Creekstone majority interest sold

Sun Capital Partners, a private investment firm in Boca Raton, FL, has acquired a majority stake in Creekstone Farms Premium Beef. Creekstone is a processor of high-end Black Angus beef.

Arkansas City, KS-based Creekstone campaigned unsuccessfully for a year for USDA approval to BSE-test all its cattle. By so doing, Creekstone hoped to gain Japanese market access. John Stewart, Creekstone CEO and founder, retains a minority interest and will continue to lead the company.

Naming names

USDA is asking for White House go-ahead to disclose retail outlets receiving potentially tainted meat and poultry products in a recall. USDA currently can't disclose that information, which is reported to the government by the meat producers, unless deemed essential to identifying the recalled product. USDA says naming of retail outlets will give consumers more buying confidence.

Latest in streambank stabilization

Landowners looking for low-cost alternatives to control streambank erosion can get a free copy of a new, four-color brochure, entitled “Streambank Stabilization in Illinois: Protecting Land, Property and Water Quality.”

Bob Frazee, University of Illinois, says matching the treatment method(s) to the specific problem is the key to treatment. The brochure uses the Channel Evolution Model to identify what stage of erosion a stream is experiencing, and then provides the appropriate corrective treatment options.

Download it at www.wq.uiuc.edu or order hard-copy versions by contacting Frazee at 309/694-7501, Ext. 226; or e-mail rfrazee@uiuc.edu.

“Other White Meat” shunted

The National Pork Board is saying goodbye to its “The Other White Meat” campaign. “Don't be blah” is the title of a new pork industry campaign aimed at urban women, ages 25 to 49.

The aim of the multimedia campaign that will triple pork promotion spending is to “establish pork as an everyday meal solution that offers excitement, great taste, variety and convenience,” the Pork Board says. “The Other White Meat” campaign has served as the pork industry's marketing focus since 1986.

Trade's impacts

U.S. cattle prices would decline with the resumption of U.S.-Canada live cattle trade. But if the opening was to coincide with beef trade resumption with other countries, cattle prices would increase, say three Montana State University (MSU) economists.

Gary Brester, John Marsh and Vincent Smith, traced cattle and beef price impacts caused by the U.S.-Canada border closings. They found a Canada-only cattle trade reopening would decrease feeder cattle prices by $2.11/cwt., and U.S. fed steers by $1.22/cwt.

But, resumption of U.S. beef exports, particularly to Japan and South Korea, would more than offset those price declines.

“If trade with Canada, Japan and South Korea returned to pre-BSE levels, U.S. fed steer prices probably would increase in 2005 by $4.10/cwt., and feeder prices would increase by $7.05/cwt.,” Brester says. “Reopening all these borders to trade would increase revenues in the U.S. fed and feeder cattle sectors by more than $2.9 billion over 2004 levels.”

Taking a bite out of E. coli

Incidence of E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef dropped by 43.3% from a year ago, says USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service. That adds up to more than an 80% reduction from 2001 to 2004 in the percentage of positive samples of E. coli O157:H7.

Canadians to sue under NAFTA

About 500 Canadians filed 121 claims seeking at least $325-million compensation from the U.S. for its border closure to Canadian beef and cattle. The Seattle Times reports the cattlemen are suing under NAFTA's Chapter 11, which allows claims of damages from governments if their laws or actions damage trading partners.

Led by a Picture Butte, Alberta-based group called Canadian Cattlemen For Free Trade, the group says the U.S. border closure “arbitrarily created winners and losers in the North American cattle industry.” Visit www.ccft.info/.

It goes on to say; “Canadian investors are no longer entitled to access all of the processing facilities they need to use to make their businesses viable. Their U.S. competitors are still able to access those same processing facilities, and the much broader U.S. market that they represent. They are also able to keep their Canadian-origin cattle and send them for processing without difficulty.”

A Major Weather Puzzle

Drought in Montana is more severe and prolonged than the drought that caused the 1930s Dust Bowl. Yet, Las Vegas, NV, recorded its wettest winter ever, while Southern California eclipsed precipitation levels of its most notorious winters.

Kelly Redmond, a Desert Research Institute climatologist in Reno, NV, uses the phrase “Jekyll and Hyde” to characterize how drought has moved around the West the last few years.

He says precipitation patterns on the ground “look like El Niño, but don't smell like El Niño. The atmospheric circulation that's produced this precipitation looks almost nothing like an El Nino circulation pattern. This has been a major puzzle.”

A summary at National Drought Monitor (www.drought.unl.edu/dm/monitor.html) paints a dim picture for moisture condition around much of the country.

Execute The Death Tax

Cong. Kenny Hulshof (R-MO) and Bud Cramer (D-AL) introduced the “Death Tax Repeal Permanency Act of 2005.” It seeks to permanently end the inheritance tax. There's currently a 10-year phase-out scheduled for 2010, with the tax reinstated in 2011.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association calls the inheritance tax “a death warrant for small-to-medium sized family businesses.” The American Farm Bureau Federation says permanent repeal is needed because “the uncertainty of current law, with its temporarily repeal, makes estate tax planning more complicated and costly and sometimes nearly impossible.”

USDA Raises Export Forecast

USDA upped its fiscal year (FY) 2005 forecast of agricultural exports from $56 billion to $59 billion, which would make FY 2005 the third-highest export sales year. The FY 2004 figure was $62.3 billion, and FY 1996 was $59.8 billion.

Canada is expected to remain the No. 1 market for U.S. agriculture products at $10.2 billion, while Mexico ($8.5 billion) will surpass Japan ($7.7 billion) for the first time. Rounding out the top five U.S. markets are the European Union at $7 billion and China at $4.6 billion.

Meanwhile, agriculture imports are forecast at a record $58 billion, continuing a 35-year upward trend that's quickened since 2003. With exports lower in 2005, the trade surplus is expected to be about $1 billion.

USDA's summary and full “Outlook for U.S. Ag Trade” report are available at www.fas.usda.gov/.

E.coli-Urinary Tract Infection Link

A new study bolsters evidence that foods of animal origin contaminated with E.coli can lead to urinary tract infections (UTI) in women, foodnavigator.com reports. Some 8-10 million people are annually diagnosed with UTIs, which affect one of every five U.S. women in their lifetime.

The Penn State University study found E.coli strains isolated from patients with UTIs were genetically related to E.coli strains from cattle.

“We found UTIs may be caused by ingesting food contaminated with E.coli,” said Dr. Chobi DebRoy, director of Penn State's Gastroenteric Disease Center.

The researchers used E.coli samples collected over a 40-year period to match bacteria causing UTIs with bacteria found in animals. E.coli samples from dogs, cows, sheep water and turkeys were tested.

The researchers then compared the samples genetically to the UTI-causing bacteria, and found a sample from a cow matched E.coli found in humans. They also found the E.coli causing the infections resistant to antibiotics.

Public Land Buyouts Discussed

Two bills introduced last year to pay federal grazing permittees/lessees $175/animal unit month to voluntarily retire their federal grazing permit or lease will be reintroduced into the 109th Congress. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) membership is opposed to any programs intended to permanently retire or vacate federal grazing permits.

The buyout concept is proposed by the National Public Lands Grazing Campaign (NPLGC), a coalition of 200 groups with the stated goal of permanently retiring public lands from commercial livestock grazing. The groups want to reallocate the forage to wildlife and watersheds.

NPLGC say its buyout idea would solve what it calls the West's largest conservation issue and provide a financial alternative to cash-strapped ranchers with investments stranded in public grazing permits.

Simmental's Stayability EPD

Stayability, the probability daughters entering the herd will stay in production through six years of age, is a new EPD included in the American Simmental Association (ASA) Spring 2005 Sire Summary available online.

“Cows that stay in the herd longer tend to be more profitable; there's simply more time to spread out the substantial cost of getting her into production,” says Wade Shafer, ASA director of performance programs.

Age of a bull is one of the major issues with predicting stayability, as most often bulls will be 10 years or older before having a daughter reach six years of age. Thus, breeds using the trait (Red Angus, Gelbvieh and Limousin) have been relegated to pedigree estimates on bulls younger than 10.

To enhance prediction on younger animals, ASA incorporates data on three-year-old daughters into its six-year-old stayability EPD. For more info, call 406/-587-4531 or visit www.simmental.org.

Simmental's Dollar Indices

The American Simmental Association (ASA) has added dollar indices to its Spring 2005 Sire Summary. ASA blended EPDs with five years of price and cost data (supplied by Cattle-Fax) to predict dollar differences between sires when used in a commercial operation.

  • Terminal Index is designed for evaluating sires' economic merit in breeding situations with mature Angus cows where all offspring are fed and sold grade and yield.

  • All-Purpose Index evaluates sires used on an entire cow herd (bred to both Angus first-calf heifers and mature cows), with a portion of the daughters retained for breeding and the remaining heifers and steers fed and sold grade and yield.

The indices calculate differences between bulls in net dollars returned per cow exposed. Go to www.simmental.org or call Wade Shafer at 406/587-4531 to learn more.