While I support the beef checkoff, I believe its original intent has been waylaid. The American producer, who shoulders the cost, is down on the totem pole as far as receiving the utmost of benefits from the program. The program is too top heavy.

I feel the national advertising slogan should be changed to say: U.S. Beef — It's What's for Dinner. Why promote beef not born, fed and safely produced in this country, particularly with the disease outbreak in England and Europe?

American producers pay dearly for, and are pleased to follow, safe guidelines of producing our product. We deserve the full benefit of the checkoff dollar.
Karen Dralle
Sterling, ND

To Harlan Hughes:

Recently, many European cattle have been killed to rid the area of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). In addition, there's currently a trade block by the European Union (EU) on U.S. cattle fed growth promotants. Will the smaller beef supply in Europe due to the FMD slaughter prompt the EU to drop its ban? Would it have a drastic effect on U.S. cattle prices?
Rustin Watson
rww246@aol.com

Harlan Hughes responds: The long-run implications of FMD in England and Europe are hard to predict. As of now, I do not think they will relax the ban.

I suspect consumer demand for beef in England and Europe has dropped, so the potential increased beef imports isn't very large. Therefore, I don't expect the U.S. to experience an increase in beef demand due to the FMD problems.

The real challenge is to ensure we don't have an outbreak in the U.S. or Canada. A U.S. outbreak would immediately close our export market and drop our domestic beef prices 15-18% (without even factoring in the U.S. consumer reaction).

Some Thoughts On ID

I am all for individual ID tags. As a cow/calf producer, we purchase EPD bulls for top terminal cross, tag all our calves to mama, double vaccinate, weigh three times by weaning, precondition and both ship to an auction barn and retain full or partial ownership through harvest to obtain carcass data. All this is recorded and studied to monitor what we're doing and to determine profitability.

Until every individual or firm that interfaces with those calves up to when the consumer purchases the final product buys into the ID system and shares the responsibility (and the cost), I will fight tooth and nail to prevent it. Each of these entities introduces more problems, stress and pathogens to those animals. And, once a calf leaves my ranch there is no more control on my part.

Too many individuals and companies with a profit motive but with no liability are proponents and motivators for such an ID system. Meanwhile, individual producers are unheard or ignored.

I want to see a total discourse on this issue begun in the right way, for the right reasons, in order to culminate in the right results. I will work with anyone to see that come about.
Ron McNear
Koshkonong, MO

rnmcnear@ortrackm.missouri.org

Long-Time Observations

Regarding David Pratt's April column (“The Hidden Cost Of Cows,” page 80): Anyone willing to accept three calves as the lifetime production of a cow or who maintains a 20% replacement rate probably never has to worry about net profit.

After 43 years in the cow/calf business, here are some of my observations.

  • Fast growth is not a feminine trait. It's masculine. And, milking ability is not highly heritable. Some producers retain their biggest heifer calves as replacements thinking to boost weaning weights through extra milk in the next generation. It doesn't work that way. The average weight heifer calves will stay in your herd longer.

    Big-middled cows, those with plenty of capacity, will stay in the herd longer, too. There are a few breeds of trim-middled cows and pencil-gutted bulls around for those wanting to have more fun than profit with cattle.

  • I'm unsure about this “big testicle” thing as indicating fertile cattle. But I have taken a couple of “baths” with Continental breeds that featured a lot of small scrotum bulls. I'm not sold on more than just a smidgen of exotic blood in replacement females.

  • Crossbreed. Obtaining replacements can be a pain, but in this tough country, mostly black- or red-baldy cows are what you need for profit.

  • As for cull cows, I sell them when I find them. It's the easiest way.
    John H. Barton
    Saco, MT

Dave Pratt responds: I agree that three calves is a lousy lifetime production record for a cow. But lousy or not, on average, North American producers replace about 20% of their herds each year, making the average lifetime production for cows about three calves.

My intent with this statistic was only to illustrate that cows depreciate. We may not deduct it on our tax forms, but anyone who has bought bred heifers and sold open culls knows that cows do depreciate. At this point in the cattle cycle, depreciation is often the biggest cost of keeping cows.

You can reduce depreciation by improving herd reproductive performance (which might increase other costs), but there are other strategies for managing depreciation. My intent wasn't to suggest a one-size-fits-all recipe for managing depreciation, but to highlight the significance of this often overlooked factor.

Blood Meal Clarification

I believe R.L. Preston's April issue response to the protein ban question is incorrect (“Reader's Viewpoint,” page 61). The American Feed Industry Association guideline (July 10, 1997) says “There are exemptions from this prohibition for proteins derived from blood, milk, gelatin….”

I have a letter from the Colorado Department of Agriculture listing prohibited protein products. It doesn't list blood meal.

Also, there's been no mention from our corporate headquarters. Has there been a change we are not aware of?
Nathan Hubbard
Eaton, CO

R.L. Preston responds: You are correct. Blood meal and other blood products are not banned from feeding to ruminants.

We welcome reader letters. Include name and address and send to BEEF, 7900 International Dr., Suite 300, Minneapolis, MN 55425; or e-mail to beef@intertec.com. BEEF reserves the right to edit for length.