News and views on stocker segment issues from BEEF magazine.
April 11, 2006 A Prism Business Media Publication
Mandatory Livestock ID in 2009

National Stocker Award Applications Due April 30

Mass Medication -- Metaphylaxis Rules Of Thumb

Animal ID Education

Market Continues Tumble

Questions & Comments

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Mandatory Livestock ID in 2009
It's come to this...apparently and maybe.

The National Animal Identification System (NAIS) will become mandatory in early 2009 unless 100% of livestock premises --estimated at around 2 million by USDA -- are registered, 100% of livestock born that year are registered, and unless movement data is recorded for at least 60% of the livestock in commerce that are less than one year of age.

That according to the Implementation Plan for the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) unveiled by USDA last week. Neither USDA Secretary Mike Johanns nor John Clifford, chief veterinarian for APHIS, was near that direct during a conference call announcing the plan last Thursday. However, the implementation plan ( does contain a contingency for mandating the system to force producer participation.

What the plan doesn't contain is any mention of cost to producers. During the aforementioned conference call, the closest Johanns came to addressing the subject was to say, "USDA has invested a rather substantial sum of money in the system to get it up and running...President Bush has been most supportive, even placing funds into his own budget."

More to the point, USDA has thrown about $85 million of tax money at developing NAIS so far. Depending on your vantage point, that money hasn't bought much so far, other than getting about 10% of all livestock premises registered.

Well, that, miles of red tape, canyon-wide industry divisiveness over the issue, a federal NAIS data repository that was shelved at the 12th hour, and a mountain of cooperative field trials and projects. Incidentally, based on the conference call, while these cooperative projects were presumably going to be used to guide NAIS implementation, Johanns hasn't yet seen a final report on them.

USDA's implementation plan calls for having 25% of all premises registered by January 2007 (more than twice the current total); 70% of all premises and 40% of all livestock entering commerce registered by Jan. 1, 2008.

Just meeting the premises-registration goal on a voluntary basis would seem wishful thinking at this point. As an example, Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) commissioners recently tabled a meeting where they were to consider proposed regulations to mandate premises registration in that state. At the time, Bob Hillman, TAHC executive director and state veterinarian, explained, "We are seeking from USDA clear direction on NAIS timelines for implementation."

Then there are states like Tennessee where some folks don't want anything to do with NAIS, period. A bill is floating around that state's House of Representatives that would make NAIS illegal there.

National Stocker Award Applications Due April 30
If you haven't already nominated your own stocker program -- or that of a peer -- for BEEF magazine's National Stocker Award, look for the details at and consider doing so.

One finalist will be chosen from each of the following categories:
  • Summer stocker operation (forage-based),
  • Fall/winter stocker operation (forage-based) and
  • Backgrounding/dry lot stocker (feed-based).
Of these three finalists, one will be selected to receive the National Stocker Award and a $10,000 cash prize. The winner also receives a trip to the 2007 NCBA Convention for special recognition. BEEF will announce the winner and publish stories about the three finalists in the October issue.

Selection will be based on info provided in the nomination form (available at and follow-up phone interviews by the selection committee. The main eligibility requirement is that the nominee derives the majority of cattle income from the stocker/backgrounding business.

The deadline for nominations is April 30, 2006. The selection committee includes representatives from private industry, university extension and BEEF magazine.

Besides recognizing the best-of-the-best stockers and backgrounders, the program gives peers a chance to find out how the winners excel. This is in keeping with the BEEF philosophy of helping producers learn from one another.



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Stocker Health
Mass Medication -- Metaphylaxis Rules Of Thumb
Keeping stocker calves healthy, or preventing them from succumbing to bovine respiratory disease (BRD) to begin with, isn't easy or cheap. But the alternative obviously can be worse.

In fact, with the high value of stocker calves today, John Currin and Dee Whittier, Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine Extension veterinarians, explain metaphylaxis is usually worthwhile if more than 25% of a group of calves is expected to get sick. That's based on risk factors of incoming calves for BRD, such as:
  • Source of cattle (weekly vs. special sales vs. on farm sales)
  • Vaccination, deworming history of cattle
  • Commingled vs. single-source cattle
  • Age/size of the cattle
  • Weather
  • Sex of the cattle (bulls vs. steers)
  • Time of the year (spring vs. fall)
  • Weaned vs. unweaned
  • Your ability to detect and treat sick calves
  • Your history of BRD
  • Comfort of your adjustment facilities
  • Value of the cattle (not a risk factor but important in the decision to use metaphylaxsis)
Though every situation is different, Currin and Whittier say the 25% level is a useful rule of thumb despite the fact national averages for applying the strategy to a 5-weight calf range from $4.05-$18.15/head depending on which of the five products approved for metaphylactic use are utilized.

Conversely, these veterinarians advise using mass medication --treating all calves in a group once individual treatment no longer makes much economic sense -- when 10% of the calves have been treated for three consecutive days, or when more than 25% of the calves require treatment on a single day.

"While not perfect, using these rules of thumb will help make careful decisions, instead of reacting in the heat of the moment or failing to consider this option until after 60-80% of the calves have been treated," they say.

Incidentally, Currin and Whittier offer four reasons for the fact the same percentage of cattle get BRD as 40 years ago, even though knowledge, vaccine technology and antibiotic variety have increased substantially in the same period of time:
  • A 500-lb. calf now is much younger than it was 40 years ago.
  • A 500-lb. calf is less likely to have been weaned now than 40 years ago.
  • Stocker producers are more likely to buy cattle every week as opposed to a major group buy or two 40 years ago.
  • Stocker businesses are larger operations than 40 years ago.
You can find more info from Currin and Whittier about "Strategic Use of Antibiotics in Stocker Cattle" at:


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Animal ID Education
If you're wondering how and when to get your arms wrapped around electronic animal ID, Kansas State University (KSU) may have the solution. The university will host two Electronic Beef ID Crash Courses this summer.

The programs will be held at the KSU Stocker Unit outside Manhattan, KS, and will include live-animal demonstrations, hands-on use of animal ID equipment, a review of available technologies, and how to budget a system.

KSU Extension beef specialist Dale Blasi says this summer's programs, each aimed at different audiences, are a follow-up to the KSU Beef ID Academy programs of summer 2004.

The June 21-22 program is aimed at operators of feed yards, sale barns and stocker-grower operations. The July 19-20 program is aimed specifically at cow-calf producers and veterinarians. Space is limited to 100 attendees in each session. For more info, contact Lois Schreiner at 785-532-1267 or


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Market Continues Tumble
Calves for summer grass are getting cheaper, at least in relative terms, but so is everything else.

Feeder and stocker cattle lost another $2-$5 last week, with too many markets moving $10 lower to be considered extraordinary.

"The lightest demand continues for heavy feeders, weighing more than 800 lbs., and the best interest remains for 6-weight hard-weaned or yearling stockers in ideal condition for summer grass," explain Ag Marketing Service reporters. "Backgrounders seem to have over-pursued these cattle over the last few weeks, pushing their prices beyond the realm of profitability for current market conditions."

Plenty of cattle feeders are surely thinking the same thing. The best that could be said for that market last week is Southern Plains feeders mounted a hollow victory of sorts, holding buyers to only $1 less at $83.00-$83.50. Live sales in the Northern Plains were $3 under that, and dressed sales were $5 lower at mostly $129.

You can find plenty of reasons for the recent price plunge, most of them expected. There's more cattle going in and coming out of feedlots. Those cattle continue to serve up heavier carcass weights, too. The equity funds that pushed the futures market when they bought in earlier in the year are running the other way. Trade with the Pacific Rim is still in limbo, etc., etc.

In his recent markets newsletter, Brian Roe, Ohio State University (OSU) Extension livestock economist, points out, "In January, beef supplies were up by 7% compared to year previous, while first-quarter supplies will be 6% higher than last year. Not surprisingly, cash prices dropped about $0.75/cwt each week during the first quarter of this year... This is distinctly counter-seasonal and begs the question, 'Is the decline over?' Sadly, for feedlot operators who paid top dollar for feeder cattle last fall and winter, the answer is no."

According to Roe, beef supplies in the second quarter will be up at least 6% compared to last year, and perhaps increase as much as 9%. All the while, he explains poultry cold-storage supplies are 45% larger than last year, due in part to global consumers' growing aversion to it because of avian influenza.

So, from both a fundamental standpoint and from a psychological one, the bears are having their way.

The summary below reflects the week ended April 7 for Medium and Large 1 -- 500- to 550-lb., 600- to 650-lb., and 700- to 750-lb. feeder heifers and steers (unless otherwise noted). The list is arranged in descending order by auction volume and represents sales reported in the weekly USDA National Feeder and Stocker Cattle Summary:

Summary Table
State Volume Steers Heifers
Calf Weight 500-550 lbs. 600-650 lbs. 700-750 lbs. 500-550 lbs. 600-650 lbs. 700-750 lbs.
MO 34,600 $132.22 $121.64 $105.25 $115.88 $108.01 $94.61
OK 27,100 $135.30 $122.15 $106.37 $118.63 $106.52 $93.85
TX 25,000 $125.70 $113.77 $104.61 $116.57 $102.68 $94.61
KY* 21,100 $113-123 $100-110 $88-985 $100-111 $91-1013 $82-925
Dakotas 16,800
North Dakota
South Dakota
NE 15,500 $138.25 $123.89 $112.83 $120.44 $109.35 $96.30
IA 14,900 $135.43 $124.87 $110.49 $123.48 $111.85 $99.87
KS 13,500 $133.43 $117.93 $105.25 $120.44 $109.35 $96.30
AL 8,800 $119-126 $115-1212 ** $111-120 $97-108 $93-974
GA*(***) 7,700 $100-120 $94-110 $85-94 $97-115 $89-106 $82-86
TN* 7,500 $120.42 $106.04 $95.26 $110.20 $100.04 $90.65
CO 7,300 $134.95 $115.60 $102.96 $120.11 $113.92 $97.144
AR 7,000 $124.57 $110.44 $101.86 $112.37 $99.73 $94.57
VA 6,000 $116.83 $113.41 $100.66 $102.10 $97.74 $88.62
WY 5,600 $135.25 $110.084 $109.25 $124.40 $115.38 $97.73
FL 4,900 $107-120 $97-125 $102-106 $100-119 $88-101 $81-91
Carolinas* 4,700 $99-127 $89-1133 $79-98.755 $91-115 $75-983 $73-915
MS* 4,100 $110-1201 $100-110 $90-1005 $100-1101 $90-1003 **
MT 4,000 $142.92 $124.50 $107.396 $128.27 $114.02 $102.80
NM 3,700 ** $105.30 $97.006 ** ** $87.216
LA* 2,800 $108-126 $110-1192 ** $101-120 $98-1132 **
WA* 1,700 ** $116.48 $107.94 $113.97 $103.53 $100.814

* Plus 2
** None reported at this weight or near weight
(***) Steers and bulls
NDNo Description 1500-600 lbs.
2550-600 lbs.
3600-700 lbs.
4650-700 lbs.
5700-800 lbs.
6750-800 lbs.
7800-850 lbs.

Questions & Comments
Please send questions to:

Wes Ishmael, Contributing Editor, BEEF Stocker Trends, at

Joe Roybal, Editor, BEEF magazine, at


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