CN August September 2023 Vol. 62 Issue 5



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Editor & Publisher Betty Jo Gigot | (620) 272-6862 National Account Manager Jessica Ebert | (785) 477-1941 Designer & Production Manager Tayler Durst | (402) 910-9012 Ad Accountant/Subscription Manager Micky Burch Copy Editor Larisa Willrett | Lariat Services Contributing Editor Dario Delle Chiaie Contributing Editor Blaine Davis Contributing Editor Josh Geiger Contributing Editor Chris McClure Contributing Editor Burt Rutherford Contributing Editor Larry Stalcup Contributing Editor LaRayne Topp Contributing Editor Will Verboven Contributing Editor Megan Webb, Ph.D. CALF NEWS The Face of the Cattle Industry August | September 2023 Vol. 62 Issue 5 Published bimonthly by B.J. Publishing





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8 Don’t Let Bullish Fed Cattle Profits Be Ruined by an Unexpected Wreck

10 Raising the Bar, Then Exceeding It

SPECIAL FEATURES 12 Producer Profile Bob Hibberd, Cattle Buyer 14 Maximize Rain- Revived Pastures Wit h Sound Fall Range and Pasture Management 16 The Worst of Perfect Storms

7 Gypsy Wagon 27 Chuteside Manner 34 Hot Off the Grill 35 Where’s the Really Exceptional Beef? 36 On the Human Side 36 Gatherings 37 CALF's Featured Lady 38 Flatland Philosopher 38 Index of Advertisers 38 Events Calendar IN EVERY ISSUE

18 Prime Points 21 All In 22 Rumbli ngs From the Great White North 23 Beyond the Ranch Gate 24 Whitt & Wisdom CALF VOICES

30 Beef Empire Days 32 Hope for a Cure

Is Focus at Pender Cattlemen’s Ball

On The Cover: Market leverage has shifted away from the packer and back toward other beef-producing segments. Cow-calf producers could see near-record prices for calves.


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I can’t believe it’s time to publish the August/September issue of CALF News , but my summer has been different. Caught among the 120,000 people who tried to fly to Denver June 27, I took a couple of extra weeks to give the airlines time to catch up. With massive storms out there every evening and pictures of football fields of luggage waiting to be claimed, it was the better part of valor. Not a regular traveler anymore, I feel for those of you that have to depend on air travel regularly. Talk about a crap shoot. While on the road, I took advantage of the various food options available. We came across one that certainly did not make the “Where’s the Exceptional Beef ” column in the magazine. An Argentinean steakhouse, it was billed as the home of the “stone grill experience.” The steaks were seared and then served

the fact that you hoped they had good insurance in case you got too close to the stone, a well-done steak in a matter of a few seconds was the order of the day. We all agreed it was time for their marketing plan to go back to the drawing board. Reflecting on the summer, Larry Stalcup takes a close look at unusual industry disasters. The fire that ravished a dairy made national news as did the horrific floods that hit close to Hereford, Texas. Somehow you think you have seen everything, and then nature teaches us one more lesson. The really good news is that it finally rained in southwest Kansas on the family property. It had been too long. We are adding a new feature to the CALF News portfolio with poetry and illustrations by our good friend, Chris McClure. Most of you know Chris either from agribusiness companies or feeding management, or from his All In column, which has appeared in CALF News for the past eight years. He truly is a renaissance man. Along with being

a businessman and a scientist, he also writes music, paints pictures and is now preparing to publish a book of poetry illustrated with his drawings. We know you will enjoy his Flatland Philosophy as a preview for the book. One of the most impressive accomplishments during my tenure in the industry is the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program, and its latest report continues to bear that out. Burt Rutherford, who pens this issue’s BQA story, recalls the work the Texas Cattle Feeders Association did early in the development of the program. I remember the numerous meetings with Gary Cowman and the working groups the association put together. Born out of necessity, with flaws showing up in health management before harvest, something needed to be done … and soon. I woke up several times in the middle of the night, dreaming about bad press. The original audits developed by Gary Smith, Ph.D., and his group highlighted improvements as they went along. All of these years later, the beat goes on, showing accomplishments and working toward new goals. Heading into the fall with short cattle numbers, fluctuating prices and issues like the new pork regulations in California, possible changes in BLM grazing permits, cocaine in the White House, etc., I’m reminded of a list I saw last week titled “Things you can say in response to literally anything when you have nothing else to say.” I liked “There is no escape from destiny,” but will end with “ … and then the wolves came.” Keep your head up and we will see you in October. Betty Jo Gigot

on a stone that had been heated to 800 degrees just as it came to the table. Along with


DON’T LET BULLISH FED CATTLE PROFITS Be Ruined by an Unexpected Wreck By Larry Stalcup Contributing Editor

F ed cattle prices have seen a steady rise since markets tanked to under $100 per hundredweight (cwt.) in early 2020. They’ve recovered from the Tyson plant fire in Kansas and the early pandemic disruption of the cattle-harvest supply chain. Continued tight cattle supplies and strong consumer demand have seen prices explode past $180 and even $185 this summer. But as typically happens, what goes up will probably come down. Price volatility rules. And with the cost of finishing a steer at well over $2,000/head, price risk protection is likely indispensable. “When you look at the equity tied up, the tremendous volatility in corn and feeder cattle prices, and tight cattle supplies and subsequent decrease in market-ready fat cattle, there could eventually be a pushback in demand,” says Mike Moroney, head of the beef margin management team at Commodity & Ingredient Hedging, LLC (CIH) in Chicago. Moroney, a 23-year veteran of livestock and other commodity trading and producer consulting, says market strategies change and there is no one-size- fits-all plan for small or large operators. He notes there are numerous price risk management tools available to producers and feeders. They include Livestock Risk Protection (LRP) programs through the USDA Risk Management Service, CME Group futures and options, forward contracting in grid programs and other specialty marketing programs for all- natural, non-hormone or other cattle fed for specific demand markets. Set a Floor With the Upside Open Feeder cattle placed this summer will finish in early 2024. The April ’24 Live Cattle futures board prices were similar to the $170s and $180s in July. For fed cattle that will finish in April or May, Moroney recommends that cattle feeders consider using an LRP Live Cattle contract and/or 8

put options to set a reasonable floor price and possibly have a window for upside price protection. “For risk management, I like setting floors for cow-calf, stocker/backgrounder and feedyard guys,” Moroney says.“Even at these high price levels, I'd recommend maintaining some flexibility. “Either use LRP or put options on the CME. Depending on risk tolerance/ market outlook, you could go at-the- money puts, cheaper out-of-the-money puts, or even mix in some sold call options in Feeder Cattle or Live Cattle on the CME.” For fall-delivered calves, he leans toward using the April LRP. Using early July LRP data, live cattle price protection with a $186 floor price was available at a reasonable level.“For about $5/cwt., or about $68/head, you could protect $2,534 in revenue [at the $186 floor],” Moroney says. “If, and I mean if, a producer wanted to cheapen that up, he or she could pair that LRP with selling an April $202 call option on the CME. That would create a short obligation on the board at $202 for $2.50/cwt. The sale of that call option would limit opportunity above $202/cwt., but

Moroney says, adding that producers and feeders can take advantage of the government’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) subsidies that can approach 35 percent for LRP programs. Glynn Tonsor, Kansas State University (KSU) agricultural economics professor, agrees that risk management is encouraged to protect prices.“Each operator is encouraged to track their own financial situation to see how it compares with broader benchmarks,” he says, noting Kansas fed cattle close-out projections are published monthly on the KSU website.“They can assess points in time when it may make more sense to implement risk management strategies in their operation.” The type of marketing program spelled out by Moroney could provide the price protection needed if the bullish market heads south. But in July, there were no signs of that happening. Fed cattle prices were from $178/cwt. in Southern Plains feedyards to $184 in northern yards. Their breakeven was in the neighborhood of $160 to $170. Profits were easily $150 to $250 or more per head.

would cut the cost of the risk management in half.” Moroney stresses that data for these projections was from July, and that LRP and options prices change daily or even by the minute. When taking out risk protection, make sure to use the current price projections to make final decisions, he says. The LRP-futures options strategy illustrates how the marketing tools complement each other,

This July 6 LRP chart shows how LRP can help producers and feeders lock in a floor price to help protect their investment.


According to The Ag Center ( https:// ), cattle placed on feed in July had a projected breakeven price of near $180 or higher. Projected prices for cattle that will finish about six months later were near $185 or higher, based on live cattle futures prices in that range. Projected profits were $80 to $90/ head. In the July 3 Oklahoma State University Cow-Calf Corner newsletter, Derrell Peel, OSU Extension livestock marketing specialist, reacted to the June 1 feedlot inventory of 11.55 million head,“down 2.9 percent year over year. Feeder supplies and feedlot numbers will continue to decline as the reality of smaller cattle supplies builds. Increased heifer retention is likely to squeeze feeder supplies more sharply in the second half of the year. Producer expectations and remaining drought conditions will impact the timing of herd rebuilding efforts.” Black Swans Can Take Flight With three years of price increases, some people have backed off from buying price risk protection.“You see

it,” Moroney says.“There’s a lot of risk management fatigue.” But while herd rebuilding, tight supplies and strong demand point to stout prices – history indicates there’s a potential black swan hovering over the horizon. Think back. There were no signs of the beef price freeze set in the 1970s, the whole-herd dairy buyout in the late 1980s, the BSE steer that stole Christmas in 2003, or that the COVID-linked price crash would cause another wreck in 2020. Moroney adds that during the drought years from 2011 to 2014, cattle numbers were tighter and prices increased. The $170/cwt. price was to the moon. “However, in 2015 and ’16, an adverse price risk presented itself,” he emphasizes, and price risk management helped many weather the storm.“And if prices continue to increase well into 2024, there’s a guess as to how long strong consumer and foreign demand for beef will remain this high.” Of course, cow-calf, stocker and background operators also need price protection. Calf and yearling prices are

in the $240 to near $300/cwt. range. Those powerful prices are helping make up for losses caused by the pandemic and drought. It might be prudent to set a floor price. Moroney cites a potential LRP feeder cattle strategy for 800-pound steers to be sold in November. In early July, the early-November LRP offering enabled producers to lock in about $245 for about $6/cwt., he says,“or $48/head to protect an 8-weight steer valued at almost $2,000.” He adds that for cow-calf, stocker and backgrounders, he is “less-inclined to sell call options to cheapen strategies because feedyard capacity has increased so much over the past several years and competition for feeders is going to be fierce.” Moroney concludes that producers and feeders should work closely with a marketing consultant and/or trader to determine which risk management program is best for their operation. “Everyone should consider that with tight cattle supplies, volatility increases. And volatility doesn't go in just one direction.”

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RAISING THE BAR, THEN EXCEEDING IT The 2022 National Beef Quality Audit Showed Improvement, Lost Opportunities By Burt Rutherford Contributing Editor

W e’re getting better. A lot better, in fact. But much like a football coach who, even when the team wins, isn’t satisfied with the performance, the 2022 National Beef Quality Audit (NBQA) not only documented where beef producers are winning, but where their performance still can be improved. The NBQA began in 1991 and is conducted periodically to determine how the beef business is improving over time. These audits have delivered a set of guideposts and measurements for everyone in the beef business, especially beef producers, to determine quality conformance of the U.S. beef supply. Prior to the 2022 audit, the previous audit was conducted in 2016. First, the caveat: The 2022 NBQA, with results released earlier this year, was conducted under extraordinary circumstances, primarily drought and supply backlogs because of COVID-19. Because of the remarkable disruptions those two factors produced, the data are more a snapshot at a particular point in time than part of a continuum. Nonetheless, the data are important and instructive as beef producers continue to produce a safe, nutritious product that consumers demand. “Looking at the data collected from this National Beef Quality Audit, I think the quality of beef being produced today and the efficiency by which it’s being done has improved markedly,” says Trey Patterson, CEO of the Padlock Ranch and chair of the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) Advisory Group.“I think that shows that the efforts that have been put in place in the past to make strides in these areas has yielded positive results for the industry.” Another pearl of knowledge the audit revealed is that beef chain market segments no longer consider food safety as a purchasing criterion.“It is a basic expectation,” Patterson says.

“So we’ve really set a new bar for ourselves that the beef will not only be high quality, but it’ll be safe,” Patterson says.“I see that as a real positive.” Market Cows and Bulls Just like fed cattle, the quality of beef harvested from cull cows and bulls has improved, Patterson says.“The efforts we’ve put into that in the past, a lot of that through Beef Quality Assurance (BQA), have yielded results. We’re getting better.” Generally, cull cows and

according to an NBQA summary. Then there’s this: “We also saw that the incidence of foreign objects are still a problem in beef,” Patterson says. While that’s something that the industry may not want to talk about, he thinks the issue needs to be addressed, particularly when it comes to birdshot. In fact, 100 percent of the cull cow and bull packing plants that participated in the audit reported finding birdshot and buckshot, not just in the hides, but in the muscle as well. Other foreign objects, such as broken needles, wire and darts, all came in at almost 19 percent each. What’s more, 53.3 percent of surveyed plants reported instances of supply chain segments finding foreign objects in their products. While plants have installed metal detectors and x-rays to catch and remove foreign objects before products leave the plant, this remains an issue throughout the supply chain, according to an NBQA summary. “We should not have any tolerance for that,” Patterson says.“That creates added waste in our industry.” While he’s not sure zero is possible, he thinks more BQA training and education can reduce

bulls mainly produce ground beef. However, the beef supply chain has realized some market cows and bulls can yield valuable primals that can be fabricated and sold as retail cuts to restaurants, which increases the value of those animals. What’s more, a very large majority of cattle and carcasses surveyed had no instances of knots (98.2 percent) or injection-site lesions (97.1 percent) visible on the exterior carcass surface. That indicates great strides in the number of producers who are trained in BQA practices and are administering injections properly, according to an NBQA fact sheet. And, Patterson says,“Transportation is getting better,” something he attributes to the addition of Transportation BQA (BQAT) to the program. In fact, nearly 93 percent of livestock haulers interviewed were familiar with the BQAT program, and 91 percent were BQAT certified, according to audit results. That’s reflected in the increased number of trailer loads that allot sufficient space as outlined in the industry’s Animal Handling Guidelines,


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the incidence of all foreign objects in beef, particularly birdshot.“There is no reason for it.” Another finding and an indicator of how drought affects every part of the beef business was the highest percentage of

animal walking easily and normally with no apparent lameness. That is down from 97 percent in 2016 and is attributed to larger cattle and longer time in transport. There was an increase in the number of Yield Grade 4 and 5 fed-cattle carcasses, according to audit results, as well as an increase in the incidence of carcass bruising in both fed cattle and cull cows and bulls. In fact, the 2022 audit showed the highest frequency of carcass bruising, at 52.3 percent, since the audits began. Since heavy carcass weights result from bigger live animals, this issue will likely need to be addressed through facility and trailer design as well as cattle handler training, according to an NBQA fact sheet. Where Do We Go From Here? “I think, No. 1, getting involved with Beef Quality Assurance,” Patterson advises. He believes that’s the path that beef producers will take to continued progress. “Remember back to the early audits where injection-site lesions were such a problem and there were quality issues? Look at what we’ve done with those,” he says.“We’ve improved quality. Carcass

light-muscled cull cows and bulls across all audits for the past 27 years. The 2022 audit found an increase in the percentage of cattle categorized as too thin, according to body condition scores.“Producers should consider market cows and bulls and their eligibility for feeding prior to harvest in order to increase their muscling and finish, thus returning more revenue,” according to an NBQA factsheet. Cull cows and bulls represent a significant part of an operation’s cash flow. Managed and marketed correctly, they can be a profit center. While the 2022 NBQA highlighted a number of areas where the beef business has made positive strides, it also identified some lost opportunities. “Declines in market cow and bull quality such as live animal defects, carcass defects, and the market or sale of animals unfit for consumption leave dollars on the table for cattle producers,” reports an NBQA summary.“In order to capture these lost opportunities for economic return, producers should abide by the ‘Three Ms’ – manage cattle to minimize defects, monitor the health and condition of their cattle, and market their cattle in a timely manner.” Fed Cattle Another takeaway from the 2022 NBQA is the increased use of electronic identification (EID) ear tags in cattle entering the fed cattle marketing chain, Patterson says. That’s another positive. “One thing as an industry we need to continue to work on is traceability.

What I think we all saw, going through COVID in human beings, is not only how fast infectious diseases spread, but how fast regulations follow,” he says.“Let’s get on top of this as an industry and get traceability figured out.” Traceability, however, is only part of the larger picture. Patterson also sees a need to focus on the biosecurity associated with containing a disease outbreak “so that we can be able to thwart having a situation like humans went through with COVID-19,” he says. In fact, cattle health across the board is an issue.“The health of feedlot cattle has got to continue to be a focus,” Patterson says.“Preventative health strategies that set us up for success, continued efforts in research and in practice to improve feedlot health needs to be addressed.” While that has been a focus for a long time, the beef business can’t take its foot off the accelerator “because it continues to be a challenge in the feedlot industry.” The 2022 NBQA showed the highest percentage of Prime and Choice fed- cattle carcasses since the audit began. In the 2022 audit, 76 percent of carcasses hit Prime or Choice, compared with 71 percent in 2016 and 61 percent in 2011. While that can partly be attributed to better genetics, it also was the result of heavier carcass weights. That had a number of drawbacks. “One of the things we saw in this audit is that mobility scores were down some in fed cattle,” Patterson says. According to audit data, nearly 92 percent of cattle received a mobility score of 1, with the

defects continue to go down.” But there’s always room for

improvement.“There’s always going to be a bar somewhere we need to raise,” he says.“You never can say that we have arrived. And I think BQA has been successful in the past in raising those bars and getting above those bars on a lot of issues.” Editor’s Note: For more information on the 2022 NBQA, visit

“There’s always going to be a bar somewhere we need to raise.” – Trey Patterson


By Patti Wilson Contributing Editor PRODUCER PROFILE Bob Hibberd, Cattle Buyer C hances are, you have met Bob Hibberd. Not in a hand-shaking, howdy kind of way; you’ve load trucks, and Schroeder suggested he learn how to buy cattle. Why not? The job came easy to Hibberd, but the timing wasn’t right. Things were tough for agriculture in the 1980s, and he says he “couldn’t make a living.”

probably met him driving down the highway. The veteran of multiple auction markets travels about 1,000 miles per week, filling orders for all stripes of cattle producers. A Stellar Work Ethic Hibberd was born at Riverdale, Neb., a scant 70 years ago. The 13th of 14 children (he refers to himself as “Lucky 13”), he grew up in a no-excuses world, learning early that, if you want something, you’d better figure on earning it … the old-fashioned way. After graduating from Amherst High, Hibberd went to work driving a cattle truck. Already a serious student of livestock, he honed his skills on fill, weight and numbers. The guy clearly has a head for math and a great memory. Seven years passed as an employee before he purchased his own semi, then eventually expanded to a fleet of eight trucks by 1985. He says his trucks were on the road nonstop, 20 hours a day, seven days a week. He enjoyed his independence and contact with good cattle people. A Winding Trail Cattle buying crept into Hibberd’s life by way of friend Fred Schroeder of Shelton.“He made a cattle buyer out of me,” Hibberd says. He was already at the auction markets, waiting to

With the cattle business in the dump during the Great Recession, Hibberd resorted to plain, old over-the-road trucking.“It was easy after hauling cattle,” he says. With his fleet of livestock trucks sold off, he drove fresh meats and then pizza to the eastern seaboard. Although Hibberd enjoys driving, and says it was easy and interesting, he missed the cattle. The auction markets seemed to be calling him back. A God-given incident gave our trucker an excuse to go home and return to his primary interest, buying cattle. While in Burns, Ga., (take note of the ironic name), Hibberd’s truck caught on fire. It was a bad situation that prompted him to “never buy another truck.” A Better Life Free to choose a new direction, there was no doubt what Hibberd wanted to do. Upon announcing his intensions to his wife, Joyce, she exclaimed,“Oh my God! We are going to starve!” To which Hibberd replied,“Well, we’ll just have to try it and see.” In 1990, Hibberd went back to cattle buying. He talked to his previous customers. Being well liked and having a

Bob Hibberd racks up about 1,000 miles per week purchasing cattle for his clients in the country and at auction markets.


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Good people and good cattle are a driving force keeping Hibberd at work.

He observes larger operators bringing better cattle to town. Smaller producers need to be mindful of what buyers are specifically looking for. What Does the Future Hold? This is a topic that Hibberd, and probably many cattle buyers, have a unique perspective on. They see all sides of the beef industry over a large area. Their opinions are relevant. Hibberd’s first concern is the ongoing dilemma for procuring feedlot labor. He fears an intense shortage of feed truck drivers is causing critical problems in timely delivery of feed to cattle. He says family-run operations are thankfully better prepared to address labor needs more than larger commercial lots who rely totally on hired labor and are suffering the effects of widespread shortage of help. The future of the cow-calf producer will be fine, he says, as long as they are breeding cattle that fit market demand. He also predicts the elimination of smaller herds due to possible inefficiencies, and children who leave home to take less demanding jobs in town. Breeding programs that are not tuned in to the commercial market will suffer badly, as well. Feedlots are another matter. Hibberd maintains the next three years will tell, as low beef cattle numbers have created some chaos in feeder prices vs. fat markets. Right now, he says, feeder cattle are priced too high to maintain without the fat market catching up. Large feedlots seem to have a marketing advantage over smaller operations. Although there are packer buyers who have some loyalty to these family lots, he says they are older men. “In a dog-eat-dog world, younger buyers have less loyalty,” Hibberd says.“It’s only a numbers game.” Small feedlots will likely continue to struggle for slots. Auction markets will remain in business despite the growing trend of private, direct or video sales. Sale barns will continue to pick up cull cows and cull feeder cattle. Home Life When Hibberd is home, he “wants to do nothing.” He quickly adds, however, that watching cattle sales on the internet is good entertainment. The same goes for talking on the phone. Hibberd’s friends might not know that he is fond of classic cars. He once had possession of a ’65 Chevy Malibu convertible. Another favorite was a ’71 Pontiac convertible. He finds few things more fun than driving down the road in a good old car, with the wind in his hair and sun on his face. He likes to take Joyce on rides in the country. Hibberd doesn’t currently own any of these beauties, nor is he a gearhead. He prefers driving over fixing or tinkering. His goal is to continue to be a cattle buyer for another 10 years. It is a pretty simple and straightforward path for Bob Hibberd, a guy who is good at what he does.

good reputation was instrumental to jumping back into the deep waters of the cattle markets. All his former clients welcomed him back, and his business grew “better and better,” Hibberd explains. Word of mouth has been his standard contact for new customers, and today, he has retained many of those clients for more than 20 years. His business has snowballed to 70 to 75 cattlemen along the way. Hibberd has observed that their businesses are, like all segments of the cattle industry, growing bigger. For example, he is currently the main buyer for Adams Land and Cattle at Broken Bow, a major cattle feeding outfit. There are several people Hibberd credits with helping him restart a successful buying business and setting him on the right track in livestock evaluation. They are all from the Kearney area and include Fred Schroeder, George Rafferty, Dale Merriman and Gary Dahlgren. Daily Routine Travel time is extensive; he wanders to Woodward and El Reno, Okla., the western two-thirds of Nebraska, Wyoming, Missouri and Kansas, ticking off the towns and markets like familiar friends and telling you exactly what kind of cattle you will find at each sale barn. Hibberd is currently purchasing about 50,000 head of cattle per year, his biggest day being at Ogallala with 21 loads. They ranged from 500 to 900 weights. He says, that day, he “had to write everything down” rather than depend on his excellent memory.“It’s mental more than physical,” he says.“You take it home with you.” Not to be dismissed, his supportive wife is instrumental in the business. Hibberd says he may be gone to a sale barn in one location when he needs to purchase cattle in a different barn on the same day, as well. Joyce mans the fort, being responsible for internet bidding and buying from their home base. Private sales direct from the ranch are also organized. He says they comprise about 25 percent of his business. It makes him appreciate the scales in the auction markets. Although problems are minimal in weight estimation, he says it adds an element of stress. Either method of sale is OK with Hibberd. Good Advice Good people and good cattle are a driving force keeping Hibberd at work. Enjoying the products of sound breeding and management, he harbors a great deal of respect for both buyers and sellers. Asked what advice he would give to sellers as they bring their product to market, Hibberd quickly responds.“Clean them up and present them like people want them!” he exclaims.“No horns, no bulls. No bad eyes, bad feet or frozen ears. Take these off at home and sell them at a different barn on a different day.”


By Larry Stalcup Contributing Editor MAXIMIZE RAIN-REVIVED PASTURES With Sound Fall Range and Pasture Management

O ne of the driest spells ever was broken this spring and summer by drought-busting rain that blessed the Southern Plains and much of the Southwest. Parched pastures were reborn, regenerating new grass and other grazing fodder for many ranches large and small. But to have forages ready for better grazing next year, producers should consider maintaining a well-rounded fall and winter pasture management program. University and private company range management specialists encourage producers to use proven brush and weed control techniques to enhance revived grasses and other forages. “Our pastures soaked up the much- needed rain,” says Jodie Stockett, range and pasture specialist for Corteva Agriscience in Claude, Texas, adding that stalled herd rebuilding and expansion regained life. However, the welcomed rain also generated weed and brush growth that stole quality forage from rejuvenated pastures across the Southwest and Southern Plains. Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension specialists say weeds and brush can be controlled or prevented by maintaining a thick, vigorous grass stand. That’s easier said than done once weed growth advances or dry weather returns. Mechanical shredding, plowing or chemical methods are often needed. Several agribusiness service companies provide range management services. Along with Corteva, others include Bayer CropScience and smaller local entities. Independent range and pasture consultants also work with producers to get the most out of their pastures. Regional Extension specialists also provide links to better pasture management. All would agree that herd rebuilding or expansion starts with enabling grazing land to support more animals over the long term. Getting rid of one pound of

weeds enables pastures to produce an additional pound of native grass, AgriLife officials say. Corteva range and pasture specialists say effective weed and brush control preserves moisture and nutrients for recovering grasses. This increases forage yield, which elevates the energy and protein available to cattle. It helps cows meet their nutritional requirements and that of their calves more efficiently. While mesquite and weed control highlighted much of the summer’s brush management activity, Stockett says the

LandVisor technology provides a comprehensive view of range and pasture land. Imagery reveals areas of mesquite and other water-robbing brush. This enables LandVisor consultants to provide producers with information to map out a range management program to help generate better grazing conditions. Courtesy Corteva AgriScience

attention now turns to fall and winter brush control to help grasses obtain their full growth potential for 2024. Different climates often see different types of brush that can invade pastures. Like other range and pasture managers, regional Corteva specialists center on specific regions. That includes other Southern Plains and regions of the Southwest. They target brush and weeds common to local pastures. “For example, in the Southern Plains, much rangeland is ripe for broom snakeweed growth,” Stockett says.“Broom snakeweed is toxic to cattle and can cause abortions. It is a perennial shrub that is best treated in the fall with Tordon 22K [picloram]. Treatments should be made at full bloom or slightly post-bloom.” Other pesky types of brush in the region include locust trees, sagebrush and shinnery oak, which can produce dense thickets. Corteva’s Spike 20P [tebuthiuron] is a pellet-based herbicide that is mainly applied by aerial

treatments. It also controls tarbush and creosote bush. Map out an Advanced Brush Management Plan Advances in digital technology and imagery help improve many phases of cattle and pasture management. Corteva’s LandVisor system can provide a comprehensive view of an operation’s land. It helps outline various brush and weed management practices and guide range managers with improved pasture management methods. With LandVisor, ranchers work with certified consultants to collect sample data points across their property to help reveal new insights about the land. Those points are combined with sophisticated imagery to create a vegetation map focusing on specific problem species. Stockett says LandVisor will identify a treatment window for a specific pasture, and prescribe additional herbicide treatments to help improve the land.


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Mesquite Guide for Next Spring “Fall is a good time to get maps established and be ready for next spring,” Stockett says.“LandVisor tells you when to spray and when not to spray.” It can arm producers with better means for controlling mesquite, a thorny headache for ranchers. AgriLife Extension says high-volume foliar herbicide spraying of mesquite typically begins in spring when leaves change color from light pea- green to a uniform dark green. Spraying usually continues through late summer in South Texas. Spraying in West Texas can start in June and continue into August. Before spraying, make sure the soil temperature reaches 75° F at 12 to 18 inches deep. Corteva specialists say it’s important to allow any mesquite that has been top killed by hand cutting, fire, mechanical methods or herbicide treatment to grow a minimum of two full growing seasons before using the leaf- spray method. Corteva’s Sendero (aminopyralid and clopyralid) is a proven herbicide for mesquite control. It can keep treated

mesquite plants under control for years if proper guidelines are followed, Stockett says. Good land sprayer options include small pump-up garden sprayers, backpack sprayers, cattle sprayers or sprayers mounted on all-terrain vehicles. Garden sprayers work well for small acreages. Backpack sprayers are usually more efficient in dense mesquite, and ATV sprayers are most efficient in large acreages or as the distance between plants increases. Make sure the sprayer has an adjustable-cone nozzle that can deliver a coarse spray of large droplets to the top of a 6- to 8-foot tree. To prepare the spray mix, add Sendero at 1 percent concentration to water. To ensure a thorough coating of the foliage, add a nonionic surfactant to the spray mix. For additional tree and brush control, consider using basal stem spray applications of Corteva’s Remedy Ultra (triclopyr). It can control relatively young mesquite trees that have smooth bark and

Broom snakeweed is a toxic weed that can harm the cow’s reproductive system. Fall control is important. Courtesy Texas A&M AgriLife

few basal stems, or slim trunks emerging from the ground. “For mesquite and other brush that can hamper grazing efficiency, it’s important to use the proper herbicide, the labeled application rate and the timing of application,” Stockett concludes. By following these and other range and pasture management tips, the value of rain received in 2023 and the grass it produced this summer can be carried forward for more effective grazing next year.

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By Larry Stalcup Contributing Editor THE WORST OF PERFECT STORMS

of May; it helped break a two- to three- year drought. There had been isolated minor flooding. However, nothing had approached the 8 to 11 inches of rain that deluged the isolated area on May 27 – all in three hours between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. “This was a catastrophic amount of rain in a short time,” Weinheimer told CALF News in discussing information he received from the National Weather Service in Amarillo.“It was compared to a 500-year event in which 7 inches of rain falls within a six-hour period. There’s a 1-in-500 chance that you will receive 7 inches of rain in that short time – and this event was up to 1.5 times that amount of rain.” Eight Days of Purgatory Even with downpours, feedyard personnel can normally maneuver cattle out of flooded pens. By opening pen and alley gates, swimming cattle can be driven to higher ground. The shock that hit this particular feedyard prevented it. While the 11 inches of rain fell, pea- to marble-size hail smothered the isolated area. It measured a foot deep in colder- than-normal temperatures. As the water and hailstones mixed, they froze together. The large ice chunks blocked the path of cattle struggling to swim out of trouble. Their fate was set. “The feedyard crew used canoes and kayaks to help move the cattle,” Weinheimer explains.“The ice made it impossible. Cattle can swim – but they can't swim through icebergs.” Heartbreakingly, about 4,000 cattle drowned. Seasoned pen riders were helpless. But in respect, they showed the highest caliber of handling it “the cowboy way.” The feedyard’s owners, managers and the entire crew went to work to manage the situation. Weinheimer was contacted and immediately joined them to analyze the magnitude of the misery.

A plan had to be developed to pump out pens and remove the dead cattle from 6 to 7 feet of water that remained in the flood’s aftermath.“Other TCFA members provided us with information on oil field service operators to help obtain pumps powerful enough to move the water,” Weinheimer says.“By 2 a.m. on May 28, Quality Transfer Service from Hobbs, N.M., had the first pump transferring water.” TCFA contacted the owners of Reihert Hay Co. and DC Caliche from nearby Dawn, Texas, both long-time TCFA members, to secure three large caliche- mining trackhoes with 6-foot wide buckets configured with chains for the morbid retrieval process. People wearing waders worked tirelessly in the flooded pens. The trackhoes then transferred the cattle to large mining trucks and front- end loaders. About half were then taken to rendering plants operated by County Services Rendering facilities in Hereford (the former Merrick rendering plant) and Plainview. Once the plants could no longer accept the carcasses, those remaining were buried in a trench dug on the feedyard property. In the drudgery, crews worked from dawn to dusk. Reinhert Hay Co. and DC Caliche provided additional equipment and operators as the process evolved. They were among the many area businesses, organizations and dozens of family members and community friends to help in any way they could. “It was amazing to see the number of people from the Hereford area and throughout the High Plains that offered a helping hand. But we shouldn’t have been surprised. That’s the attitude people take in this part of the country,” Weinheimer says.

(Editor’s Note: The strength of Mother Nature’s power was evident in a catastrophic storm that led to the loss of about 4,000 cattle at one family-owned feedyard outside Hereford, Texas. This story examines the wrath of the storm and the endeavors made by the feedyard’s staff, workforce and a host of neighborly people and organizations in the event’s aftermath. With emotions still high, the feedyard owners wished not to reveal the feedyard’s name at this time. CALF News respects those wishes.) “Cattle can swim – but they can’t swim through icebergs.” Ben Weinheimer’s explanation of how 4,000 cattle perished in a freak flood/ hailstorm answers how the catastrophe caused such havoc outside Hereford, Texas, in late May. He stresses that only time can relieve the pain that lingers after the tragic event that struck one regional feedyard. Weinheimer is president and CEO of the Texas Cattle Feeders Association (TCFA), an organization that represents about 200 member feedyards in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. TCFA works for member yards to obtain state and national legislation and regulatory guidelines fair to cattle feeders and the cattle business. It also provides safety, quality assurance, environmental and other feedyard efficiency training. If needed, it supports and guides feedyards in times of tragedy. The weather phenomenon that hit the 25,000-head capacity feedyard occurred several miles southwest of Hereford the weekend of May 27. The Texas Panhandle city is rightfully called the Beef Capital of the World. There are dozens of feedyards in the region, a key part of TCFA’s territory, which finishes about 28 percent of the nation’s fed cattle. Before the storm, the Panhandle had been blessed with rain throughout much


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reports that 10,000 or more cattle had drowned. Numerous drones and airplanes flew over to video or record stranded cattle.” The close coordination between TCFA, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and other cattle groups in crisis management situations was evident. When Weinheimer wasn’t handling media inquires, John Robinson, NCBA senior vice president of communications, took calls.

Still, their toil was near mind-numbing, as the mission seemed never-ending.“The magnitude of the catastrophe made it evident how much work would be needed to remove and dispose of the cattle,” Weinheimer acknowledged. “We made sure to have daily, early- morning safety meetings. They were critical to remind people that since we were working long hours, exhaustion would set in. We did not want anyone going home injured. We were able to keep everyone safe throughout the event.” It took eight days to remove the cattle and dispose of them, delayed in part by two additional rains that extended the process by two to three days. All were handled under the oversight of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). Weinheimer says the Texas Division of Emergency Management also reached out during the operation. “Along with all of this, the normal part of the yard crew was tasked with running the daily operations in caring for the remaining cattle not impacted by the flooding,” Weinheimer says.“They had to make sure cattle were sorted, processed, doctored and fed. Some pens wound up with cattle from mixed ownership, which required additional sorting. But no pen ever missed a feeding. Cattle received the same attention they would have enjoyed under normal circumstances.” Media Relations Throughout the event, Weinheimer was tasked with providing facts to the media and correcting false reporting. His mild manner helped him keep his cool. The disaster headlined news reports from regional and even national print, broadcast and online media. Many outlets had covered the disastrous explosion and fire at a regional dairy that resulted in the death of nearly 17,000 cows in April. They may have had the larger number of dead animals on their minds. “I engaged with the media onsite and by phone or email,” Weinheimer says, adding that he became frustrated with ongoing inaccurate claims.“There were

TCFA President and CEO Ben Weinheimer praises the Hereford community and the many others who provided expertise and just being good neighbors when the flood- hail phenomenon struck southwest of Hereford over Memorial Day weekend. Photo Courtesy Larry Stalcup

“It was an emotional rollercoaster. On some days, the morale was pretty good in getting the job done. Morale was low on others. It was wearing on all of us – whether it was at safety meetings, or saying grace over the meals that were brought out from the family and others in the Hereford community. Everyone leaned on each other to get through it together.” The Value of Association Membership From day one, representatives from Specialty Risk Insurance Agency were onsite to help the feedyard gather data on losses and assign values to cattle based on estimated weight and other economic factors important to a cattle peril policy claim.“They analyzed every detail of the claim to make sure underwriters had all information to make an accurate coverage of the disaster,” Weinheimer says. Twelve other feedyards also had issues with the flooding, but no other substantial losses were reported. Those feedyards were spared from the foot of hail. In the days following the cleanup, TCFA held several feedyard manager meetings that had been previously scheduled. “The objective of these periodic meetings is to discuss issues currently impacting the cattle business and feedyard operations, Weinheimer says. “The first order of business in the post-flood meetings was discussion of

the weather phenomenon and an update on the recovery activities of their fellow feedyard member. Managers asked questions about safety and whether they should consider increasing their insurance coverage in the event such a calamity hit them. “Managers were also asked by TCFA to utilize their contacts to secure additional resources,” Weinheimer recalls. “My phone rang for days after those meetings with offers to provide equipment, workers, food and other supplies.” Weinheimer pointed out that cattle peril insurance policies also cover losses from winter storms, tornadoes or other natural disasters.“But in the Panhandle, it normally doesn't flood,” he noted.“Since we have an average annual rainfall of 15 to 20 inches, we typically don't carry flood insurance.” Weinheimer pointed out how the community provided their services during a holiday weekend.“It’s important to remember that May 27 to 28 was Memorial Day weekend,” he says.“That didn’t make any difference to those called on to help with the recovery effort. They showed up without hesitation to help their neighbor.” One would hope such an event would never happen again. Unfortunately, freak weather events happen worldwide. Will such a 500-year storm – magnified by icebergs of hail – strike elsewhere this year, this century or beyond? We pray not.


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