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OSU Extension BEEF Team

BEEF Cattle questions may be directed to the OSU Extension BEEF Team through Stephen Boyles or Stan Smith, Editor

You may subscribe to the weekly Ohio BEEF Cattle letter by sending an e-mail to smith.263@osu.edu

Previous issues of the BEEF Cattle letter

Issue # 695

July 14, 2010

Is the Glass Half-full or Half-empty? - John F. Grimes, Extension Educator, Highland County, Ohio Valley EERA

Governor Ted Strickland recently announced that an agreement has been reached between Ohio agriculture leaders and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). As a result, HSUS agreed to drop their ballot initiative for 2010 that they had been in the process of getting placed on the November ballot. The proposed HSUS ballot initiative was requesting voters to approve specific language that would have established specific criteria on how certain species housed and managed their animals.

The recently announced agreement does contain some very specific guidelines that will impact animal agriculture in Ohio for years to come. While we do not have the space here to cover all of the details of the agreement, here are some of the key principals of the agreement:

1. Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) will issue a statement in support of the mission and purpose of the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board (OLCSB) and will engage and work with the Board. Organizations representing Ohioans for Livestock Care and the HSUS will examine and jointly fund independent research projects and studies to identify best practices and to work for the highest farm animal care and welfare standards.

2. Recommendations will be made to the OLCSB for current hog producers to phase out the use of gestation stalls by December 31, 2025. After December 31, 2010, any new facilities must utilize alternative sow housing (not gestation stalls).

3. Recommendations will be made to the OLCSB to adopt the American Veal Association 2007 agreement to transition to group housing for veal calves by 2017.

4. Recommendations will be made to the OLCSB to adopt standards to instruct the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) to deny permits of new egg facility applicants, based on current permitting standards that call for the use of battery cages.

This agreement has resulted in passionate opinions being expressed from individuals and groups with wide-ranging interests. Many view it as a "win" for agriculture because the proposed ballot initiative was stopped thus saving the agriculture industry from investing millions of dollars in another costly campaign, a longer time frame was established to implement these housing changes when compared to other states, and HSUS is required to jointly fund research with the livestock commodity groups that is mutually agreed upon to examine farm animal care and welfare standards. I believe the passage of Issue 2 in Ohio last fall had a large influence on the adoption of this agreement. I am sure that HSUS was much more willing to negotiate an agreement knowing that 64% of the voters and 87 out of 88 counties approved Issue 2.

Not everyone has viewed the agreement as positively as stated above. Many believe that the industry helped to pass Issue 2 in 2009 and we could have defeated the HSUS initiative this fall. Other negative sentiments expressed concern that we allowed HSUS to impact the responsibility of the OLCSB by determining housing criteria before the Board could debate the issue. Others just don't like the "taste" of compromise with a group that has fought against the interests of animal agriculture.

To be honest, I fully understand both sides of the argument and have felt positive and negative feelings about the agreement since it was announced. As a livestock producer, I believe in doing everything possible to insure that we are producing a safe and wholesome food product for the public. Extension has historically conducted educational programs such as Quality Assurance training and other species-specific topics to lay a solid foundation for youth and adult producers that will better equip them to implement recommended practices to promote animal welfare and productivity.

However, I have an inherent mistrust of any group that has an expressed pro-vegetarian agenda to provide animal agriculture with sound recommendations that will keep it a viable industry that can keep a growing world population fed. Do you believe the Democratic National Committee would solicit political strategy advice for the next Presidential election from Rush Limbaugh? I believe that the land-grant university research system is still the best option to provide unbiased, science-based recommendations in the areas of animal welfare and efficient food production. The OLCSB can use this research-based information to formulate a sound animal welfare plan for Ohio's livestock industry in the years to come.

However, I believe that many are missing the bigger picture here. I think that anyone who believes that those individuals involved in food production (animal, grain, and others) will be able to use production systems that suit their own needs without input from outside interests are in for a rude awakening. The free market system will ultimately have a significant voice in how our farm animals are managed. We are already seeing early indications that the food industry is starting to dictate on-farm production practices. A certain national restaurant chain openly brags about the integrity of their food with ingredients raised with respect for the animals, the environment, and the farmer. Other chains are requiring their suppliers to raise animals that meet their company's specific standards. We have a better informed clientele thanks to modern technology although I'm not sure Twitter applies here! The bottom line is that our clientele wants to know more about the food we are producing. If you are not willing to produce a product that meets specific demands, you will certainly be facing the prospects of fewer buyers and probably price discounts for your commodity.

The effects of this historic Ohio agreement will not be fully understood for years to come. Some currently view it as a blessing while others will view it as a "deal with the devil." Eventually we will figure out whether the glass is half-full or half-empty.

Forage Focus: Feeding Late Cut Infected Fescue Hay - Chris Penrose, ANR Educator, OSU Extension, Morgan County

This year much of our first cutting hay was made much later than usual. Many of us made a lot of hay that was overmature and loaded with endophyte infected fescue. Will this be a problem with our cattle this winter? Unfortunately, most of the endophyte accumulates in the stem and seed heads, elevating the concentrations in our hay. Are there some things we can do to reduce the effects if we suspect a problem? Fortunately we have a couple things going for us. First, feeding in cold weather will reduce the problems with cattle because one of the results of the endophyte on cattle is elevated body temperatures. Next, in my area of Ohio, it has been an excellent year for clover, which mixed in the sward with infected fescue, will reduce the concentrations of the endophyte in the hay. Finally, I have seen some fescue cut so late, that much of the seed has already dropped to the ground, again reducing the concentrations in the hay.

If we think we could have a problem this winter, the best solution will be mixing in other feed. If you have other hay that is free of infected fescue, mix it in the ration. Grain is also an excellent option to dilute the effects of the endophyte. I will feed up to 1/2% of my cows body weight with corn during the winter to reduce the effects of the endophyte and improve/maintain body condition during late pregnancy. Finally, consider stockpiling fescue for winter grazing. As temperatures cool in the fall and we have freezing temperatures, the sugar content increases, improving palatability. Also, endophyte levels drop. Research conducted at the University of Missouri, indicates that endophyte levels drop with cold weather to a point in January that they will not cause problems. On my farm, I feed cattle hay earlier in the winter and put cattle on stockpiled fescue in the late winter with a little corn and a good mineral ration. They not only improve body condition, but they have a clean, mud free pasture to calve on.

I do not expect late cut infected fescue to be a major problem unless first cut hay is usually made prior to heading out. If you do expect a problem, diluting the effects is a good option.

Ohio Department of Agriculture Finds Bovine Tuberculosis in Paulding County Herd - ODA press release, July 7, 2010

Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Robert Boggs today announces that preliminary tests performed by the department's Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory revealed a positive result for bovine tuberculosis in a Paulding County dairy herd. There is no known human illness associated with this occurrence.

The herd was found positive after routine tuberculosis testing by the department. The herd was depopulated, and the department is currently conducting a trace-in and trace-out investigation to determine if other livestock may be affected.

"We are currently working with our state and federal partners on this matter to take the necessary steps to identify the origin of the affected cattle," said Boggs. "This is yet another example of how the Ohio Department of Agriculture works daily to assure the safety of Ohio consumers and livestock."

Tuberculosis is a disease caused by bacteria which affects the respiratory system. Bovine tuberculosis, also known as Cattle TB, is an infectious form of tuberculosis as it infects most warm-blooded animals, including humans. It can manifest in livestock as a chronic, debilitating disease, and it may take years to develop bovine tuberculosis lesions in the lungs.

Airborne exposure from coughing and sneezing is considered to be the most frequent way in which bovine tuberculosis is spread, but it can also occur through consumption of contaminated water, feed or unpasteurized milk.

EDITOR's NOTE: For more information regarding Cattle TB, and also bio-security precautions on your farm, visit these links: Ohio Department of Agriculture's Animal Industry website: http://www.agri.ohio.gov/divs/ai/ai.aspx#tog and also, Dr. Shulaw's article on the benefits of animal health published in issue # 691 of this letter on June 16, 2010 which includes additional web links.

Animals in Public Settings: Our Responsibilities - Dr. Bill Shulaw, OSU Extension Beef & Sheep Veterinarian

Schools are out and summer is upon us. Some grazing groups are hosting pasture walks, and farmers are hosting tours to help acquaint non-agricultural people with farming methods and livestock rearing. These are wonderful educational activities and should be encouraged. However, a recently published article describing an outbreak of cryptosporidiosis in people visiting an educational exhibit housing animals should remind us of the need for precautions to prevent exposure to germs that are relatively common in animals and which can cause disease in people.

The article mentioned the apparent ineffectiveness of alcohol-based hand gels in preventing human illness in this outbreak and referenced additional reports of human disease outbreaks associated with animals where a similar conclusion was supported. Although they are very convenient to use, it is now pretty clear that these sanitizing gels may be inadequate if the hands are visibly dirty, contaminated by manure, or if they are contaminated by certain kinds of germs that are not reliably killed by these gels. THOROUGH washing with soap and water is preferred in these cases. Indeed, that has been the recommendation for health care professionals in the human health field for some time.

Some animal-associated disease outbreaks have occurred when people only had contact with contaminated surfaces as opposed to animals themselves, and some people have gotten sick after washing their hands, but drying them on their clothes because no way to dry them was provided. In one outbreak involving high school aged youth, people who washed their hands, but then took off their plastic boots AFTER washing, became ill. Such things as baby stroller wheels can become contaminated and take germs home for later contact. If food is to be available at an event where animals are present, it should be prepared and served in an area that is not likely to become contaminated by airborne dusts or particles from animal areas, and people should be given adequate encouragement and opportunities for proper hand washing and drying, or hand sanitizing, before eating.

Recently the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV) has updated their "Compendium of Measures to Prevent Disease Associated with Animals in Public Settings, 2009." At their web site you will find the complete Compendium, a User Guide, and two posters that can be used with animals in public settings. The User Guide is two pages long and nicely summarizes the key points in the Compendium. Among the things we have learned from the last fifteen or more years and summarized in the User Guide are: Risk factors associated with becoming ill after visiting an animal contact venue include:

1. Not adequately washing hands was by far the most common factor. Inadequate hand washing included:
a. Hand washing facilities not configured for effective use by children
b. Lack of running water
c. Lack of soap or paper towels
d. People drying hands on their clothes
e. Removing dirty coveralls and boots after washing hands
f. Lack of good signs reminding visitors to wash their hands upon leaving the animal contact area and guiding them on proper hand washing techniques

2. Having direct animal contact

3. Direct contact with animal bedding, sawdust, shavings, or barriers

4. Feeding animals

5. Getting visible manure on hands

6. Lack of areas for eating and drinking separate from the animal contact areas

The Compendium provides background information and some very useful advice on locating hand washing or sanitizing stations and signage. The NASPHV web site provides some downloadable signs that farmers can post to help educate and remind visitors about proper hygiene. The User Guide notes that: "Children have little knowledge of the risks, are more likely to come into close contact with the animals, are more likely to put their hands (or other contaminated items) into their mouths, and are less likely to wash their hands properly. If parents do not closely supervise their child [and hand washing], the child is much more likely to ingest organisms."

Educational farm activities and exhibitions are important ways of informing our non-agricultural neighbors about farm life and animal husbandry. It is essential that we become knowledgeable about the risks for disease and injury associated with animals and be able to explain risk reduction measures to our guests.

Recent publications relevant to this article: 1) McGuigan CC et al. Cryptosporidiosis associated with wildlife center, Scotland. Emerg Infect Dis. 2010 May;16(5):895-6. 2) Hedican E et al. Salmonellosis Outbreak Due to Chicken Contact Leading to a Foodborne Outbreak Associated with Infected Delicatessen Workers. Foodborne Pathog Dis. 2010 May 15. 3) Kiang KM et al. Recurrent outbreaks of cryptosporidiosis associated with calves among students at an educational farm programme, Minnesota, 2003. Epidemiol Infect. 2006 Aug;134(4):878-86. 4) Smith KE et al. Outbreaks of enteric infections caused by multiple pathogens associated with calves at a farm day camp. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2004 Dec;23(12):1098-104.

National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians website: http://www.nasphv.org/documentsCompendiumAnimals.html

Monthly Market Profile: The Beef Demand Drum Beat - Nevil Speer, Professor, Animal Science, Western Kentucky University

Mid-year always serves as an appropriate time to reflect while looking ahead to the remainder of the year. That said, January's Monthly Market Profile began with a proclamation of my favorite presentation slide about the general shape of the economy: "We're in a dark wood and the way is not straight." This year would be characterized by uncertainty: the "overarching theme in 2010 is resilience - we're in the hedge rows fighting our way out to some open ground."

However, the turn of the year provided some hope for better days: first, the trough of the recession appeared to be past and second, beef supply would become relatively tight in the coming months. Those dynamics played out during the first half of the year. Producers have been the benefactor of surging cattle prices in recent months (see graph below). Most importantly, that's boosted topline growth and allowed revenue trends to reverse direction from 2009's downturn - the first six months of 2010 has feedyards approximately one-billion dollars ahead of last year (see graph below). Much of that revenue stream has benefitted the cow/calf and stocker segments - prosperity has been plowed back into feeder cattle purchases (given July's corn market surge that's made some operators cringe). Meanwhile, for the first time in several years cattle feeders have actually experienced some black in on their closeouts.

Now the question becomes about the remainder of the year . . . will the market find renewed support and livestock producers continued prosperity? Amidst that theme January's MMP also noted that, "2010 is very critical for the beef industry and finds itself at an inflection point. There remain lots of questions about potential drivers of change and factors which might jeopardize sustainable business operations in the year(s) to come." The hope being some clarity about the economy's overall direction and beef's subsequent fortunes would evolve during the past six months. That's not been the case; the economy continues to churn ambiguous signals.

While the market's taken a favorable turn during the first half of 2010 there's likely some tough work ahead. Overwhelmingly, the most important factor remains the long-term foundation for beef demand. That aspect revolves around consumer behavior in the months and years ahead. Unfortunately, headwinds are lurking - there's still work ahead. The latter half of June brought about a rash of bad news. Consumer confidence plunged during the month; clearly, the public remains concerned about the employment market and fewer individuals expect the economy to improve in the foreseeable future. Such attitudes lead to reduced spending and increased prudence about home finances.

Perhaps most importantly the economy has witnessed a new trend in terms of personal savings: the new normal likely includes a consumer who continues to deleverage his/her personal balance sheet. Economic growth in such a scenario won't translate into direct new spending - part of the growth will be diverted to savings. Booz and Co. (Strategy + Business, 2010) define it this way:

A new frugality, characterized by a strong value consciousness that dictates trade-offs in price, brand, and convenience, has become the dominant mind-set among consumers in the United States-and probably in other wealthy countries as well. Two-thirds of American shoppers are cutting coupons more frequently, buying low price over convenience, and emphasizing saving over spending…These trends are not going to change, no matter the pace of economic change . . . Given the fundamental shifts in consumer behavior, consumer marketers and retailers-across categories as varied as food and beverage, home improvement, consumer electronics, and apparel-should be changing their product assortments, pricing strategies, advertising, and promotions.

Consumer spending pulled the economy out of the last recession - largely fueled by low interest rates and rising real estate values - but this time is different. Current economic growth appears to be characterized as a jobless recovery thereby limiting household income and potential resurgence in beef demand. That's neither new nor original but overwhelmingly important (a vast understatement).

Several months ago I included some discussion about the cowherd. The nine-month culling rate has steadily increased in recent years and most recently exceeded 8% for the first time since the 1996 / 1997 liquidation. (see third graph below); that's equivalent to approximately 2.71 million cows versus a five-year average of 2.31 million cows. July will include several significant inventory reports that need to be monitored closely from the standpoint of the cowherd. First, the cattle-on-feed report will include a breakout of on-feed inventories by class - most notably, percentage of the total mix comprised by heifers and provide some indication about this spring's producer sentiment about breeding heifers for next year's calf crop versus selling them as feeders. Last month's placement surge was likely comprised of a large percentage of heifers. Second, the summer cattle inventory report will impart a renewed snapshot of the U.S. cowherd and replacement females. In combination, the reports offer some insight into the mindset of cow/calf producers and potential for further inventory decline out in the country.

Price Summary


Week Ending:

7/9/10 7/2/10 6/25/10 6/18/10 6/11/10
Slaughter Steers ($/cwt) 92.75 91.20 90.99 91.03 92.42
Choice Cutout ($/cwt) 155.14 155.32 154.50 153.70 156.70
Select Cutout ($/cwt) 146.62 146.60 146.25 146.17 148.28
Hide and Offall ($/cwt) 10.78 10.84 10.64 10.65 10.48
USDA Slaughter Weights (lb) 1264 1261 1256 1254 1251
USDA Steer Carcass Weights (lb) 824 820 818 817 810
CME Feeder Cattle Index ($/cwt) 113.94 112.32 111.53 109.75 108.16
Cow Cutout ($/cwt) 129.11 128.90 127.28 127.01 128.07
Corn (basis Omaha: $/Bu) 3.55 3.48 3.26 3.46 3.35
Cattle Harvest (000 head) 598 664 667 667 661
Beef Production (million lb) 455.9 505.3 505.2 503.6 496.8

Visit the OSU Beef Team calendar of meetings and upcoming events

BEEF Cattle is a weekly publication of Ohio State University Extension in Fairfield County and the OSU Beef Team. Contributors include members of the Beef Team and other beef cattle specialists and economists from across the U.S.

All educational programs conducted by Ohio State University Extension are available to clientele on a nondiscriminatory basis without regard to race, color, creed, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, gender, age, disability or Vietnam-era veteran status. Keith L. Smith, Associate Vice President for Ag. Admin. and Director, OSU Extension. TDD No. 800-589-8292 (Ohio only) or 614-292-1868

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