Herd Expansion On Hold

Thanks partly to poor pasture and range conditions, expansion of the nation's cowherd likely won't begin before next year.

That estimation by Jim Mintert, a Kansas State University Extension livestock marketing specialist, is confirmed by the July 1 USDA cattle inventory report. It showed beef cow inventories were down slightly from a year ago nationwide. Meanwhile, modest heifer retention previously forecast for the second half of this year now seems far less likely.

Feeders Helping Themselves

South Dakota cattle producers are preparing for changes in environmental regulations. That's the word from John Rubendall, technical feeder services director with the South Dakota Cattlemen's Association's (SDCA) Cattle Feeders Council.

To help ease the pain caused by a growing array of environmental regulations, Rubendall helps feeder council members come into compliance. He also identifies engineering firms and contractors qualified and experienced in cattle feedlot waste management designs and construction.

“Feeders know they may have a problem, but they're not ready to contact government officials because they think they'll be put on a list,” says Rubendall.

“There are a lot of people in South Dakota feeding from 600 to 800 head of cattle right now,” says Gregg Yeaton, Chamberlain, SD, SDCA feeders council chairman. “All of a sudden they're going to fall under the same rules as the larger lots as far as having a waste management system and nutrient management plan.”

The SDCA feeders council is pursuing some type of financial assistance to help producers come into compliance with the regulations.

For more information, call Rubendall at 605/869-2272.

Nutrition Labeling Debated

Location. Location. Location. That's the focus of the arguments being made by the American Meat Institute (AMI) and Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) regarding where nutrition information mandated for fresh meat products should be posted.

A USDA proposal would allow supermarkets to choose between displaying the nutrition statistics on in-store signage or on product packaging. CSPI Director of Nutrition Bonnie Liebman called it “inexcusable” that USDA won't require fresh meat and poultry packaging to carry the labels.

AMI favors brochures and in-store posters as the means of dissemination.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) sees mandatory nutrition labeling as an opportunity to emphasize the nutrient value of beef. But, the group believes 3,300 labels on the various beef cuts available could confuse consumers.

Instead, NCBA agrees that presenting the information through posters and brochures will allow shoppers to compare cuts clearly and easily.

USDA received nearly 5,000 comments on the labeling proposal, which was released in January.

Beef Export Reports

The USDA has begun requiring beef exporters to report weekly information concerning the quantity, country of destination and marketing period of shipment for their export sales. The information will be aggregated and included in the weekly “U.S. Export Sales” report.

“Beef export demand is expected to continue increasing in the future, so it is important for producers to have a timely indicator of current export market activity,” says Chuck Lambert, NCBA chief economist. “Prior to USDA extending this rule, export information was nearly three months old when made available.”

Currently, the U.S. exports about 12% of total beef production, which accounts for about 10% of the value of beef sold.

Country Of Origin Panned

The Texas Cattle Feeders Association (TCFA) opposes country of origin labeling. The idea is certain to impose costs that will either be passed back to producers as lower prices or forwarded to consumers via higher prices, says TCFA.

Instead, TCFA supports rescinding the USDA Quality Grade for imported meat and for meat from animals imported for immediate slaughter; and establishing a voluntary “Made in the USA” label for U.S.-produced beef.

Compiled by Clint Peck. Contributions welcome: Phone or fax to 406/896-9068 or e-mail at cpeck@primediabusiness.com.