Comparing a herd's production and financial measures to a set of benchmarked herds can provide managers with insight into the operation's strengths and weaknesses. “Market Advisor” columnist, Harlan Hughes, demonstrates on page 8 how to put benchmarks to work for you in “What benchmarking can tell you.”

“Every time you look at your pasture and see bare ground, you should think, ‘That's a pound of beef I lost,’” writes “Grazier's Page” columnist, Jim Gerrish. In “It takes grass to grow grass,” on page 11, Gerrish says that the biggest culprit of bare ground is overgrazing pastures. Leaving taller plant residual after grazing leaves a larger solar-collection factory that will keep your pastures thicker.

The Draft Strategic Plan for the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) is completed, but as Wes Ishmael discovers in “ID Questions Linger,” page 19, industry leaders say it still hasn't answered several questions. Ishmael asked three principal players to offer their organizations' perspectives on the plan and what concerns remain.

Our report on an exclusive BEEF survey, “What you told us,” on page 28, summarizes readers' views on national livestock ID and USDA's proposed National Animal Identification System (NAIS). Conducted by Scott Grau, Primedia Business marketing research analyst, we found a huge majority of respondents favor a mandatory animal ID program for animal health monitoring and traceback.

101 Livestock Market Inc., Aromas, CA, has thrown its hat into the electronic ID (EID) ring, reports BEEF senior editor Clint Peck in “Full Steam Ahead.” “It just makes sense to try and add value to what ranchers are producing — and we're doing it with source-verified cattle using EID,” 101's owner, Jim Warren says in Peck's page 32 article.

Nearly two-thirds of us are overweight, reports Diana Barto in “Extreme Makeover: Diet Edition.” To address this “epidemic,” USDA created MyPyramid, an updated, more personalized version of the old Food Guide Pyramid. In good news for beef, the new guidelines deliver an important message about choosing nutrient-rich foods first, and less nutrient-rich food as your calories allow,” Mary K. Young, RD, tells Barto on page 42.