With the value of calves projected to fall 11% off last fall's pace, producers have two options — cut costs or add value to calves, writes “Vet's Opinion” columnist, W. Mark Hilton, DVM. In “Pounds mean dollars,” on page 16, Hilton details one producer's experience in adding value to his calves via a preconditioning protocol.

In an exclusive survey of producers and their veterinarians, BEEF explored the notion of an impending shortage of rural veterinarians, and the future role of vets in such communities. On page 21, senior editor Clint Peck details the survey findings and some possible remedies in “Where's Your Vet?”

As the price of a barrel of crude creeps past $75, alternative energy sources are becoming all the rage. In “Beef In Your Tank” on page 38, Belgium-based Meghan Sapp chronicles how a Scottish rendering firm turned the mayday of post-BSE Europe into a payday in the biodiesel arena, and provides some possible lessons for the U.S.

The cattle markets have become about as predictable these days as the weather, writes Larry Stalcup. And at this point in the cattle cycle, when prices can particularly break fast, he says now's the time when a risk-management program might be as critical to a cow-calf producer as a good animal-health program. See “Managing Risk” on page 42.

It's a big job, but The 2006 Alliance Yellow Pages, compiled by associate editor Stephanie Veldman, highlight almost 40 of the industry's top value-added cattle and calf marketing programs. Included is all contact info, specs and payouts for 34 consumer-based programs and five, calf-based programs. Find all the info in the special pullout section inside this issue.

Verified programs for cattle are all the buzz but have the premiums for cattle carrying such information materialized? “We're not getting paid more for it, so we're not paying more to get it.” Derek Martin, supply representative for Lane County Feeders, Dighton, KS, says. In “Willing & Waiting” on page A6, contributing editor Wes Ishmael explores what is impeding the verification dollars.