Quick Beef Facts

A coworker at K-State’s Beef Cattle Institute had me pull together some quick facts about beef production this morning. Many of these are taken from the Master’s of Beef Advocacy program and the web site www.beeffrompasturetoplate.org. I thought I’d share them with you. It’s important to always have a couple talking points ready to discuss key issues in beef production because you never know when the opportunity to make a positive impact for the beef industry will show up.

GENERAL
Today’s American farmer feeds about 144 people worldwide.

Cattle and beef production represent the largest single segment of American agriculture. There are more than 1 million beef producers in the United States who are responsible for more than 94 million head of beef cattle.

Most farms and ranches in the United States, including cattle ranches, are family owned and operated. Even the largest farms tend to be family farms. More than 97 percent of beef cattle farms and ranches are classified as family farms.

Beef production affects the U.S. economy. According to USDA, producers of meat animals in 2008 were responsible for more than $66 billion in added value to the U.S. economy, as measured by their contribution to the national output.

NUTRITION
There are 29 cuts of beef that meet government labeling guidelines for lean, including 15 of consumers’ 20 most popular cuts like tenderloin, sirloin and 95% lean ground beef.

Just one 3-ounce serving of beef supplies 51 percent of the Daily Value (DV) for protein, 38 percent of the DV for zinc, and 14 percent of the DV for iron. And it contributes less than 10 percent of calories to a 2,000-calorie diet.

Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency worldwide, and beef provides the most readily available and easily absorbed source of iron.

It’s especially important that young children and older adults get sufficient protein. Children need the high-quality protein, iron and zinc in beef in order to develop their minds, as well as their bodies. Older adults can benefit from the protein in beef to help prevent loss of muscle mass and strength as they age.

ANIMAL WELFARE
Animal care and raising cattle go hand-in-hand. Producers know that giving animals the proper care, handling and nutrition they deserve is the right thing to do and it makes good business sense.

The Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program was initiated in 1987 to provide cattle producers with the tools and training necessary to assure animal health and well-being as well as provide a safe, quality product. BQA principals influence the management practices of more than 90 percent of cattle in the United States.

The “Producer Code for Cattle Care,” first developed in 1996, reinforces the industry’s strong stance against animal cruelty or neglect. It contains a comprehensive set of sound production practices and states that “persons who willfully mistreat animals will not be tolerated.” In addition, producer leaders worked with animal health and wellbeing experts to develop the “Guidelines for Care and Handling of Beef Cattle,” which are endorsed by the Academy of Veterinary Consultants and the American Association of Bovine Practitioners as well as the Food Marketing Institute and National Council of Chain Restaurants.

ENVIRONMENT
America’s cattle farmers and ranchers are committed to leaving the environment in better shape for the next generation. Preserving, conserving and restoring this country’s natural resources like open space, grasslands, wetlands, clean air and wildlife habitat are extremely important to agriculturists.

Approximately 85 percent of U.S. grazing lands are unsuitable for producing crops. Grazing animals on this land more than doubles the area that can be used to produce food.

Animal agriculture contributes minimally to the production of total greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. According to EPA, the entire U.S. agricultural sector contributes just 6.4 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

BEEF SAFETY
Beef producers have invested 27 million dollars in beef safety research through the beef checkoff since 1993 and, collectively, the industry invests $350 million each year in safety research, technology and practices.

Consumers play a very important role when it comes to food safety. Using an instant-read thermometer to make sure ground beef is cooked to 160 F is the best way to ensure burgers are safe and savory.

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Funny Poster

I received this from a contact on an animal welfare listserve I’m on this morning and thought I’d share it with you.

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PETA’s Attempt to Capitalize on Tiller’s Death

A colleague sent me a link to this story about PETA’s plans to put up billboards in Wichita urging people to go vegetarian. The catch; These billboards attempt to appeal to both sides of the abortion debate in the wake of the murder of abortion doctor George Tiller.

One version of the billboard says, “Pro-Life? Go Vegetarian.” The other says, “Pro-Choice? Choose Vegetarian.”

What’s really interesting is the comments following the story. They’re almost exclusively form people who are fed up with PETA’s tactics.

“This is just nuts. A man is killed and they want us to be vegetarian. Some people will go to any lengths to be noticed,” one commenter wrote.

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Michigan Farm Bureau hits YouTube

Michigan Farm Bureau has kicked off their YouTube channel with a six-part series on animal welfare. Read what they have to say about it and watch the first video in the series, featuring Michigan State Animal Welfare Specialist Janice Swanson.

“This six part series takes a real look at the animal welfare issue and tells the truth about how agriculture cares for their animals. Todays farmers provide care to their animals based upon knowledge, science and practices that have been time honored, tested and truly provide what is best for the animal. They are also impacted by legislative efforts and outside interest group agendas that cause the entire food production industry to be impacted. These videos take a look at the big picture and discuss animal care practices down at the farm level..watch all six segments to get the full story and the real truth. “

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Recommendations for the Care and Handling of Beef Cattle

Below are the Recommendations for the Care and Handling of Beef Cattle adopted by NCBA’s Beef Quality Assurance Advisory Board and Cattle Health & Well-being Committee. These are great guidelines to not just follow but also share with people who may have questions about how livestock producers take care of their animals.

Producer Code of Cattle Care
Beef cattle producers take pride in their responsibility to provide proper care to cattle on their farms and ranches. The following are general recommendations for producers to consider in raising and handling cattle:

* Provide adequate food, water and care to protect the health and well-being of animals.
* Provide disease prevention practices to protect herd health, including access to veterinary care.
* Provide facilities that allow safe, humane, and efficient movement and/or restraint of livestock.
* Use humane methods to euthanize sick or injured livestock and dispose of them properly.
* Provide personnel with training to properly handle and care for cattle.
* Make timely observations of livestock to ensure basic needs are being met.
* Provide transportation that avoids undue stress caused by overcrowding, excess time in transit, or improper handling during loading and unloading.
* Keep updated on advancements and changes in the industry to make decisions based on sound production practices and consideration to animal well-being.
* Persons who willfully mistreat animals will not be tolerated.

Introduction
Cattlemen have long recognized the need to properly care for their livestock. Sound animal husbandry practices – based on research and decades of practical experience – are known to impact the well-being of cattle, individual animal health and herd productivity.

Cattle are produced using a variety of management systems, in very diverse environmental and geographic locations in the United States. As such, there is not one specific set of production practices that can be recommended for all cattle producers to implement. Personal experience, training, and professional judgement are key factors in providing proper animal care.

Feeding and Nutrition
Cattle should have access to an adequate quantity and quality of nutrients (feed, water, minerals and vitamins).

The nutrient requirements of cattle vary according to age, sex, weight, body condition, stage of production and environmental temperature. The National Research Council has developed guidelines describing these requirements. Nutritionists are an excellent resource and can provide specific information on the nutrient needs of cattle, nutrient availability in feed ingredients, and suggest diets based on regional differences in nutrient values of available feedstuffs.

Adequate feed quantity and quality is required for body maintenance and growth. However, cattle adapt to periodic over or under availability of feedstuffs.

Cattle should have access to an adequate supply of clean water. Although water requirements vary greatly, as a rule of thumb, water consumption will range from 1 gal per 100 lb. of body weight during cold weather, to nearly 2 gal per 100 lb. of body weight during hot weather.

Livestock Facilities
Facilities (fences, chutes, etc.) should be maintained in good working condition to provide efficient movement and reduce stress when working cattle. Sharp objects and protrusions can result in bruise damage and should be avoided whenever possible.

Equipment to restrain cattle is generally needed on most beef cattle operations. This equipment should allow for quick and secure restraint in order to minimize stress or injury to the animal or the operator. The equipment should allow for the quick release of the animal upon completion of the procedure. Experienced and trained personnel should operate restraining equipment.

Shelter
Beef cattle are produced in a variety of production settings, from pasture and range, to dry lot and confinement facilities. Moreover, cattle are adaptable to a wide range of natural conditions and artificial environments. When behavioral and physiological characteristics or cattle are matched to local conditions, beef cattle thrive in virtually any environment in the U.S. without artificial shelter. However, during extreme weather conditions, cattle should have access to well-drained resting areas and/or to natural or constructed shelter.

Animal Health Practices
Producers should implement herd health programs that address the prevention and treatment of disease. These programs will vary depending upon the type of operation and diseases prevalence in a particular region of the U.S. Cattle producers are encouraged to consult with their veterinarian to establish effective herd health programs.

Cattle should be observed regularly, particularly during critical periods of the year such as calving season, or weather related events.

Procedures such as vaccination, castration, dehorning and branding are often performed by producers. Proper techniques and equipment should be utilized. Only experienced or properly trained personnel should perform these procedures.

Beef cattle producers are encouraged to follow state or national Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) guidelines. National BQA guidelines can be obtained from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

Handling Sick, Disabled or Deceased Livestock
It is the responsibility of cattlemen to humanely care for their animals and make every effort to obtain veterinary care for animals that are sick or injured. Livestock that are sick or injured and non-responsive to medical treatment for a reasonable period of convalescence should be humanely euthanized on the farm or ranch. Moreover, cattle exhibiting symptoms of advanced disease (such as cattle that are severely emaciated), cattle that are non-ambulatory, or cattle with advanced stages of ocular neoplasia should not be transported to market facilities. Cattle that are disabled or become injured during transportation should be euthanized or humanely transported to a processing facility.

Euthanasia is defined as a humane death occurring without pain and suffering. It is inevitable that cattle will become sick or injured to the degree that euthanasia will be required. Sick or injured cattle that will not respond to treatment should be euthanized. Techniques for euthanasia should follow guidelines established by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Bovine Practitioners. Detailed information on proper euthanasia techniques is available in the guide titled “Practical Euthanasia of Cattle” or producers may consult with their veterinarian concerning appropriate techniques.

Producers should use proper methods of disposing of deceased livestock in accordance with federal, state and local regulations. If utilizing a rendering service, keep deceased livestock in a screened area away from public view.

Transportation
The movement of cattle to and from farms, ranches, feedlots and marketing facilities is an important aspect of beef cattle production. Proper handling and transportation are important for the safety and welfare of the animals being moved. When loading and unloading cattle, personnel should move cattle as quietly and patiently as possible to prevent stress or injury.

Cattle should be separated by size or gender prior to shipping, and if possible, different groups loaded into separate compartments of the truck or trailer. To prevent livestock from falling while in transit, the ride should be a smooth as possible. Drivers should avoid sudden starts/stops and sharp turns. Moreover, the floors of trucks and trailers should be clean and slip resistant. While in transit, occasional stops should be made to ensure that cattle are well dispersed and still standing. Severe weather conditions must be considered when transporting livestock. As appropriate, adequate ventilation and protection should be provided during transit.

Further information on transporting cattle may be found in the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service publication, Cattle and Swine Trucking Guide for Exporters published May 1997.

Training & Education
All individuals working with livestock should be provided a sound working knowledge of proper care and handling techniques. Cattle producers should observe their employees to ensure that they are properly trained. Never assume that anyone can properly handle cattle, nor that they will always utilize proper techniques. Ongoing education should be a part of any management plan.

Education materials on basic livestock handling techniques, including the proper handling of disabled cattle are available from the Livestock Conservation Institute (LCI). Those materials include the following:

* Cattle Handling and Transportation (video)
* Livestock Handling Guide (pamphlet)
* Livestock Trucking Guide (pamphlet)
* Proper Handling Techniques for Non-Ambulatory Animals (pamphlet)
* Practical Euthanasia of Cattle (guide book)

Employees working with cattle should understand the concept of working from an animal’s flight zone. The size of the flight zone is determined by the previous experience of the animal and its temperament.

When working with cattle, individuals should avoid sudden movement, loud noises, or other actions that may frighten animals. Handling devices should be used humanely. This includes the use of persuasion devices such as canes, prods, sorting sticks and paddles.

Summary
The beef industry is often challenged to maintain a proactive position on issues of concern to individuals or special interest groups with little or no knowledge of animal agriculture. Years of practical experience have shaped the practices that provide humane care of livestock. Cattlemen are encouraged to view these guidelines as broad recommendations for the care and handling of cattle. Cattle producers wanting more specific information about proper care and handling of livestock should contact the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

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Become a Master’s of Beef Advocacy

The checkoff-funded Master’s of Beef Advocacy (MBA) program being offered by NCBA is a great opportunity to learn more about how to advocate for the beef industry. The free program consists of six online training modules and a hands on spokesperson training where you learn how to deal with media from a T.V. interview to posting comments online.

I posted a while ago about the Kansas MBA class I helped organize. We had a great group of students, producers and beef businesspeople together for a training by NCBA’s Daren Williams in Manhattan March 30. Since then the group has been involved in NCBA action alerts where we respond to negative beef coverage with positive messages learned in the program. Additionally, I’ve joined the MBA Alumni Association, a social network site that resembles facebook just for beef advocates.

For more information read the press release. To enroll, email mba@beef.org.

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I Love Farmers….They Feed My Soul

Here’s a fun Web site www.ilovefarmers.org created by young people who love farmers and want to know more about where their food comes from.

“Join us as we celebrate a true American hero, the family farmer. We love farmers. They feed our soul,” states the site’s about me section.

You also can buy fun, youthful “I Love Farmers….They Feed My Soul” clothes on the Web site. The site says proceeds “are used to sustain and support a positive, powerful and productive consumer awareness campaign about the value of American family farmers and ranchers!”
I Love Farmers T-Shirt

You can also join the I Love Farmers…They Feed My Soul facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

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