Posted By Cathryn May 14, 2013
Recently, CommonGround Colorado volunteer Danell Kalcevic, who farms and raises cattle outside of Denver, penned an op-ed on why consumers may see higher beef prices this grilling season. While some may say farmers and ranchers must be profiting from this rise, Kalcevic explains how last year’s drought is still impacting ranchers.
May Snow Showers Bring Spring Crops for Farmers
As we gear up for grilling season, many shoppers may notice higher beef prices at the grocery store. Beef prices are triggered by supply and demand, and this year, the supply is low. “How low?” you ask. The last time cattle numbers in the U.S. were this low was it was 1952.
Moisture—or the lack thereof—is the culprit for supply issues in the beef industry. I know it might seem like it’s been snowing and raining nearly every day the last couple of weeks, but the lack of moisture in our region over the past ten years has caused strain on the feed supply, and ultimately our cattle supply. For cattle farmers like me, the price of beef depends on the commodity prices for wheat, corn and soybeans—all of the big commodities used in feeding cattle.
A low supply and high demand normally means the person selling the goods in demand will make a large profit. This theory does not hold true in agriculture. In reality, it costs more to produce our low supply of cattle, and we are by no means getting rich off of the profits. Farmers actually see less than 12 cents for every dollar spent on food in America. The rest of the money goes to processing, transportation and marketing.
Call us crazy, but my family considers the recent snowy weather a blessing. Sure blizzard conditions make getting in the field or feeding cattle difficult, but with this type of moisture farmers will be able to plant a much greater supply of crops like corn or soybeans. And we are hopeful that being able to plant more spring crops will help bring those cattle numbers back up and your beef prices down!
Danell Kalcevic, farmer, Bennett, Colo.
Posted By Cathryn February 8, 2013
Today, Corn Commentary offers a guest post from blogger Lana Hoffschneider, a CommonGround Nebraska volunteer. Hoffschneider, along with 85 volunteers in 15 states, is participating in a movement that looks to open a conversation between the women who grow food and those why purchase it.
CommonGround was formed by the National Corn Growers Association, the United Soybean Board and their state affiliates to provide our nation’s female farmers with opportunities to connect with their urban and suburban counterparts on an issue important to all of them – the food they feed their families.
Anyone else feel overwhelmed by the quantity of information out there about food and food safety? I’ve recently been on a quest to increase my knowledge about food safety, and feel like now I can’t eat anything!! I swear there’s a study out there to prove anything. So how do we sort out the information… the studies, the food labels, the facebook posts, the news stories, what our friends tell us, etc?!?! I can’t promise I have the answer to that… but I’ll give you my take on it! Read on…
Since we have a feedyard, I’m going to direct my comments to beef, and hopefully answer some of your questions about what you’re eating. I’m not a nutritionist, I’m not a scientist, and I’m not a meat processor, but I can tell you what happens at our feedyard.
One common concern about beef is hormones. Yes, we give our cattle implants (they go under the skin on the outside of the ear). The main active ingredient is estrogen. The implants are given to increase feed efficiency and rate of gain. From the information I have read, yes – some of the hormone passes into the meat, but no – it’s not at high levels. in fact, check this out:
- 4 oz. beef from steer given hormones: 1.6 nanograms of estrogen
- 4 oz. beef from untreated steer: 1.2 nanograms of estrogen
- 4 oz. beef from non-pregnant heifer: 1.5 nanograms of estrogen
- 4 oz. raw cabbage: 2700 ng estrogen
- 4 oz. raw peas: 454 ng estrogen
- Average level in a woman of childbearing age: 480,000 nanograms/day of estrogen
- Average level in a pre-pubertal girl: 54,000 nanograms/day of estrogen
So – I’m not worried about that. Period.
Next, how about shots… vaccinations, antibiotics, etc?
Our veterinarian giving vaccinations to a steer.
First of all, I think you might like to know that all shots go in the neck region of the animal. This prevents any needle damage in the meat.
Second, you need to know that there are specific “withdrawal times” that antibiotics have – which means an animal cannot be harvested until after a specified number of days of receiving the antibiotic. And yes – our cattle receive antibiotics (administered by a veterinarian). It’s the right thing to do – we take care of our animals when they’re sick! Here’s a great blog post about this… Antibiotics in beef farming.
So I’m not worried about that. Period.
The last thing I want to hit on is regarding the talk about meat causing heart disease, cancer, and whatever else. I understand that doctors give special instructions on diet for particular situations – listen to them. If that’s not you – then here’s what I think. MODERATION – everything in moderation.
We eat beef from cattle from our feedyard. I feed it to my family. We have 2 daughters – yes, I think about hormones and early puberty and the thought freaks me out on a lot of levels. But I don’t change the meat we eat or the milk we drink because of it – I don’t think that’s what causes early puberty.
If you’re like me, and feel frustrated about information about our food… just keep in mind that there are so many health benefits in a variety of foods. If you want to get radical about something, get radical about the amount of sugar you eat and the amount of processed/fried foods you eat. Then eat a variety of foods, in moderation.
I think of it like weight loss. There’s no magic “meal pill” that will be a perfect meal for your body just like there’s no perfect “diet pill”. It’s not rocket science. To lose weight, eat less and exercise (in most cases). Same with making food choices – eat in moderation, and eat a variety. No sense in getting overwhelmed and freaked out!
Now go eat some meat!
These steaks may not be what I would consider moderation, but you can always share:)
This post originally ran on the CommonGround Nebraska blog.
To learn more about the CommonGround movement, click here.
Posted By Cindy January 18, 2013
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack raised more than a few eyebrows this week at the American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting when he suggested that animal agriculture should “sit down and make common cause” with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and that those who are “engaged in constructive engagement … shouldn’t be faulted for doing so.”
Now I know that there are not too many fans of the Humane Society in this room. But egg producers thought it was in their best interest to avoid fifty different referendums, fifty different sets of rules. So they sat down with folks and they reached common ground. After all, isn’t that what we’re asking our Congress to do? Isn’t that what we’re asking our political leaders to do? To sit down and make common cause? I think the egg producers have the right idea.
There is no doubt that most livestock producers in the United States consider HSUS to be a threat to their operations – their business, their livelihoods, their very lifestyle. But it is an issue that crop farmers, particularly corn growers, need to be concerned about as well since it impacts your largest customer base. As the livestock industry goes, so goes the corn industry.
The question of whether agriculture should sit down with groups like HSUS to find “common cause” is a poll question this week on AgWired.com and while the answers had at first been running well against such dialogue, the poll has now been “hijacked” by HSUS who got out supporters to vote in favor. Overnight, the poll received nearly 400 responses in the affirmative – and some of the comments of those supporters show exactly why all of agriculture should be very afraid of their agenda.
“Let animals be animals, not commodities.”
“Stop the torture and Killing of the animals.”
“People should just stop eating animals period – there’s no such thing as humane murder.”
The ultimate agenda is obvious – the end to animal agriculture. Once the livestock industry begins to make concessions to animal rights activists that drastically change production methods it becomes a very slippery slope very quickly. It will only be a short matter of time before allowing chickens more room in cages becomes allowing all animals the right to life. Treating animals humanely is not the same as treating them like they are humans – but many activists see no difference.
With that, the question may actually be, can there even be “common cause” to find?
Posted By Cindy January 3, 2013
Pretty much every farm organization has expressed disappointment over the nine-month farm bill extension included in the New Year’s Day fiscal cliff package, with the hope that Congress will do better in 2013.
“We don’t support an extension of the 2008 farm bill, we worked very hard to see reform,” said National Corn Growers Association president Pam Johnson, noting that the farm bill passed by the Senate in 2012 would have helped to reduce federal spending. “It would have saved $23 billion,” she said. “That’s what makes it so disappointing for us.”
Listen to my interview with Pam here: Interview with Pam Johnson
While it was the prospect of the so-called “dairy cliff” that led lawmakers to even think about a farm bill, it’s ironic that the National Milk Producers Federation is among the most unhappy with the outcome. National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) President and CEO Jerry Kozak called the extension a “devastating blow to the nation’s dairy farmers” that amounts to “shoving farmers over the dairy cliff without providing any safety net below.” He says that the dairy industry will continue to push the 113th Congress to pass a five year farm bill that includes the Dairy Security Act, which eliminates the dairy product price support program, direct payments, and export subsidies, and establishes a voluntary risk management tool for farmers which would cost taxpayers less.
Other groups including the American Farm Bureau, National Farmers Union, and American Soybean Association had similar “disappointed but optimistic” statements. Even Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said he was “disappointed Congress has been unable to pass a multi-year reauthorization of the Food, Farm and Jobs bill to give rural America the long-term certainty they need and deserve” and that he will continue to work with Congress to pass a new bill.
At the same time, ag groups are pleased with some other parts of the fiscal cliff package, like the estate tax provisions and extension of alternative energy tax incentives. The estate tax was permanently set through the legislation at a rate of 40 percent on estates valued at $5 million, or $10 million per couple – better than the 55% on $1 million or more that was scheduled to become law.
The theme set by all is to continue working with the new Congress and hope that the nine month extension doesn’t mean it will be delayed and down to the wire – or past it – again at the end of 2013.
Posted By Cathryn April 20, 2012
Today, the Associated Press demonstrated why common sense is no longer common and often does not make a significant amount of so-called sense. In a story written to promote a Eurocentric anti-modern meat agenda, the media source rambles on about the evils of administering antibiotics to sick cattle, pigs and chickens. Fear-mongering at its finest, the author uses sparse quotes from agenda-driven groups, unaccredited consumers and specialty producers who would personally benefit from a ban, to supplement the single, credible quote from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration which states clearly, when taken on its own, that indiscriminant antibiotic use is not favorable.
The questions ignored are myriad. Do antibiotics have a role to play in animal agriculture? How are they actually used on a normal American farm? Why do the current regulations remain in place?
The author, through crafty copy, attempts to sway the reader from asking these basic, simple questions through a subtext appealing to the idea that all readers with common sense would make the same assumptions he does. If using antibiotics can be bad, it cannot ever be beneficial. If the interest groups and niche marketers seem like good, conscientious people, then the family farmers who day in and out produce safe, nutritious, affordable food choices in abundance for the country must be the party at fault. The more modern technology, here in the form of medication, used to produce that food, the higher the chance that it will not be as wholesome as what our forefathers and mothers ate.
Useless nostalgia for a past seen through rose-tinted glasses aside, Americans today benefit from the safest food supply in recorded history. They have a much wider array of healthy, safe choices than could have been conceived in a pre-penicillin past.
How can the average person find information, both facts and firsthand accounts, from knowledgeable sources willing to explain what they say? In the case of food questions, CommonGround volunteers across the country share true accounts of how they grow and raise food on their own farms. Plus, their stories are supported by credible, complete information from actual experts.
If you want to know more about antibiotics than the mainstream media is able to provide, take a moment to meet Teresa Brandenberg, a cattle rancher from Kansas. A young mother who cares deeply for both her family and her cattle, Teresa understands the government regulations for antibiotic use, the reasoning behind those rules and how it affects families, both hers and yours.
Maybe, it could more accurately be said that common sense still plays an important role in the life of most Americans. With so many urban and suburbanites far removed from the farm, asking questions about what feeds their families both natural and responsible. Talking to the people who live that story makes a lot of sense.
Listening to over-hyped, sensationalized accounts of farming written by Washington media? Maybe that is what doesn’t make sense after all.
Posted By Cindy April 5, 2012
Research by a South Dakota State University dairy science student shows the energy value of the ethanol co-product distillers grains (DDGS) in dairy feed.
Sanjeewa Ranathunga was recognized for his research at the recent annual meeting of the Midwest American Dairy Science Association meetings with the Young Dairy Scholars Award.
Ranathunga is in the final stages of his Ph.D. program in dairy cattle nutrition at South Dakota State University under the guidance of Dr. Kenneth Kalscheur, Associate Professor in Dairy Science. During his time at SDSU, Ranathunga has conducted valuable research looking at DDGS and their impact on dairy cattle diets.
Ranathunga began his Master’s program at SDSU in dairy cattle nutrition under Kalscheur after completing an M.S. in Biochemistry at Pukyong National University in Busan, South Korea.
His Master’s research demonstrated that the non-forage fiber provided from DDGS and soyhulls can effectively replace starch provided by corn in dairy cow diets without negatively affecting the performance of dairy cows.
This research revealed that DDGS can be used as an effective energy source to replace high priced corn, and can decrease the feed cost of the diet. According to income over feed cost analysis, an economic advantage if $1.42 per cow per day was observed in this study when feeding the 21 percent DDGS diet compared with 0 percent DDGS diet.
Read more from iGrow.org.
Posted By Cindy March 13, 2012
Hog producers have adjusted to higher corn prices and can now even afford to pay more than ethanol producers for corn and still make money.
“This is an amazing difference from just five years ago,” said Purdue agricultural economist Dr. Chris Hurt. “The hog industry was largely set up with $2-2.50 corn going into 2006. After that we saw major increases in those corn prices.” Dr. Hurt spoke to swine veterinarians on the topic of “Global Feed Economics in a Biofuel World” during recent seminar put on by Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica (BIVI).
Hog producers initially absorbed those higher costs by reducing margins, which meant big losses and ultimately resulted in reduced supplies. “You reduce the supply enough, you bring those hog prices up. That’s where we are today. Hog producers can pay $6-7 for corn with the prices they’re getting for hogs,” he said. “That up to $7 is higher than ethanol plants can pay for corn and still cover all their costs.”
Dr. Hurt is certain that the days of $2 corn are over, but he does expect prices to moderate around $5-5.50 a bushel.
Listen to an interview with Dr. Hurt here: Dr. Chris Hurt
Dr. Steve Pollmann, President of Western Operations for Murphy-Brown, LLC also spoke at that same seminar about how the world’s largest pork producer has adapted to higher corn prices. As the live production part of Smithfield Foods, Murphy-Brown has about 850,000 sows located in 12 different states and produces about 17 million pigs a year.
“We all know that feed is the biggest single cost of production,” Steve said. “A 25 cent change in corn price per bushel, with that comes a $20 change in soybean price, all of the sudden you’ve got a $1.60 a hundredweight cost of production (increase).” He says the higher feed costs in the last five years or so have meant feed as a percentage of total production costs has risen from 60% to 70%.
Dr. Pollmann says Murphy-Brown adjusted to the higher feed costs by becoming more efficient. “When things get difficult, you’ve got to get better and if you don’t, you die,” he said.
Listen to my interview with Dr. Pollmann here: Dr. Steve Pollman, Murphy-Brown
Increased efficiency in hog operations has meant diversifying feed sources, and that has included adding more distillers grains (DDGs), the animal feed by-product of ethanol. Listening to the speakers at the BIVI seminar made me feel very hopeful that the days of animosity between the livestock and ethanol sectors over corn may actually be coming to an end.
Posted By Cathryn February 13, 2012
For years now, musicians and actors have taken time out from patting themselves on the back during awards ceremonies to advance politicized causes. The mega-produced shows, which take a public willingness to indulge the already pampered in self-congratulation all the way to the bank, now serve as a platform for entertainers to remind us that they are thoughtful, culturally-aware types. Seemingly, it wasn’t enough for them to be richer and more attractive. Now, they have to prove an intellectual and moral superiority by raising a ruckus on the hot issue of the day.
At the Grammy Awards this year, Chipotle cashed in on this trend releasing a two-minute commercial decrying the evil of modern animal agriculture. Willie Nelson, long known to be a fan of a different type of farmer, strummed and sang to a Coldplay tune as cartoon images of a farmer and sweet little cartoon piggies drifted across the screen.
Personal repulsion to the insufferably self-aggrandizing, overly-produced, pseudo-intellectual impersonation of actual pain that underlies Coldplay’s music aside, the commercial plays upon the tendency of people to project what they want onto what they see.
Without a word, the ad strums along with melancholy nostalgia. The pictures show that many animals now, yes, live in barns. The sweet little cartoon pigs are shown actually locked behind a jail cell door like criminals. The farmer debates medicating himself, as shown through a thought bubble with a pill inside, or releasing his pigs back into pastures and blue sky with chickens running about too.
Luckily, it isn’t an actual depiction of how tender piglets might fare in a cold Iowa winter or how chickens do interact when left to their own devices. Instead, it is the same sort of wishy-washy, rose-tinted vision that most people would like to be true, despite the many difficulties with the realities of such a situation. If you are already projecting an actual message for Chipotle, it isn’t a stretch to willfully block out the fiction underpinning the situation.
Instead of buying into the portrayal of agriculture in the commercial, Nebraska farmers and ranchers fought back by showing the amazing story of the livestock industry in a commercial of their own. With solid information presented by actual human beings, the ad stands in stark contrast to Chipotle’s. Unlike its counterpart it offers a forthright message too – Farming is ethical. Learn about it and become a fan.
As a public, we should applaud this effort. Unlike the fast food giant, the farmers and ranchers of Nebraska trust that an informed public will see how amazing agriculture actually is today. They stand behind their production practices and invite those outside of the industry to learn more. They do not create a dream world with sappy music and emotionally evocative drawings. They treat thinking adults as such rather than signing them a lullaby.
So become a fan. Farmers work hard every day to produce a wide-variety of healthy, quality food options for us to enjoy. So many in fact, that it would be easy to avoid Chipotle, demonstrating an unwillingness to accept their uninspired brainwashing, in favor of a those other options until they hit a less condescending note.
BTW: If you want to know about the actual Chipotle, the one that they obscure through this kind of advertising, check out past reporting from Corn Commentary here.
Posted By Cindy February 1, 2012
It is possible for ethanol and livestock to live and work and play nicely together in the same state – and the main reason is the ethanol livestock feed co-product of distillers grains (DDGS).
A great discussion at the 6th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit featured corn and cattle organizations on the same panel talking about the “Synergies of Livestock and Ethanol.”
Moderator Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey opened the discussion by noting that sales of crops and livestock have risen as ethanol production has increased from $12 billion in 2002 – 6 billion in crop and 6 billion in livestock – to $24 billion in 2010, and 2011 is expected to be about $30 billion with at least $13 billion of that for livestock. “$13 billion on the livestock side versus $6 billion nine years ago,” Northey said. “Has ethanol been good for livestock agriculture in Iowa? I think very clearly.”
Listen to a brief interview with Secretary Northey here: Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey
The livestock industry has traditionally been the most important market for corn, noted Iowa Corn Growers CEO Craig Floss, although use for ethanol has increased significantly in the past decade. “But a third of every one of those bushels that goes into an ethanol plant goes into DDGS,” he said, noting that Iowa corn farmers will continue to meet the growing demand for all markets – feed, fuel, food and exports.
Listen to Craig’s part of the panel discussion here: Craig Floss on IRFA panel
Iowa Cattlemen’s Association Executive Director Matt Deppe says it’s easy to see the benefits that distillers grains (DDGS) have brought to especially cattle feeders. “We look at it as a corn replacement,” Deppe says about DDGS. “It means that they (feedlot operators) have another option that’s cost effective to put into their rations.”
Listen to an interview with Matt Deppe here: Matt Deppe Interview
Photos from 2012 Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit
Posted By Cindy October 25, 2011
A new USDA report gives even more credit where credit is due to the value of the ethanol co-product known as distillers grains or DDGS in livestock and poultry feed.
The major finding of the report is that a metric ton of DDGS can replace an average of 1.22 metric tons of corn and soybean meal feed. “We found that, on average, for the past 5 crop years (2006/07-2010/11), 1 mt of distillers’ grains substitutes for about 1.22 mt of corn and soybean meal combined in the United States,” concludes the Economic Research Service (ERS) report. That means that almost a full 40 percent of the corn used for ethanol goes directly back into the feed supply.
As of 2010/11, DDGS replaced soybean meal as the number two feedstuff fed, and is second only to corn. An increasing amount of soybean meal is being replaced over corn in livestock rations. The report also found that as DDGS market share for beef cattle have declined, market shares for dairy cattle, swine, and poultry have increased. Beef cattle’s DDGS substitution rate for corn is remains higher than any other type of livestock/poultry but is the lowest for soybean meal.
“This report reiterates what we have been saying for years: ethanol produces both fuel and food, in the form of high protein animal feed known as distillers grains,” said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis, noting that distillers grains cost livestock producers about 25 percent less. “This valuable feed displaces a greater volume of field corn and soybeans, is less expensive to the producer and is much more nutritious for the animal.”
Geoff Cooper, Renewable Fuels Association Vice President of Research & Analysis, believes the report has important implications regarding ethanol’s impact on feed grains availability, feed prices, land use effects, and the greenhouse gas (GHG) impacts of producing corn ethanol.
“USDA’s new analysis clearly shows the importance of accurate DDGS accounting,” Cooper said. “The Environmental Protection Agency and CARB should immediately adopt these new findings into their GHG modeling for the RFS2 and LCFS. The resulting decrease in ethanol’s lifecycle GHG emissions could be significant.”
Earlier this year, RFA compared the production of DDGS to only the amount of corn used for feed. With estimated production of 39 million metric tons of distillers grains for feed in the current marketing year, that is the “equivalent to the 4th largest corn crop in the world, and is enough feed to produce 50 billion quarter-pound hamburgers – seven patties for each person on the planet – or enough to produce one chicken breast for every American every day for a year.” Accounting for soybean meal substitution, that makes even more!
What we call DDGS in general can also include a number of other individual ethanol co-product. There’s a whole alphabet soup of them – DDG, DWG, DDGS, DWGS, CDS, corn gluten feed (CGF), wet corn gluten feed (WCGF), and corn gluten meal (CGM). The report suggests that future industry surveys could be more precise if they estimated the effects of all the different ethanol coproducts on the U.S. feed complex.
This report includes some of the most specific and well-researched data on distillers grains production, consumption and the ratios by which it is being used in the different livestock and poultry markets. Read it here.
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