Cash flow is a critical, early indicator of a ranch's financial health, and it's projected to take on even more significance in the next few years as the cattle industry adjusts to the emerging biofuels era, writes “Market Advisor” columnist Harlan Hughes. In “Benchmarks for the ethanol era,” on page 8, the emeritus professor of economics publishes his first-ever set of cash-flow benchmarks for cow-calf producers.

Since the start of this decade, pastureland has been the sweet spot in farm real estate, reports Mike Fritz on page 38. In “Pasture Cools,” the editor and publisher of Farmland Investor Letter® reports that though pasture prices cooled a bit this year, they've risen an average of 11.8% annually, easily outperforming cropland's 9.2% pace. Stocks have earned a paltry 1.5% annually from the start of 2000 through July.

The Gallery Ranch at Dewey, OK, the Holcombe Ranch of Bartlesville, OK and the Mercer Cattle LLC at Richton, MS, are three finalists vying for BEEF magazine's National Stocker Award. Sponsored by Elanco, the winner of the $10,000 award will be announced in the October issue of BEEF. In “Choosing The Stocker Business,” on page 20, contributing editor Wes Ishmael provides some insight into why the finalists are in the business.

It may be the bane of urban lawn lovers, but Ron Banks is a big fan of crabgrass, using a wheat-crabgrass rotation to boost gains in his cattle-growing program. In “Crabby Returns,” on page 24, freelance writer Larry Stalcup tells how Banks seeds winter wheat into perennial crabgrass fields. The wheat is then grazed and/or baled, and the crabgrass emerges once it receives spring sunlight and rain.

“Are You Vaccinating Calves… Or Shooting Blanks?” Senior Editor Burt Rutherford asks on page 30. Rutherford reports that if DVM John Peirce were a schoolteacher, he'd give the cattle industry an “F” for its performance with a vaccine gun. Peirce, the veterinarian for AzTx Cattle Company, a cattle feeding and ranching enterprise in Hereford, TX, offers some advice on vaccine management and administration.

Keeping an ear attuned to emerging trends is an important factor in being proactive in the face of new realities. Opinions differ as to the cause, but there's no question global warming is attracting a lot of political attention. In “ ‘Warming’ To Change,” on page 76, Belgium-based Meghan Sapp provides some insight into the UK's livestock-industry plans for coping with a warming planet.