Benchmarking is among the most powerful ranch-management tools available to ranch managers — and one of the least used. One reason is the general lack of published ranch benchmark data. In “Lowering your breakeven calf price,” on page 10, ranch-management guru Harlan Hughes provides some hard numbers and offers advice on how ranchers can lower their herd's breakeven price.

As vital as the stocker phase has been to the U.S. beef industry, particularly so today with current high grain costs, there's never been a national, in-depth study of this sector. That's why BEEF magazine and 11 land-grant universities recently conducted the National Stocker Survey. In “National Stocker Survey Is A First,” on page 16, Contributing Editor Wes Ishmael presents some highlights of this landmark research project.

JBS SA shook the meat world when it agreed to buy National Beef/U.S. Premium Beef, Smithfield Foods' beef interests, and Conti Group's half-interest in Five Rivers (the world's largest cattle-feeding company). As the world's largest packer, JBS now controls 10% of the global beef market. In “Growing Plans,” on page 36, Contributing Editor Steve Kay chats with Wesley Batista about JBS operations and the family's plans.

“Most corrals are designed to work against what an animal naturally wants to do. I want to use their natural instinct to work for me.” That's how Bud Williams, the originator of the Bud Box, describes the mind-set behind his animal-handling tool. In “Bud Box,” on page 52, Managing Editor Alaina Burt explains how the rectangular version of the crowd tub works, and why it's more than the shape that makes it different.

No doubt, there is a demand for grass-finished and organic grass-finished beef, but is it cost effective for beef producers to provide that kind of product? In “Sustainability Showdown,” on page 56, contributor Loretta Sorensen details a research project involving 12 producers that aims to assay the input costs and overall profits of three types of nonconventional systems — organic grain-fed, organic grass-fed and grass-fed beef.

Since 1996, producers have been able to use antibiotics for extralabel uses provided it's under the direction of a licensed veterinarian within a valid veterinary-client-patient relationship and regulatory requirements have been met. In “Another change in antibiotic use,” on page 68, Mike Apley, DVM, tells of plans to add cephalosporins to the list of products with prohibited extralabel use.