Feed prices down, risk ever apparent

Dan Basse, AgResource Company

Dan Basse, AgResource Company 

 

“You must manage your risk.”

Dan Basse, president of AgResource Company, has headlined the Feeding Quality Forum for the past six or seven years. He’s covered $2 corn to $8 corn, but that message remains constant. Sure, the risk changes, but it’s important to manage it.

This year he told us the “bio boom” is over, exports are down and supplies are up. That all boils down to corn prices decidedly down, around $3.60 he predicts, with poor basis in the north due to infrastructure challenges.

“We’re back to waiting for a significant climatic event to cause a rally,” he says. We’ve spent so much time worrying about feed prices. Now they’re in check, so what’s the risk now?

Scott Brown, of the University of Missouri, told us about the real danger (makes economics sound fairly dramatic, doesn’t it?) that comes in producing low-quality beef.

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Scott Brown, University of Missouri 

 

“Statistically pork and chicken make better substitutions in the Select market,” he says. “We don’t see the same substitution competition for Choice and Prime.”

A 10% increase in Prime prices equates to very little change in consumption, but that same 10% increase in Select price moves the consumption down at a much quicker pace.

Lately the Choice-Select spread fluctuates wildly, but the Prime-Choice spread remains wide and fairly constant. Looking at demand curves and economics, Brown says the message is clear.

“Quality can become a risk management tool for the industry in the long run,” he says.

At the university-run Thompson Farm, the Angus-based herd provides an example. “The most profitable cows were those whose offspring graded Prime.”

Brown was almost urgent in pleading with the feeder-centric audience to take this message to their suppliers.

“If we don’t do it now, we never will,” he said. Drought has broken in many parts and herd rebuilding needs to include a focus on animals that will gain and grade. “Investment in the genetics of that herd will pay dividends.”

May your bottom line be filled with black ink,

Miranda

PS—Thanks to all the forum co-sponsors (Purina, Feedlot Magazine, Zoetis and Roto-Mix) who helped us bring this great set of experts to cattle feeding country.

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Bovine babies grow up fast

They’re not quite babies anymore.

If you were with us back in April you likely caught a glimpse of this cute calf post by Miranda. #Calfwatch14 was in full swing and the CAB staffers who dedicate before and after work hours to caring for their own herds kept quite the busy schedule.

With summer nearly behind us and fall on the horizon, I thought it only right to check in with those bovine babies and see if they’d show off their good side for the camera once again. They didn’t disappoint. What divas!

Like any growing youngin’ Paul’s Nebraska (half) pair preferred to be photographed without mom this time.

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Kara’s calves spent their summer grazing the tall Kansas grass,

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while Barb’s Ohio babies were just thankful to be out of the snow.

Barb_3Erin’s Maryland cutie is prepping for show season,

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and Christy’s is too.

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(Hey, wait a minute…not again, you sneaky ovine!)

Steve’s beauties are still walkin’ on sunshine in Kansas,

Steve_2and resting in the shade after a long day of grazing.

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As for my gals in Florida, they’re getting by just fine, one summer shower at a time.

IMG_0628So while babies get bigger,

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and seasons come and go,

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it’s good to know that some things never change…

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like this one’s love for the camera. (Get me with your best shot!)

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Thanks for allowing me to tell your story,

Laura

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Lessons learned

We’ve been told time after time that we can’t have our cake and eat it, too. But it turns out that sometimes we CAN! Don’t believe me? Let me introduce you to Tim Adams, a commercial Angus producer I visited near Wakefield, Kan.

Adams with his hydraulic shoot that he saved five years to buy.  This is a great tool for him and his family during the artificial insemination season.

Adams with his hydraulic chute that he saved five years to buy. This is a great tool for him and his family during the artificial insemination season.

More than 20 years ago, when Tim started his cowherd from scratch it was what he describes as, “a gigantic failure.”

In college he “got hooked” on Limousin cattle because of their growth performance and phenotype. So he bought nine head and everything was good until he got his first calf crop.

The weight of the calves was disappointing and when breeding season came they were difficult to breed back. Luckily a neighbor gave him some advice: switch the breed.

Now Tim has 250 commercial Angus cows, an impressive artificial insemination (AI) program, good friends in the industry and knowledge he wouldn’t trade for anything. And he’s raking in the premiums with calf crops that make 65% to 84% Certified Angus Beef ® (CAB®) or Prime.

But what he is most proud of is getting 75% of his herd to conceive via AI, with very few stragglers after using a good clean up bull.

"Make a cow first and the carcass will come," is the motto at TA Ranch.

“Make a cow first and the carcass will come,” is the motto at TA Ranch.

“Fertility is still the number one deal—if you can’t get them bred what good does it do if they can grade well? You’ll be out of business if they aren’t bred,” says Adams.

Angus cattle have “just flat worked” for him because of their maternal ability and reproductive efficiency. As for the carcass traits, he credits those who helped him throughout the years, especially Tom and Matt Perrier from Dalebanks Angus.

For years Tim bred away from what he considered to be “carcass bulls,” disregarding Matt Perrier’s encouragement to include a focus on marbling.

Like many other producers, both registered and commercial, Adams thought it was impossible for his herd to excel in both maternal and feedlot traits. But Matt was able to break through and now, thanks to proven genetics, Tim’s herd is proof that his theory of simultaneous selection works.

Milking ability is another trait selected by Adams.  I'd say this calf approves!

Milking ability is another trait selected by Adams. I’d say this calf approves!

Learning from his past, Tim is now smarter about his breeding decisions, trusting the numbers and selecting for balance. To him, the cake is his fertile Angus cows and the icing on top is the calves’ high-quality carcasses.

“You never stop learning in this business,” he says. “Sometimes the lessons you learn the hard way are the most important because those are the ones you never forget.”

At the bold age of 21, it is often hard for me to remember that I actually do not hold the answers needed to solve all the world’s problems. My way isn’t always the best way and in life I’m going to make mistakes. But that’s okay because like this producer, learning from them is how we find success.

-Kaitlin

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From homestretch to home stretch

Hay, fellow seekers –

We are starting to feed a little bit of that to give calves a taste, even though a few weeks ago their grass was so lush they would not have been interested.

Calves doing well in early July

Calves doing well in early July

 

As we get ready for preweaning shots and deworming, I think these calves are in the homestretch. They’re starting to get a little hay and grain to supplement the fading grass and prepare them for independent life in September.

The homestretch is a term borrowed from horse racetracks in the 1800s to describe the final phase of any endeavor. Applying it to calves now suggests weaning is the finish line, although in the big picture we have to realize this is just one of several laps on the track of beef production.

It’s critically important, a matter of life and death for some calves, but consider the other laps, some with no clear beginning.

We’re always out there starting the herd on some “endeavor” while another is in the backstretch or rounding a curve.

You might say it starts with selecting genetics, but those are passed down through generations in a marathon, yet decisions are made quickly. Developing heifers and getting them bred is more like one of the laps.

Another starts as we prepare for calving, with the homestretch taking in the last few calving events of the season as they near the pasture gate for the season of nursing and grazing. That’s the one now heading for the wire, where we’ll check the score on our scales and start them on the bridge to success and realizing their full potential.

While momma goes after a pesky fly, daughter contemplates drier grass.

While momma goes after a pesky fly, daughter contemplates the drier grass.

After weaning, the calves will move on to local backgrounding on hay and silage top-dressed with grain. The first weeks in the drylot can make us wonder why we ever thought the calves were in a homestretch a few weeks earlier, but frequent monitoring helps us get acclimated.

Soon the first corner is behind us and we’re making arrangements for the handoff to a custom finishing yard for the steers after 60 days. A round of culling will send some calves to auction then, but most heifers will stay for more growing and development as replacements for the herd or later sales as bred.

Are the steers really in the homestretch at the finishing yard? As on every other step along the way, that’s a qualified yes.

The absolute homestretch is on the beef product side, when success is so close we can almost taste it.

When high-quality beef meets with great cuisine and cookery knowledge in a positive environment—our kitchen or dining room, backyard picnic or steakhouse with attentive waitstaff—that’s when the race is won for beef demand.

That’s when another positive eating experience generates the spark that ensures someone will buy beef again and signal us to keep producing more of the right stuff.

Let’s keep building tomorrow together,

–Steve

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Risking it

“He loves it here….and I love him,” Gaye Johnson told me when I greeted her and her husband Dee at their northeastern Wyoming place earlier this summer.

I have yet to visit a ranch that I didn’t find beautiful, but Dry Fork Land and Cattle has to rank right up there with the prettiest, so that opening line seemed misplaced.

2014_06_12_mr_Johnson-102Then I heard the rest of the story. The one that involved Dee and his father purchasing the foreclosed on land with “lots of borrowed money.” The general condition, including water resources, made it only fit to run 500 pairs. His wife and kids stayed near their home base at Laketown, Utah, because the accommodations were nothing more than an old sheep barn that they turned into a bunkhouse.

“You fought with the rats at night to see who got the bed,” Dee laughed. (I don’t think he chuckled so much because of the joke, but because it’s one of those details you can only laugh about after the fact.)

2014_06_12_mr_Johnson-23When they built a 1,100-square foot cabin in 2000, it was another 5 years before they had electricity. (Yes, you read that right. Even with a permanent dwelling, that was FIVE years of fetching water from the stock tank to flush the toilet.) But the hard work, sweat and sacrifice has paid off.

As coalbed methane took off the place got a little busier, as Johnsons do not have the mineral rights, but there was one happy side-effect.

“I said to myself, ‘I can’t stop them from doing that, but I can control what they do with the water,” Dee said, so he insisted that it didn’t leave his land. They developed a reservoir system that now allows them to move water to different parts of the ranch, as well as operate five pivots to build feed resources.

It paid off. Now they run 1,600 cows, yearlings and replacements. They retain the best heifers and the rest join the steers at Darnall Feedlot at Harisburg, Neb., where five years of carcass data show his cattle at nearly 60% Certified Angus Beef ® brand acceptance.

2014_06_12_mr_Johnson-158Dee thought his cattle better than commodity cattle, but deciding to retain ownership still caused some anxiety.

“It was risky what we were going to do. We decided to forgo a sure thing,” Dee said. “We didn’t know how they would perform. And we didn’t know they would do that well when they got graded. It was risky but I thought well worth it.

Kind of like moving out of a familiar but increasingly developed area of Utah with no room to expand the herd to a rugged and isolated Wyoming expanse; it took risk, and a devoted wife I might add, but Dee took the leap. He saw the potential and made it productive.

May your bottom line be filled with black ink,

Miranda

 

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Acres, not hours

It rained a lot last night.

Storm clouds rolled in around 6 o’clock and just as I was unplugging my computer to get on the tractor, I knew it would be a race for time.

DSCN8693I checked my clock to make sure the time was right.

This summer I’ve become quite familiar with the “sky going dark at six” look so I shrugged, accepting it was a battle I was about to lose. There was thunder and lightning, blinding rain and wind, everything you would need for a good excuse to curl up on the couch with your favorite book (or if you’re me, a hammock overlooking the pastures, but that’s another post for another time).

I dashed for cover, proud that I got a few tasks done before the lightning threw a wrench in my routine. I stood and watched it wash away all the signs of the day.

Now here’s the part where I want to make myself clear: I like rain. I would go as far as to say I love it. I like to write about it, how it’s metaphorically used in songs, I like to watch it and I definitely like what it means for cattlemen. I’m just saying that it sometimes messes with a girl’s plans.

So with cattle standing in pastures, and rain falling down all around me, I paused. I ran to my truck, drove through the puddles and just as I was pulling onto the road, I had to stop. A cattle hauler was pulling in. I let him go, admiring the freshly-cleaned trailer glistening in the light of dusk. There was another one, too. Already backed up and ready to load.

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And that’s when I thought about this quote I read yesterday.

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So simple, perhaps even a bit warm and fuzzy, but I share it with you, nonetheless. Because as it rained and as they loaded, I thought it was a perfect fit.

Because sometimes it rains, sometimes the market drops, sometimes the prices of our inputs seem almost unbearable. But through it all, we don’t waiver. There is no clocking out, no time for rain delays. Through the good and the bad, the new challenges and the ones we’ve learned to live with, it’s worth it.

In the cattle world, the show must go on, but I bet we would all agree that it’s a good view from the front row.

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So, to those who work in acres, not hours, we say thank you.

Laura

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“Join Our Table” in action

Cattlemen and chefs have a unique connection that comes from a shared passion for the best – that’s the concept behind the Certified Angus Beef ® (CAB®) brand’s “Join Our Table” campaign.

Oak Steakhouse invite copy copyGathered in the elegant venue of Oak Steakhouse in Charleston, S.C., dim lights set the mood for a group of Charleston-based media and locals to witness what it means.

The June 24th event brought together longtime Angus ranchers Kevin and Lydia Yon of Ridge Spring, S.C., and Oak Steakhouse executive chef Jeremiah Bacon. More than 35 partook in the exquisite meal of CAB brand Carpaccio, Prime deckle and eye of ribeye as they learned firsthand from the local ranchers and chef what it takes to produce quality and the commitment behind the brand from beginning to end.

“Cattlemen and women like Kevin and Lydia Yon, and chefs like Jeremiah Bacon, all bring their best to the table with the brand and its superior quality,” Mary McMillen, CAB director of public relations, said.

“Quality isn’t an accident. It’s created by a community.”

Kevin and Lydia Yon, Yon Family Farms, together with Chef Jeremiah Bacon shared the story of Certified Angus Beef.

Kevin and Lydia Yon, Yon Family Farms, together with Chef Jeremiah Bacon shared the story of Certified Angus Beef.

Communities thrive when their members work together, a principle the Yons and Bacon were able to get across to the restaurant patrons.

Foodies, consumers and chefs, it was a night filled with excitement for CAB, Yon says. He, Lydia and their three children have worked with cattle for so long that it was nice to step back and get some perspective from the other side of the fence.

“As a producer of CAB, it was very gratifying,” the rancher said. “We took pride in the product that our family and families across America produce.”

“I think as producers, any time that we can have one-on-one interaction with chefs and people who are interested in what we do and how we do it, any time that we can just stop a minute and do that, it’s certainly very beneficial to our industry,” he added.

For their main course, guests enjoyed CAB ® brand Prime eye of ribeye paired with brined Creamer potatoes, baby arugula and caramelized shallots.

For their main course, guests enjoyed CAB ® brand Prime eye of ribeye paired with brined Creamer potatoes, baby arugula and caramelized shallots.

For Bacon, the dinner was an honor, not just personally but for those in attendance as they were able to hear the CAB story on a personal level.

“It was the story of the independent farmer and rancher that is such a huge part of what CAB is,” the chef and CAB Brand Ambassador said. “The passion and commitment they have starts the process for the care and quality of the beef.”

I agree, Chef Bacon. I agree.

Thanks for allowing me to tell your story,

Laura

P.S. To learn more about “Join Our Table” and hear what other chefs have to say about the ranch, click here.

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An Open Gate

Talk to Rayford Pullen for five minutes and you’ll feel like you’ve known him a lifetime. Mention you’ll be anywhere near the state of Texas and expect a standing invitation to dinner.

In the small town of Bellevue, Tex., population 333, Rayford and his wife, Carla, have made their mark. On land that once held the first strings of barbed wire in the county of Clay, the couple work to carry on the ranching legacy that has been passed down through generations.

The Pullens are Angus breeders, simple and true, and together they strive to meet consumer’s rising demand for quality beef.Rayford_1

While it can be no easy feat to stand out in the state of Texas, the pair do just that by providing high-quality Angus cattle to ranchers near and far. For it is out the gate and over county lines that the full extent of their impact comes into focus. Living by the idea that “not everybody is capable of leaving a positive legacy, but all are capable of leaving a negative legacy,” the Pullens strive to do their part in representing the industry they cherish.

“It’s a labor of love,” Rayford says. “The cattle and livestock are a part of us. There’s just nothing like it.”

As the Texas Angus Association President, Rayford makes it his personal responsibility to visit with consumers to share the positive story of agriculture.                                                                To him, producer-consumer relations are one of the primary keys to a profitable future.

“One on one, face to face is still the best way to conduct business,” the rancher says.

Rayford recently joined the CAB team to share the Angus story with the Saltgrass Steak House culinary team.

Rayford recently joined the CAB team to share the Angus story with the Saltgrass Steak House culinary team.

Pullen knows people have an interest in where their food comes from and takes pride in being the face of that product, especially when it carries the Certified Angus Beef ® brand label.

But as all ranchers know, providing that product is no easy task. Through detailed record keeping, artificial insemination and embryo transfer, the Pullens strive to make their operation not only efficient, but sustainable as well. Focus is placed on raising cattle that will be recognized for quality and consistency.

When not on the road, Rayford and Carla care for approximately 400 Angus cows that graze the native grasses of their north central Texas town. Each day is lived with a passion and zest that comes from being stewards of the land they hope to pass down to their grandchildren.

Rayford_2Just like many of our ranching partners, the Pullen’s life is an open book filled with pages of dreams and determination, trials and lessons; stories that deserve to be told.

But for those who aren’t quite convinced with hearing the stories and need to “see it to believe it,” Rayford says the gate’s always open.

So read the stories, pay a visit, but whatever you do, be inspired.

Thanks for allowing me to tell your story,

Laura

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“Just Good Cattle”

Wow. I was beginning to think I’d seen it all, when out of the blue comes a double-sided, full color ad flyer for a ranch “up north” publicizing their upcoming bull sale. No, it wasn’t an Angus ad, but I won’t name the breed represented, either. But it’s one you’d all know, don’t doubt me there. Pictures of the rancher and his family, pictures of the cattle under range conditions. Actually, it was a very nice ad, done very well. But you know how most ads tout EPD’s and performance information; perhaps carcass data, actual birth weights, and other pertinent information? Well, this one had NONE of those attributes. Instead, it had statements like these:

  • “Just good (insert breed name here) cattle.”
  • “No birth weights, no weaning weights, no records.”
  • “Stout, rugged, dependable cattle”

OK. The first and the third statements are what my old professor Dr. Barry Flinchbaugh at K-State would term “value judgments.” There’s nothing to back up the claim. Good cattle from whose perspective? Are we going backwards by selecting cattle solely on the basis of phenotype? I think I can assess whether or not they are stout and rugged by looking at their frame, muscle, depth of side, bone structure, and hoof size. But, does that tell me ONE THING about calving ease, or how fast his calves will grow, or whether or not his daughters will milk, or much less breed back? Does it tell you that his daughters will attempt murder on your person while calving or shortly after giving birth? Will their carcasses command premiums in the marketplace?

Can we tell by looking?

Can we tell by looking?

Folks, I don’t need to tell you, this is backwards thinking. God bless his customers, because they’ll need it. I thought we were past this as an industry. I know, probably an isolated incidence. But if you subscribe to that school of thought, you’d better attend another school.

Everybody likes good-looking critters; balance and eye appeal, muscle, correct feet and leg structure; soundness when they move out. But they’ve got to have performance and proof and numbers. I was incredulous when I read the ad. I wished that I had kept it. The cattle industry has been stuck in tradition for too long. We don’t want to give some things up.

And, that’s OK, as long as we don’t look past the traits of economic importance, but to expect people to buy your seedstock based on your value judgments is ludicrous, especially in today’s fast-paced, record-breaking market.

~Gary

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More than Just Genetics

Stepping through the doors of Pat and Marilyn Herring’s house near Veteran, Wyo., is like walking into a family reunion. Gathered around the kitchen island, Bill Haas, Kevin Nichols and Pat Herring compare ideas as owners of G Bar H Genetics. Pat’s sons, Boone and Crocket, stand off to the side while two young cowboys, Cade and Cord, bounce around unable to keep still. Marilyn, Pat’s wife, weaves in and out making sure all are taken care of, adding in bits of conversation where she is sure the boys have left something out.

Back Row: Kevin Nichols, Pat Herring, Bill Haas. Front: Cade and Cord Herring.

Back Row: Kevin Nichols, Pat Herring, Bill Haas. Front: Cade and Cord Herring.

 

I would have to draw you a family tree to explain how everyone is related. But raising quality Angus bulls is in their genes, a tradition they carry out on the land homesteaded by their ancestors in 1910.

Story tour June 2014 273

 

“People have to like you before they will buy something from you,” says Pat.

Charlie Farthing, a commercial Angus producer from Cheyenne, Wyo., has been a G Bar H customer for nearly 15 years. Their business model of providing good cattle and being a quality partner has kept him coming back.

“We like the cattle,” Farthing says. “Not only are you buying quality cattle but you are buying from a good cattle family; they know the cattle and are honest about them. You can tell they take a great deal of pride in what they raise. They stand behind their cattle and if there is a problem they will deal with it. You know the bulls are coming from somebody you can trust.”

And someone who can help you claim that CAB premium. Farthing has carcass data over several years that shows G Bar H genetics have helped him earn premiums and most importantly to him, avoided deductions on the rail.

Story tour June 2014 246Even more than that, Farthing can depend on the family for help when he needs it. Cade, 13, and Cord, 11, often head over to his ranch to help with branding and anything else he may need. Al l he has to do is make the call.  

Getting that premium beef to the plate takes more than just quality cattle. It takes hard-working cattlemen and women who show the real value of a handshake and good word. Those are great traditions, sure. But customer trust can add black ink to your bottom line, too.

~Nicole

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