The coffee chat is filled with many opinions about how to buy bulls. The art of buying a bull requires an open mind, homework, and a vision for the future of a producer?s cowherd. For example, we turn to the nutritionists if we want to get a better understanding on how cattle can utilize peas in rations.
Livestock Industry Opinions
Dec 30, 2008
The report from the human side of the chute was not very good. We had 32 open heifers that were pastured together and exposed to one bull. The bull had passed the breeding soundness exam. He was at least interested in the heifers at the time of turnout. Once we had the news, the bull was brought in for a recheck.
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Sep 5, 2008
Wintering cattle requires feed. The current tight inventories of feed suggest that cow culling should be deep. Yet, once the culling is done but the bales still don’t add up, the time is right to contact a good beef cattle nutritionist. The nutritionist can help develop a "least cost" ration. When developing the least-cost ration, feedstuffs may need to be purchased. One needs to be careful and review all options. Through the years, most of us have witnessed the detrimental effects of underfeeding or the results of overfeeding. The important point is that the nutrient value of feed is what
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Aug 29, 2008
Pregnancy check now for better management Trucks have been bringing in hay at $5 a loaded mile, so the hay yard is filling up slowly and expensively. The gates and locks have been spruced up. This year, hay values are pricey. As a result, most ranchers are standing at a fork in the road. Do they buy hay or sell cows? Producers need to review all of the options. The preferred alternative is trying to meet the nutritional needs of the cowherd with hay. Hay prices definitely are forcing the review of other feed options. Purchasing feed based on a dollar cost per pound
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Aug 22, 2008
Now that hurts! The hay yard is empty for many producers and the traditional June hay was scarce or nonexistent. As the staple for cattle, the amount of hay one wanted to make has been replaced with the amount of hay needed to sustain the herd. Early indications suggest an upward shift in prices. Last year’s hay was abundant and visible from the road, at least in the case of the Dickinson Research Extension Center. A quick check of the records confirmed that the center purchased 318 tons of hay at an average price of $61.65 per ton. That will change this year. The
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Jul 25, 2008
Cow size—Effects of cow size on pasture management The effect of cow size and expected production from pasture management directly impacts expected outcomes that translate into income. This relationship was discussed in recent BeefTalk articles. A drought, at least in western North Dakota, initiated the discussion. The Dickinson Research Extension Center (DREC) established two different groups of cattle based on body weight, calculating inputs and potential outcomes. The two groups (herds) of cattle were weighed. The first herd had 52 cows that averaged 1,216 pounds (856 to 1,395 pounds) and the second herd was 50 cows that averaged 1,571 pounds (1,350 to 1,935
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Jul 18, 2008
Cow size—calf value The mushroom season this spring was short. The area is still short on feed and the cow size question remains unanswered. Like all discussions, the temptation is to set aside the challenges of yesterday and replace them with immediate thoughts. Unfortunately, questions are not answered, and yesterday’s challenges eventually will become tomorrow’s problems if unanswered. Now is a good time to continue the cow size discussion. The stocking rate question simply will become a question of purchasing hay. The logical approach is twofold. The first approach is trying to meet the immediate needs of the current set of mother cows. The
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
May 23, 2008
Cow size—How much more does the big cow eat? The green forage tends to be seasonal, while the grazing of seeds and dry grass is the non-growing season staple. Regardless of the season, a cow’s nutritional requirements need to be met. The challenge is making sure our production expectations are in tune with what Mother Nature provides. Our pastures and feed piles may be limited as we struggle to balance feed and cattle. When seasons are as now, the lack of rain (or other environmental restraint) highlights the need to plan. The quick and easy answer is to sell cattle. However, the astute
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Dec 20, 2007
Structural problems, poor performance and/or behavior were the reasons for culling three bulls at the Dickinson Research Extension Center the other day. The bulls were sold to two different buyers for a total of $3,831.35. After the trip to town, the bulls weighed 2,095, 2,085 and 2,145 pounds. They had weighed 2,210, and 2,210 and 2,270 pounds walking out of the lot three days earlier. The issue of shrink or fill is real. Given the volume and capacity of these bulls, the 5.5 percent shrink during the marketing process is somewhat typical. (I will save the shrink discussion for another
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Dec 20, 2007
The phone rings. The producer answers and the voice on the other ends says, “We have a question on one of those calves you sold. Could you pull its record? We shipped it yesterday.” This reality check will be said repeatedly as the beef business moves into the future. Individual animal (and producer) accountability is arriving fast and the days of optical illusions may very well end soon. The Dickinson Research Extension Center experienced firsthand the illusions of the beef industry. Recently, the center attempted to source and age verify 21 purchased calves. More than 14 percent of the tags were
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Dec 20, 2007
The annual bull buying season starts—time to bone up on EPDs While the development of expected progeny differences (EPDs) is complicated, the application of EPD numbers to bull-buying techniques is reasonably straightforward and simple. At this time of year, most producers are preparing for the future as they gear up to purchase bulls for their cow herd. These purchases, which start with solid relationships between the seed stock supplier and the commercial beef producer, have a huge impact on the future of the beef business. The livestock periodicals are filled with bull advertisements. The business of selling bulls is very competitive and
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Dec 20, 2007
A review of a good sale catalog The procedure for buying bulls should be fairly methodical. While the process can be as encompassing as one wants, we can not forget that the genes are what is needed for herd improvement. The number of sale catalogs received can be overwhelming, but the future return on the time investment of reviewing catalog information is critical. Looks can be deceiving, so that is why homework is necessary. A good catalog starts out with a friendly welcome and factual information about the sale. This information is fairly common, but certainly is needed. Of critical importance is a
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Dec 20, 2007
Someone you should get to know—your waste management professional Change in the world of livestock is not new and comes in many forms. Today, the most obvious is the little spots that are starting to show up on the hillsides as spring calving gets under way. The spring sun certainly brings a new light to the operations and it doesn’t take much time for the newborn calves to take advantage of the weather. These are good changes because the inventory is growing again. Along with inventory growth comes the opportunity for additional revenue. Great news for producers, but you quickly notice
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Dec 20, 2007
Life does not come easy Perhaps the absence of sunlight may be dragging the day down. However, the knowledge that this will pass and brighter days are ahead certainly should reinforce the positive. Tramping through snow (dearly needed moisture), while attempting to get an assessment of the current calving scenario, is never easy. There are times when reports of twins and triplets certainly boost the available calf numbers, but the loss of any calf is always significant. The greatest impact is standing over a lifeless calf wondering what else could have been done. This business we call the cow business and our
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Dec 20, 2007
In the process of developing the weekly BeefTalk column, new thoughts came to mind. Lots 4425, 5478 and 6270 from the Dickinson Research Extension Center produced sound scientific data. This week’s column summarizes three years of feedlot performance from a set of smaller- framed, crossbred Lowline steers. Lot 4425 arrived Nov. 5, 2004. These 22 head of 2003 spring-born, grass steers (long yearlings) had an average pay weight of 945 pounds and an average frame score of 4.4. The lot averaged 85 days on feed with 2.85 pounds of average daily gain (ADG), a feed efficiency of 7.6 and a harvest
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Dec 20, 2007
May is always a busy time. The fun of the approaching summer, the warm air, occasional rain showers, and cows and calves strolling through the thick, green, cool-season grasses makes one appreciate rural life. At this time of the year, grass and calves grow at astonishing rates. Unfortunately, we all can relate to those days when all the calves didn’t bounce up like they should. After arriving at the pasture, a
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Dec 20, 2007
Cave images just can’t compete with cell phone text  Insight into the cattle industry is keen, but, as a producer, the ability to make use of that insight and convert that understanding to real impact is critical. The American Angus Association sponsored an effort to help categorize the many varied forms of producer managerial thoughts to produce a document that would be an excellent starting point for further discussion and understanding of the business we often simply refer to as “beef.” The initial outcome of that effort was the publication “Priorities First: Identifying Management Priorities in the Commercial Cow-Calf Business.”
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Dec 20, 2007
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
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Dec 20, 2007
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
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Dec 20, 2007
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),
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Dec 20, 2007
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
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Dec 20, 2007
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
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Dec 20, 2007
Is it ever too dry to grow a plant? Now that we’ve had a frost, it’s time to reflect on our previous growing season. With the prices being offered for crops, most producers have to ask themselves if they could have squeezed out a little more production. Ranchers involved in animal production can look over the fence and see what farmers (those more involved in plant production) are up to. The Dickinson Research Extension Center (DREC) used that principle when Roger Ashley, Extension Service agronomist, and Dickinson State University student Wesley Messer investigated the possibility of double-cropping. Ashley and Messer presented their findings
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Dec 20, 2007
Opportunity comes with intensity Many opportunities exist within agriculture. Most are driven by the opportunity to make more money, but some are driven by the opportunity to do something different. In either case, the successful completion of the endeavor is not always positive. Frank Kutka, sustainable agricultural specialist at the North Dakota State University Dickinson Research Extension Center, attended a conference on goat production. Given my background in small ruminants, primarily sheep, it didn’t take long to engage in a good discussion about the conference and the world of smaller ruminants. Having taught the key management principles involved in small-ruminant production, the learning curve
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Dec 20, 2007
The most recent addition to the lineup gets the nod. We all know that in a matter of days, the most recent becomes old. You now can do about anything you want with that small device in the palm of your hand. You can take a small stick device and manipulate the keypad in a way that the world knows who you are, where you are, and what you need. This is common among the new generation. The older generation is quickly getting acclimated. Therein is a great opportunity: new jobs and new expectations. In the beef world, the beef techie soon
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Nov 26, 2007
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
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Nov 12, 2007
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
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Nov 5, 2007
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
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Oct 29, 2007
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
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Sep 3, 2007
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
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Jul 16, 2007
Back to the fungus Reviewing the cow/calf priority list (“Priorities First: Identifying Management Priorities in the Commercial Cow-calf Business”) that was summarized and authored by Tom Field, Ph.D., Fort Collins, CO, it is very obvious that the highest priorities for cow/calf producers are directly related to the purpose of the cow. That purpose, to annually produce a calf that will convert roughage from ruminant forage to nonruminant feed, is a very important part of the food chain. Whether food for other animals or food for humans, the conversion of forage by ruminants to protein for use in nonruminant diets certainly is important.
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Mar 26, 2007
Vaccinate and get ahead of the storm We seem to expect and accept some level of illness from the people we associate with and from the living things that are entrusted to our care. During certain times of the year, there seems to be a marked increase in sickness. Now seems to be one of those times. Blame it on the weather. The “cooping” phenomenon because of the weather causes everyone to remain in fairly close contact. In fact, one has the tendency to ask if anyone actually is feeling well. One of our children noted that a friend had chicken
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Jan 29, 2007
The trick in a good beef-breeding plan is to stack the bull pen full of great EPDs. On most winter nights or even days, most cattle producers do not sit around and ponder the activity of blowfish, sometimes called puffer fish. No, this time of year, cattle producers find themselves paging through bull catalogs and dreaming of the perfect bull. The evening pictures bring about a certain amount of contentment to finish the day. The perusal of the estimated progeny differences (EPDs) rejuvenates some basic math skills, quickly sorting the best to the top. But what about blowfish? Blowfish have the unique
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Dec 4, 2006
  The future of beef—global competitiveness In the world of food production, beef is one piece of a very big picture. Today’s beef production plans need to include the rest of the world, which is very complex and sometimes volatile. Trade across borders means survival. Flynn Adcock and Associates opined in “Consumer Issues and Demand,” published by the American Agricultural Economics Association’s online Choices magazine (www.choicesmagazine.org, Volume 21, No. 3, 2006), that three global forces impacting us are “animal disease outbreaks and discoveries, income growth in developing economies and trade liberalizations.” The faces and expressions of these forces are hard to decipher
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Oct 30, 2006
Do not cut out tags The other day I was visiting with a producer who wanted carcass information on the calves he sold. His frustration was directed at the failure of the system. None of the performance data from his calves was coming back to him. He tagged his calves with electronic identification (EID) tags and followed all the appropriate steps, but nothing happened. The principal reason was the electronic ID tags in his calves had been cut out when the calves arrived at the feed yard. Sometimes the message needs to be very blunt: “Do not cut out electronic identification tags,
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Oct 22, 2006
Attending the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association annual meeting in Fargo, ND, was good. The meeting, as with all meetings, picked up the flavor of the region, a fact of life throughout the world. It seems beef meetings are filled with good humor, with much of it directed at chickens. Unlike many ethnic stories, there is no offense taken to a good chicken joke among the beef folks. In this case, egg laying Ginger was the center of attraction. Ginger starred in the movie “Chicken Run,” a funny movie by Aardman Animations involving a flock of chickens bent on not becoming chicken pie.
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Jul 10, 2006
Around mid-June to early July, Mother Nature usually kicks summer into gear. The first noticeable symptom in the upper Great Plains is an increase in temperature and a decrease in moisture. It’s a thin line in determining if a drought is in progress, or if one is simply experiencing good haying weather. There is a concern surfacing, however, that livestock feed may be in short supply. Panic may be too harsh of a word, but some producers do panic.
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Jun 19, 2006
There is nothing more serious in the cattle business than buying a bull. Much time is spent evaluating available information, such as performance data and pedigree, to assure that the right bull is brought home. Not everyone will use the right information (a personal bias), but when the gavel strikes the podium, the bull has a new owner and home. The process essentially has bonded the bull to the new operation. There is always the need to look over the fence as the bull settles into the new surroundings.
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
May 23, 2005
The beef business could be called a very static business in some respects. Granted, the world of politics certainly keeps life interesting and the daily markets are far from constant. However, in the big picture, individual beef operations do not change much from year to year. The cows usually calve at the same time and the pasture choice seldom
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Apr 18, 2005
The Dickinson Research Extension Center has been actively evaluating the many processes involved in the electronic tracking of cattle. The early prognosis is simple: The industry is not ready for the implementation of a uniform, nationally recognizable numbering system for individual animal identification as called for in the U.S. animal identification plan. This same plan, developed by the national identification development team, also identified the need for a uniform premises identification system. The implementation of the premises allocation process and subsequent utilization of the premises number seems to be on track. The center had excellent
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Mar 14, 2005
The Dickinson Research Extension Center is evaluating the process involved with tracking cattle. The results have not always been positive, but the data collection continues. The effort is important because the beef cattle industry needs information to assist with decisions relative to age and source verification. The data could be important in implementing a tagging system and a mechanism for tracking cattle as they pass through the many different enterprises involved in raising beef cattle. The center has accounted for the location of 89 percent of the CalfAID calves tagged last fall. The remaining calves are slowly being accounted for, but calf
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Feb 28, 2005
"You hold the world in your hands" is an apt description of the beef business. It is evident during the winter beef cattle meeting circuit. There is discussion about tracking cattle, premises-to-premises movement of animals, or going all the way and actually tracking individual animals. The meeting probably will get a little spicy if you add to the discussion the movement of cattle across international borders. I was asked the other day what I think of all this discussion. No quick point came to mind, but I did think of the producers I know and pondered what they must think. The answer
Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Jan 14, 2005
The discussion remains heated on animal identification. As the winter picks up and the meeting season clicks along, a very common request is for more information on what is new in the world of cattle electronic identification. The Dickinson Research Extension Center is deep in the throws of the animal identification issue. The DREC actively was placing electronic IDs (EIDs) in calves this past fall. Currently, the tracing process is getting started and the total results are still in the future. Numerically, the center physically tagged 3,323 calves and 944 cows at 28 different work sites for an average of 152 cattle


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