We’ve all heard that. Research was conducted to evaluate this possibility in eating beef. The research group consisted of university undergraduates, faculty, staff, visitors, and community members. Three studies were included involving beef jerky, roast beef, or ham. Within each meat category, all samples were identical. In all three, samples were designated as coming from either “humane farms” or “factory farms”, with labels attached to each group. One-half of the participants were presented products labeled as coming from humane farms and one-half from factory farms.

Humane farms labels included such statements as

  • humanely raised on family farms that value animal welfare,
  • animals grazed outdoors on pasture allowing them to engage in social behaviors with other animals,
  • produced without antibiotics or artificial growth hormones,
  • meets all USDA organic standards.

Factory farms labels included such statements as

  • produced on a factory farm,
  • animals were confined in small indoor cages where they were unable to lie down or engage in social behaviors with other animals,
  • given antibiotics and hormones to speed growth,
  • meets all USDA certification standards.

Compared to those receiving “humane farm” labeled product, those receiving products labeled from “factory farms” in general found them to look and smell less pleasant and to taste more salty and greasy. Those receiving “factory farm” labeled product said they were less likely to eat the product again (and actually ate less of what they were offered) and would pay less for the product if they bought it.

Even when things are not different, we can think them so.

(, 8/24/16 ; Tufts Univ., Northeastern Univ., Harvard Medical School)



Average beef cow weight (the most meaningful measure of size of a cow) has increased from around 1000 lb to 1300-1400 lb over the last 40 years or so. A research study examined effects of cow weight, along with cow age, on economics of production. Four years of data were analyzed. There were nine production scenarios analyzed:

  • raised calves, sold at weaning;
  • raised calves, retained for growing, sold as yearlings;
  • purchased weaned calves, sold as yearlings;
  • purchased weaned calves, sold as live slaughter animals:
  • purchased weaned calves, sold on a carcass-value grid;
  • raised calves, sold as live slaughter animals;
  • raised calves, sold on a carcass-value grid;
  • purchased yearling, sold live slaughter animals;
  • purchased yearling, sold on a carcass-value grid.

Comparisons were made based on net dollars return per cow exposed to breeding. As expected, calf weaning weight increased as cow age increased to 5-6 years of age and decreased thereafter. For producers raising their own calves, lighter-weight cows showed highest returns, whether selling was at weaning or as yearlings. Even when calves were purchased at weaning and grown to sell as yearlings, lighter cows were favored. When cattle were sold either live at slaughter or on a grid, heavier cows were favored, except for two situations: 1) when weaned calves were bought and sold on a grid, medium-weight cows ranked highest and 2) when yearlings were bought and sold on a grid, lighter cows again came to the top.

In general, for cow-calf producers, selling at either weaning or yearling favored smaller cows; but for cow-calf producers retaining ownership to selling at slaughter or on a grid, heaviest cows were best. For those buying calves or yearlings and feeding them out, heavier cows were on top when selling live slaughter; but when selling on a grid, light or medium weight cows ranked best.

These results show that the most profitable cow size varies with the production and marketing scenario. However, the majority of cow-calf operators sell calves at weaning, or shortly thereafter. For these producers, based on these findings, smaller cows are indicated.

(Prof. Anim. Sci. 32:420; Univ. of Nebraska)




“Genetic engineering” is commonly seen and heard these days, even though its meaning may not be commonly understood. Now we’re seeing and hearing “genetic editing”.  Are they the same?


Genetic engineering is a process in which a gene sequence is added to an organism by transferring from one species to another. In most cases, the transferred sequence is inserted randomly into the genetic material (the genome). In genetic editing, specific genes from within a species replace other genes at the same specific location in the genome.

An example of how genetic editing has been used is replacing a gene for horns in Holstein with the naturally occurring polled allele of the gene from Angus. Other uses might involve some aspects of disease resistance, genetic defects, and other traits controlled by one or a few specifically identified genes. Such things as weight gain, feed efficiency, carcass composition, and others are controlled by many different genes, which have not been specifically identified, and, at least in the foreseeable future, are not likely to be.

(; Univ. of California Davis)



A 12-ounce, 1-inch-thick steak has been called “right-sized” for such a cut for today’s market for grilling. How does carcass weight and U.S.D.A. Yield Grade (YG) affect weight of a steak at 1 inch thickness? Yield Grade is primarily a function of muscling (estimated by ribeye size between the 12th-13th  ribs) and fatness (estimated by external fat thickness over the ribeye at that point). As numerical Yield Grade increases from 1to 5, average external fatness increases.

In processing today, essentially all cuts are closely trimmed of external fat. So, as carcasses increase in external fatness, then amount of lean decreases. Average carcass weights of finished cattle are running around 900 lb. At that weight and at YG 3, the average 1-inch-thick ribeye steak (closely trimmed of external fat) weighs about 13 oz. At YG 2, because the carcass is leaner and there’s less fat trim, it’s about 14 oz. Only for YG 4 is the average ribeye steak weight about 12 oz. And YG 4 carcasses are typically price discounted by the packer because of excess fat trim. On top of this, a good many consumers prefer a steak smaller than 12 oz.

Weight of cattle in general (breeding stock as well as finished) shows no signs of changing the gradual upward trend that has been going on for at least 40 years. Efforts are being made by researchers and the industry to develop means of effectively using our ever increasingly larger carcasses. But there are probably limits to what can be accomplished through new techniques. How much longer and to what level will cattle weights continue to go up? Time will tell.

(CAB® Insider, 8/24/16)



In some areas, various coproducts of ethanol production from grain, including corn distillers grains (CDG), have become a significant constituent of finishing rations. CDG has a crude protein (CP) content of from 24-32%. However, a high proportion of that may be indigestible. Use of CDG in finishing rations could result in a lack of degradable intake protein, which is necessary to meet requirements for microbial CP. A study was conducted to assess any effect of using supplemental urea to increase dietary DIP levels.

In this study, 42 steers (33 purebred Angus, 9 Angus-crossbred) initially averaging 942 lb were placed on one of three rations containing either 0 urea (control), 0.4% urea (low urea, LU), or 0.6% urea (HU).  In addition to the three levels of urea, all rations contained 12% high-moisture corn, 20% corn dried distillers grain with solubles (DDGS), 10% ryegrass haylage, 2.9% supplement, and the remainder consisted of dry-rolled corn.  All steers were weighed every 28 days and fed for a total of 84 days. Individual daily feed consumption was measured. Results were:

  • dry matter consumption and final body weight did not statistically differ among groups;
  • ADG was significantly higher for HU but did not differ between LU and control;
  • gain to feed ratio (efficiency) was higher for HU over LU and tended to be higher for HU over control but was not different between LU and control;
  • carcass characteristics did not differ between the three groups.

The authors concluded that, in rations of predominantly dry-rolled corn and DDGS, urea supplementation improved feedyard performance by supplying deficient DIP.

(J. Animal Sci. 93:357; Univ. of Minnesota, Univ. of Florida)



207 purebred Angus heifers (avg. weight 763 lb) and 529 commercial Angus heifers (avg. weight 737 lb) were provided a ration supplemented with copper, manganese, selenium, and zinc. In addition, 30 days before breeding heifers were either injected with 4 ml containing the same four trace minerals (TMI) or not injected. All heifers were synchronized using the CIDR plus prostaglandin protocol and then bred using timed AI.

There was no statistically significant difference in either purebred or commercial heifers between TMI and controls in conception to AI. 11 days after the first AI, the commercial heifers were treated with gonadotropin-releasing hormone and CIDR. The CIDR was removed 7 days later and a second AI was performed based on heat-patch estrus detection over 5 days. There was no significant difference in conception to the second AI between control and TMI. After the second AI, the commercial heifers were exposed to bulls for 27 days. Overall pregnancy rate of the commercial heifers did not significantly differ between control (87%) and TMI (85%). The authors concluded this study “suggested that TMI has no effect on reproductive performance of heifers being fed adequate concentrations of trace mineral in the diet”.

Prof. Anim Sci. 31:588; Univ. of Nebraska, Univ. of Idaho)



A uniform group of 48 calves averaging 126 days of age and 246 lb was divided into four equal groups:

  • branded and treated IV with a NSAID (flunixin meglumine);
  • branded and not treated;
  • not branded and treated IV with flunixin meglumine;
  • not branded and not treated.

Calves were evaluated 1, 2, 7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 42, 56, and 71 days after start of the study.

Branded calves exhibited more pain, especially soon after branding, which diminished over time. The first fully healed brand did not occur until 56 days after branding; 67% were healed by day 71. The authors concluded that “branding wounds remain painful for at least 8 weeks and a single injection of this NSAID has no measurable effect in mitigating pain associated with branding, even in days immediately after the procedure”.

(J. Anim. Sci. 92-5674; Univ. of California, Univ. of British Columbia)



Temperature control of vaccines prior to and during administration is critical. Vaccines should be stored between 35 and 45° F. Make sure all vaccines not purchased locally are shipped overnight and packed in an insulated box with ice packs. If purchasing vaccines locally, carry ice packs and an ice chest. Allowing vaccines to freeze can be just as damaging as vaccines getting too warm. Results from research in Arkansas showed that 74% of producers’refrigerators failed to maintain temperatures between 35 and 45° F. An inexpensive weather station that logs minimum and maximum temperatures can be used to monitor your refrigerators.


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