NCBA Cattle Industry Annual Convention

NASHVILLE - The 110th US Cattle Industry Annual convention opened today in Nashville with a predicted 6200 cattlemen coming to hear an information rich technical agenda and to explore the 280+ trade stands for innovation and new ideas.
calendar icon 1 February 2007
clock icon 6 minute read

The convention which is attended by cattlemen from Canada and Mexico as well as the US is organised by the NCBA who set out to pull together a team of expert advisors and informed committees to get to grips with the many challenges facing their 28,000 strong membership. Apart from the ever present discussions about the increasing impact of ethanol production on corn price rises and consequently on the cattle industries long term future, other key issues facing the industry as they arrived at this year's event include:

  • Drought has always been a threat but it has been a regular problem since the late 1990's and after two years of respite it returned with vengeance last year especially through the central two thirds of the US impacting on most of the cattle industry. Hay and forage are a real problem with prices doubled in some areas, better conditions and a good crop are much needed this year.

  • Last years record calf prices are probably not going to be repeated this year as the finishers, who are being hit by rising commodity prices simply will not be able afford these without first achieving significant prices rises themselves, which seems unlikely, at least in the near future.

  • The importance and frustrations of re-establishing the Asian markets for US beef, and although some progress is being made in Japan the difficulties in achieving the age specifications mean that real problems in meeting demand continue. The South Korean market is also not really open yet with many minor specification problems that get in the path of volume supply.

  • The EU market which like S. Korea seems capable of delivering an attractive premium, however it requires some serious commitment to get product to the specification required to make it eligible for EU consumption. This seems fraught with difficulties to US producers who feel they would need to see a reliable product stream to make the investment worthwhile.

  • The latest USDA proposals to expand the range of beef and live cattle that will be allowed in the US from Canada have been put out for discussion with comments back in by March 12th. These proposals would allow in beef from animals of any age and live animals up to the age of 8 and are causing healthy debate with some saying that it would be hard to press for transparent free trade in say the Asian markets without demonstrating adherence to the principle at home!

Technical and educational programme

Without doubt the highlight of the first day of the convention was the extremely well organised Cattleman's College which is sponsored by Pfizer Animal Health. The College which attended by over a thousand cattlemen offers a choice of 18 topical and important topics each delivered by authoritative academic and industry speakers. The quality of each of the sessions attended by TheCattleSite ranged from excellent to outstanding, and this is simply a great resource for the anyone in the industry interested in learning new and professional approaches to tackling the problems they face in the field.

The paper by Pfizer vet Robin Faulkner in the session 'Preconditioning for Today's Marketplace' was particularly notable and rich in practical content. Faulkner ably supported the commercial case for preconditioning calves showing how the increased margin they will deliver to the finisher is made up and demonstrating why a significant premium for preconditioned calves is justifiable.

Key points from his paper included:

  • Since the majority of cattle are still bred on farms with less than 50 head then a large number of individuals farmers need to be persuaded to take on the professional approach and commitment that is needed.

  • The importance of pre weaning calves before they are transported - weaning 45 days or more before calves are transported had the largest benefit on subsequent feed lot performance

  • Calf with chronic pneumonia, the neck is stretched
    out to make breathing easier.
    The value of both pre weaning respiratory disease vaccination together with a second 'booster' vaccination at weaning on reducing morbidity treatment rates and deaths at the finisher stage.

  • The need to understand the relationship between immunity and disease and that calves that have previously shown no sign of disease can cause or become a problem on arrival at the finisher because their of their lack of immunity or because of the diseases they are immune to but carry into others who are not.

  • The effect of disease on fertility and cow calf margins

  • The importance of working with your vet to understand the on farm endemic disease profile and to develop a vaccination and health programme to address this.

    Prevalence of endemic diseases in cattle
    BVD-PI 0.3 - 4.5%
    BVD (titer) 20% - 80%
    IBR 67%
    Johne's 10%- 20%
    Neospora 5% - 10%
    Bovine Leukosis 10% - 80%
    Leptospirosis 20% - 65%
    Campylobacter 16%
    Faulkner, multiple references, US & European

  • That improved health and lower morbidity not only lowered treatment costs and mortality, it also improved daily live weight gain, reduced feed conversion and improved finished product quality grading. This was worth around $100 per head - a figure that would rise sharply with the increasing cost of feed.

Faulkner concluded by saying "The health and performance data you have already seen today strongly suggests that health is one of the biggest variables influencing efficiency and the one we can change the easiest".

Another session that grabbed our attention was workshop and presentations on drought lead by Dr Jane Parish of Mississippi State University. Again a this was comprehensive survey of the scale of he problem showing that 58% of the US beef cow herd is a drought hit area, together with many thought provoking approaches to minimizes the cost of drought on individual businesses.

Approaches reviewed included:

  • Efforts should be focused on reacting early and reducing the stocking density by culling of animals that will not contribute to next seasons revenue, including sale of replacement heifers and young cows first since these are the hardest to get back in calf, and will be more effected by the drought than the older cows

  • Cull problem animals first, including those with poor performance, and bad temperament

  • Maintain the body score (at 5 or above) as pregnancy rate falls off sharply at body score 5 or below

  • Early weaning should be considered only once stocking density has been reduced as much as possible by the selling of non producers and problem cows in the herd have.

  • Fence line weaning is being shown to be very preferable to conventional complete separation - if the cow and calf can still touch, smell and see each other through the fence when first separated the level of stress to both is much reduced. Feedyard trials of fence line weaned calves against conventionally weaned showed improved health and daily gain worth $19 per calf. It is important to make sure that there is enough space at the fence for all the animals to line up along it.

Table 2: Effect of BCS at calving on
pregnancy rates in beef cows
Calving BCS <4 5 >6
Number of Cows 122 300 619
Pregnancy Rate (%) 58 85 95
Paterson, 1993

The programme at the Gaylord Opryland hotel and convention centre continued on into the evening with an inspirational keynote presentation from business management guru Kevin Freiberg - more tomorrow.

TheCattleSite Team

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