News and views on stocker segment issues from BEEF magazine.
April 25, 2006 A Prism Business Media Publication
National Stocker Award Applications Due April 30

Cattle On Feed Estimates Higher Than Expected

Build Cattle Value In Steps

More Care Now Equals Less Care Later

Southern Temperatures Set Record Highs

Animal ID Education

Yearlings Up -- Stockers Mixed

Questions & Comments

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

Three finalists will be chosen from the following categories:
  • Summer stocker operation (forage-based)
  • Fall/winter stocker operation (forage-based)
  • Backgrounding/dry lot stocker (feed-based)
Of these, 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. As well, BEEF will announce the winner and publish stories about the three finalists in the October issue.

Selection will be based on information provided in the NSA 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 will give peers a chance to find out how the winners excel. This is in keeping with BEEF's philosophy of helping producers learn from one another.


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Cattle On Feed Estimates Higher Than Expected
Market bears had an extra reason to roar with the Cattle On Feed Report released Friday. The inventory is reported at 9% ahead of last year, and 10% higher than April 1, 2004. In fact, it's the largest April 1 inventory since the series began 10 years ago.

Likewise, cattle placement in feedlots for March was 5% ahead of last year, while marketings were down slightly.

Moreover, the Livestock Slaughter report issued by USDA last week pegs beef production and total red meat production at record high levels.

Beef production for March (2.21 billion lbs.) is 8% higher than a year ago on 5% more cattle being slaughtered. Average carcass weights (average 1,273 lbs.) are 36 lbs. heavier than a year ago.

As for total red meat production (4.11 billion lbs.), it's 6% more than a year earlier.

Since the beginning of the year, accumulated beef production is running 6% more than last year; pork is 4% higher.

Industry Perspective
Build Cattle Value In Steps
Listen to Tom Brink and it's easy to understand exactly the type of cattle the world's largest cattle feeding organization wants it's suppliers to provide.

Brink is senior vice president of cattle ownership and risk management for Five Rivers Ranch Cattle Feeding, LLC, which has a one-time feeding capacity of 811,000 head.

First and foremost, Brink told participants at last week's Beef Improvement Federation annual meeting in Mississippi they want healthy cattle, which continues to be a challenge.

"Cattle health is now a social problem, not a technological issue," Brink said. Though the industry has more knowledge and tools to combat cattle disease, he added, "Implementation is lacking. Many cattle still need stronger immunity before they leave home."

The problem isn't just interstate-weaned calves either. Brink shared March close-outs for 75,206 yearling-fed steers in the Five Rivers operation. Overall, death loss was 0.79%, which the industry obviously would consider to be excellent. Break it down, though, and Brink explains death loss of up to 0.5% represented a $10.89 loss/head on average. At a death loss of 0.5-1.5%, the average loss/head grows to $20.41. Over 1.5%, the red ink almost triples at $57.62 lost/head.

All breeds are not created equal
Another thing suppliers can do to gain the attention of cattle feeders like Five Rivers is bring them cattle comprised of the breed mix that works best for them.

"A large number of the industry's cattle are still designed wrong genetically," Brink said. "Too many have the wrong breed composition to succeed in the feedlots and to satisfy the consumer."

Specifically, Five River wants cattle that are 50-75% Angus, up to 50% Continental, with no more than 25% Bos indicus or other breeds in the cattle.

"You will be paid more for avoiding breed composition problems in your cattle," Brink said. In other words, historically wide price ranges for same-class, same-weight, same-sex cattle will continue to grow based at least in part on breed composition.

According to Brink, ineffective breed composition in cattle is costing the industry millions of dollars as well as competitiveness in the global beef market.

Bottom line, Brink believes feeder cattle value is built in steps. First, comes breed composition, which allows producers to obtain at least market price. Combine that with certified immunity and Brink says the door opens to grid premiums. Add source and process verification to the mix and the opportunity for branded beef premiums are possible.

That's not just lip service, either. Brink pointed out, "We have never had a marketing system that rewards true value like we have today. Leverage it to your advantage."


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Stocker Health
More Care Now Equals Less Care Later
"Information and communication are the most valuable tools to use in overcoming the unique set of health and management issues presented by each group of calves on stocker operations," says Brad White, an associate professor of clinical sciences at Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine. "Farms should continually evaluate cattle receiving, initial processing, nutritional management and disease management programs."

That's how White summed up his advice for stocker operators and backgrounders attending the Mid-South Stocker Conference earlier this spring. Along the way, he shared a number of stocker-based cattle health tips and reminders:
  • "Groups of calves should be divided into risk classifications of high or low, based on the assessment of animals received and on (if available) historic performance of the animal type. The risk classification influences initial animal management, treatment protocols and labor allocation for the pen. An operation should evaluate current resources and match them to the purchase pattern to ensure proper animal management.

  • "A specific protocol for each risk classification should be generated for each operation, using the history of disease prevalence in the operation.

  • "The major difference between high and low risk protocols are the decisions regarding metaphylaxis, abortifacients and testing for BVD (bovine viral diarrhea). These choices should be made based on previous farm history and specific signalment of calf groups. The use of an appropriately selected prophylactic antibiotic has been shown to decrease morbidity and mortality attributable to pneumonia caused by a susceptible pathogen in weaned calves."

  • "To minimize the effect of adding cattle to an existing pen, try to limit the period of adding calves to three days or less. As cattle become clinically ill after arrival, they typically shed a higher number of pathogens; adding new cattle to pens can lengthen the time of peak disease pressure in the pen.

  • "Heat stress is a very real event which decreases an animal's ability to respond to vaccines or compensate for others stresses such as processing and disease challenges. Avoid working cattle when the temperature humidity index is 80 or higher. Cattle don't cool down immediately at the end of a hot day; it may take up to six hours for heat dissipation to occur. Thus, cattle worked at the end of the day or immediately after sunset may still incur a large amount of heat stress. During the hot times of the year, early morning is optimal for working cattle because of the time allowed for heat dissipation overnight.

  • "The quality of each procedure performed is more important than the speed at which it is performed. Improperly administered products do not prevent disease, thus the result may be getting the calf up again for treatment, which adds to the time spent on each calf in the long run. It's better to spend a few more seconds to perform injections correctly the first time than having large numbers of animals that need to be treated again.

  • "Rectal temperatures can provide a quick, general guide for assessment of pulling patterns. A good rule of thumb is 5-10% of the pulls with a rectal temperature of 104º F or less. If all of the pulls have a rectal temperature of 105º F or higher, then it's likely that there are more animals in the pen that need to be segregated and treated. If only a handful of animals pulled for treatment have a fever, we may have misdiagnosed illness in some of the animals and pulled too many.

  • "Low-stress handling, isolation, good husbandry and nutrition may be the best treatments sick calves receive. Increasing undue stress in the treatment process can increase the odds that an animal will return to the hospital; taking a few more minutes to perform treatment in a calm, efficient manner can save future expense and labor."

Weather And Crops
Southern Temperatures Set Record Highs
Weekly temperatures averaged as much as 20º F above normal across the Plains and Midwest for the week of April 10-16, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). In fact, temperatures of 100º F and higher could be seen as far north as southern Kansas.

Bottom line, say NASS reporters, the earlier, warmer weather accelerated development of drought-stressed winter grain in the Southern Plains and Southwest, while hampering the emergence of newly planted dry land summer grains.

Conversely, wet weather and below-normal temperatures continue to slow planting in parts of California and the Northwest. Likewise, moderate precipitation cross the Corn Belt held planting behind the normal pace.

For the week ending April 16, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service:
  • Corn -- 9% of the acreage has been planted, which is 4% behind last year and 1% off the normal pace.
  • Winter Wheat-- 9% was at or beyond the heading stage, compared with 6% last year, and with the five-year average.
  • Spring Wheat -- 10% of the crop is in the ground, which is 11% behind last year and 6% behind average.
  • Barley -- 9% of seeding is complete; 10% behind last year and 9% behind average.
  • Sorghum -- 3% of the acreage is planted, which is 7% ahead of last year and 8% ahead of average.
  • Oats -- 44% of planting is complete, which is 8% behind last year, but 1% ahead of normal.

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

The programs will be held at the KSU Stocker Unit outside of Manhattan 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 feedyards, 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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Yearlings Up -- Stockers Mixed
Sort through Canada's latest BSE case, Japan's ongoing delay in trade normalization, and the bearish Cattle On Feed report issued Friday, and the market for the week seems almost positive.

Yearling feeder steers and heifers sold steady to $3 higher. In what Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) reporters call a highly mixed week, calves and stockers sold steady to $2 lower. Fed cattle trade was light -- nonexistent in large swaths of feeder country -- and dropped $1-$2 compared to a week earlier.

"May is beef month and cookout season is here. Slaughter has been running just over 600,000 head per week and it is getting the time of the year for packers to kick up chain speeds and go for more hours, like 700,000 head/week," say AMS analysts. "With seasonal improved consumer beef demand this could make a big dent in the supply side. But once again there is $3.00/gal. gasoline in the budget."

The summary below reflects the week ended April 21 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 31,400 $133.46 $120.93 $109.55 $118.91 $109.17 $100.46
TX 26,300 $123.17 $110.52 $106.82 $115.74 $103.51 $96.28
OK 25,700 $131.43 $119.76 $108.91 $119.34 $108.35 $99.91
KY* 18,800 $116.126 $103.113 $90-1005 $107.117 $95-1053 $81-915
KS 16,300 $137.43 $119.97 $107.85 $121.36 $111.18 $98.18
Dakotas 14,600
North Dakota
South Dakota
TN* 9,400 $121.26 $106.50 $95.14 $110.95 $97.84 $88.28
GA*(***) 9,100 $105-124 $98-110 $87-94 $101-120 $90-110 $83-93
IA 8,500 $139.22 $126.47 $111.71 $127.71 $116.07 $100.33
AL 7,500 $120-125 $112-1202 ** $113-121 $100-110 $90-92
AR 7,300 $122.38 $112.24 $102.06 $111.13 $100.82 $91.98
NE 6,200 $132.57 $123.47 $110.58 $121.03 $111.56 $99.39
WY 6,200 $135.34 $126.634 $107.47 $123.92 $117.20 $101.64
MS* 4,700 $110-1221 $100-110 $85-955 $100-1101 $90-1003 $80-905
FL 4,400 $110-119 $100-1132 ** $100-116 $94-99 **
Carolinas* 4,300 $98-124 $90-1153 $88-104.505 $94-114.75 $81-98.75 $78-87.505
CO 3,600 $126.14 $116.56 $105.95 $110.83 $105.01 $94.54
VA 2,900 $122.88 $114.32 $98.16 $105.42 $95.234 $89.38
NM* 2,600 $118.64 $115.472 ** $110.69 *108.882 **
LA* 2,400 $103-123 $107-1192 ** ** ** **
WA* 1,600 ** ** $96.676 ** ** **
MT 1,000 ** ** ** ** $115.00 **

* 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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