Capsicum Oleoresin Fed to Grow-Finish Pigs Improved Carcass Value

Feed additives are low inclusion, non-nutritive, feed ingredients designed to provide benefits in the growth, feed efficiency, and/or feed intake of animals and ultimately lower the cost of production. There is a myriad of commercially available feed additives with associated claims. This makes it difficult to recommend which feed additives swine producers should choose. These feed ingredients do not contribute to the daily nutrient supply of the animals. Instead, feed additives influence the profitability of swine operations through different mechanisms.

In the wean-to-finish commercial research facility at South Dakota State University, 1,100 growing pigs (approximately 110 lbs starting weight) were divided among 44 pens and assigned to one of four dietary treatments, based on the inclusion of a feed additive combination, in a five phase feeding program up to marketing. The dietary treatments were as follows: 1) Control: SDSU formulated grow-finish phase diets; 2) Positive control: Control diets plus feed additive combination in all phases; 3) Pulse dose: Control diets plus feed additive combination in phases 1, 3, and 5; 4) Finisher: Control diet plus feed additive combination in phase 5 only.

Providing artificial sweeteners in the diet has been shown to increase the intestinal expression of sodium-glucose co-transporter-1 (SGLT-1). The function of the SGLT-1 protein is to transport dietary glucose across the cells of the intestine into the body. The transport of glucose occurs against the concentration gradient by harnessing the naturally occurring sodium concentration gradient. An extract from chili peppers, capsicum oleoresin, has been shown to reduce the inflammatory effects of heat stress in swine. Therefore, a feed additive combination of a high-intensity sweetener and capsicum oleoresin was investigated in this trial.

Bulk meal feeds were delivered to all pens utilizing an automated feed delivery system. Trial diets, without or with a feed additive premix providing 90.9 g of the feed additive combination per ton, were delivered to pens according to the assigned dietary treatment. The feed additive combination premix was prepared with 5 lb of corn per ton, as a direct replacement for corn in the diet formulation. Diets, fed in five trial phases, were formulated to include 20% corn germ meal to partially replace corn and soybean meal after Phase 1. Diets were formulated to meet or exceed the nutritional recommendations according to National Research Council (2012) for expected pig weight range and the minimum digestible lysine specifications (Table 1).

Table 1. Trial diet phase, total lysine (percent analyzed), and trial diet duration and approximate pig weight range.

Trial diet phase Total lysine, % analyzed Trial diet duration Approximate pig weight range
Phase 1 0.92% 14 d 110-140 lbs
Phase 2 0.83% 14 d 140-180 lbs
Phase 3 0.79% 14 d 180-220 lbs
Phase 4 0.72% 21 d 220-265 lbs
Phase 5 0.65% 28 d 265-300 lbs

Pigs were weighed every 2 weeks for the determination of growth performance simultaneously with feed disappearance. Pigs were marketed at the end of the 13-week trial and carcass characteristic data was obtained from the commercial packer by treatment group. Pigs were marketed by removing 11 of the heaviest pigs per pen according to the four experimental treatment groups.

The average daily feed intake (ADFI, lbs/pig/d) was not affected by treatment in Phase 1, 2, and 4 (Table 2). In Phase 3, when pigs received diets containing the combination after having not in the previous period (i.e. Pulse dose), ADFI was greater (P>0.01) compared to the other treatments. In the final period, Phase 5, the ADFI of pigs that received the diets containing the feed additive combination was lower (P<0.05) when compared to for the Control.

Table 2. Average daily feed intake (ADFI), lbs/pig/d.

Control Constant Pulse Finisher SEM p-value
ADFI, lbs/pig/d
Phase 1 4.4 4.4 4.4 4.4 0.1 0.995
Phase 2 4.7 4.7 4.8 4.6 0.1 0.512
Phase 3 5.6b 5.4b 5.9a 5.6b 0.1 0.002
Phase 4 6.6 6.6 6.5 6.5 0.1 0.553
Phase 5 7.4a 6.9b 6.8b 6.9b 0.1 0.043
Within a row, values without common superscripts differ (a,b,c P < 0.05)

The overall average daily gain (ADG, lbs/d), feed efficiency, and average body weight were not affected by treatment.

The carcass characteristics of fat depth (in), loin depth (in), and lean depth (in) were not affected by treatment (Table 3). Despite greater (P<0.02) live weight of Control pigs than pigs fed Constant or Pulse inclusion of the feed additive combination, base price and price/cwt were greater (P≤0.05) in all groups fed the feed additive combination.

Table 3. Carcass characteristics obtained from the commercial packer.

Control Constant Pulse Finisher SEM p-value
Fat, in 0.89 0.89 0.87 0.86 0.02 0.858
Loin, in 2.97 2.95 2.95 2.99 0.01 0.180
Lean, in 55.25 55.20 55.35 55.55 0.17 0.594
Base ($) 54.82c 55.97ab 56.48a 55.75b 0.33 0.014
Prem ($) 7.49x 7.24yz 7.17z 7.42xy 0.13 0.052
$/cwt 62.30b 63.23a 63.66a 63.16a 0.41 0.017
Carcass wt, lb 237.5x 233.3xy 230.0y 233.5xy 1.38 0.076
Live wt, lb 310.5a 306.5b 299.5c 307.5ab 2.90 0.009

Under commercial conditions, inclusion of a feed additive combination of a high-intensity sweetener and capsicum oleoresin resulted in $0.90 to $1.30 more per cwt of carcass, depending on inclusion strategy, based on the heaviest 11 pigs/pen being marketed first. In this trial, providing the combination for 28 days before marketing, provided the best potential return on investment compared to including the feed additive combination throughout the entire grow-finish period (Constant) or in alternate dietary phases (Pulse).

Let the Cow Save You Money and the Bull Make You Money

A recent conversation regarding economic drivers in the cow-calf enterprise left me with a lot to think about.

Let me summarize: The thoroughfare to consumers begins with the conception and birth of a calf that slowly morphs into beef. The beef industry is huge, so reflecting is good as the calf moves from the cow-calf producer to other beef enterprises throughout the beef chain.

Much like the source of a mighty river, at some point, only melting snow or raindrops were present. Mighty rivers do not become majestic if the snow does not melt or the rain does not fall. Everything starts somewhere, albeit small, and needs to grow. The cow-calf industry is no different.

Let us consider some thoughts regarding the cow-calf enterprise. Generally, the cow-calf producer has had some cushion between total expenses and market price (positive cash flow). Expenses, however, loom on the horizon as historically high, and given the relative low rates of return on investment, along with the challenges of finding adequate labor, some cattle producers are giving up the reins.

What steps can producers take to improve probability and, ultimately, return on investment? Almost anybody can buy a cow and bull, and produce a calf, but that is not the definition of a cow-calf enterprise. The operation needs to have some scale, and I usually review data that involve operations of 50 or more cows. But today, even 100 cows probably are below the threshold of “economy of scale.”

I will be the first to state loudly that the cow-calf business has many economic drivers, and “economy of scale” does not have to be one of them. Why? Cow producers like cows and enjoy the lifestyle of raising beef. But a positive cash flow will put more smiles on the producers’ faces.

That being said, how do we do that? Here are some thoughts.

First, recognize the environment one is in and quit fighting it. Building to beat Mother Nature is futile; feed the cows, breed the cows and calve the cows when the weather is right.

The weather is right when cool-season grasses are growing actively. As a consequence of calving when the grass grows, a shift occurs when the third trimester of pregnancy starts, creating the opportunity for alternative winter forage programs.

At the Dickinson Research Extension Center, we turn bulls out on Aug. 1. The third trimester starts Feb. 12, and calving starts May 7. Winter feeds costs, which are 70-plus percent of the total cow-calf costs, have the potential to decline significantly, depending on the extent that “extensive winter forage” is utilized.

Second, recognize the importance of monitoring cow size. The maintenance of excessively large cows has proven difficult to offset with increased weaning weights. The center has targeted mature cow size at 1,100 to 1,300 pounds. Although individual calf weights will be lighter, total calf weight based on calves produced per acre will be greater, resulting in more total pounds of calf.

Third, recognize the importance of good bull selection using technological advancements that improve accuracy. Generally, keep expected progeny differences (EPDs) above the 50th percentile within the desired traits and breed. As matter of practicality, become comfortable with bulls that are above the 50th percentile but may not exceed the upper 30th percentile for commercial production.

Fourth, recognize the value of breeding systems, maximizing the traits of interest in the terminal sire program while balancing appropriate traits on the maternal side. Let the cow save you money and the bull make you money.

At the center, 1,100- to 1,300-pound cows bred to bulls above the 50th percentile for growth and marbling and in the upper 10th percentile for rib-eye area have an advantage of $26 per acre of ranchland over traditional cows. The calves are summered on forage, and after a short feedlot stay, they are harvested at an average weight of 1,450 pounds, with 94 percent at the “choice” grade at an average yield grade of 2.9.

The search for the next generation of cow-calf producers has a tremendous opportunity for success, provided some simple targeted goals based on real numbers are put in place. Efficient beef production starts when the bull mates with a cow and biological efficiency mates with economic efficiency.

And just like the majestic river that starts with a few raindrops and a small stream, beef production needs to start with the cow-calf producer. Fishing in the big river may catch some big fish, but do not let fishing tales run the operation.

For new cow-calf producers, the single biggest mistake made is the tendency to work hard physically and set aside the homework. Each cow-calf enterprise is a unique business, and businesses need records. Focus, listen and learn.

Source: Kris Ringwall, Beef Specialist, North Dakota State University

Record Decline in the Ag Barometer

The Purdue University/CME Group Ag Economy Barometer declined 26 points, down to 117, in July making it the largest one-month decline in producer sentiment since data collection began in October 2015. The drop in sentiment was fueled by increasing trade war concerns and decreasing commodity prices.

“This summer we’ve seen tariffs placed on imports of U.S. ag products by China and Mexico that are impacting producers’ bottom line,” said James Mintert, the barometer’s principal investigator and director of Purdue University’s Center for Commercial Agriculture. “This month, we asked producers whether they expect to see their net income decline as a result of trade war conflicts. Over two-thirds of respondents indicated they expect to see lower income because of trade conflicts with over 70 percent of them expecting a net income decline of 10 percent or more.”

Sharp declines were also recorded for the Index of Current Conditions, which fell from 138 to 99, and the Index of Future Expectations, which fell from 146 to 126 in July. The Ag Economy barometer is based on a monthly survey of 400 agricultural producers from across the country.

“Commodity prices dropped sharply in June and July, and there is real concern among producers that those prices will remain low and, possibly, fall even further,” said Mintert. In the July survey, approximately 4 out of 10 producers stated they think it’s likely December 2018 corn futures will trade below $3.25 per bushel and November 2018 soybean futures trade below $8 per bushel between mid-July and this fall. “Prices in that range would result in a significant cash flow squeeze for many farm operators,” said Mintert. “While prices at those levels would cover variable production expenses, it would leave some farmers falling far short of covering fixed and overhead expenses.”

The negative outlook on commodity prices spilled over into farmland values as well, with 31 percent of producers saying they expect lower farmland prices over the next year. Farmers also became more apprehensive about making large purchases, as 73 percent indicated it’s a bad time for large farm investments. Read the full July Ag Economy Barometer report at http://purdue.edu/agbarometer. The report includes more information on producer concerns over the trade conflict and its impact on agricultural exports. New this month, get additional July barometer analysis in a video from Center for Commercial Agriculture Director James Mintert. Available now at https://youtu.be/7QiiIMUcjhs.

The Ag Economy Barometer, Index of Current Conditions and Index of Future Expectations are available on the Bloomberg Terminal under the following ticker symbols: AGECBARO, AGECCURC and AGECFTEX.

Source: Purdue University 

Injectable Trace Minerals Have Variable Effects on Beef Heifers’ Reproductive Performance

It can be a struggle for beef cattle producers to maintain mineral status, especially for cattle on pasture, so many implement a trace mineral supplementation program. But research on newer trace mineral strategies, including injectables, has been inconsistent and incomplete. In a set of recent studies, University of Illinois animal scientists study the effects of the injectable trace mineral Multimin®90 on reproductive performance in beef heifers.

“We definitely have heard a lot of producers asking, ‘What about this product? Does it work?’ So we started to do studies on it,” says Dan Shike, associate professor in the Department of Animal Sciences at U of I.

In the first study, published in Translational Animal Science, Shike and his research team injected heifers with Multimin®90 at a rate of 1 milliliter per 68 kilograms, 33 days prior to artificial insemination (AI). The heifers were spread out in three herds across Illinois, in Champaign, Simpson, and Baylis.

“In those three herds, we had variable results,” Shike says. “In two of the herds, we had very good AI conception rates in our controls, so we were already doing well and did not see a response to the injectable. In the last herd, the controls were below where we would like to see. By giving the Multimin®90, there was an improvement in conception rates. In that particular case, it appeared that trace mineral was limiting.”

In the second study, in the Journal of Animal Science, Shike and his team injected Multimin®90 into heifers every 90 days from weaning to final pregnancy confirmation, at variable rates according to age, body weight, and label specifications. It is the first published study to evaluate the effects of repeated trace mineral injections.

In this case, the injections had no effect on reproductive performance, but selenium and copper status improved compared to animals that received only saline injections.

In explaining the result, Shike says it’s complicated. “In pregnancy, there are so many factors, but the result is either yes or no. In this particular study, the limiting factor was not trace mineral. We had a tougher forage year, so all the heifers were a little lighter, thinner than expected. In this case, overall energy status was likely the most limiting.”

Even if it doesn’t make a huge difference in reproductive performance, Shike still sees value in the product because trace minerals play critical roles in overall cattle health and productivity. And ingestible trace mineral products, such as free-choice minerals in pasture-fed cattle, can be hit-or-miss.

“When producers ask about this, my first questions are, ‘How have your AI conception rates been? Are you hitting a home run every year?’ If so, then you probably don’t have a trace mineral issue.

“But if you’ve had poor AI conception in three out of four years, you need to start evaluating. It may not be trace mineral, but it’s one of the things you should look at. Consider a different mineral program or an injectable. The value of an injectable is you pick the timing and you ensure every animal gets it.”

He says that value is worth it to some purebred seedstock producers, who view the injectable as a cheap insurance program. “If you can get a couple extra pregnancies out of this, you can pay for all your Multimin®90 for a couple of years in these operations.”

The first article, “Effect of an injectable trace mineral at the initiation of a 14 day CIDR protocol on heifer performance and reproduction,” is published in Translational Animal Science [DOI: 10.2527/tas2017.0050]. Authors include Rebecca Stokes, Abigail Ralph, Alexander Mickna, Wesley Chapple, Adam Schroeder, Frank Ireland, and Dan Shike. The research was funded by the Illinois Beef Association and Multimin USA.

The second article, “Effect of repeated trace mineral injections on beef heifer development and reproductive performance,” is published in Journal of Animal Science [DOI: 10.1093/jas/sky253]. Authors include Rebecca Stokes, Mareah Volk, Frank Ireland, Patrick Gunn, and Dan Shike. The research was funded in part by Multimin USA.

Source: University of Illinois

Planning Ahead With Yield Estimates

Late July crop ratings remained steady, with corn rated at 80% good/excellent condition. Daily high temperatures are expected to hold in the 80’s throughout the remainder of grain-fill, with crop maturity expected by the first week of September. Now is the time when yield estimates will be calculated in anticipation of harvest for decision making regarding: delivery and storage, marketing, crop insurance, and cash-flow budgeting. One estimation that is quite useful for speed and efficiency is the Yield Component Method.

The Yield Component Method is based on the idea that one can estimate total grain yield by estimating the various components which attribute to yield: number of ears per acre, number of kernels per ear, and weight per kernel. Fortunately, these are all quite easy to determine in just a few simple steps. For step by step instructions on this method, see below:

Step 1: Determine an estimation site at random in the field. An estimation site should be representative of the field or area within the field. Consider factors like disease pressure, insect pressure, nutrient deficiencies, or lodging when selecting estimation sites.

Step 2: For each estimation site, begin by measuring off a length of a single row equal to 1/1000th acre. For 30 inch rows in corn, the single row length to measured is 17.5 feet. This value will change according to row spacing, so consider this when using custom planters or drills.

Step 3: Count the number of harvestable ears on the plants in the 1/1000th acre of row (17.5 feet).

Step 4: From the row, select 5 harvestable ears and determine the number of kernels per ear.

Step 5: Calculate the average number of kernel per ear for the estimation site by summing the values for all the sampled ears and dividing by the number of ears.

Step 6: To estimate the yield (bushels/acre), multiply the harvestable ear number (Step 3) by the average number of kernels per ear (Step 5) and then dividing that result by a kernel weight “fudge factor”. The fudge factor is used to account for variability in kernel weight, so multiple calculations using different “fudge factor” values (75, 85, and 95) are used to determine a yield range.

For example, say you counted a total of 160 harvestable ears at 5 estimation sites, giving you 32 ears per estimation site. When sampling every 5th ear it was determined that the average number of kernels per ear was 520. Using “fudge factor” values of 75, 85, and 95; the estimated range in yield for that sampled site would (32 x 520) divided by 75 = 221, or divided by 85 = 195, or divided by 95 = 175 bushels per acre.

Remember, this method is used to estimate pre-harvest grain yield and provides only an estimate for decision making purposes; the closer to maturity the crop the estimates are performed, the more accurate they will be. Yield can easily be overestimated in a year with drought conditions during grain fill due to reduced kernel size and weight. Alternatively, yield can be underestimated in a year with excellent conditions during grain fill leading to larger kernel size and weight. Regardless, these estimates can give producers an idea of what to expect and still provide value when done correctly. For questions regarding yield estimate calculations, contact Phillip Alberti, Crop Science Educator with University of Illinois Extension in the College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences at palberti@illinois.edu, 815-235-4125 or on Twitter (@NorthernILCrops).

Coaching for Performance

One of the most difficult things for farm managers/owners to master is coaching employees for optimal performance. Just like becoming an 85% free throw shooter on the basketball court, it takes practice. Once mastered you will see employees who understand goals and expectations more clearly, are more motivated, have ownership of their work, show greater responsibility, while maximizing their potential and problem solving ability. What you as an employer get is more productivity and lower turnover along with being freed of the day-to-day micromanagement of employees.

For this to happen it often requires a mindset change on the part of the employer via letting go of short-term control and constant micromanagement of employees. Coaching is not creating an anarchy but instead empowering employees to think and act on their own, making decisions as the need arises through knowledge gained by teaching and leadership. It does require effort, patience, and insight into learning what makes your employees tick.

We also need to remember how humans are different than machinery, plants and animals. Quoting Dr. Bob Milligan, Professor Emeritus Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University (2014), “1. People can think, so they can make decisions. 2. People can speak, so they can ask questions, provide feedback and provide new ideas. 3. People have feelings, so our actions impact their motivation, attitudes and performance.” As an employer or manager/supervisor you are the team’s leader and you need to remember how your coaching of the team will help achieve the desired outcome.

Coaching is different than the evaluation process, which often is only done once a year. Coaching focuses on guidance and development of the employee by being proactive and positive and providing feedback. The employer must take the time to understand and determine the following:

Each employee’s unique strengths and weaknesses.
What it will take to help the employee overcome any barriers to their success.
Finding out what motivates each individual employee and tailoring incentives toward them.
Communicating direction towards achieving company goals.
Helping employees understand the big picture.
Helping employees understand their individual role in the company’s success.
When getting employees to improve their performance through coaching there are six critical steps involved.

Describe the problem in a professional non-confrontational manner.
This discussion needs to be positive and done in a non-threating manner. This is not the place to blame but instead uncover causes of the problem to work towards solutions.
Ask the employee(s) help in solving the problem.
In doing so you will get the employee(s) commitment via asking them to decide what to do to solve the problem. In return you are boosting the employee(s) self-esteem because you value their opinion and ideas.
Discuss the causes of the problem.
You need to remember this is a discussion about a performance problem, not about the employee’s attitude or personality. You need to remain friendly and relaxed throughout the conversation. Information should be gathered using open-ended questions which often start with words like “How”, “What”, “Who”, and “When” and cannot simply be answered yes or no.
Identify and write down possible solutions.
By writing down the solutions you have a reference point to follow what must be done, and if one does not work you can go to the next proposal. In doing so, involve the employee(s) in choosing the best solution and identify their role in the solution.
Decide on a specific action to be taken by everyone.
By identifying specific actions and responsibilities for the solutions and writing it down it will emphasize that the responsibility for improvement rests with the employee(s).
Agree on a specific follow up date.
By setting a date it sends a message to the employee(s) that solving the performance problem is important and it also tells the employee(s) that you want to know how well the actions agreed upon are being handled. It also allows for further follow up or tweaking to the problem if needed. As always end the discussion on a friendly note.
As you will see, how each employee meets the goals established is left up to the employee(s) and it gives personal ownership towards the goal or desired outcome.

In the end you have helped the employee(s) understand the “Why is it done this way? or Why a certain behavior is it needed?”. Along with enabling them to become a part of the solution or desired outcome. We need to remember that in a T.E.A.M. nobody goes it alone and that T-together, E-everyone, A-achieves, M-more. Using appropriate coaching methods with employees will help you as a manager to achieve the desired employee(s) performance you are looking for in your operation.

Occupational Safety at Agricultural Cooperatives

As the harvest season approaches, attention once again will focus on the occupational safety hazards agricultural producers face during this busy time of the year.

Dangerous machinery, heavy workloads and fatigue contribute to elevated farm injury rates in the late summer and fall months.

The harvest season also is a stressful time for agricultural cooperatives, which provide inputs and services vital to America’s agricultural economy. A survey of several agricultural cooperatives in the upper Midwest indicates that injuries are more common during the harvest season than other times of the year. However, compared with the dangers farmers face, the safety hazards at agricultural cooperatives receive relatively little publicity.

From 2012 to 2017, surveyed agricultural cooperatives averaged more than six injuries per 100 full-time workers per year, a rate roughly double that of U.S. private industry. As a result, many agricultural cooperatives are attempting to improve safety performance.

The most basic motivation for improving occupational safety is an altruistic desire to improve employee well-being. Beyond that, safety directors at surveyed agricultural cooperatives cited better business operations as a key motivation for improving safety performance. Specifically, safer workplaces have fewer work stoppages and worker re-trainings caused by occupational injuries.

Safety directors also value workplace safety because it assists in employee retention. That is, safe workplaces are more desirable for long-term employment. Retaining talent is key for all businesses, particularly those in rural areas. These and other financial benefits can add up for agricultural cooperatives, thereby boosting returns to their owner-members.

So what is standing in the way of improved safety performance at agricultural cooperatives? Many firms have made investments in safety equipment, training and personnel in recent years. However, at this point, safety directors indicate that insufficient firm resources are not necessarily the biggest obstacles to improved safety.

Managers’ motivation to comply with policies and procedures was identified as a driver of strong safety performance. Considerable research supports the view that managerial actions and attitudes are key to developing a strong “safety culture.”

Safety directors are focused on increasing accountability rather than simply increasing funding for safety training or education. In other words, internally imposed consequences for occupational health and safety incidents are critical for improving safety outcomes.

Internally imposed consequences include warning systems, financial penalties and even termination for failure to adhere to firm safety rules. Because managers must administer these penalties, the importance of safety-first managerial attitudes is once again evident.

Unfortunately, as agricultural cooperatives increase their workload to meet harvest demands in the coming weeks and months, on-the-job injuries are likely to occur. However, this stressful time should remind agricultural cooperatives of safety’s importance.

What is worth remembering is that attempts to enhance the effectiveness of safety investments may reap rewards not just for individual employees, but also for firm finances.

Sheep and Cows: Some Do and Some Do Not

Driving across the grasslands, one finds oneself asking, “Who eats all this grass?”

Those who live in more urban settings actually ask, “Who cuts the grass?” Well, we have no need to cut grass because sheep and cows graze, coexisting within the same grasslands, along with other grazing-type animals.

Sheep and cows harvest the grass and other plants that provide cover and stability to the soil. Their grazing is very complementary to each other. The forage roots, stimulated by grazing, essentially hold the earth together.

Think about it. Who builds homes in a sand pile? Add plants, and stability arrives. That is a good thing.

So, back to who does cut grass. In pastures, animals cut the grass. The evolution of this unique and precious relationship is the anchor for animal, plant and soil interactions.

Animals eat the grass, stimulating grass plants to spread, wrapping the world in grass and other plants. Animals provide food for humans, who keep the animal population in check.

Life is good, and even better when a diverse mixture of plants and animals thrives, each adapting to its unique ecosystem and helping sustain the world. With this diversity comes relationships that generally evolve through time. Time notes the pluses and minuses, working through the various scenarios, some that work and some that do not work.

One of those centuries-old relationships is the grazing of various animals on the grasslands, a beneficial relationship because the different types of animals focus their grazing on different aspects of the grasslands. Again, sheep and cows coexist and that is good.

If overpopulation does not happen and an adequate annual harvest keeps the populations in check, the grasslands benefit. The world functions well.

Back to the challenge. Agriculture is a human activity that includes the growing of plants and animals while maintaining agricultural lands. Do not forget: Sheep and cows coexist.

Unfortunately, through time, agriculture has become “mono-cultural.” The care of plants and animals is simplified, with one plant or one animal type cared for at a time. Missing from this thought process is the symbiotic relationships that different plants and animals have adapted through time to survive.

Because these relationships are complicated, an ecosystem approach will not find its way into production agriculture quickly. Grasslands, by their very nature, contain numerous plant types that add diversity, which is good.

Range system programs, designed to maintain and enhance plant diversity, work well, although implementation takes some effort. Likewise, a diverse grassland is enhanced by grazing appropriate numbers of different livestock species.

Remember the question, “Why do sheep and cows coexist?” That is why.

We should ask, “Is this real or simply frivolous pondering?” Studies by Mike Humann and Don Kirby at the Dickinson Research Extension Center in 1983 and 1984 evaluated incorporating grazing sheep and cattle together.

They noted, “While cattle are the predominant grazers of range and pasture in the northern Great Plains, sheep offer a significant untapped potential use of this diverse grazing resource. … Since the mixed-grass prairie provides an abundant variety of classes and species of vegetation, we questioned whether one class of livestock could make efficient use of this varietal abundance.”

They found sheep diets complemented the grazing of cattle extremely well.

“The sheep production cycle, breeding, gestation and lactation of ewes compares favorably with the quality of forage selected seasonally by ewes,” they wrote. The biological needs of sheep fit very well with cattle.

In 1990, James Nelson and others grazed ewes and cattle at the center, one ewe to every cow.

They noted, “Grazing sheep and cow-calf pairs on native range … allowed both species to make normal growth without sacrificing either pasture quantity or quality.”

Data show the complementary grazing of cattle and sheep is real, but not simple. So why not?

As in any process, the conversion of the grasslands from an unfenced to fenced rangeland introduced more challenges to an already complex system. And truth be told, the management of cows and sheep in a confined space is not simple. But having worked with sheep and cattle, and sheep producers and cattle producers, the task is not impossible.

The challenge quickly reverts to the willingness to commit a limited time resource weighed against the opportunity to see a dollar return. With sheep and cows, some do and some do not work well together.

We hope the some that do work will surface more, allowing production agriculture to take in the built-in efficiencies that Mother Nature already has provided.

Source: North Dakota State University

2017-18 Corn Consumption Finishing Strong

While discussion of trade issues and the potential for new crop yield continues to dominate the market outlook for corn, low corn prices seen over the last couple of months spurred corn consumption in the latter part of the marketing year in export and ethanol markets, according to University of Illinois agricultural economist, Todd Hubbs.

“Weekly ethanol production exceeded a million barrels per day in all but two weeks thus far in 2018. Buoyed by positive ethanol profit margins, estimates of corn use for ethanol during this marketing year continue to increase,” Hubbs says.

Current USDA estimates of corn use for ethanol sit at 5.6 billion bushels for the marketing year. Through three quarters of the marketing year, corn used in ethanol production totaled 4.18 billion bushels. Based on ethanol production since May and estimates of corn use in production, corn consumption for ethanol as of July 20 is approximately 4.98 billion bushels. Ethanol exports continue to support corn use with a total through May coming in at 1.24 billion gallons, up 17 percent over last year.

“To reach the USDA estimate, about 104 million bushels of corn use per week is necessary for the remainder of the marketing year,” Hubbs says. “The recent pace of ethanol production indicates the potential to reach and possibly exceed the current USDA estimate.”

USDA estimates corn exports at 2.4 billion bushels this marketing year. Exports through three quarters of the marketing year came in at 1.66 billion bushels, down 6.3 percent from last year over the same period. However, Hubbs says the weekly rate of export inspections during June and July point toward a substantial increase in corn exports during the fourth quarter.

Accumulated exports through July 26 came in at 2.027 billion bushels. “By using the relationship between Census Bureau export estimates from September through May and cumulative export inspections, exports through July 26 totaled 2.125 billion bushels. With five weeks left in the marketing year, an additional 275 million bushels of exports is required to reach the current USDA estimate, an average of 55 million bushels per week,” he explains. “For the four weeks that ended July 26, weekly export inspections averaged 56 million bushels per week. At 391 million bushels, outstanding sales as of July 19 point toward meeting the USDA estimate.

“While the export demand for U.S corn for the remainder of the marketing year is uncertain, the recent pace of export inspections and new export sales are supportive of the current projection for the marketing year.”

The level of corn consumption in the feed and residual category likely fell from a year ago. The 50 million bushel reduction by the USDA in the July 12 WASDE reflected the larger-than-expected June 1 corn stocks. Livestock production levels supported the notion of increased corn feed use during this marketing year. Despite strong livestock production, the USDA projection for marketing year feed and residual use fell by 100 million bushels since January.

“The growth in ethanol production created an increase in distiller’s grain production that contributed to lower feed use,” Hubbs says. “When combined with a slight decline in distiller’s grain exports during the marketing year, the availability of distiller’s grains is apparent.”

Feed and residual use of corn came in at 4.7 billion bushels through three quarters of this marketing year, down 88 million bushels from last year. To reach the current USDA estimate of 5.45 billion bushels, fourth-quarter feed and residual use must equal 754 million bushels, 67 million bushels larger than the fourth quarter of the 2016- 17 marketing year. Over the last three marketing years, fourth-quarter feed and residual use constituted 11.2 percent of total use in the category.

“If the average occurred this year, 610 million bushels of feed and residual use would happen in the fourth quarter. Lower corn prices and strong livestock production levels may see the potential for corn feed use coming in at the current USDA estimates. Reaching the current USDA estimate appears unlikely at this point. An expectation of an additional 25 million bushel reduction in the feed and residual use category is anticipated,” Hubbs says.

Corn futures prices recently rose from 2018 lows seen in mid-July. Hubbs adds that the continued speculation on the size of the 2018 crop and trade issues dampened the impact of strong consumption growth seen over the last month. “Despite lower-than-expected feed and residual use, strength in ethanol use for corn and export markets indicate the current ending-stocks estimate of 2.027 billion bushels by the USDA is attainable. The Aug. 10 crop production report provides some clarity on yield potential for corn this year, and with a lower-than-expected yield, may witness stronger prices under current consumption levels.”

Discussion and graphs associated with this article available here: https://youtu.be/U7vuiONYvDE

Source: University of Illinois

Soybean Issues

Agricultural trade issues continue to garner a substantial amount of media attention. The Commerce Department noted on Friday that surging U.S. soybean exports, spurred by the anticipation of Chinese tariffs, contributed to strong second quarter GDP growth. Meanwhile, President Trump touted an agreement with the EU to purchase more U.S. soybeans, although a subsequent report pointed out that the accord fell short of addressing broader agricultural trade disputes. Nonetheless, on Sunday’s “Face the Nation” television program, Larry Kudlow, President Trump’s economic advisor, indicated that broad discussions on agriculture will be part of the bilateral talks wth the EU.


Soybean Exports Contribute to Jump in GDP

Harriet Torry reported on the front page of Saturday’s Wall Street Journal that, “The U.S. economy grew at the fastest pace in nearly four years this spring, reflecting broad-based momentum that suggests the second-longest expansion on record isn’t yet running out of fuel.”

The Journal article pointed out that, “Trade contributed strongly to the economy’s performance. Net exports added 1.06 percentage point to the second quarter’s 4.1% GDP growth rate, which likely reflected a surge in soybean exports as buyers abroad rushed to get their supplies before China’s 25% retaliatory tariffs on the U.S. crop hit in July.

Saturday’s article noted that, “For some Americans, trade barriers are causing anxiety. Terry Schultz, president of Madison, S.D.-based seed producer Mustang Seeds, said tariffs on U.S. soybean exports have ‘ramped up pressure on profitability’ for the farming sector, which has already been under pressure from lower commodity prices in recent years.

“‘Our sales numbers are good. What’s always a concern is the profitability of our customers and their ability to pay us,’ Mr. Schultz said.”


U.S. – EU Trade Agreement and Soybeans

Meanwhile, Associated Press writers Ken Thomas and Paul Wiseman reported on Wednesday that, “President Donald Trump and European leaders pulled back from the brink of a trade war over autos Wednesday and agreed to open talks to tear down trade barriers between the United States and the European Union.”

The AP article stated, “Trump also said the EU had agreed to buy ‘a lot of soybeans‘ and increase its imports of liquefied natural gas from the U.S. And the two agreed to resolve an ongoing dispute over U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum.”

Wednesday’s article added, “The EU is stepping in to ease some of U.S. farmers’ pain. Juncker said the EU ‘can import more soybeans from the U.S., and it will be done.’

“Mary Lovely, a Syracuse University economist who studies trade, said, ‘The Chinese are not going to be buying our soybeans, so almost by musical chairs our soybeans are going to Europe.’

Bloomberg writers Alan Bjerga and Isis Almeida reported Thursday that, “The promise President Donald Trump extracted from the European Union to buy more soybeans from U.S. farmers won’t put much of a dent in the potential losses from a continuing trade war with China.

“The EU is the second-biggest buyer of the U.S. oilseed. But that is a distant second to China, which bought $12.3 billion of the U.S. soy last year compared with the $1.6 billion exported to the EU. Losses in sales to China stemming from an escalating trade spat are causing political headaches for Trump and farm state Republicans in Congress that Europe won’t be able to relieve.”

The Bloomberg writers noted that, “Even if the EU bought soybeans exclusively from the U.S., it would add about 10 million tons of demand and offset only about 35 percent of the 27 million tons of demand lost from China if the Asian nation completely halted U.S. purchases, said Michael Magdovitz, an oilseeds analyst at Rabobank International.”

And Bloomberg’s Simon Casey pointed out last week that, “The European Union will import more U.S. soybeans as part of a new accord to avoid an all-out trade war. Yet the bloc was already likely to take more American shipments.

“That’s because the 25 percent tariff China slapped on U.S. soy imports earlier this month promises to reshape the global market for the commodity. The U.S.-China tiff means it’s likely that Brazil, the No. 2 producer, will end up selling more soy to China as a result. That’s something that traders anticipate, based on the higher price Brazilian soy is fetching over U.S. supplies.

“Facing a reduced Chinese market, U.S. soybean exporters have few options other than to target the EU. And the fact that Brazilian shippers will be sending more cargoes to China means less competition in Europe. Rabobank International Ltd. predicted in June that the U.S. may overtake Brazil as the biggest soybean importer into the EU.”

Also, Reuters writer Michael Hogan reported Thursday that, “EU buyers have already been stepping up purchases, with U.S. supplies now available at a significant discount to exports from South America.”

Des Moines Register writers Brianne Pfannenstiel and William Petroski reported on the front page of Friday’s paper that, “President Donald Trump displayed John-Deere-green hats bearing the slogan ‘Make Farmers Great Again‘ during his visit to Peosta Thursday, telling Iowa farmers they won’t be ‘too angry with Trump’ following an apparent trade agreement with European leaders.”

The Register article indicated that, “Trump boasted of his verbal agreement with leaders of the European Union, (‘we’re starting the documents,’ Trump said as an aside), that would move toward the elimination of trade barriers.

“‘We just opened up Europe for you farmers,’ he said. ‘You’re not going to be too angry with Trump, I can tell you.’

He continued: ‘I said to the Europeans, I said, ‘Do me a favor. Would you go out to the farms in Iowa and all the different places in the Midwest? Will you buy a lot of soybeans right now?’ Because what, that whole soybean thing is now going to be opened up. No tariffs. No nothing. Free trade.’

However, Jacob M. Schlesinger and Emre Peker reported on Friday at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “A day after President Trump hailed ‘a breakthrough agreement’ on trade with Europe, European officials said the president and his aides are exaggerating the scope of their new pact.”

More specifically, the Journal article stated, “While Mr. Trump told an Iowa crowd Thursday that ‘we just opened up Europe for you farmers,’ officials in Brussels later said he did no such thing.

“‘On agriculture, I think we’ve been very clear on that—that agriculture is out of the scope of these discussions,’ Mina Andreeva, the European Commission spokeswoman, told reporters in Brussels on Friday. ‘We are not negotiating about agricultural products,’ added Ms. Andreeva, who was part of the European delegation visiting Washington earlier this week.”

Friday’s article explained that, “Officials on both sides agree that two specific agricultural matters came up. The Europeans said they were already engaged—prior to Wednesday’s handshake at the White House—with U.S. counterparts to boost high-quality beef imports from America as part of an effort to resolve a longstanding trade dispute. And they said they would seek to buy more U.S. soybeans, a politically sensitive sector for Mr. Trump, because China has cut imports of the crop in a separate trade tiff.

“But European officials say that beyond those two specific areas, they made quite clear during the White House meeting that they would not include any broader discussion of agriculture in the pending talks.”

Wall Street Journal writer Yuka Hayashi reported on Sunday that, “A top Trump administration official said Sunday the U.S. will ‘immediately’ start negotiating with the European Union to forge trade agreements on farm and energy products, promising ‘an actual transaction’ right away to sell more soybeans, beef and liquefied natural gas to European countries.

“Larry Kudlow, President Trump’s chief economic adviser, said he would be involved in the negotiations, to be led by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.”

The Journal article stated that, “Mr. Kudlow stressed that broad discussions on agriculture will be part of the bilateral talks, underscoring a gap with Brussels, which has vowed to keep the sector off the table.”

Sunday’s article explained, “European officials said they were already engaged in talks with the U.S. to boost beef imports and promised to seek buying more American soybeans following China’s decision to cut imports of the crop in a separate trade dispute. But European officials have said that beyond those two specific areas, they made clear to Washington they wouldn’t include any broader discussion of agriculture in the pending talks.

“Mr. Kudlow said that he didn’t ‘buy’ that argument.

“‘If ag [agriculture] is not part of it, what are soybeans doing and what’s beef doing?’ Mr. Kudlow said on ‘Face the Nation.’ ‘In the final document that was signed by both, we talked about opening markets for farmers and for workers.’”

Source: Keith Good, University of Illinois

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