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News Update

January 18, 2013

Angus Improves Genetic Selection Tools

The American Angus Association announces enhancements to its genetic prediction tools following an extensive genomic recalibration project in collaboration with Pfizer Animal Genetics. Starting Jan. 11, Angus breeders will notice updates to expected progeny differences (EPDs) impacted by Pfizer HD50K tested animals.

“In an effort to bring the best science and technology possible to our Angus breeders, a Pfizer HD50K recalibration process was necessary to better characterize Angus genetics,” says Bill Bowman, Association chief operating officer and Angus Genetics Inc. (AGI) president.

Users of Angus genetics will see changes in the following: EPDs and accuracies for Pfizer HD50K tested animals, re-estimated genomic correlations and updated economic assumptions that impact $Values.

“We encourage breeders and commercial bull buyers to access the most current EPDs and $Values through our Association website,” Bowman says. “This continued effort to provide robust, real-time selection tools — focused on economics — benefits the Angus breed, and the entire industry, long term.”

The National Cattle Evaluation (NCE) EPDs are processed weekly and posted every Friday on

OSU Extension Offers Beef Cattle School
Jan. 29, Feb. 26 and March 19

Producers interested in learning more about how to increase cattle profits, including an in-depth look at crossbreeding programs, can participate in a discussion of the issues by experts from Ohio State University (OSU) Extension and nationwide, during a Beef Cattle School Jan. 29, Feb. 26 and March 19 at several locations statewide.

The beef cattle school kicks off Jan. 29 with presentations from two nationally known cattle experts who will discuss how crossbreeding can boost profits for producers and how genetic selection tools have contributed to the de-emphasis on heterosis by some commercial cow-calf producers, said John Grimes, beef coordinator for OSU Extension and a member of the OSU Extension Beef Team.

Lee Leachman of the Leachman Cattle Co. of Colorado will discuss practical methods to adopt a crossbreeding program and making right-sized cows, Grimes said. Nevil Speer, a professor of animal science at Western Kentucky University, will discuss heterosis and how advanced genetic selection tools, an evolving genetic base, and the growth of quality-driven markets have contributed to this phenomenon, he said.

“The information presented during Beef Cattle School addresses some of the more pressing issues facing cow-calf producers today and is imperative for cattle producers who want to better prepare themselves for a profitable involvement in the beef industry,” Grimes said. “The information is especially relevant this year for producers looking to mitigate drought-related losses.”

For more information and the full release, click here.

Efficient Transportation Remains Critical for Farmers

In an environment of highs and lows for prices, market demands and costs, the one thing sought by farmers in terms of transporting their goods to market is certainty. That was the sentiment of a panel of transportation specialists from several state Farm Bureaus during an issues conference at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 94th Annual Meeting.

The panel also discussed the critical need for maintaining and improving the country’s inland waterway system — highlighting its importance in transporting millions of tons of agricultural cargo every year.

“We’re really talking about making decisions in two areas that will bring a lot of certainty for farmers and ranchers in this country,” said Garret Hawkins, director of national legislative programs for the Missouri Farm Bureau Federation. “One decision will be on certainty of the funding for big ticket infrastructure needs — such as the improvement of inland waterways and ports — and the other will be smaller, regulatory reform for farmers in taking their goods to market. These reforms aren’t game changers, but will keep many of these farmers going.”

For more information and the full release, click here.

Fetal Calves are Depending on How You Feed Your Beef Cows

As a beef cow-calf producer, your job this winter is managing the feed resources you have to meet the needs of your cows until grazing season begins again. That is an important job because the vast majority of those cows are carrying spring calves. Feeding the cow this winter, during late gestation, is also feeding the fetal calf and that can have long-lasting impacts.

According to a Louisiana State University AgCenter publication, proper cow nutrition affects calf performance, health and survivability more than any other factor. There are four principal negative impacts of insufficient energy for cows in late pregnancy — decreased strength and survivability of calves, decreased colostrum quality, increased sickness and decreased growth potential.

Cows with insufficient energy will have a higher rate of difficulty calving and prolonged labor, leaving both dam and calf more vulnerable. Calf birth weights will be lower, in part because of less brown fat storage. Brown fat in newborn calves is important for generating warmth — a critical concern as cows calve in winter.

Colostrum, the source of antibodies for newborn calves, as well as energy, protein and vitamins, will be of lower quality in energy-deficient cows. In addition, calves born weak will take longer to suckle. These two effects produce a higher risk of failure of passive transfer (FPT) of antibodies that are needed to protect the calf from pathogens in the environment.

For more information and the full release, click here.

USDA Finalizes New Microloan Program

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack Jan. 15 announced a new microloan program from the USDA designed to help small and family operations, beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers secure loans under $35,000. The new microloan program is aimed at bolstering the progress of producers through their start-up years by providing needed resources and helping to increase equity so that farmers may eventually graduate to commercial credit and expand their operations. The microloan program will also provide a less burdensome, more simplified application process in comparison to traditional farm loans.

“I have met several small and beginning farmers, returning veterans and disadvantaged producers interested in careers in farming who too often must rely on credit cards or personal loans with high interest rates to finance their start-up operations,” said Vilsack. “By further expanding access to credit to those just starting to put down roots in farming, USDA continues to help grow a new generation of farmers, while ensuring the strength of an American agriculture sector that drives our economy, creates jobs, and provides the most secure and affordable food supply in the world.”

The new microloans, said Vilsack, represent how USDA continues to make year-over-year gains in expanding credit opportunities for minority, socially disadvantaged and young and beginning farmers and ranchers across the United States. The final rule establishing the microloan program will be published in the Jan. 17 issue of the Federal Register. The interest rate for USDA’s new microloan product changes monthly and is currently 1.25%.

For more information and the full release, click here.

Grandin: Livestock Industry Has Improved Handling,
Needs to Tell Its Story Better

The U.S. beef industry has made huge strides in livestock handling in recent years but has done a poor job explaining that to the public, said leading animal behavior expert Temple Grandin Tuesday, Jan. 15.

Grandin encouraged the industry to be more transparent with the general public. “Ag has done a rotten job of communicating,” she added.

Grandin spoke at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln as part of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR) Heuermann Lectures.

Grandin, an animal sciences professor at Colorado State University, has had a major impact on the meat and livestock industries worldwide through her research, development and outreach on use of low-stress, behavior-based livestock handling techniques and design of animal handling facilities.

Half the cattle in North America are handled in equipment she has designed for meat plants, said Ronnie Green, Harlan vice chancellor of IANR and University of Nebraska vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

Grandin said her autism has played a key role in her work because it attunes her to visual details that can distress cattle, pigs and other livestock but go unnoticed by most people.

Changes in flooring surfaces, reflections, shadows, even something as simple as a dangling chain all can unnerve animals and make them harder to handle, Grandin said.

“I got down in the chute to see what the cattle were seeing,” she recalled. “People thought that was crazy.”

Grandin said livestock handling in the 1970s and 1980s was terrible, but both equipment and management practices are vastly better now. However, both the media and public still seize on occasional instances of mishandling and treat them as if they are the rule rather than the exception.


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