The White House recently convened representatives of over 150 food companies, retailers, and human and animal health stakeholders to discuss plans over the next five years for addressing problems with antibiotic resistance. This forum continues earlier efforts by the Administration in this area such as the National Strategy on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, a report on proliferation of antibiotic-resistant infections by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, and the National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria. At the same time the recent conference was held, the President signed a memorandum directing Federal agencies and departments to favor meat and poultry products produced with what the memo refers to as “responsible antibiotic use”. Also, the Presidential Food Service will now serve only meat and poultry that has not been treated with antibiotics or hormones.

A wide range of organizations and companies was involved in the gathering of over 150 groups, examples being The American Medical Association, the National Cattleman’s Beef Association, The Evangelical Good Samaritan Society, McDonald’s, Tyson, and GOJO Skin Health and Hand Hygiene. In addition to NCBA, producer representatives at the meeting included the National Chicken Council, National Milk Producers Federation, National Pork Board, National Pork Producers Council, and National Turkey Federation. Continued involvement by such organizations is necessary for animal agriculture to have any voice in such matters.

(White House Press Secretary news release, 6/2/15)


We know cows leave the breeding herd for various reasons, but at what rate does this happen? A recent genetic study, not designed to evaluate attrition, shows what happens over time. In this study, 398 heifers were bred. Females that were open, low producers, or poor in temperament were culled. This resulted in cow numbers over time at breeding as follows: 2nd breeding = 322 (19% attrition), 3rd breeding = 294 (7% additional attrition from starting number), 4th breeding = 250 (11% additional attrition), 5th breeding = 211 (10% additional attrition), or down to about half of starting numbers. Obviously, culled females must be replaced if herd size is maintained. Over the long haul if such culling is practiced, this typically requires an average of 15-20% replacements a year, either saved from the herd or brought in from outside.

(Prof. Anim. Sci. 30:37; Noble Foundation, Ardmore, OK)


At one time cattle feeding was concentrated in what was called the Corn Belt, especially in Iowa and Illinois. This was done largely by farmers feeding their own corn crop and had been done for many years. Later, with the advent of large-scale irrigation of corn, large commercial lots developed in the ‘60s in the Southern Plains, particularly the Texas Panhandle. And with those large lots came large packing plants. But various factors have changed feeding over the last 10-15 years. Nebraska is now the largest feeding state with Texas still a close second and Kansas third. Texas has lost about 400,000 head in feeding capacity while Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota together have increased about 250,000 head and Nebraska about 90,000 head.

Also changing over the last several years is the pattern of carcass quality grades. Nationally, percent of carcasses grading USDA Choice or Prime was 52% in 2006, 56% in 2008, and 69% in 2014. Increasing emphasis on high-quality branded beef has probably been a factor in these changes. But the increase has not been uniform over regions. In 2006, cattle out of Nebraska packing plants averaged 59% Choice/Prime but that figure was only 42% out of Texas plants and 43% from Kansas plants. In 2014, compared to 2004, Kansas increased to 67% (56% higher) and Texas increased to 58% (39% higher); Nebraska increased to 74% but that is only 24% higher.

One reason for these higher grades overall, along with genetic selection, is longer feeding to produce heavier carcasses, prompted by favorable beef:corn price ratios. And days on feed may be a factor in regional grading trends. Texas and Kansas feedyards average feeding about 15-20 days longer now than five years ago, while Nebraska yards are feeding only a few days longer. Current days-on-feed for steers started at 650-800 lb is around 180 days for all three states.

(L. R. Corah, CAB® news release of June, 2015; used and summarized by permission)


Omega-3 polysaturated fatty acids have been shown to be beneficial to human health. Beef has a relatively low content of omega-3. Beef also contains omega-6 fatty acids, which humans also require but some omega-6 acids have been shown to increase harmful inflammation in humans. The typical American diet contains 14 to 25 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids.

Chinese researchers have transferred a gene (derived from a nonparasitic nematode) into cattle embryos in the primary fibroblast stage. Fatty acid content of these transgenic cattle was compared to non-transgenic cattle as experimental controls. The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in controls was 5.33:1, compared to 0.95:1 from transgenic cattle, a healthier result. However, it remains to be seen if those who fear genetically modified organisms will accept even the GMOs that benefit them.

(Biotechnology Letters downloaded 5/15; Univ. of Maryland Medical Center,


Records collected from a state feedout program over 13 years were available on 3,554 steers of known breed origin from different sources and backgrounds. Upon arrival at the feedyard, cattle were sorted into feeding groups based on weight, frame size, and body condition. Cattle were sent to slaughter when a group was estimated to have 1/2 inch fat cover. For analyses, data were adjusted to a common age and were grouped into four types: British (6 breeds), Continental (11 breeds), American (6 breeds), and Brahman. Sufficient numbers were available of Angus, Beefmaster, Brangus, Polled Hereford, and Red Angus for a separate breed analysis.

The British group had higher fat cover, numerically higher (lower percent lean) USDA Yield Grade, higher marbling score, and higher USDA Quality Grade. Among the five breeds analyzed separately, there were slight differences in fat cover and no difference in Yield Grade. Angus were higher in marbling score and Quality Grade, with Red Angus and Brangus intermediate, and Beefmaster and Polled Hereford lowest. These results are in general agreement with other research reports and industry observations on carcass characteristics of varying breeds and types.

(Prof. Anim. Sci. 30:43; Mississippi St. Univ., Texas A&M Univ.)


It is not surprising, and well documented, that types of cattle originating in the tropics and sub-tropics can withstand heat stress better than those originating in cooler regions. This ability is manifested in several ways. Reproduction is one of the functions that can be negatively affected by heat stress. And these effects can occur very early in the reproductive process. Differences in embryonic survival exist among genetic types even before embryos are implanted. Research has shown this may be due to differential ability in cellular resistance to elevated temperature. Some researchers suggest it may be possible to select for genes influencing such resistance, and even to introduce such genes from heat-tolerant genetic types into heat-sensitive types.

(Reproduction, Fertility, and Development 27:22; Univ. of Florida)


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) first jointly published the Dietary Guidelines in 1980. As mandated by the National Nutrition Monitoring and Research Act of 1990, the guidelines are updated every five years. New guidelines are scheduled for release this fall and are expected to continue current emphasis on more fruits and vegetables and less meat, along with less sugar and sodium. In addition, for the first time, the guidelines will probably in some way address environmental concerns, although some critics say that topic has no place in dietary recommendations.

A recent report issued by some obesity and cardiovascular researchers criticizes the main source of dietary information (the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys) used by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee in formulating recommendations. Specific objections, as stated in the report, are:

  • most of the data are physiologically implausible and so are not valid estimates of what people eat;
  • human memory and recall are too inaccurate and imprecise to be used as tools to collect scientific data;
  • protocols used in the surveys mimic those known to induce false memory and recall;
  • mental phenomena such as memories of food and beverage consumption are inadmissible as scientific evidence because they cannot be independently observed, measured, or verified;
  • physical activity, cardio-respiratory fitness, and exercise are major determinants of health and are largely ignored or improperly measured.

One of the authors concluded, “Our work indicates there is no scientific foundation to past or present U. S. Dietary Guidelines”.

(Mayo Clinic Proceedings 90:6, June, 2015)


The 61st Annual TAM Beef Cattle Short Course, will be held August 3-5, 2015 on the campus in College Station. A wide range of topics relating to beef cattle is covered during this three-day event. Details of the program and information to register are at

BCSC 2015'

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