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OSU Extension BEEF Team
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Previous issues of the BEEF Cattle letter
Issue # 659
November 4, 2009
Agsight: Healthcare's Public Option, Backdoor for More Agricultural Regulation - Nevil Speer, Professor, Animal Science, Western Kentucky University
Drip . . . drip . . . drip: the fall of dropping water wears away the stone. So it goes with shaping public attitude and policy. If you repeat something often enough it must be true (not!), thus politicians are always coached to stay "on message". The constant drumbeat creates foundation for impact. It often appears that some significant precipitous event or incident leads to change. In reality, transformation is more the result of doggedly sustaining a message over time and wearing down your opponent.
That's exactly where agriculture finds itself - under siege from an unrelenting campaign bent on denigrating our mission to feed the world. The battlefront is seemingly mounting across a growing range of issues (more later). And the ranks of insurgency are expanding; some knowledgeable, most emotive - some genuine, many misguided. Worse yet, vilifying food production has become popular sport these days among the main-stream media of late. Dealing with each respective issue is impossible given space limitations here.
What's most important is the over-arching perspective and attitude towards food production among activists. Those enlightened about the ills of agriculture now have traction in agriculture. They're emboldened because of it. That's not surprising. There were some important indicators along the way. For example, Mr. Obama's Time magazine interview (Oct 23, 2008) in which he was quoted as saying:
I was just reading an article in the New York Times by Michael Pollen about food and the fact that our entire agricultural system is built on cheap oil. As a consequence, our agriculture sector actually is contributing more greenhouse gases than our transportation sector. And in the mean time, it's creating monocultures that are vulnerable to national security threats, are now vulnerable to sky-high food prices or crashes in food prices, huge swings in commodity prices, and are partly responsible for the explosion in our healthcare costs because they're contributing to type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease, obesity, all the things that are driving our huge explosion in healthcare costs.
That perspective gained significant direction when Kathleen Merrigan was named as Deputy Ag Secretary, USDA's second-in-command.
Dr. Merrigan most recently served as Director of the Agriculture, Food and Environment program at Tufts University. The program's mission is as follows:
To educate future leaders at the nexus of agriculture, food, and environmental science and policy, and empower them by providing rigorous training, an ethic of social change, and an intellectual community generating visions and models of alternative systems.
The ideology of "social change" and "alternative systems" plays out with endorsements from groups such as Food Democracy Now which included the Deputy Secretary in the "Sustainable Dozen": "A list of progressive, reform-minded candidates . . ." (The ObamaFoodOrama blog, Feb. 23).
This all really matters when you begin to connect the dots. Food Democracy Now is sponsored by Free Range Studios. Free Range Studios was responsible for producing and promoting a very popular internet movie, The Meatrix, on behalf of Sustainable Table. The latter celebrates itself as one which " . . . educates consumers on food-related issues and works to build community through food . . ." Sustainable Table's organizational perspective would have everyone believe that the food industry is defined by draconian "factory farming" such that: "Small family farms have been replaced by huge livestock facilities, where animals suffer horribly, workers are mistreated, the environment is being destroyed, and where rural communities are falling apart." Bottom-line, either you sanction that ideology or you question its validity.
From all appearances the new administration, by naming Merrigan as its Deputy Ag Secretary, identifies with that type of agenda. That's not really anything new; unfortunately, we've accustomed ourselves to that particular genre of opposition.
Now let's go one step further and consider further President Obama's most renowned and avid campaign supporters: Oprah Winfrey. She actively advocates her participation in a 21-day Vegan fast initiated by her association with Kathy Freston (Quantum Wellness). Ms. Winfrey noted, "The goal is to allow the body to rid itself of toxins, but Kathy's thoughts on the 'health, environmental, and spiritual implications of the foods we choose to eat' got my attention too." Get the inference? New enlightenment leads to ability to discern all kinds of personal and global connotations (or lack thereof) for all types of food (e.g. McDonald's hamburgers and bean sprouts) and/or production systems.
Now the final and most important step; this is where it all comes together. Consider USDA's recent announcement that that 2010's annual Outlook Forum theme will be: "Sustainable Agriculture: The Key to Health & Prosperity." What the heck does that mean anyway? I don't think anybody really knows. However, there is one HUGE inference here that makes this alarming. Go back to Mr. Obama's ideology cited from last October's interview in Time: agriculture is " . . . partly responsible for the explosion in our healthcare costs." Let's bring this all full circle. It's one thing to fend off the activists. But it's an entirely different matter when we're staring down the barrel of healthcare regulation. The battlefront has been extended; in fact, now we've got an entirely new theater of operations to fight. Anti-agriculture activists and food police potentially have a new-found venue to unite. That convergence enables them to leverage their ideology and impose new regulation. Agriculture and the entire food industry has as much, if not more, stake in this debate than any other industry!!!
We better get with it.
Managing Dynamic Change in 2010
No one can deny the past two and a half years in the beef cattle business can be characterized as quickly changing and rapidly evolving. Along with rapid change come management issues many have seldom dealt with in the past. As Ohio's cattlemen look to the future, understanding and carefully managing these tumultuous times will be paramount to sustainability within the industry.
With these thoughts in mind and on the heels of the largely successful series of meetings last winter entitled Managing Dynamic Change in the Beef Cattle Industry, a follow-up series has been scheduled for this winter. Managing Dynamic Change in 2010 will be hosted on four Wednesday's and Thursday's during February and March in two different locations in the heart of "cow country." Insightful and Nationally recognized speakers will guide participants through the process of gaining an understanding of today's beef cattle business realities, reviewing strategies which will optimize whole herd profitability, and looking closely at the alternative production practices which can keep the progressive cattleman profitable during these challenging times.
Featured presenters will include University of Kentucky beef cattle reproduction specialist Les Anderson, UK Extension beef cattle specialist Darrah Bullock, Mark McCully from Certified Angus Beef, Dr. Carla Huston, DVM, PhD from Mississippi State University, and Univeristy of Kentucky forage specialist Dr. Garry Lacefield. Also on the program will be Ohio State University Extension's own Matt Roberts from the Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics.
The program will be hosted on the Wednesday evenings of February 3, 10, 11 and March 10 in the Highland County Training & Employment Center in Hillsboro and repeated on the Thursday evenings of February 4, 11, 18 and March 11 at the Alexander H.S. at Albany in Athens County. Plan to come straight from the calving pasture to either location if you choose, since each evening will begin with supper promptly at 6 p.m. followed immediately by the program.
In addition, a few select counties will be hosting a "live" downfeed of each of the Thursday programs. Check with your local OSU Extension office for a list of those host sites and details for attending those locations.
Managing Dynamic Change in 2010 is sponsored by The Ohio State University Extension and Ohio Cattleman's Association with financial support from the Southern Ohio Agricultural & Community Development Foundation.
Patterned in the image of past Ohio Feed Management & Technology and also the Ohio Cow/Calf Schools, these will be fast moving and forward thinking "must attend" sessions for cattlemen planning to stay on the cutting edge of a rapidly changing industry. Registration cost for the entire series will be $25 per person. Reservations may be made by sending the registration form and fee to the Ohio Cattleman's Association and specifying which location you will be attending. Call OCA (614.873.6736), John Grimes, Highland County Ag Educator (937.393.1918) or Rory Lewandowski, Athens County Ag Educator (740.593.8555) for more detailed information.
Watch for more details in upcoming issues of the Ohio BEEF Cattle letter (http//beef.osu.edu).
Forage Focus: Late Fall Pasture Fertilization - Rory Lewandowski, OSU Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources
Late fall can be a good time to apply fertilizer and lime to pastures. Make sure that weather conditions are right, mainly that soil is not getting compacted or ruts created during the application of lime or fertilizer. Pasture fertility is complicated by the fact that grazing livestock move and transfer nutrients. This will result in pockets of higher or lower fertility compared to average pasture values. For this reason, applications of fertilizer and lime to pastures should be based on good soil sampling procedures.
Grid soil sampling might be used to identify low, average and high fertility areas within a pasture. This would allow fertilizer and lime application to be targeted to where it is most needed and avoid over and under application when a recommendation is based on one single average sample. This procedure might be mimicked by the observant pasture manager sampling according to pasture productivity and livestock grazing patterns.
Once soil test results are in hand, a pasture fertility goal might be to apply limestone and fertilizer to meet minimum or critical soil test levels. For grass/legume pastures, I generally recommend the following soil test goals: soil pH of 6.5, soil phosphorus level of 25 parts per million (ppm) and soil potassium level of 100 to 110 ppm. Once these critical values have been reached, the goal might be to maintain or increase pasture fertility through good grazing management.
If a choice must be made between fertilizer and limestone, putting dollars into increasing the soil pH is probably the wisest use of dollars. Getting soil pH to 6.5 or close to it allows the availability of other nutrients in the soil to be maximized. Various sources recommend that urea nitrogen fertilizer should not be applied for up to one year after lime has been surfaced applied.
When the question of nitrogen fertilizer is raised, we must think about the nitrogen source, weather forecast, and soil temperature. If the goal of the producer in applying nitrogen fertilizer is to produce grass growth for livestock grazing, then the benefit from a late fall application (November) is very limited. Our cool season grasses grow best in an air temperature range of 55 to 75 degrees F. How many of these days can we count on in November? There can be some slower grass growth, particularly with tall fescue, even in the 40 to 45 degree range, but even so, the amount of dry matter accumulation will not be very great.
The main benefit of applying a nitrogen fertilizer in November is to strengthen that grass plant for the coming year. Even though the air temperature is too cold for above ground growth, the soil temperature is warm enough for root growth. Late fall nitrogen fertilization feeds the plant roots, allowing the plant to build a stronger root and tiller system. Grasses fertilized in the late fall will green up quicker in the spring and produce more vigorous growth.
If the goal is to provide nitrogen for root growth, as well as build up phosphorus and potassium soil levels, a fertilizer material like 9-23-30 or 19-19-19 can be used. If primarily nitrogen and phosphorus are to be supplied, consider using DAP, 18-46-0. When nitrogen is the focus, urea is the cheapest nitrogen source, supplying about 44 to 46% actual nitrogen. However, urea can lose a portion of its nitrogen to the atmosphere through volatilization. The process by which this happens involves urease enzymes contained in the soil and plant residues that convert the urea component to free ammonia gas.
Factors that influence the rate of the urease reaction are soil temperature, soil pH, moisture/humidity, and residue coverage of the soil surface. Generally if urea can be applied within 24 hours of a half-inch or more rainfall, loss by volatilization is not a factor. Using a sulfur-coated urea can slow the release of urea down and reduce losses. Adding a material, like Agrotain, which is a urease inhibitor, can buy about another 14 days before a rainfall is needed to avoid losses.
Getting back to our late fall fertilization discussion; urea can works well in this situation because generally our air and soil temperatures are low enough that large volatilization losses are not a concern. Research from North Dakota on urea volatilization losses related to soil temperature show that at a soil temperature of 45 degrees the percent of urea nitrogen that was volatilized after 10 days was 6%. Even so, the best urea application strategy is to time the application before rainfall.
To benefit grass plant root and tiller growth in the coming growing season, consider an application of 30 to 50 pounds of actual nitrogen per acre to pastures in November.
Weekly Roberts Agricultural Commodity Market Report - Mike Roberts, Commodity Marketing Agent, Virginia Tech
LIVE CATTLE futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) were up on Monday. DEC'09LC futures closed at $86.225/cwt; up $0.550/cwt but down $0.925/cwt from last report. The APR'10LC contract finished at $89.350/cwt; up $0.70/cwt. Short covering, a weaker U.S. dollar, higher cash cattle, and gains in the Dow-Jones and other outside markets were supportive. The USDA 5-area average price was placed at $86.86/cwt; $2.27/cwt over last Monday's price. Several floor sources said today they expected short-term cash prices to peak mid-week. There were no takers today on cash tenders for $90.00/cwt. USDA on Friday put the choice beef cutout at $140.83/cwt; down $0.33/cwt but $0.90/cwt higher than a week ago. According to HedgersEdge.com, average packer margins were lowered $14.60from a week ago to a negative $17.85/head based on the average buy of $86.08/cwt vs. the average breakeven of $84.71/cwt.
FEEDER CATTLE at the CME finished strong on Monday. NOV'09FC futures closed at $95.125/cwt; up $0.325/cwt but $0.750/cwt lower than last Monday. MAR'10FC futures finished at $96.475/cwt; $0.875/cwt over last Friday's close but $0.200/cwt lower than this time last week. Feeders continued to get support from pricing levels that fuel hedging against deferred live cattle futures. Higher corn prices can be expected to put a lid on feeder prices later in the week. Cash feeders in Oklahoma City were steady last week. The latest CME feeder cattle index was placed at $93.25/cwt; up $0.320/cwt from Friday but $0.02/cwt under last report. If you have some hay or grass in this mild weather it may pay to hold feeders to heavier weights before moving them to feedlots.
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
Fairfield County Agriculture and Natural Resources