Weekly News Releases and Columns

Week of April 8, 2024

NEWS RELEASES

Nebraska Extension in Cuming County hosting 2-day Tractor & Equipment Safety Training

Nebraska Extension and Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, College of Public Health, have announced plans for the annual "tractor safety" training courses scheduled at 8 sites across Nebraska in late May and early June.

Federal law prohibits children under 16 years of age from using certain equipment on a farm unless their parents or legal guardians own the farm. However, certification received through this course grants an exemption to the law allowing 14- and 15-year-olds to drive a tractor and to do field work with certain mechanized equipment. Certification is earned by completing a Hands-On Safety Day with written test (Certification Day 1), then completing the Tractor and Equipment Safety Training with driving exam (Certification Day 2). Successful completion of Certification Days 1 and 2 will result in certification for 14- and 15-year-old youth to be employed on farms and ranches.

Certification Day 1 will cover the required elements of the National Safe Tractor and Machinery Operation Program, including quizzes which students must pass to attend the driving portion of training. Once a student is registered, they will be sent instructions, materials, course paperwork and a link to the online course if they will not be attending in-person.

Certification Day 2 will include a driving test and equipment operation and ATV safety lessons. Students must demonstrate competence in hitching and unhitching equipment and driving a tractor and trailer through a standardized course. Instructors will also offer education about safe behaviors and laws for ATVs, utility-task vehicles (UTVs), and other off-road vehicles (ORVs).

The cost of the course is $40 and includes educational materials, the online learning link (if applicable), supplies, and lunch and snacks at in-person trainings. Payment will be made via credit card if registering online or via check if registering by mail.

Youth under 14 years of age can register for and attend Certification Day 1 if accompanied by an adult. They will not be able to use equipment, attend Day 2, or become certified. Students under 14 must still register but will not be charged the registration fee.

Certification Day 1: Hands-On Safety Day with Written Test

• May 21 – Lincoln, Logan, McPherson County Extension Office, 348 West State Farm Road, North Platte, NE
• May 28 – Cuming County Fairgrounds, W. Washington Street, West Point, NE
• May 30 – Cass County Fairgrounds, 8400 144th Street, Weeping Water, NE
• June 5 – Gordon, 613 E 3rd Street, Gordon, NE
• June 11 – Nebraska State Fairgrounds, 501 East Fonner Park Road, Grand Island, NE

Certification Day 2: Tractor and Equipment Safety Training with Driving Exam
May 22 - Lincoln, Logan, McPherson County Extension Office, 348 West State Farm Road, North Platte, NE
• May 29 – Cuming County Fairgrounds, W. Washington Street, West Point, NE
• May 31 – Cass County Fairgrounds, 8400 144th Street, Weeping Water, NE
• June 4 – Legacy of the Plains Museum, 2930 Old Oregon Trail, Gering, NE
• June 6 – Gordon, 613 E 3rd Street, Gordon, NE
• June 7 – AKRS Equipment, 49110 US Hwy 20, O'Neill, NE
• June 12 – Nebraska State Fairgrounds, 501 East Fonner Park Road, Grand Island, NE
• June 13 – Adams County Extension, 2975 South Baltimore Avenue, Hastings, NE

Those attending a location that only offers Certification Day 2 must complete Certification Day 1 at another location OR complete the virtual module. Certification Day 1 (or online module) MUST be completed, with a written exam, before attending Certification Day 2.

To register, visit: go.unmc.edu/tractor-safety-training

Contact the Cuming County Extension Office at 402-372-6006 with questions.

Extension is a division of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska Lincoln cooperating with counties and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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SOURCE: Melissa Hagemeister, Extension Associate
RELEASE DATE: April 1, 2024

Cuming County Extension Board to Meet

The Cuming County Extension Board will meet for their April meeting on Monday, April 22, at 7:00 p.m. in the Cuming County Courthouse Meeting Room. The agenda for the meeting is available for review at Nebraska Extension in Cuming County.

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SOURCE: Hannah Guenther, Associate Extension Educator
RELEASE DATE: April 1, 2024

4-H Communications Contest

This year's Cuming County 4-H Communications Contest will be held on Monday, April 15th beginning at 6:00 p.m. at West Point-Beemer Elementary School. This contest is open to 4-H youth ages 8-18 and topics that youth can compete in include Public Speaking, Public Service Announcements, Presentations, Impromptu Speech, and Video Communications.
Registration is currently open and complete details can be found on our webpage at cuming.unl.edu. Registration will close at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, April 8th.

SOURCE: Melissa Hagemeister, Extension Associate
RELEASE DATE: March 11, 2024

Enroll in Cuming County 4-H by May 1

The Cuming County 4-H Council is encouraging youth to enroll in the Cuming County 4-H Program by May 1 to receive a free 4-H t-shirt! So, make sure when enrolling that the t-shirt size is updated in the online system. The state 4-H enrollment deadline to participate in the county fair and state fair is June 15th. Enrollment link is v2.4honline.com. Enrollment fee of $5.00 can be paid online with a credit card. If you have questions, please contact the Extension Office at 402-372-6006.

SOURCE: Melissa Hagemeister, Extension Associate
RELEASE DATE: March 11, 2024

Cuming County 4-H YQCA

Nebraska requires all 4-H members exhibiting beef, bucket calves, goat, sheep, swine, dairy cattle, poultry, and rabbits to be trained or tested. The options available are:

ONLINE COURSE COMPLETION
• $12.00 per member for completion of modules which must be completed annually

FACE-TO-FACE TRAINING
• Held Thursday, May 23 at 1:00 p.m. at Cuming County Fairgrounds
• Must pre-register, pay $3.00 fee, and take a pre & post test
• This training is good for one year
• Link to Register: yqcaprogram.org
• Registration HELP video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZHW2qtMlOc

ONLINE TEST-OUT

• Available to youth in the first year of Intermediate (age 12) and Senior (age 15) age levels
• There is no test out option for Juniors
• Participants have only one chance to take the test-out option online.
• Test-Out Costs:
• Intermediate: $36 ($12 x 3 years of certification)
• Senior: $48 ($12 x 4 years of certification)

DEADLINE FOR COMPLETION IS JUNE 15TH.

SOURCE: Melissa Hagemeister, Extension Associate
RELEASE DATE: March 11, 2024

Youth Interested in Judging Teams

Are you interested in learning more about (and competing) in livestock judging, poultry judging or meats judging?

PASE (the statewide Premier Animal Science Event) has lowered the age of participation to 8 years of age as of January 1.

If you are interested in participating in practices and PASE, please contact the Extension Office and let them know. Call 402-372-6006 or email cuming-county@unl.edu.

Practices will be communicated as we get closer to summer. Reminder: PASE is scheduled for Thursday, June 20th and Friday, June 21st in Lincoln.

SOURCE: Melissa Hagemeister, Extension Associate
RELEASE DATE: March 11, 2024

4-H Country Kitchen YOUTH SIGN UP is now available

All Cuming County 4-H youth ages 13 and older are required to work a shift in the 4-H Country Kitchen during the Cuming County Fair.

Youth ages 10 and older who attend PASE (Premier Animal Science Events) must work a shift.

Call the Extension Office to sign up! --> 402-372-6006.

DATE: March 18, 2024
SOURCE: Melissa Hagemeister, Extension Associate

4-H Livestock Requirements

The animal identification deadline for 2024 is JUNE 15th. All livestock must have appropriate tags in place prior to this deadline. Check out the Cuming County website for requirements (cuming.unl.edu).

DNA Envelopes - DNA envelopes will be $7.00 per envelope. Exhibitors will be able to dual nominate an animal as breeding and market if selected and paid for in Show Stock Manager.

Submitting Animal Information into Show Stock Manager – Exhibitors will be responsible for entering their animal information into the database prior to the nomination deadline. The Extension Office will continue to mail in the DNA envelopes. Any animal entry NOT in the online system or have DNA submitted will not be considered eligible for the NE State Fair.

Livestock Affidavits (County) - Cuming County 4-H will continue to utilize the livestock affidavits. We would like you to list all project animals on the appropriate affidavit (ID Sheets). This includes those animals that are eligible for State Fair as well as those that are county only. Please complete them and turn them into the Extension Office by the June 15th deadline. ID Sheets are available on our website.

DATE: March 18, 2024
SOURCE: Melissa Hagemeister, Extension Associate

Livestock Achievement Program

The Nebraska 4-H Livestock Achievement Program is designed to promote all educational aspects of 4-H livestock projects including selection, production, leadership, and exhibition by recognizing youth striving to improve in their livestock project knowledge and leadership.

The program consists of three levels that require 4-H members to plan and report a broad range of age-appropriate and project-related accomplishments. For each level, the Livestock Achievement Program provides a list of accomplishments from which 4-H members choose their goals.

• Juniors, ages 8-10, must submit pictures, posters, presentations, and other learning activities to receive the distinction of Junior Member of Excellence.
• Intermediates, ages 11-13, must complete 100 points worth of activities to receive the distinction of Intermediate Member of Excellence.
• Seniors, ages 14-18, must complete 150 points worth of activities to receive the distinction of Senior Member of Excellence.

Eligibility
• Youth must be currently enrolled 4-H members and be enrolled in the livestock project through which they plan to participate in the Livestock Achievement Program.
• Youth must be 8-18 years of age as of January 1 of the current year.
• Youth may participate as Juniors, ages 8-10; Intermediates, ages 11-13; or Seniors, ages 14-18.
• Youth must designate at least one 4-H livestock project through which they will participate in the Livestock Achievement program. Youth may participate through any of the following project areas: beef, sheep, meat goat, swine, dairy cattle, dairy goat, rabbit, or poultry.
• All activities must be completed during a single project year. Points received for completing activities do not carry over from year to year.
• Youth may participate in the Livestock Achievement Program multiple times and in multiple projects.
• Points for a single activity may be counted towards a single project emphasis. For example, a member participating in the program through the beef and poultry projects during a single year will need to complete separate activities for each project.

Deadline to apply is June 15th. To find information on eligibility, rules, instructions on applying, and more details, please visit this link: Livestock Achievement Program.

DATE: March 18, 2024
SOURCE: Melissa Hagemeister, Extension Associate

Food, Nutrition, & Health

Hannah Guenther, Extension Educator
Nebraska Extension Serving Cuming County

Week of April 1, 2024

Diet vs. Zero Sugar

This past weekend I found myself stumbling into two conversations with different people at different times about the exact same topic! Both conversations were about soda (random, I know). You may have noticed a change at the gas station or grocery store when picking out your favorite soft drink. Instead of diet, you may see "zero sugar" instead. So, what's the difference? Are they the same? Let's find out.

To truly identify the difference between two food or beverage products – it is necessary to look at the food label. By food label law, it is mandated that all ingredients be listed in order of greatest to least on the food label making it a great tool to learn about various food products. As I write this article, I have been reviewing and comparing various diet sodas to their zero sugar counterparts and here is what I have found.

1. Both options contain zero sugar. A quick glance at the nutrition facts label will show that both diet and zero sugar sodas do not contain any sugar but are in fact sweetened with artificial sweeteners. If you are looking to reduce your overall sugar intake, these are a great option – but should be enjoyed in moderation and should never take the place of water and low-fat milk (or fortified dairy free alternatives).

2. The ingredients do vary. For those who are diet soda connoisseurs, you will notice a change in the flavor and mouth feel of diet versus zero sugar soft drinks. A quick glance at the nutrition facts label may highlight similarities or differences. Diet coke, for example, is sweetened primarily with aspartame while Coke Zero is sweetened with a combination of aspartame and acesulfame potassium. On the other hand, Diet Mt Dew and Mountain Dew Zero are sweetened with a combination of aspartame, acesulfame potassium, and sucralose.

3. Marketing & socially appropriate terms. While researching diet and zero sugar sodas, it was noted that one of the biggest differences between the two was simply in the name. Our society has pushed heavily against the diet culture in recent years. To support this movement, "diet" is not deemed socially acceptable and therefore has been replaced with "zero sugar" instead.

In conclusion, there is a difference between diet and zero sugar sodas. Many are able to taste the difference between the two but remember both are sugar free options. Ultimately it is up to you and your personal preference in the one you decide to drink!

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Week of March 18, 2024

Take Control of Your Health with Preventative Screenings

March is Colorectal Awareness Month! Did you know that colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in men and women? (American Cancer Society) That is a scary statistic, but there are ways that you can take control of your health and reduce your risk of colorectal cancer through lifestyle changes and preventative screenings.

When to get Screened?

According to the American Cancer Society, you should begin getting regular colorectal screenings starting at age 45. There are two different options including a stool-based test and a visual exam of the colon and rectum. Talk to your healthcare provider to see what test is best for you as well as your insurance provider to see how your screening is covered under your current plan.

The Elephant in the Article

I feel like it's necessary to address the elephant in the article. Colonoscopies. If you have never gotten one before, they can be intimidating. I'll be honest, I have never had one – but knowing my family's history of colon cancer I know that they will be a part of my future. Here's what people actually say about colonoscopies: you are sedated so there is no "pain" the only complaint is slight bloating or gas post procedure, the prep isn't that bad – you do have to clean out your bowels prior to the screening so be prepared to be close to the bathroom and remember that this won't last forever, and finally colonoscopies are the gold standard for screening for colorectal cancer.

Reducing Risk Through Lifestyle

Preventative screenings are one of the best ways you can take control of your health, but there are other lifestyle changes that you can implement today to reduce your risk of cancer.

• Eat a nutritious diet focusing on a variety of fruits and vegetables. Produce adds flavor and variety to your diet, but also vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. They are also full of polyphenols. These compounds help inhibit the growth of tumor cells in the body.
• Stop using tobacco because it is the leading cause of cancer in the US. This includes cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and vaping.
• Reduce alcohol intake. Alcohol is a carcinogen that has been shown to increase the risk of cancer with an increased intake.

In honor of Colorectal Awareness Month, take time this March to schedule your screening or make lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of cancer.

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Week of March 4, 2024

Spring into Health!

I am genuinely worried that is article is going to jinx the beautiful weather we are experiencing, but I am going to write it anyway. Spring has sprung (I hope)! The weather we are currently experiencing in Nebraska is glorious and it is a great time to take advantage of it by getting outside and getting active. A healthy lifestyle not only includes making nutritious eating choices, but also incorporating physical activity into your daily life. To get your family moving, try one of the following activities that will keep you and your children moving.

• Go on a Nature Walk: Grab a plastic bag or sack and take your family on a nature walk. Pick up rocks, flowers, leaves, and other specimens along the way. Keep track of the number of different animals you see while walking. You will be surprised how many steps you can log with your kids while spending time outside.

• After School Jaunt: After you pick your kids up from school, instead of heading straight home. Take a 15-minute walk together. Not only are you getting in some physical activity, but it will give you time to reflect and converse about each other's day! They may even be inclined to answer the question, "What did you learn in school today?"

• After Dinner Walk: If you aren't able to walk after school, go for a walk after dinner instead! Not only does this aid in digestion, but it's a great way to include active family time. Pick a family question to go around and answer while you walk to foster conversation and physical activity.

• Walk instead of Drive: Running an errand? If you are going somewhere that is only 1 mile away and has a safe, accessible walking path, walk instead of drive! Grab your children and turn your errand into an opportunity to include some physical activity in your day.

• You Walk, I'll Ride: For longer walks, have your child ride their bike or scooter and you walk alongside them. You'll be able to put in a longer walk and get to enjoy physical activity together.

• Build an Active Easter Basket: Charlotte's easter basket usually comes with a towel, swimsuit, and flip flops! Here's hoping the easter basket includes a couple of items for spring activities. A jump rope, exercise shorts, a new volleyball, a portable speaker for walks, a mileage log, a water bottle, and sunglasses are all great options for active kids!

After being stuck inside most of the winter months, enjoy the outdoors by doing your physical activity outside. Get creative with new ways to get your child outdoors and enjoying.

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Common Sense Farming and Ranching

Alfredo DiCostanzo
Livestock Systems Extension Educator
University of Nebraska

Week of April 8, 2024


Continued pressure on margins

We recently wrapped up the first quarter of 2024. Yet, cattle markets continue to be dominated by margin-influencing factors that are beyond the reach of cattle producers: weather, weekly cattle harvest, beef imports, and, recently, confirmation that highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) was detected in dairy herds in Texas, Kansas, Idaho, and Michigan. (As a result, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture issued an importation order effective immediately prohibiting all breeding female dairy cattle from entering the state of Nebraska without a Permit issued by the Department (ImportOrder.pdf (nebraska.gov)). As of April 1, there have been no reported detections of HPAI in Nebraska dairy cattle or other livestock (NDA issues restrictions provides update on HPAI in livestock PR.pdf (nebraska.gov)).

These factors have played a moderating effect on fed cattle prices. Weekly negotiated cash price for cattle sold in Nebraska gained $18/cwt between January 1 and March 25, 2024. News of HPAI diagnosis in dairy herds in other states occurred since March 25. Fed cattle prices traded laterally between March 25 and April 1.

Does this mean that of all the factors mentioned, news of HPAI diagnosis in dairy herds in other states had the most influential effect on cattle price? This is quite possible and not surprising; yet time (and subsequent HPAI news or lack thereof) will tell.

How do we reconcile this with other prevailing factors in the industry?

In a previous column (week of December 31), I mentioned that corn grain prices were expected to trade between $4.80 and $5.00/bu between March and September. Now, it looks like corn grain futures are trading between $4.33 and $4.56/bu.

The weekly Choice-Select spread is following seasonal patterns and is below $10/cwt while the Choice cutout is trading near $300/cwt. This observation and the fact that the Weekly Economic Index is not declining support consumer confidence and a desire to purchase beef.

One might say that feeding costs should be moderating some while consumers continue to enjoy American grown and finished beef, which spells good news in the short term. Concurrently, the fact that fed cattle prices rose steadily since the beginning of the year demonstrates that despite slowed harvest speed, the market demanded more beef, and it had to be delivered.

This good news was moderated by the effect of tight cattle supply on feeder prices. Yearling cattle sales are averaging between $230 and $270/cwt; filling a pen of 850-lb steers would cost $2,200 a head. Even at a finishing weight of 1,650 lb and $190/cwt sale price, the gross margin is $935/head for a break even cost of gain of $116/cwt. Nearly $14/cwt of that is needed to cover interest, which leaves $102/cwt for feed, facilities, equipment, veterinary, labor and freight costs. Although there is room for a positive margin, this determination relied on $190/cwt fed cattle price and $4.50/bu corn. Price movements in the wrong direction would narrow profit margins even more.

As we move to the second and third quarters of the year, weather is the factor that has a chance to pressure margins further. Although drought conditions may be improving, the precipitation outlook is less than normal, and the temperature outlook is for normal to above normal temperatures.

Perhaps before too long, it is time to start thinking of deploying hot weather prevention strategies. Narrow margins tend to make us more responsive.

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Week of March 25, 2024

Keeping an eye on markets and weather

Currently, most conversations in the beef industry turn to how high cattle prices are going, whether we will have enough cattle to place on feed or to harvest, and how high are consumers willing to pay for beef. One might say this is the beef industry's turn to capitalize on high prices, which usually trail years of high corn grain (and other feed) prices. On the supply side, drought has a lot to do with the current situation. On the demand side, consumers have been willing to buy beef at increasingly higher prices since spring of 2023.

Although economic news circulating in mainstream and social media may point to challenging times, the fact is that the Weekly Economic Index (a collection of indicators of consumer behavior, the labor market and production) 13-week running average is trending laterally at values similar to those immediately before the pandemic. From any perspective, this is great news. However, is this sufficient reason to trust that consumer willingness to purchase beef at higher prices will not waiver? No. However, it demonstrates that over a year where the boxed beef cutout climbed over 8%, the willingness by consumers to purchase beef has not declined.

On the demand side, it is worthwhile to remind ourselves that the true shrinkage in beef supply will come when the industry decides it is time to rebuild the herd resulting in a reduced supply of feeder heifers (this fall?). At that point, the next situation to watch is how many mama cows remain to expose to bulls in the summer and fall of 2024. Current, high cull cow prices (as high as the low in fed cattle prices during the last 10 years) indicate that the supply of cows is drying up.

For now, we have been concerned with packer chain speed holding back fed cattle price. Yet, last week, fed cattle sold in the North traded for $190/cwt. I have proposed that if, as we have been told so much before, the consumer is in the driver's seat, then consumer demand for beef will drive chain speeds. Chain speeds simply must catch up to demand and, under a tight supply, fed cattle price has to follow.

Where does this all leave the cow-calf operator? For the foreseeable future, feeder cattle prices should continue to trend upward. Astute cow-calf operators are working to get as many cows exposed this year to bulls bred while keeping calves alive and on track to heavy weaning or backgrounding weights. Calves weighing 600 lb have a chance of bringing in over $2,000/head this spring or fall.

What about cattle feeders? Markets finally reached $190/cwt last week (since a fleeting time in June). That is $2,850 for a 1,500-lb steer. We are all excited about this, but the sobering reality is: if these cattle were purchased as 600-lb feeders for $300/cwt, there was only $1,050 gross margin ($116.67/cwt breakeven cost of gain). We all remember corn grain prices were well over $6.00/bu in June of 2023. Corn grain prices only adjusted until after harvest in the fall of 2023. Yet, snowstorms in late 2023 and early 2024 kept cost of gain high until just recently.

Weatherwise we are beginning to hear that La Nina is making a comeback this summer. Never mind if this is climate newsworthy or if it has happened before. When I hear La Nina is back, I immediately think of hot and dry weather. If that is the case, then, weather will be another factor to watch as the beef industry enters the summer and fall months of 2024.

Hot and dry weather is a challenge to fertility in cow-calf operations, to health of young or weaning calves, and to sustained growth performance and conversion efficiency in cattle feedlots. Thus, although the promise of higher prices is driven by supply and demand, and demand may not be faltering (yet), summer weather may bring its own challenges to ever narrowing profit margins.

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Week of March 11, 2024

Managing calf growth pre-weaning, Part II

Managing calf growth was the focus of the last column, where I also indicated I would eventually be discussing utilization of growth-promotion implants pre-weaning. In that column, I added that this issue has become a matter of discussion among producers and industry professional groups. Some argue that selling calves at the sale barn claiming they are not implanted commands a greater price. Others argue that implanting or not makes no difference in price unless cattle are going to specific programs where growth-promoting implants are not permitted. Regardless, the practice of implanting calves pre-weaning is declining: USDA National Animal Health Monitoring System surveys indicated that the proportion of operations in which calves were implanted declined from 18% in 1992 to under 10% in 2016.

Before I dive into the economics of this issue, which should be one of the main considerations by each individual interested in making an informed decision on this issue, it is important to introduce other factors that easily distract from this issue: 1) existing biases about use of growth-promoting implants, 2) access to adequate facilities (and timing) to properly administer an implant, and 3) managing the influence of information drawn from social media, internet, and printed material be it magazines or promotional brochures.

Existing bias. A long time ago, at a producer meeting where calf management practices were discussed, a cow-calf producer that marketed their calves at weaning emphatically announced that they would never use a growth-promoting implant because they felt hormones in implants were contributing to health issues or early puberty in young people. Determination of effects of hormones used and their concentration on human safety is the responsibility of the company that manufactures the product with oversight by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Documents used by FDA to ensure the safety of humans consuming products derived from cattle implanted with growth-promoting implants contain results of hormonal concentration, toxicology, and tissue residue studies. Freedom of Information (FOI) summaries hosted at the FDA website (https://animaldrugsatfda.fda.gov/adafda/views/#/search) contain detailed information provided by growth-promoting implant manufacturers in support of their application for FDA approval. Incidentally, the FDA also requires manufacturers of these products to provide an assessment of the environmental impact of the manufacture or utilization of these products; this information is also available under the FOI summaries.

Access to facilities. Having access to adequate facilities to sort and walk calves through a single alley ending at a squeeze chute where a calf's head and body can be easily and safely secured may not be common. Sometimes, although the facility may be accessible, timing of calf implanting may not be easy. Branding time or equivalent (where branding laws do not apply) may be the best timing for a cow-calf operator to implant calves. Yet, the safety of calf and operator and efficacy of resulting implant will be compromised in a rope-and-tie situation.

Information management. The scientific literature contains many reports on the effects of implanting suckling calves on growth and on calf value. Studying the effects of implanting on calf growth is easy. Studying the effects of labeling calf lots as "non-implanted" or otherwise on calf price at sale barns is extremely difficult.

Calf lots selling at a sale barn, regardless of implant or any other status, are immediately associated with owner (reputation), size, origin, nutritional background, health history, appearance, breed or cross, previous performance, season, stage of the cattle cycle, buyers present and their number, size of sale, weather, etc. Attempting to control all these factors without creating a serious statistical mess in the analysis is not easy. Firstly, a researcher would need data from many lots and the knowledge and application of serious statistical procedures to control bias in the samples.

Lastly, there is the confusion of natural or non-hormone treated cattle (NHTC) program labels and their requirements. Excluding comparisons where affidavits are produced for natural or NHTC cattle, when evaluating effects of labeling calf lots as having been implanted or not in datasets where load lots are traded, there are no differences in calf price. Similarly, a publication describing factors affecting price of North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana feeder calves released in 2007 confirmed this observation. In that study, there were 3,342 lots with 1 to 5 calves, 1,113 with 6 to 10 calves, 885 lots with 11 to 20 calves, and 911 lots with more than 20 calves. Of these lots, 286 were sold as having been implanted and 5,966 as not having been implanted. The price difference was not statistically significant. This observation concurs with data from load lot studies.

Recently, a study with fewer lots (327) conducted in Mississippi contains an interesting interpretation: buyers like the opportunity to customize the growth objective for the lots they buy. In other words, when the seller backed either claim: "cattle received no implant" or "cattle were implanted with such and such product," buyers offered more money than when the seller either could not or would not substantiate the claim that a calf lot was implanted or not.

Does this approach settle the argument that implanting status makes a difference in calf price? Likely not; not for the market you choose. So, what is left to consider? Economics and your own market.

At an average calf gain of 20 lb in response to an implant that costs under $2.00 with calf prices at $3.50/lb, the return to the investment in calf implants is 35:1.

Before you reach for that gun (implant gun!), please conduct your own market research. Likely you market calves on a given week of the year at a given sale barn.

Study the trends locally. Ask questions of cattle buyers, the sale manager, and other producers. Do you need an affidavit to access premiums for non-implanted calves? Are there specific sales for non-implanted calves? Are there specific buyers for non-implanted calves? If there are signs that premiums exist for marketing non-implanted calves, what types of premiums may calves be receiving for not being implanted in late 2023 or early 2024?

If these questions are leading you to consider not implanting calves, then for a year like this one, the premium for non-implanted calves should be between $0.10 and $0.15/lb.

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Food, Nutrition and Health