On May 18, the World Trade Organization once again ruled against U. S. Country of Origin labeling. According to the WTO ruling, the amended COOL imposes a “disproportionate burden on producers and processors of livestock that cannot be explained by the need to provide origin information to consumers”. Canada and Mexico have protested COOL almost from the start as being an unfair restraint of trade and have threatened to implement countervailing restrictions on U. S. imports. Such restrictions would not be limited to meat products. For example, the Canadian government says imports from Texas alone of just the top five items they threaten to restrict (ethanol, fresh/chilled beef, jewelry, bakery goods, tomato ketchup and other sauces) amounted to $393 million in 2014.

The 2014 Farm Bill mandated an analysis of COOL by the USDA Office of the Chief Economist. In that report, there was found to be “no measurable benefit” and “substantial economic damage to producers, packers, retailers, and consumers” from the implementation of COOL. The U. S. Secretary of Agriculture has said earlier he has no choice but to continue enforcing COOL without legislative action. In that regard, on May 22, in a bipartisan vote, the U. S. House Agriculture Committee voted to repeal COOL. However, for full repeal, this committee action would have to work its way through the full legislative process in both House and Senate, and possibly through the executive branch.

(, downloaded 5/18;, downloaded 5/19;  )


Records were analyzed from 7 datasets (from different feedyards, time periods, or both) involving 8,995 steers, of which 4,790 were black-hided Bos taurus. Steers averaged 695 lb on feed and 177 days fed; 94% produced carcasses USDA Yield Grade 3 or leaner and 58% USDA Quality Grade low Choice or higher. Hair or tissue samples were obtained when feeding began. These were sent to Igenity® for DNA analysis and assignment of their panel scores of 1-10 predicting Yield Grade and Quality Grade. Three groups were created based on those scores for both Yield Grade and Quality Grade: 1-3 = low, 4-7 = moderate, 8-10 = high. As expected, as panel score prediction increased, actual trait levels also tended to increase. Prediction from panel score was more accurate for Yield Grade than Quality Grade.

The authors analyzed the black-hided Bos taurus separately. In that group, carcasses with higher predictive panel scores were more likely to qualify for base price on a typical value-based grid. Yield Grade improved as its panel score increased, but Quality Grade tended to decline as Yield Grade improved. NOTE: Typical grid premiums and discounts are considerably higher for Quality Grade than Yield Grade. So, at this point, use of genomic prediction of Quality Grade is more economically beneficial than prediction of Yield Grade.

(J. Animal Sci. 93:2045; Oklahoma St. Univ.)


Data were analyzed from 73 studies involving over 8500 suckled cows to evaluate effects of progesterone status (10 days before and at start of synchronization) on pregnancy rate from artificial insemination using variants of the CO-Synch protocol. Pregnancy rates were statistically higher when:

  • the CO-Synch program lasted 7 instead of 5 days;
  • progesterone-impregnated CIDR was implemented;
  • Body Condition Score was 5 or higher;
  • postpartum interval was longer than 72 days.

Among cows that had calved more than once, cycling status (evaluated by blood progesterone level) at the start of synchronization did not significantly impact pregnancy rate per AI (cycling = 47.0%, non-cycling = 43.8%). However, in cows that had calved only once there was a significant effect of cycling status on pregnancy rate per AI (cycling = 46.1%, non-cycling = 34.6%). The authors noted these results “reinforce the necessity of developing heifers adequately for early puberty to increase the proportion which calve early in the calving season, which is related to their postpartum reproductive performance”.

(J. Animal Sci. 93:2111; Kansas St. Univ., Univ. of Minnesota, Mississippi St. Univ., Univ. of Florida)


In response to increasing concerns and demands from many consumers, more and more companies producing food products are establishing policies on animal welfare and antibiotic use in livestock production. On May 22, Walmart announced new corporate positions on animal welfare and use of antibiotics in farm animals. The company says it will not tolerate animal abuse and is committed to working with suppliers to implement the Five Freedoms (originally conceived in Great Britain in 1965), which are:

  • freedom from thirst, hunger, and malnutrition;
  • freedom from discomfort;
  • freedom from pain, injury, and disease;
  • freedom to express normal behavior;
  • freedom from fear and distress.

Also, Walmart asks suppliers to:

  • report and take disciplinary and corrective action in cases of animal abuse;
  • find and implement solutions to address animal welfare concerns;
  • promote transparency through progress reports.

These three approaches are more outcome-based ways of managing welfare rather than dictating exact production practices to be followed. The alternative approach is to specify strict requirements for the production sector, such as taken by Aramark (below).

And, regarding the use of antibiotics, Walmart asks suppliers to:

  • adopt and implement the Judicious Use Principles of Antimicrobial Use from the American Veterinary Medical Association;
  • eliminate uses for growth promotion in animals of medically important antibiotics;
  • report antibiotic management to Walmart and publicly report antibiotic use annually.

On April 30, Aramark, one of the largest food-service companies in the U. S., also announced new policy as follows:

  • purchase only cage-free eggs by 2020;
  • address welfare concerns of fast-growth production of chickens and turkeys and eliminate dumping and shackling in slaughter;
  • eliminate pork from gestation-crate production systems by 2017, address pain relief from castration, eventually eliminate tail docking and use of ractopamine in hogs;
  • address pain relief from dehorning and castration of cattle, eventually eliminate dehorning, eventually eliminate use of such products as bovine growth hormone, zilpaterol, and ractopamine in cattle;
  • eliminate all veal from animals confined in crates by 2017;
  • cease purchase of foie gras from ducks and geese.

(Walmart, downloaded 5/22; ;, downloaded 5/11)


Most creep feeds you might find at your local store are high in energy and medium in protein, designed to be provided free choice. While this generally increases calf gains, efficiency of feed conversion usually does not offset cost of feed. In this study on low-quality pasture, suckling calves initially averaging 473 lb in June were either supplemented for 84 days with soybean meal at 0.9 lb/hd/day (75 lb total/calf) or not supplemented. There was no difference between the two groups of cows in weight change or body condition change. Supplemented calves gained significantly more (33 lb) than not supplemented. NOTE: Even allowing for the price slide for heavier calves, current relative prices for calves and high-protein feeds results in positive return from that amount of weight gain.

(2014 So. Sec. ASAS Meeting, Abst. 79; Univ. of Florida)


In the industry, Holsteins are generally known to be high in marbling and USDA Quality Grade. Research studies of carcasses out of commercial packing plants generally confirm this. For instance, both the 2000 and 2005 National Beef Quality Audits showed “dairy type, basically straightbred Holstein”, graded significantly higher than “native, non-Bos indicus type”.

Most Holstein steers are not managed the same as beef cattle. They are generally weaned early and fed longer, which increases marbling. Little research has been done where lifetime management, not just on feed, of Holsteins is the same as typical lifetime beef management. Perhaps the most meaningful such research was conducted at the U. S. Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, NE. Based on their findings, MARC ranks the genetic ability of Holstein to marble as being higher than most Continental breeds but lower than Angus and Red Angus.

The end product is a result of both genetics and management. Holstein steers are basically a byproduct of matings to produce replacement females. Because of the way they’re generally managed, Holstein steers marble higher than they would under typical beef management systems, so they are an important source of high-grading beef.

(MARC breed rankings from Proceedings of 2012 Beef Improvement Federation Research Symposium and Annual Meeting)


It’s not too early to register for the 61st Annual TAM Beef Cattle Short Course, to be held August 3-5, 2015 on the campus in College Station. Practically every topic relating to beef cattle production is covered during this three-day event. Details of the program and registering information are at



In the latest monthly on-line survey, consumers ranked Salmonella, E. coli, and hormones as their highest food safety concerns. Concern has increased with bird flu, probably prompted by widespread news stories in recent weeks of large-scale bird flu outbreaks in poultry flocks. Consumers still think taste, safety, and price are most important in determining what they’ll buy. Nutrition and the environment were not as important as in previous monthly surveys. “Genetically engineered food” is still important; 54% of respondents think GMO food should be labeled in all circumstances and 21% think it should be labeled if there is a health or safety concern.

Compared to last year at this time, consumers are willing to pay 17% more for steak, 16% more for chicken breast, 16% more for hamburger, 19% more for pork chops, 8% more for deli ham, 11% more for chicken wings, and 2% less for beans and rice. Compared to last month, consumers were willing to pay more for hamburger and pork chops but less than they had for other meat/poultry products.

(Food Demand Survey, 5/14; Oklahoma St. Univ.)


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