News and views on stocker segment issues from BEEF magazine.
May 9, 2006 A Prism Business Media Publication
Drought-Cow Slaughter Makes Expansion a Close Call

USDA Closes Latest BSE Investigation

Reducing BRD As A Shield against Mycoplasma

Corn Gains Some Ground

Animal ID Education

Fundamental Weaknesses Drive Market Lower

Questions & Comments

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Drought-Cow Slaughter Makes Expansion a Close Call
Few would argue that cyclical cow expansion has stopped or gone into reverse. That's tough to do when beef production is record large and April 1 saw a record-large number of cattle on feed.

But federally inspected cow slaughter is high enough that you've got to wonder if expansion will stall a bit due to drought.

For the first quarter of this year, the Livestock Marketing Information Center (LMIC) reports that total federally inspected cow slaughter is up 2% over the same period last year, but still 11% below the five-year average. Looking at beef cows specifically, LMIC says first-quarter slaughter was up 8% over last year; and up about 10% since the first of April.

"Year-to-year increases in beef-cow slaughter have mostly been due to dry conditions in the Southern Plains and southeastern regions of the U.S...

From a national perspective, slaughter levels do not yet indicate a reduction in the national cowherd," explain the folks at LMIC.

Though recent rains in some drought-stricken areas have brought some relief, the next 60 days will likely be critical in determining whether slaughter-cow levels will increase. As Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock economist, noted last week, "We're getting rain, but the lack of subsoil moisture means even if we get some grass now we'll be about two weeks away from running out of it all summer."

Obviously the market isn't rushing to conclusions as wholesale and fed-cattle prices remain soft, although the immigration rally last Monday was preceded by some panic buying in the wholesale market.

USDA Closes Latest BSE Investigation
The dental remains of the last cow diagnosed with BSE in the U.S. were a whole lot easier to find than the cow's relatives, or even her origin for that matter.

Announcing the end of the investigation last Tuesday, USDA says it was unable to locate any of the cow's relatives, other than her last two offspring. A total of 36 farms and five auction houses were investigated.

"The investigation did not reveal the BSE-positive animal's herd of origin. However, this was not entirely unexpected due to the age of the animal, along with its lack of identifying brands, tattoos and tags. Experience worldwide has shown that it's highly unusual to find BSE in more than one animal in a herd or in an affected animal's offspring," says John Clifford, USDA Chief Veterinary Officer.

For the record, dental records indicated the cow -- she was non-ambulatory and was euthanized and buried at the owner's farm -- was at least 10 years old. That means she was born after the ban on feeding ruminant protein was enacted.



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Stocker Health
Reducing BRD As A Shield against Mycoplasma
Until the latter part of the 1990s, no one talked much about mycoplasma. Since then, its prevalence and indestructible nature have robbed plenty of hair from stocker operators and cattle feeders.

"Mycoplasma is the most difficult of the causes of pneumonia to identify, treat and prevent," say Fred Hopkins, Matt Wellborn and Warren Gill from the University of Tennessee (UT). "Affected calves may continue to eat and show only a low-grade fever. These calves may not be pulled early enough, and this allows infection to become well established before treatment begins."

Consequently these folks conclude that an aggressive vaccination program aimed at other causes of pneumonia (on arrival), along with the early, effective and long-duration treatment of calves infected with M. hemolytica and P. multocida, allow calves to concentrate their immune defenses on clearing mycoplasma.

After all, say the researchers, antibiotic treatment aimed at mycoplasma infection is ineffective because the organism has no cell wall.

Though preventing mycoplasma is difficult at best, UT researchers say, along with arming calves to fight off other pneumonia-causing agents, these steps can help:
  • Clean and disinfect feeders and waterers before a new group of calves arrives.
  • Buy single-source calves that have had appropriate vaccinations before arrival.
  • Don't allow nose-to-nose contact between new calves and calves already on the premises.
  • Manage newly arriving calves so they eat and drink as soon as possible.
  • Make sure calves aren't overcrowded and have adequate space at the feed bunk and waterer.
  • Vaccinate on arrival using a modified-live virus vaccine against IBR, BVD, PI3, and BRSV. Also use a good vaccine against M. hemolytica and P. multocida, booster vaccinations should be given according to label directions regardless of previous vaccinations.
  • Mycoplasma vaccine may be of some help if the strain on the farm is similar to the vaccine strain.
  • Mass treatment of new arrivals using florfenicol, tulathromycin, tilmicosin or long-acting tetracycline may be of some help.
  • Chloratetracycline in the starter ration may be of some benefit.
  • An effective program of early and aggressive treatment for respiratory disease allows the calf to resist other infections such as mycoplasmosis.
  • Infected animals should be isolated from other calves, and particularly away from newly arrived calves for up to six weeks after treatment.
  • Don't expect success in treating chronically infected calves. They only serve as an infection source for other calves -- isolate them from new arrivals and other treated calves.
Find more detail about mycoplasmosis from these researchers in the production section at


An open-and-shut case.

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®IVOMEC and the CATTLE HEAD LOGO are registered trademarks of Merial. © 2005 Merial Limited. Duluth, GA. All right reserved.

Weather And Crops
Corn Gains Some Ground
After a slightly slower start than the five-year average, corn planting and emergence moved ahead of average for the week ending April 30, according to the National Ag Statistics Service (NASS).

In fact, heavy precipitation in the western Corn Belt, central and southern Great Plains and Mississippi Delta improved soil moisture without hindering fieldwork to a great extent. Last week's rain in the Southern Plains should further boost chances for summer pasture, at least for a time.

For the week ending April 30, according to (NASS):
  • Corn -- 52% of the acreage has been planted, which is 3% ahead of last year and 10% ahead of the normal pace. 13% has emerged, which is 1% ahead of last year and 2% ahead of normal. Progress is reported ahead of normal in all states except Indiana and the Dakotas.
  • Soybeans -- 10% is planted, 2% ahead of last year and 3% ahead of normal.
  • Winter Wheat -- 39% was at or beyond the heading stage. That's 12% ahead of last year and 13% ahead of normal. At least based on reports out of Kansas though, some of it will be of the header-dragging variety.
  • Spring Wheat -- 42% of the crop is in the ground, which is 16% behind last year and 1% behind average.
  • Barley -- 34% of seeding is complete; 16% behind last year and 9% behind average.
  • Sorghum -- 28% of the acreage is sown, which is 9% ahead of last year and 8% ahead of average.
  • Oats -- 77% of planting is complete, which is even with last year and 10% ahead of the five-year average.

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 Manhattan, KS and will include live-animal demos, 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, visit, or contact Lois Schreiner at 785-532-1267 or


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®IVOMEC and the CATTLE HEAD LOGO are registered trademarks of Merial. © 2006 Merial Limited. All rights reserved.

Fundamental Weaknesses Drive Market Lower
Calf sales were higher in a few areas compared to the previous week, thanks in large part to timely rains and optimism for summer pasture. Overall though, calf and stocker markets were called unevenly steady, with weaker tones prevailing as the week wore on.

Right now, most eyes are on the fed-cattle market, which lost $3 last week at $78-$79.50.

"The bleeding may not be over as June live cattle futures closed below 74 today," note Ag Marketing Service reporters. "Year to date, cattle slaughter is up 2.3% from a year ago but total beef production is up 5.3% due to heavier marketing weights. Corn prices are 25¢ above a year ago."

All that is to state the obvious: there's lots of beef production fighting for consumers, with historically large poultry and pork supplies, too. Never mind the bite that fuel prices are taking out of consumer pocketbooks.

Many economists don't see much relief for feedlots until late this year, if then. Even if another needed record corn crop presents itself this year to hold feed prices in check, this reality means feedlots will be gunning for more realistic feeder prices, relative to the fed market. Numbers say cow-calf producers will remain in the driver's seat this fall, meaning stockers may feel the squeeze from both sides.

The summary below reflects the week ended May 4 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.
OK 27,200 $127.28 $113.82 $104.23 $113.20 $104.26 $93.93
TX 22,300 $118.09 $104.93 $100.52 $113.12 $99.72 $97.684
MO 21,600 $127.47 $117.25 $106.02 $117.04 $107..29 $97.48
KY* 19,700 $114-124 $105-115 $90-1005 $106-116 $92-1023 $81-915
KS 12,000 $122.512 $121.02 $105.36 $116.11 $106.36 $97.69
Dakotas 10,100
North Dakota
South Dakota
GA*(***) 8,500 $101-120 $93-110 $90-93 $100-117 $88-110 $85-1074
AL 7,800 $113-122 $110-1152 ** $109-115 $96-106 $84-91.75
TN* 7,700 $116.26 $105.03 $91.81 $107.67 $100.20 $85.50
AR 6,900 $118.54 $109.29 $100.48 $108.57 $102.72 $93.05
Carolinas* 6,100 $100-119 $87-1143 $84-955 $95-115 $80-99 $70-945
WY 5,700 $123.66 $123.41 $112.51 $115.79 $110.43 $101.16
CO 5,200 $128.232 $120.76 $104.62 $115.75 $103.24 $97.53
FL 4,700 $104-119 $104-1122 ** $96-116 $90-1072 **
NE 4,100 ** $117.89 $109.03 $111.732 $109.24 $97.80
NM* 4,000 ** $101.18 ** $113.01 *$105.302 **
MS* 3,800 $105-1151 $95-1053 $85-95 $95-1051 $85-95 $80-855
LA*ND 2,700 $100-120 $89-1202 ** $96-116 $95-1122 **
VA 2,100 $114.79 $108.89 $103.664 $108.77 $97.68 $97.304
IA 1,900 $126.15 $122.89 $116.324 $116.72 $105.39 $97.50
WA* 1,700 ** ** $90.926 ** $107.44 $89.35
MT 1,500 ** $120.03 ** ** ** $100.70

* 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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