Sep 2, 2014
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AgDay Blog

Grazing the Net

RSS By: Greg Henderson and Friends, Beef Today

Our editors spend some time roaming the web looking for stuff cattle people and others in agriculture might find useful or entertaining. 

Prehistoric Latrines

Aug 29, 2014

There's a connection between your lunch and the spot where hunter-gatherers relieved themselves. Writing for Forbes, Richard Levick says, "crop domestication – or the earliest instances of genetically modified food – took root in prehistoric latrines."

Levick is referring to the naturally occurring mutations that made certain fruits and vegetables attractive to humans, and that "those fruits and vegetables contained seeds that required digestion to germinate." Why is this fact important? Because, Levick notes, 59% of Americans turn to the Internet for nutritional advice, and that's where GMO opposition groups have swayed public opinion in their favor. A recent Nielson poll suggests 61% of consumers have heard of GMOs and almost half say they try to avoid eating them.

WOTUS Maps "Astonishing"

The EPA's maps that detail the extent of the "Waters of the United States" proposal were made public this week. Congressmen such as Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Chairman of the House Science Committee, was not happy once he saw the maps. "Given the astonishing picture they paint, I understand the EPA's desire to minimize the importance of these maps," Smith wrote to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy. "But EPA's posturing cannot explain away the alarming content of these documents. While you claim that EPA has not yet used these maps to regulate Americans, you provided no explanation for why the Agency used taxpayer resources to have these materials created."

Iowa Farmer Next Bachelor

Some of my "friends" that help me with this daily newsletter tell me that you'd want to know a farmer has been named to star on the next The Bachelor. Haven't seen it, and probably won't watch this Iowa boy on drivel that passes as reality TV. But, for those of you who are interested, Arlington, Iowa, farmer Chris Soules is the 19th participant of ABC's hit show. Soules became popular on this past season of The Bachelorette and fans often referred to him as "Farmer Chris."

Border Security

Arizona rancher and veterinarian Gary Thrasher has lived along the U.S. southern border for more than four decades and says the problems in the area defy a one-size-fits-all solution. The rise of drug smugglers has made ranching in the region dangerous. "We don't very often come in contact with very many people because we don't want to be in contact with them," he says. "There's just been too many people hurt and too much violence."  

Wall Street to Rural Routes

Aug 28, 2014

Looks like the hedge-fund types are now investing in property lined with hedge-rows. According to The New York Times investors are moving their finances into farmland and some of these stockholders are coming from hedge funds. Currently hedge funds now have $14 billion tied up in agriculture property. One particular real estate investment trust, American Farmland Company, has purchased 11,000 acres from 16 farms for a price of $131 million. But this pales in comparison to what Alaska’s state pension fund invested in 2013 for farmland: $485.9 million!

Do Svidaniya, Mother Russia

No more South Dakota beef genetics for you, Russia. An October trade mission trip to Russia put together by South Dakota Department of Agriculture (SDDA) and South Dakota Beef Breeds Council has been cancelled. "Unfortunately, after two successful trade missions in 2012 and 2013 led by the SDDA, a return mission this fall will not happen," said Ty Eschenbaum, SDDA ag development representative.

Russia's already invested a lot of money into building up its own beef industry with a lot of those genetics coming from the U.S. Beef packer Miratorg has received government support to create a breeding operation of 110,000 Angus-based cows that should help meet 20% of Russia's beef demand.



More Hot Water for BLM

While the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was able come out looking a lot better than Cliven Bundy after their much publicized feud, the government organization hasn’t been able to stay out of the headlines entirely. The BLM is once again forcing ranchers to take their cattle off of grazing allotments in central Nevada. This time it's because of drought, but that has fired up a group of grazers called the Cowboy Express who plan to ride across the country to D.C.

Meanwhile, wild horse activist are claiming that the BLM takes favor to cattle.

To make things worse those activists might be right. The BLM had to release a statement about the deaths of 57 horses moved from a Kansas pasture to a corral in Scott City, Kan., and the euthanizing of 13 more mares.

Profit Tracker: Losing Steam

Profitability for both cattle and hog producers has been losing steam for the past month, but things could be a lot worse.

Cattle feeders recorded average profits of $162.67 per head last week, down more than $35 from the previous week, according to the Sterling Beef Profit Tracker. The margins represent a $222 per head improvement over the average losses of $59 recorded last year at this time.

Jamie Oliver, Eat It!

Aug 27, 2014

Despite a celebrity chef and ABC News' best efforts lean, finely textured beef (LFTB) is back on the market. During the spring of 2011, British chef Jamie Oliver tried to convince U.S. consumers they needed to watch a butcher grind their beef because of "pink slime."

The following year ABC News stepped up the conversation on LFTB with an 11-part investigation into the USDA approved beef product.

Drought and record high prices have brought LFTB back into grocery stores and the national spotlight, but this time it appears here to stay.

Dandelion Tires???

Dandelions really aren't good for much. The weed is an eyesore on most lawns and it takes a lot of weed pulling or Round Up to rid your grass of the pesky stuff. But researchers may have people changing their minds on dandelions with the discovery that a plant originating in Kazakhstan could help supply the global tire market. The Kazakh dandelion's taproot contains a milky fluid that holds tire-grade rubber particles and is known to grow in even the poorest of soils. This is good news for tire manufactures who have been searching for alternatives to traditional tree rubber because of a fungus outbreak in Brazil.

New New England Farmers

USDA's most recent census reports that farming has been decreasing in popularity. From 2007 to 2012 there were 95,000 farms lost, but the Northeast saw a 5% jump in farms. Farming is also gain steam in the classroom with a 43% increase from 2004 to 2012 for students from the Northeast doing their undergrad studies in agriculture. In states across New England the local food movement has made small scale farming on property often less than 50 acres profitable because of the ability of these new farmers to connect with consumers.

Raising vs. Purchasing Heifers

Ranchers weigh options on replacement heifers amid historic high prices.

When it comes to replacement heifers in beef cattle operations, producers are faced with a dilemma: Raise them, buy them or sell them and "take the money and run."

Meat Myth Busters

Aug 26, 2014

We’ve heard it all when it comes to people abstaining from eating meat. Well, the Business Insider did a nice video that helps bust some of these meat myths.

Myth #1: Meat causes cancer. Not so fast my friend. Processed meats like hotdogs have been linked to cancer when eaten in high amounts, but properly cooked red meat cuts like steak are risk free.

Myth #2: Meat rots in your colon. False. Meat is broken down in the stomach and absorbed by the bloodstream. This will irk some vegans but their diet choice actually causes ingestible plant fiber to sit in the colon and ferment. Sounds like those vegans maybe a little drunk from all that fermenting!

For more meat myths checkout the video.

Beef Boycott?!?

Beef has been a trendy topic in the news lately thanks to "scientific" reports claiming that the environmental footprint of raising cattle for meat is detrimental to the planet. AgWeb blogger Sara Hessenflow Harper poses the question: "Can You Really Save the Planet by Boycotting Beef?" in her most recent post. According to Sara the answer is no. Beef production utilizes grass that is not digestible for humans or other livestock species like poultry. Cattle grazing also creates better biodiversity on grassland habitat. And Sara knows a thing or two about sustainability as she works at Vela Environmental as director of sustainability & supply-chain solutions.

Winter Is Coming

Soak up the sun and the hot temperatures while you can because this winter looks like it could be a cold one. The Farmer’s Almanac is projecting the winter of 2014-15 to be well below normal for ¾ of the country. Last winter several polar vortexes dropped down from the Artic and the trend appears to be continuing. The Northern Plains and Great Lakes will see frigid temperatures again with a projected -40°F in some areas. A potential El Niño would also be a welcome sight for producers in California and the Southwest.

All Eyes on the Market

While cattle numbers continue to be tight, the calf market has been holding strong.

As we reported yesterday cattle on feed have been dropping at a record pace, but prices have seen a big boost thanks to this trend particularly for calves weighing less than 600 lbs. Derrell Peel, an Oklahoma State Livestock Marketing Specialist says, "If you figure the gross margin of the value of gain from buying these light weight calves and putting anywhere from 200 to 400 pounds on them, the value of gain is pretty good right now. It’s well over $1 to $1.30 in some cases."

PETA Won't Want to See This

Aug 25, 2014

Bears are notorious for being snoopy when it comes to food related items. They even have a cartoon depicting a picnic basket stealing bear that goes by the alias of Yogi. Well, we just ran onto a cool video clip from last month that we're sure PETA won't appreciate. Wisconsin logger Garrett Smith saves a curious black bear after its head got stuck in an old milk can. Smith uses his log loader arm to grab the milk can and in turn rescue the bear from a bleak fate ... And if you’re wondering Smith did have permission from the farmer to cross that corn field.

7% Fewer Cattle on Feed

Cattle feeders continue to see fewer placements in their yards. For the month of July only 1.56 million cattle entered feedlots, a 7% drop from last year. Inventories as a whole are down 2% for cattle feeders with just 9.8 million head accounted for.

Nebraska feedlots have actually bucked the national trend by adding 4% to their capacity in the past year.

Earlier this year Nebraska jumped ahead of Texas for cattle on feed and from the looks of the latest numbers there won’t be anything changing this pattern for a longtime.

Phone In Food Waste

The USDA reports that 40% of food is thrown away in the U.S. each year, basically that's $165 billion going in the trash. If you're tired of wasting food fret no more because there's an app for that. PareUp lets users know which supermarkets and stores have too much food and if they are selling it at a discount. Often times the food can be discounted anywhere from 25 to 75% on the app.

Cattle Prices Lower For a Third Week

Cattle prices continue to skid for the third week in a row.

Cash fed cattle traded another $2 to $3 per cwt. lower this week as packers appeared to hold the leverage in the market for the third consecutive week. Cattle traded at $152 to $153 per cwt., fully $13 per cwt. lower than the market high of $166 recorded three weeks ago. On a dressed basis, cattle sold from $240 to $242.

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