August 1, 2015

U.S. Cattle Herd Expansion Underway, According to USDA

cattleThe Semi Annual Cattle Inventory Survey was released by USDA on Friday, and for those who still questioned whether the U.S. Cow herd is growing, they got some answers. USDA Livestock Analyst Shayle Shagam:

Shagam 1

Importantly, note industry analysts, the rate of heifer retention is high. In fact, the number of heifers placed into feedlots in relation to the number of steers is the lowest on record:

Shagam 2

In the Cattle on Feed report, which is issued separately from the semi annual inventory numbers, The slow pace of marketing in June finally caught up:

Shagam 3

Shagam noted the expansion is just getting started and with big margins over the past few years and the elimination of drought in the Plains states, he expects herd expansion will only increase from here.


Avian Flu Vaccine Not A Magic Bullet

TurkeysSince December 8th of last year, Avian Influenza in the United States has resulted in the deaths of more than 48 million chickens and turkeys.  Hot weather has stopped the virus for the moment, but experts say that could change when the fall migration season starts and wild birds once again fly over the nations’ midsection.  At the moment:


That’s Dr. David Swain with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service Southeastern Poultry Lab.  Dr. Swain announced during a Senate Ag Committee hearing that prospects for a vaccine are improving:

Swain 2

So far, that vaccine has tested well.  USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack telling the House Ag Committee that so far, the efficacy rate is nearing 100% in chickens and they are hopeful for similar results in turkeys. It sounds hopeful, but experts caution, an effective vaccine is nice to have, but it’s not a magic bullet

Swain 3

Indonesia, Viet Nam, and China have all utilized avian flu vaccines, but says Dr Swain:

Swain 4

The avian flu vaccine would work similar to a human flu vaccine, meaning that even if all birds in a flock are vaccinated, one could still get the disease.  Experts say that means they would all still have to be euthanized, even though they had already been vaccinated.  Additionally, there are other consequences to consider.  Meetings with trade officials in other countries say they may look unfavorably on meat from vaccinated birds.  USDA Chief veterinarian John Clifford:

Clifford 1

That means:

Clifford 2

Which will also take money to make, bottle and administer and may not even prevent the producer from having to eradicate their flock.  In short, officials say they are making steps but a solution to the problem is still a long ways off.


‘Ham and Cheese’ Heads to Voters

milk cow production“Ham and Cheese” will be on the menu for voters in North Dakota next year as they determine the fate of recently passed legislation that exempts dairy and swine operations from North Dakota’s anti-corporate farming laws.

Senate Bill 2351 – referred to as “the ham and cheese bill” by some folks during debate — allows a nonfamily corporation or limited liability company to own a dairy or swine facility with at least 50 cows or 500 swine on up to 640 acres.

Signed by North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple in March, S.B. 2351 was set to become effective August 1st.

However, the Secretary of State’s office verified earlier this week that petitions submitted by opponents to the measure had enough valid signatures to put it on the June 2016 ballot. Now, state residents will decide whether to keep the law or repeal it in a referendum vote next summer.

State Senator Joe Miller, a republican from Park River, is acting as a temporary coordinator for a coalition that supports the law – called “Yes for Dairy and Pork Producers.”

Supporters Rally

Supporters argue the exemption makes North Dakota more attractive to dairies looking to relocate from other states – such as drought-stricken California.

Attracting Biz

Opponents of the ‘ham and cheese’ bill argue it will allow big, out-of-state corporations to set up operations in the state at the expense of smaller family farmers. Miller disagrees.


North Dakota’s anti-corporate farming law dates  back to the 1930’s. Several other states have laws restricting corporate farming, though many allow exemptions for certain types of livestock operations, including Minnesota and South Dakota.

South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard says his state has seen the success of attracting new dairy business to the area.

South Dakota

The Dakotas have ample forage and water to attract interest from potential new dairy ventures in the region, but Miller argues that the business climate needs to catch up in his state.

New Tools

Miller says members of Yes for Dairy and Pork Producers will begin raising money in defense of S.B. 2351.

Defense Fund

Reports indicate that the North Dakota Farmers Union, which is opposed to the law, spent about $41,000 dollars on the effort to bring the measure to a referendum vote.