Celebrating May Beef Month

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What is the state of the New York beef industry?

As I drive across the state talking with producers, feed dealers, veterinarians and Cooperative Extension educators, the message is the same: “There are beef herds popping up all over the place.” With the dairy industry relocating to lands more suited to crop production, these once former dairy farms are again supporting a larger beef population.

The graph illustrates that beef cow numbers peaked in 1976 and declined through the 1990s. This followed a national trend. Beginning in 1991 beef cow numbers in New York increased nearly 70 percent. With adequate rainfall, excellent forage quality, relatively mild weather and strong markets, beef production is poised for continued growth.

A recent CattleFax survey asked its producer members about their annual cow carrying costs. The Intermountain West was highest at $637/cow, with the Southeast lowest at $565/cow. The upper Midwest through the Northeast U.S. was intermediate at $590/cow. Our abundant forage is a resource that gives us a competitive advantage and one that deserves our focus.

One challenge that northeastern beef producers face is marketing feeder calves from their small cow herds. To attract buyers, health risk on these cattle must be reduced and then aggregated into larger load lots to increase procurement efficiency. Two groups, one in central New York and another in southwest New York, have addressed this by offering calves weaned for a minimum of 30 days and vaccinated utilizing a uniform program to reduce risk of respiratory disease. The producers have been rewarded with premiums over cattle not presented in the same way.

The potential to increase economic development of our former dairy lands is evidenced by the financial support of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. Through Harvest New York, they have funded the work of Livestock Processing and Marketing Specialist MacKenzie Waro. She has already had an impact through facilitation of several processing workshops and is currently conducting an extensive evaluation of processing and slaughter plants in New York and New England. The New York State Department of Agriculture has also funded the Stocker Initiative, which is focusing on increasing awareness of this enterprise as well as training would-be entrepreneurs. Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball sees the resources available and wants to revitalize rural communities. Stocker cattle are one key component to that revitalization.

Markets for grass-finished cattle are growing. Most farmers like production but are not too keen on marketing. There are an increasing number of organizations that are facilitating getting grass-finished beef to the large consumer base just hours within our reach.

Another specialty market that our savvy producers have begun to fill is “natural.” These markets do not allow added hormones and feed-delivered antibiotics. The connection between cattle that are coming off grass as stockers and the natural finisher is a natural. These stocker cattle are older, have an improved immune system and in general are healthier. This makes a perfect fit for the two production and marketing systems.

Direct-to-consumer sales is a key component to the marketing landscape. Matt LeRoux, marketing specialist, Cornell Cooperative Extension Specialist in Tompkins County, New York, has worked to make it easier for consumers to find locally produced meat. The Meat Suite is a region-wide website connecting consumers to farmers. The Meat Locker project provides freezer space for consumers to store their locally sourced meats.

The future is bright for the beef industry in New York and New England. With reasonable cost of production and a consumer base that is the envy of all, producers can proceed with confidence. However, no matter how you slice it, agriculture is not a “get rich quick” scheme. To provide a reasonable level of family income the producer has to be diligent in keeping costs down and never become complacent in a given production or marketing practice.

May is Beef Month – let’s celebrate what beef has to offer to consumers and Northeast farmers alike.

Read more: Checking the Beef Checkoff

Sustainable Pork Production Without Confinement Becoming a Reality

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Confinement pigs and vertically integrated companies dominate the pork industry. Independent hog producers have lost most of their market share. In an industry where large-scale hog farming has become a dirty word, some farmers are keeping pigs outdoors, bringing back heritage breeds and utilizing pigs to the environment’s benefit, rather than detriment.

While raising pigs on pasture is now considered a niche market in the United States, a few decades ago it was the norm, said Dr. John McGlone of the Laboratory of Animal Behavior, Physiology and Welfare at Texas Tech University. Until the 1960s, all U.S. swine operations were either a hybrid with indoor and outdoor, or exclusively outdoor systems. The move indoors was prompted by an attempt to make pork production “more sustainable.”

But confined pork production ended up crossing the line, becoming unsustainable as crowded conditions – spurred by expensive building and infrastructure costs – caused environmental, human and animal welfare concerns to plague the industry. Today, the industry has made a move to correct these issues and advocates argue that indoor facilities offer benefits to animals, workers and food safety, while keeping pork production profitable and meat inexpensive for consumers.

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The returning niche of raising pigs on pasture

Well-managed operations, whether indoors or out, can be equally sustainable, providing for animal and human welfare and safety, environmental impact and profitability, McGlone said. Common animal welfare concerns such as lameness can be improved through bedding. Odor and air quality issues, as well as respiratory illnesses, diminish when ventilation is enhanced. Appropriate nutrient management contributes fertility to cropland and prevents runoff into waterways. Enriching the animal environment by allowing pigs to socialize, play and root in bedding enhances animal well being.

“Any system can be sustainable… whether they are indoors or outdoors,” McGlone said. Farmers interested in sustainable livestock raising practices on any scale must “plan to manage the environment, food safety, animal welfare, profitability and worker health and safety,” and ask: “Will this production system harm anything? Will it still be around in 100 years?”

Whether or not confined animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, can be sustainable, many consumers aren’t interested in eating pork from pigs that can’t frolic outdoors. That public perception is “worth something,” McGlone said, but isn’t the only factor.

Even if consumers want pastured pork and farmers want to raise pigs on pasture, it won’t work unless there is profit for the farmer. The market may offer a price premium for pork raised outdoors, but that doesn’t necessarily make it sustainable.

“There is no real advantage to outdoor pigs for the producer, except consumer advantage,” McGlone said.

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The outdoor pigs reveling in the snow

Hybrid production model

Many farmers aren’t interested in spending their days indoors, managing animals confined in pens. Managing grass for pasture-raised livestock makes sense for them and the livestock. Doing so with pigs, rather than beef or chicken, means that wallowing and rooting, natural behaviors of swine, need to be factored into the equation.

“We’re basically putting pigs back in touch with being pigs,” Ross Duffield, farm manager at Rodale Institute in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, said of their hog facility, new in 2015, where pigs are kept healthy with unrestrained access to pastures for grazing and indoor facilities that help reduce stress. The system incurs almost no veterinary costs and rarely sees illnesses.

The organic hog facility is based on the underlying goal of improving soil fertility, along with enhancing animal welfare. Pigs are rotationally grazed in an intensively managed pasture system. They are fed various pasture forages to meet their needs and decrease reliance on grains.

“It normally takes about 800 to 900 pounds of grain to finish a hog with pasture not being managed intensely, over six-and-one-half to seven months,” Duffield said. “We are reducing our grain up to 20 percent in some cases due to well-managed pasture.”

The pasture here consists of eight acres of land, four of which are planted to perennial forages and four seeded with annuals. Pigs are separated by size and pastured at the rate of 1 square foot of pasture per 1 pound of animal. Rotation times differ due to seasons, paddock sizes and the variety of forage being grazed.

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Facilites like these focus on soil fertility and animal welfare.

“We establish perennial pasture with legumes like alfalfa and clover in around 50 percent of the system. This allows for regrowth and possibly hay production for winter feed,” Duffield said. “We will establish an annual small grain/pea mix in spring that is grazed and followed by millet and cow pea mix, along with wheat or rye, planted the previous fall, that will be followed by grazing corn and followed by turnips and radish mix and oats.”

As pigs rotate through the grazing paddocks, the hog facility itself – a Britespan 40- by 96-foot hoop structure, chosen to maximize ventilation and indoor air quality, as well as natural light – serves as a gate. When rotating paddocks, the pigs are herded inside through the structure to get to their next grazing paddock.

This keeps the pigs trained to the electric fencing, reducing the chance they will acclimate to the electric shock and breech the fence for fresh forages. The fencing does not have to go underground, a common misconception, he said, as pigs are trained to the fence at three days old.

The building’s infrastructure is “right out of a confinement barn,” Duffield said. But plenty of airflow means “you don’t really smell pigs at all,” and protects pig and human health. The infrastructure makes management tasks easier for the workers and reduces pig stress “because of the handling and feeding abilities.”

Overhead feeders deliver grain and a watering system with outlets at four different heights in each pen delivers fresh water. Fresh bedding is added to the compost bedded pack daily and the facility is cleaned out thoroughly twice per year. Removed bedding is mixed with leaves on the compost pile, which is later spread in the fields. Because pigs also have constant, rotated pasture access, manure does not accumulate excessively and can be easily managed without negative environmental impact, indoors and out.

Each group of pigs has its own pen in the structure, with direct access outdoors to their pasture and can come and go at will. About 80 pigs are finished annually, with a maximum capacity to finish 100, plus raise the breeding stock. Five breeding sows are kept separate from the market animals and farrow twice per year.

Facilites like these focus on soil fertility and animal welfare.

If the operation was exclusively a finishing operation, the capacity per year would be about 150 pigs. While not a very large operation, the pastured pig operation at Rodale was designed to be a readily scaleable model for farmers who want to raise more animals, or less.

Successfully pasturing pigs “depends on being able to manage the pasture to rely on regrowth or replanting,” although reseeding is not always needed, Duffield said. “If you manage the grass, similar to a dairy or a beef operation, you can manage the ground effectively.”

Genetics, too, is important and Duffield is actively breeding to select pigs that do well on pasture. The breeds here are the heritage ones – Red Wattles, Large Blacks, Gloucestershire Old Spots and Tamworths – often cross-bred to “create the quality that we want.”

Humanely raised on pasture

Pastured pig breeding is important to Sugar Mountain Farm in West Topsham, Vermont. The pastured pigs here are selected so that only the very best are bred, while the rest are market pigs. With genetic lines of purebred and crosses – Tamworths, Durocs, Yorkshires, Berkshires, Large Blacks, Hampshires and more – the goal is to selectively improve the genetics for pasture pork production, with marbling for meat quality and pigs with a good temperament. Farrowing in winter, under extreme conditions, is a heritable trait also of high priority here.

Farmer Walter Jeffries raises pigs in a farrow to finish operation, where sows produce two or three litters each year. The breeding sows are rotated through boar-centric pastures. They gestate and farrow in the fields, weather permitting.

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Pigs are outdoors year-round, but with various open-sided shelters available in the winter pastures. North and west walls in these shelters offer protection from the winds, while open southern sides allow ventilation and sunshine to penetrate. Deep bedded packs, with wood chips or hay, warm the shelters as they compost, keeping pigs comfortable.

Pasture waterers provide fresh spring water. Pastures are planted with grasses and legumes and include some brush and trees, which provide fruits, nuts and shade. Pigs are divided into diverse groups, which rotate through about 40 acres of fields, divided into many smaller grazing pastures, annually.

“As a general rule of thumb, up to 14 days on with a minimum of 21 days’ rest,” is the basic formula for his grazing schedule, Jeffries said. “But the actual timing varies with the season, the particular pasture and the pounds of animal. It’s more important to know your land, your forages, your pastures, your animals, than to rigidly follow a calendar schedule. Another good rule of thumb is that small paddocks are better than large paddocks.”

Pigs graze most of the year and are fed hay – taken off of the pastures – during the winter. Pasture forages include millet, oats, barley, amaranth, chicory and burdock. Crops such as kale, sunchokes and pumpkins round out the forages. About 80 percent of the pigs’ dry matter intake comes from this forage. They are given some dairy, in the form of whey and cheese from nearby farms, and receive spent barley from a local brewery. No commercial hog feed is ever used.

“I care about my animals and I care about what food I eat and feed to my children,” Jeffries said. “Those are the driving forces in how I farm. There are many ways to do things that fit different environments, climates, resources, goals and such, which is why there is no one best system. But some are much better than others and there are many that are far better than confinement.”

Sugar Mountain Farm, which began pasturing pigs in 2003, currently has anywhere from 300 to 400 meat pigs on the farm at one time, plus 30 to 60 breeding sows. The goal is to eventually bring 10 pigs per week to market. Sugar Mountain Farm sells pork directly to customers, to restaurants and to grocery stores throughout Vermont.

Four young boars herding
Four young boars herding

“There is a lot to learn as you scale up. Managing one pig versus four is about the same. Managing four pigs versus 40 pigs is a lot different. Managing 400 pigs is again hugely different. It does scale, but there is a lot to learn, a lot of infrastructure to get in place, dogs to train, skills to learn, markets to develop,” Jeffries said. “Don’t grow faster than your market.”

Market demand

The demand for naturally raised, pastured pork is there. Applegate Natural and Organic Meat provided funding for Rodale Institute’s hog facility. Applegate currently imports pork from Denmark and Canada to meet their demand.

Hauling animals long distances, waiting for slaughter times and not having enough butchers all factor into the sustainability equation. These factors must be addressed for small farmers to supply the demand for pasture-raised, locally grown meats. “We need to build a network of processing facilities,” Duffield said. “It’s one thing to raise these animals the way we are raising them,” but without processing capacity, it won’t work.

pigs grazing at Sugar Mountain Farm
More grazing at Sugar Mountain Farm

The Jeffries family recently designed and built their own USDA inspected slaughterhouse and butcher shop. Their pigs now complete their entire life span on the farm.

“Small farms pay a premium for processing, far more than the big operations like Smithfield who have vertical integration,” Jeffries said. “Having our own on-farm, inspected processing plant has made a huge difference in the economics of pig farming for our family.”

For farmers who want to raise pork outside of the industry mentality of indoor confinement and manure lagoons and want to do so on a larger scale, finding alternative ways to bring home the bacon – while keeping pigs in a more natural environment – begins with learning from other successful enterprises. Sustainable larger scale pork production, without confinement conditions, is once again becoming a reality in the U.S.


Forage-Based Beef 2017 Program Recap

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It’s all about the beef. More specifically, it’s about grass-fed beef. The demand for grass-fed beef has been increasing in recent years, even as that of beef raised in feedlots, with grain-based diets, has been decreasing.

It’s all about the beef. More specifically, it’s about grass-fed beef. The demand for grass-fed beef has been increasing in recent years, even as that of beef raised in feedlots, with grain-based diets, has been decreasing, said Don Woodring, Education Program Associate, District 7 Agriculture Program Coordinator, Penn State Extension.

“That forage-based beef consumption continues to grow in the U.S. even as feedlot, corn-finished beef consumption has seen some decline over the years, demonstrates a trend – not a fad – that consumers want another option concerning beef,” Woodring said. “The reasons are many and varied why consumers are demanding forage-fed beef. My goal is to help producers get through the particular challenges of a forage-based operation and achieve a quality product that the consumer enjoys.”

With that in mind, Woodring — along with Jessica Williamson, Ph.D, Extension Forage Specialist and Dave Hartman, Extension Livestock Educator — has developed a program to assist new and long-term grazers in producing the highest quality beef possible. The program will include all aspects of producing beef on pasture forages from calf to consumer.

“Forage-Based Beef – a Penn State Extension Series on Getting It Right,” brings producers a wide range of topics relevant to raising quality beef on pasture. Partnering with other agencies, including the Lycoming County Farm Service Agency and Conservation District, the USDA and the PA Grazing Land Coalition, the program’s mission is to help producers succeed in their beef operations. The multi-faceted pilot program was launched with a spring classroom session last April and a twilight pasture walk this past fall.

“Our goal is to bring science-based information to the producers who need it to help them better manage their operation efficiently and profitably with an outcome of a quality product,” Woodring said. “My concern was that new producers who might have experience in grain-fed beef or dairy operations, or some people with no experience at all, would not have enough information to actually bring a quality product to market. The focus of the program is forage-based, but any beef operator can learn from the series.”

It’s notable that Woodring uses the term “forage-based,” rather than grass-fed, to describe the program’s purpose. While much debate over grass-fed versus grain-fed beef has occurred in the past few years, the reality is that cows can be grazing more than just grasses.

“Forage-based is more inclusive and representative of grazing management that uses grasses, legume plants, brassicas, corn stalks and other non-grain forages,” Woodring said.

A recent day-long spring seminar, held in Lycoming County, attracted more than four dozen attendees. Ranging from those raising beef in grain-based systems, long-time producers of grass-fed beef, former dairy farmers seeking to raise beef and new beef producers seeking knowledge on forage-based beef operations, many in attendance were from the Central Pennsylvania region. But others traveled from New York, Maryland, Ohio and more distant regions of Pennsylvania.

Featured keynote speaker, George Lake of Thistle Creek Farms in Tyrone, Pennsylvania, may have been one reason many made that trek. Lake, who received the first place award in “The Forage Spokesperson Contest” at the 2016 American Forage and Grassland Council conference, has raised beef on pasture for several decades. With 500 heads of Aberdeen Angus cattle, Lake utilizes a wide variety of grasses, from many regions of the world, to provide optimal pasture nutrition. Addressing issues including the establishment of annual and perennial grasses, intensive grazing rotations, multi-species grazing – Lake raises sheep, too – and pasture maintenance, Lake discussed his program for raising beef in a year-round grazing system.

Lake was joined by Williamson and Hartman, who discussed extending the grazing season and the use of cover crops and annuals in the pasture. Dwight Linglefelter, Extension Weed Specialist, discussed pasture weed control.

With consumer interest in beef raised in alternative systems, rather than the feedlot, more producers will be adapting pasture-based operations. Doing it right results in high-quality meat and can keep the demand high.

“The reasons are many and varied why consumers are demanding forage-based beef,” Woodring said. “We do not enter into the grain-fed, grain-finished beef versus the grass-fed only beef debate. The individual consumer can decide that question with his or her own taste and expectations. I just want the producers to succeed in their operations and achieve a product that is highly marketable and if Extension resources and our partners can help them get there, everybody wins.”

Upcoming sessions in the Forage-Based Beef Program include summer farm tours and a fall seminar. Future seminar topics will include genetics, marketing, regulations and business models, Woodring said. Interested producers can contact Woodring at 570-726-0022 ext. 3821 for further information.

Raising Holstein Bull Calves for the Beef Market

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Beef and dairy farmers alike attended Penn State Extension’s recent workshop on best practices for raising Holstein bull calves for the beef market.

Beef and dairy farmers alike attended Penn State Extension’s recent workshop last month on best practices for raising Holstein bull calves for the beef market. These animals are not the same as beef breeds, due to the extensive breeding of dairy cattle for milk production and can’t be expected to perform in the feedlot as do native beef breeds.

But that doesn’t mean that Holstein beef can’t be a profitable venture. Instead, it means that even experienced beef producers, or dairy farmers seeking to diversify into raising their own beef steers, need to learn how to get the most gain, for the least cost, while producing a Holstein carcass that grades well.

According to Cheryl Fairbairn, PSU Animal Science Educator, meetings on the calf-fed Holstein beef program, held during the past year on a regional and state-wide basis, have attracted approximately 800 producers. These meetings introduced the protocol and the results from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Livestock Evaluation Center’s (LEC) eight month calf-fed Holstein beef feeding demonstration.

“There is a mix of people who are already feeding Holsteins on a small level, those who are thinking about doing it, those who are dairying and want to look at adding this as another enterprise on the farm and those who are feeding native cattle and are thinking of possibly adding Holsteins” Fairbairn said. “The calf-fed Holstein program provides educational opportunities for dairy and beef producers to understand how to finish Holsteins on a grain based diet so they produce calves that are acceptable to packer and consumer. It also gives producers the opportunity to diversify their operations if they so desire too.”

The Model

The program depends upon healthy calves entering feedlot environments at 20 weeks of age. Before then, the calves need to be protected from disease — particularly scours and respiratory illnesses — and acclimated to a grain-based, high-energy diet.

The calf-fed feeding program requires starting the calves on milk or milk replacer and plenty of fresh water, with very little or no hay. The calves transition from milk to grain to the total mixed ration (TMR) that they will receive in the feedlot. Grain is added as soon as one week of age, to introduce the calves to a grain-based diet which they will begin to consume regularly by three weeks of age. Adequate fresh water is important for the development of volatile fatty acids, which stimulate rumen growth.

At eight weeks and approximately 200 lbs — a 1.6 lb average daily gain (ADG) should have been achieved, animals will be weaned slowly. Feeding increasing amounts of grain while decreasing milk in a “step down” pattern, designed to decrease animal stress, is key. After 10 weeks, calves should be fully weaned and adjusted to a high-energy diet.

A primary goal in feeding the calves grain from a young age and not feeding forage, is to develop the rumen to adapt it to a grain-fed diet. Rumen papillae are developed with grain feeding and are needed to increase the ADG. Having the most ADG, from the start, is the goal.

Feeding hay stretches the rumen, but does not cause rumen growth and is counter-indicative in the feedlot. Forage also causes increase in acetic acid levels, which decrease rumen papillae growth. A pasture-based diet will burn energy, decreasing the gain received from grain.

The calf-fed diet is meant to “get them ready for the feedlot setting,” Cassie Youst, Penn State Extension Dairy Educator said. After three or four weeks of rumen development, total mixed rations can be introduced. At 16-20 weeks of age, the animals are ready to be moved to the feedlot. They should weigh 300-400 lbs at this time.

At the feedlot stage, feeding Holsteins is similar to feeding any beef breed. It is the calf stage feeding program that primes the Holstein rumen for a high-grain diet. For calves not weaned to a high-grain diet, adjustment to the feedlot diet will be needed.

Feedlot Finishing

“We’re talking about these Holstein animals because they are beef,” Tara Felix, Beef Extension Specialist said.

Unlike beef cattle breeds, however, Holsteins have been genetically selected for milk production, so their rumens are not the same. Holsteins have comparatively large guts. Gut cells turn over every 24 hours. The larger the gut, the more energy devoted to this activity. Holsteins require more energy to put on the same gain as beef breeds.

This greater maintenance requirement means they need more feed, more water and produce more manure. Holsteins require 10 to 20 percent more days on feed (DOF) than do native beef breeds.

Holsteins “marble at a very young age,” and “are genetically primed to marble well,” Felix said. Their growth is predictable, as “the majority of our Holstein genetics in the United States come from three top sires.”

The target goal is finishing Holsteins at 1,400 lbs in about 18 months time. Finished Holsteins do not look the same as finished beef breeds. The animal might look different, but Holstein beef grades well, with most of the calf-fed Holsteins grading at Choice or above.


Getting Your Draft Horses Ready for Spring

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Spring is in the air and your draft horses are chomping at the bit to get back to work. As you select seeds for your crops and outline a schedule for fitting the fields, stop to consider the care your draft horse(s) need.

Spring is in the air and your draft horses are chomping at the bit to get back to work. As you select seeds for your crops and outline a schedule for fitting the fields, stop to consider the care your draft horse(s) need.

Even if you’ve kept your horses working through the winter months, spring is a good time to evaluate their health, inspect their harness and check equipment for any damage or wear.

In Hartland, Vermont, Stephen Leslie and his wife, Kerry Gawalt, look at spring as a time to prepare their Fjord horses for upcoming work in the CSA market garden. The couple has developed a springtime maintenance routine to keep their working horses healthy and sound all year.

In the article that follows, Leslie offers spring-prep expertise to help you start your season off on the right hoof.

Veterinary care

Similar to people, horses should receive an annual wellness exam. During a physical, the veterinarian evaluates the horse’s overall well-being and makes sure the animal has maintained weight through the winter. During this visit, the veterinarian can also make recommendations for a worming program, administer vaccinations and complete an oral exam.

Until recently, rotational worming programs, which included six treatments a year, meant that horses received dewormers year-round. Due to increasing parasite resistance, many veterinarians now recommend a deworming program based on the individual horse, with spring and fall being the most common time for dosing.

“Our horses see the veterinarian regularly for updates on rabies shots. We do all immunization shots ourselves under the supervision of our vet,” he said.

Always ask your veterinarian for guidance as some vaccinations may require a veterinary certificate as proof they were given.

An oral exam can identify any sharp points or dental issues that may have developed. “Spring is when our horses get their teeth floated, which is when the teeth are filed and any sharp points are removed,” he added.

Get fit

“Unlike a tractor, you can’t let your horses sit idle for months in the winter and then expect them to jump right into spring plowing,” Leslie cautioned.

You need to invent ways to keep them useful and active in the winter. Using your horses to clear snow, give sleigh rides, skid firewood, feed out hay to livestock and collect maple sap can keep them in shape in the “off season.”

Without winter chores to maintain fitness, you’ll need to build your horse’s stamina up slowly. One of the most common training devices is the stone boat.

“If you happen to live in a region of the country that has stony soil, then spring training with the stone boat can take on the very practical task of picking rock from the fields,” Leslie said.

He explained that at first, the sled is lightly loaded. Then, over several days and several work sessions, the weight of the load is gradually increased until it approaches the pull of the plow.

“Another excellent early spring work activity for the horses is going over pastures and hayfields with a drag harrow,” he said.

This is good steady work with moderate draft. Leslie uses a flex (chain) harrow and either walks behind it or hitches it to a forecart. On pastures the harrow breaks up old manure pies and on hayfields the harrow disperses fall-spread compost. In both cases, the shallow teeth of the flex harrow will lightly open up the sod to let in air and moisture and encourage grass roots to tiller out.

Building the horses up gradually can also avoid sore shoulders or ligament and tendon injuries and look forward to a healthy and successful farming season for both human and horse. Over exertion is only one of the concerns. Leslie explains that if you ask too much of your horses all at once, sores may develop under the collars or on spots where the harness typically rubs.

“It’s similar to when you break in a new pair of hiking boots, (the horses) might develop blisters on their feet,” he said.

Harness check

Checking the horse’s harness is truly a year-round chore and should be done every time the horse is harnessed. “Leather harness needs to be on a regular schedule of cleaning and oiling,” Leslie said.

You can test a strap by holding it in both hands and turning and twisting to test for excessive wear and tear or dry rot. Any strap or piece that appears dry or cracked should be replaced.

Dry rot is not an issue for harnesses made from synthetic materials dry rot is not an issue. However, many harness sets made out of synthetic materials include some leather components (usually at the points of greatest contact such as on the inside of the breeching) and these parts do require cleaning and oiling to keep them supple.

“Leather harness has passionate advocates for many good reasons but synthetic harness is definitely low maintenance by comparison,” he said.

In addition to checking for damage, harnesses should regularly be checked for proper fit. Cloth collar pads can be used to a certain extent to adjust the fit, in particular if the horse loses or gains weight with the change of seasons.

Horses that are idle over the winter may gain weight. In this case, you may need one collar for spring work and another for when the horse gets back in shape with daily work.

“We take pains to manage the horse’s weight year-round so that it does not fluctuate much at all. This is better for their health and simplifies collar and harness fitting,” he said.

As long as the fit is right, you can exchange collars from horse to horse, but it is best to let each horse have her own. Over time the collar will assume the shape of the horse that wears it.

“Achieving a proper fit of bit, bridle, collar and harness is essential to attaining efficient and sustained work from your horses,” he said.

Read more: Can I Ride My Draft Horse?

Equipment check

Generally, you want to maintain horse-drawn equipment the same way you would any machinery used in the woods or on the farm.

“If you have a farm shop, winter is a great time to bring equipment in, give it the once over and make necessary repairs,” Leslie said.

Equipment that has a lot of moving parts, like a cultivator or mowing machine, should be greased and oiled throughout the growing season. The machinery will operate more smoothly, be less prone to breakage and be easier for the horses to pull.

The same is true for farm equipment that has shanks, teeth, plow shares, etc. When the parts designed to move through the soil are kept sharpened or replaced, they will work with less resistance and lighten the draft for your working animals.

“On pieces of horse-drawn equipment that have a wooden tongue these components should be on a replacement schedule,” he said.

Even if the wood appears sound it may be vulnerable to dry rot over time. Other safety considerations with horse drawn machinery pertain to hitch points. Bolts, hitch pins, etc., that hold the pieces together such as eveners and yokes should be checked regularly for wear.

“Even a really solid team of horses may get rattled if a doubletree suddenly snaps loose and slams into their fetlocks,” he said.

Learn more

Good horse husbandry is a year-round process, but in some regions cold and snow can interrupt a good routine. Spring is the ideal time to get back to basics and take the time to prepare for a successful and safe farming season. Your veterinarian, other draft horse owners and educational events are good venues for learning more about caring for your draft horses. Leslie has authored two books, “The New Horse-Powered Farm” and “Horse-Powered Farming for the 21st Century,” which also offer detailed information to help your horse-powered farm running smoothly.

Read more: Do Draft Horses Need Dental Care?

Selecting For Disease Resistance: A Consumer-Friendly GMO

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If we can select for cattle that are resistant to disease or deselect cattle that are prone to disease, we can improve profitability and reduce use of antibiotics, a win for the farmer and the consumer.

Use of genomics has transformed agriculture as much as human medicine. It has certainly caused heartburn for farmers in the direct sales business as consumers have concerns about GMO produced foods. But what I’d like to focus on in this article is a form of the genetically modified organism. This article is based on determining what genes are associated with disease and selecting for or against this set of genes. If we can select for cattle that are resistant to disease or deselect cattle that are prone to disease, we can improve profitability and reduce use of antibiotics, a win for the farmer and the consumer.

I’ll start by saying I am not a geneticist. Even if I were, there is not enough space in this entire magazine to explain how genetic selection works. But I will give you the “genomics for dummies” version in a paragraph or less.

First, note that the terms genetics and genomics are used interchangeably. That is not entirely correct. Genetics is the study of a single gene, whereas genomics is the study of all genes and their interaction with the environment. For example there is one gene that affects genetic defects, while there are groups of genes that affect the expected progeny differences (EPDs) for performance, carcass and survivability traits.

It would be convenient if there were one gene that results in easy calving, high marbling, high fertility or disease resistance. But that is not the case; it is a group of genes, and furthermore the trait is also impacted by the environment. This is why you need to understand that when a company tells you their test accounts for 15 percent of the variation in a given trait, they are referring to genetic variation only. These traits also have an environmental component.

For example, you can have a positive test for marbling, but if you don’t feed the animals correctly, then the cattle won’t produce the expected marbling, regardless of genetics. The final point to remember is that genetic tests should not be used as a stand-alone evaluation. EPDs are still the gold standard in selection. Genetic testing should be used to enhance EPDs, not replace them.

The greatest promise and use of genomics is for traits that are difficult to measure (disease resistance) are lowly heritable (fertility) or can only be measured late in life (stayability) or after the animal is dead (tenderness). I recently attended a session on selection for resistance to bovine respiratory disease (BRD) at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Cattlemen’s College in Nashville. The presenter was Dr. Alison Van Eenennaam, a faculty member at University of California-Davis. The following is what I learned.

Even with a greater understanding of animal nutrition, health and stress management and greatly improved vaccines, BRD is still the No. 1 cause of death in finishing cattle. In fact, 1.4 percent of all feedlot cattle perish before reaching harvest. This has not changed in the last 30 years. One reason for this is that a bovine has 30 percent of the lung capacity of a similar-sized horse, but requires 250 percent more oxygen. I remember being at a processing facility where they were harvesting bison. The owner showed me the trachea of the bison, which must have been three to four times the size of one from a beef breed. Domesticated cattle just don’t have the lung capacity and associated organs to support anything but a completely low-stress environment.

Our production system that involves commingling cattle from small farms that typify the U.S. beef industry creates a disease challenge. It is estimated that the economic cost of BRD is more than $250/head in the finishing phase only. We also know that BRD affects calves before they get to the finishing phase, which increases the financial losses from the whole production system. Discovering the gene complex that controls response to BRD would be a huge benefit to producers and consumers alike.

The good news is researchers have determined the heritability of BRD susceptibility is considered moderate at 18 to 29 percent. However, this is the heritability of the genome, that is, the group of genes that are involved in BRD. The bad news is that BRD is similar to the common cold in that it is a complex of viral and bacterial organisms. Current research is focused on identifying individual genes that regulate specific pathogens involved in the BRD complex. This work has been completed with beef and dairy calves and is being analyzed. If specific genes can be identified in the genome, heritability estimates should increase. Additionally, if they can find the specific gene that results in susceptibility, this test would be useful across breeds, which is currently not the case with most genetic tests.

The final step is to incorporate the results into an index that producers can use to select against sires that produce progeny susceptible to BRD. An index is built assigning a dollar value to the trait relative to other traits. Van Eenennaam and a colleague have estimated that the relative economic importance of selection to decrease incidence of BRD should be weighted six times more heavily than selection for growth traits (e.g., weaning weight) and 16 times more heavily than carcass traits (e.g., marbling). They have suggested a BRD index with a 1 percent increase in BRD death loss that would be associated with the loss of $2.08/head in the Angus index $Feedlot ($F). This is equivalent to a 1-pound increase in hot carcass weight EPD. Though close, researchers still estimate that we are about five years from having a reliable disease susceptibility index.

In our segregated beef industry the question becomes “Who pays for the genetic testing?” In a perfect world, the feedlot would pass value for receiving healthy cattle back to the calf supplier, who would then pass some of that value to the bull supplier. For the astute cow/calf producer, they will develop a marketing channel that rewards them for buying bulls with more information that can be used to extract value from the feedlot. While it’s exciting to see where this technology can lead, everyone along the production and market channel through the consumer has to receive value, or itwill not be useful.


Understanding Nutrition for Working Horses

horse grazing

Performance, racing and high-strung light breed horses often require high-energy feeds to maintain healthy body conditions.

Horses are grazing animals designed to obtain nourishment by eating fiber-rich forage. With the domestication of horses, meals have evolved to include a combination of grass, hay and processed feeds. Performance, racing and high-strung light breed horses often require high-energy feeds to maintain healthy body conditions.

Conversely, draft breeds, even working draft horses, require less energy than their smaller counterparts.

“When it comes to daily calories, draft horses require slightly less calories pound for pound than a comparably sized light horse,” said Beth Valentine, DVM, Ph.D., an expert in draft horse nutrition and professor of anatomic pathology at Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

The way a draft horse’s metabolism functions accounts for the most significant difference. “Draft horses have a slower metabolism than riding horses. They are more even tempered and have a different fight or flight instinct,” added Michael R. Stone, DVM and owner of Oak Haven Belgians in Fremont, Ohio.

“There is a general consensus that while a draft horse may eat more than a light horse because they are larger animals, their energy requirements are lower on a pound for pound basis,” said Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., an equine nutritionist at Kentucky Equine Research.

Estimating rations

Rations for all horses are determined with mathematical formulas. For light horse owners, Valentine said that you can estimate the daily calorie needs for your draft horse(s) by the calorie intake of similarly sized light horses. An accepted standard of calorie intake in relation to body weight exists for light horses. Using the accepted light horse standards, the target calorie total is multiplied by 0.75 to determine the daily needs for draft horses.

“As an example, the maintenance diet of a 1,000 pound light horse is 15,000 calories per day,” she said, adding that “the maintenance diet for a 2,000 pound draft horse is (2 ×15,000) × 0.75 = 22,500 calories per day.”

A chart of standard daily caloric requirements has been developed and is available in Valentine’s book, “Draft Horses: An Owner’s Manual.” “There is a table of estimated calorie needs for light horses and draft horses published in the book,” she said.

Once you identify the calories your draft needs to maintain his body condition, it’s important to translate that into the pounds of forage (hay and grass) the horse needs each day. Typically, draft horses need between 1.5 percent and 2.5 percent of their body weight in forage. “For example, if your draft horse weighs 2,000 pounds you multiply that by .015. That equals a minimum of 30 pounds of forage on a dry matter basis the horse needs each day,” Crandell said.

Some draft horses can thrive on hay and or grass without needing a feed. Good quality hay will go a long way in meeting your horse’s nutritional needs. “I personally like feeding high quality grass hay with some alfalfa mix,” Stone added.

Draft horses that are able to maintain healthy body conditions on pasture and hay alone often require additional supplements to compensate for minerals and vitamins lacking in the forage. Many areas in the United States have soils that are deficient in selenium and low in other trace minerals like copper and zinc. However, it is important to work with your veterinarian to determine the appropriate amount for your horse. Providing too much selenium can be toxic. “A good mineral supplement or a ration balancer can help provide the other trace minerals as well as selenium,” Crandell said.

Valentine often recommends additional vitamin E even for horses kept on pasture and or alfalfa products, which are naturally high in vitamin E content. “Extra vitamin E never hurts and sometimes helps. I recommend 1 IU vitamin E per pound of horse each day,” she said.

In addition to concentrates that compensate for lacking minerals or vitamins, some horses may need additional supplements. “If hoof quality is an issue, I recommend a hoof supplement with methionine as well as biotin,” Valentine said.

Working horses that are pulling or straining to move heavy loads may benefit from joint supplements. “The key is to only use supplements when they are needed,” Crandell noted.

Special considerations

“As it turns out, two-thirds of all draft related horses are ‘metabolically different’ and prone to developing a muscle issue known as equine polysaccharide storage myopathy (EPSM, also called EPSSM and PSSM),” Valentine said.

“Equine polysaccharide storage myopathy is an abnormal glucose metabolism in the horse which leads to excessive glycogen storage in muscle cells,” Stone said. “Clinical signs are similar to tying up.”

The disease can also be found in other breeds such as draft crosses, warmbloods and quarter horses. Symptoms can vary among breeds. Before much was known about the condition, it was called “Monday morning sickness.” The biggest challenge with EPSM in draft horses is that the animals are stoic and symptoms can be subtle. Clinical signs include muscle soreness and weakness in muscles. Left untreated, the condition is potentially fatal.

During research in 2000 Valentine discovered that EPSM is strongly linked to nutrition. “These horses need a high fat and fiber, low starch and sugar diet,” she explained. “Alfalfa, hay pellets, senior feeds or other low starch and sugar commercial feeds are best.”

“For a horse with recognized EPSM issues, I recommend adding 1 pound of fat per 1,000 pounds of horse each day,” she said.

The least expensive method of doing this is by adding soy, canola or corn oil. “Two cups of oil is 1 pound of fat. You want to introduce the fat slowly and increase it gradually,” she suggested.

Even horses that have not been diagnosed with EPSM can benefit from added fat. For non-EPSM horses, she recommends adding at least ½ pound of fat per 1,000 pounds of body weight each day. Crandell cautioned that ” feeding dietary fat to a horse that is already overweight may exacerbate a condition, insulin resistance, which is common in obese horses.”

Plentiful turnout and consistent exercise are important components to managing horses diagnosed with EPSM. “These horses do better with regular, steady work,” Stone said. “It’s best to avoid giving long bouts of stall rest and then a quick return to work.”

Learn more

Draft horses are generally considered “easy keepers” in comparison with their light horse counterparts, requiring fewer commercial feeds. Despite needing fewer calories to maintain a healthy body condition, it’s important to recognize the metabolic differences between draft horses and light horses.

Understanding EPSM, its symptoms and triggers are keys to keeping draft horses healthy. Work with your regular veterinarian to develop a daily ration that meets all of your horse’s needs. Genetic testing is available to determine whether a horse has EPSM.

This test looks for a change in a GYS1 (glycogen synthase 1) gene, which identifies some, but not all EPSM horses. A negative test does not necessarily rule out EPSM. Muscle biopsy, or a response to diet change, can identify these GYS1 negative EPSM horses. Once diagnosed, diet and exercise changes can take nearly four months to take effect. “All too often the first sign of a problem is when it is too late. That is why I recommend this type of diet for all draft-related horses,” Valentine concluded.


The Points of Efficient Fence Work

man-constructing-fence

Having the proper tool can make tasks a more efficient venture in time and money.

Fence construction and repair is a common duty. It’s taxing on the body and for the wallet. For one handling that hard work, having the proper tool can make that task a more efficient venture in time and money.

For instance, a pneumatic stapler gun expedites fence construction with its rapid application. Posting long stretches of fence seems a bit more tolerable. To speed up the process, some fencers are using a fuel-cell stapler for better results.

Though sold under the Stock-ade name, the ST-4001, made by a subsidiary of Illinois Tool Works, is the fuel cell version of the company’s ST-400, a pneumatic stapler that has been on the market for several years.

As part of their beta testing, several users in the United States were given units to try under local conditions. Originally offered to the market at $1,000, it is expected to sell in the United States in the $700 range, making it best suited for someone who does regular fence jobs.

“There is no question that it will pay for itself if used regularly,�? Rick Jackmas, president of McArthur Lumber and Post, McArthur, Ohio.

He noted it is light enough and portable enough that a 10-year-old can use it all day. “But the tool will keep up the two-staples-a-second pace longer than any man can,�? he said.

Andy and Sam Gardner of Gardner Brothers Land, LLC agreed. Their operation feeds out replacement heifers for dairy producers in the Northeast and along the mountains into Virginia

“We usually put one guy on the gun for about 20 or 25 posts and then switch off,�? Sam Gardner said. However, he notes that the unit is not as light as it seems after it has been toted up and down hills for a day.

That said, most users say the best thing about the ST-400i is that it requires no compressor. Set-up and take-down time is close to zero because no truck or wagon access is required for power as would be needed with a pneumatic unit. Anyone who has run fence in hilly or boggy areas knows what a hassle it can be to get a pickup truck close enough to where the fence line work needs to be done. Usually, someone has to move the truck and help drag the compressor hose.

The 400i runs on fuel cells. As a result, stapling with the cordless stapler requires just one person for the job.

It works well on spot maintenance jobs, hilly projects, or full-farm electric or woven fencing, Jackmas said.

Andy Gardner agreed. “We do a lot of high-tensile fencing,�? he said. Last year, his company had one job alone that involved 15,000 feet of high tensile fence installation.

“You need to make high tensile ‘hot’ for it to be effective,�? Andy said. He’s aware that producers in some areas do not electrify fence. However, given the choice, he said he always would go with juice.

They also have experience using the 400i on woven wire and barbed wire, too.

The typical package from the manufacturer includes a box of 1,200 staples shipped with two fuel cells for the stapler.

They drive two staples per insulator. Figuring it costs 32 cents per insulator and 12 cents for the cell and staples, they figure they have about 56 cents tied up in each installation.

Better yet, the Gardners have had no malfunctions with their demonstration unit.

“It is consistent,�? Andy added.

That consistency is helped by a guide that comes with the insulator attachment. “As long as you take the insulator attachment and put it in the guide hole, it is pretty foolproof,�? Andy said.

That is, unless you need to remove a staple. The staples have barbs that make them even tougher should pressure be put on the fence. The driving depth is adjustable to assure no damage to the fencing.

“Once they are in there, they are in there,�? he noted.

Jackmas credits the positive placement to the fact that there is no wiggling around when the staples are driven into the fence post. It is “POP!�? and then they are set straight into the timber.

Like the Gardners, he typically sees a 1.75-inch staple for most fencing applications.

“It’s a great product,�? Andy said. “My guys are completely sold and would probably revolt if we had to go back to hand-driving staples in insulators.�?

“We really like the gun,�? Andy added. Noting that his crews are fencing from the fall into early March, he says the ST-400i is “way more than adequate.�?

“We are fortunate, blessed and humbled,�? Sam added. “Our fencing business complements our replacement heifer operation. And this fencing business just keeps growing!�?

Guide to Selecting Head Gates

cow-looking-through-a-head-gate

Whether mounted on posts at the front of the alley or the front of a squeeze chute, the head gate’s ease of use is the single most important factor in determining how effectively the cattle handling job is executed.

If I were king for a day, I would make it mandatory that before anyone could have cattle, they would have to prove the existence of an appropriate handling system on their farm. There are some significant reasons for having a handling system: It’s the only way to humanely handle cattle, and it’s the only safe way for the handler to handle cattle.

Without it, cattle that become sick or injured do not get treated. Vaccines, which prevent disease, do not get administered, so the cattle get sick and not treated (and therefore suffer) or die.

When cattle need to be gathered for sale or slaughter, they are more difficult to handle because the experience of being in a confined space is new. If you are selling meat to a consumer, this stress of being confined can increase toughness and off flavor.

When needed, a veterinarian may not come to your farm, because your cattle cannot afford to get hurt. Veterinarians charge by the hour, so if it takes longer to work the cattle due to a poor or nonexistent facility, your expenses will go up. It’s no fun to work cattle if it is a struggle to get them captured and restrained.

I hope I’m clear as to why this is extremely needed.

Head gates are arguably the most important part of a handling system, or at least one of the key, yet most expensive, components. Whether mounted on posts at the front of the alley or the front of a squeeze chute, the head gate’s ease of use is the single most important factor in determining how effectively the cattle handling job is executed. Let’s consider some items.

Deciding between lock-ups vs. head gates

When working in West Virginia, I never saw cattle lock-ups. The two counties I worked in had a total of two dairies. Coming to New York, that changed. I began to see lock-ups on beef operations. My first reaction was, “Beef producers don’t do it that way!” Today, I still have a few qualms about their use in a beef operation, but in certain situations they do have a place.

To work most effectively, the cattle must be accustomed to using them. If the first time they are caught, they have an unpleasant experience, the party may be over. Use of lock-ups requires training. First, feed through the lock-ups without catching the cattle. Once they are accustomed to eating and not getting caught, flip the mechanism and catch them, but do not do anything unpleasant. After they realize that this is OK, then you can give vaccines, ear tag, synchronize estrous, artificially inseminate, palpate and so on.

If you are going to work from the rear, then the cattle on either end of the row may be more difficult to manage as they can swing from side to side.

Another disadvantage is control of the head is more difficult. Treating pink eye, for example, could be a challenge.

Beef Quality Assurance recommended neck injections have to be administered with care, or the handler can injure his or her arm.

Interestingly, a study with dairy cattle at Cornell University showed a reduction in intake for cows eating through lock-ups compared with those eating through a feed rail. That being the case, in finishing operations where maximizing intake is the goal, this system may not be the best choice.

Finally, there is always the ornery cow that is too smart and will not put her head in the lock-up, which can be very frustrating.

For operations with relatively calm cows that are willing to take the time to train the herd, lock-ups may be worth considering.

Self vs. manual catch

The self-catch or automatic head gate relies on the animal pushing the head gate with its shoulders with enough force to trip the spring-controlled catch mechanism. Herein lies the challenge: If you are working cattle of different sizes the head gate must be adjusted so that the opening is not too wide or too narrow. Too wide and the animal either escapes or is caught on the hips. Too narrow and the animal will not put its head in the head gate. Now that you’ve taken the time to get the adjustment correct, the animal needs to hit the head gate hard enough to trip the catch.

This works okay for cattle that have not been worked very often. But for the brood cow that has been through this facility many times and usually ends up with an unpleasant experience, she’s not in any hurry to push that head gate closed. Therefore you end up using the “cheater bar” and pulling it closed. So much for self-catching! So between adjusting the head gate frequently, losing animals, trying to get them out of a hip lock and manually catching the stubborn (or educated) ones, you can generally work cattle more easily and quickly with a manual head gate.

This being said, in all operations, there are times when an automatic head gate does come in handy. When you go to the barn and find a calf or cow that is sick and needs to be treated and no one is around to help, an automatic head gate can be an asset. A head gate that offers the operator the option to switch between automatic and manual would be an advantage. However, I have not seen a head gate model that does this very well.

If choosing an automatic head gate, Dr. Clyde Lane, University of Tennessee offers these tips:

  1. Choose a model that is easy to adjust, given that this will be done often. Pulling out the wrenches each time an adjustment has to be made becomes very aggravating.
  2. The mechanism used to hold the head gate closed should be protected so an animal cannot cause the head gate to open. On older models a cow could trip the self-catch by throwing her head up while in the head gate.
  3. Look at the bottom of the head gate to see if there is the potential for an animal to catch its feet when pulling back. The head gate should be constructed in a manner that will prevent an animal from putting its feet through an opening where the feet will have to be removed prior to opening the head gate.
  4. Do not purchase a head gate with curved bars. This may offer more head control, but when an animal goes down, it only takes seconds for it to die. Contrary to the belief that the animal is not choking – if it were it would struggle giving the operator warning that something is wrong. What actually happens is that the blood supply to the brain is restricted, there is no struggling and in less than 60 seconds the animal could be dead. Always purchase a head gate with straight bars.

In closing, it’s very important to spend some time “kicking the tires” so that you know which head gate works best. Each year at Empire Farm Days they host a Beef Handling Demonstration. Cattle are worked through three facilities. This allows participants to see which system best suits their needs and which are easiest to use. As most of us are part-time producers, our work is done in the evenings and on weekends. It has to go well and not be a complete energy drain.

Don’t get lulled into nondecision because of cost. Although a squeeze chute is a “nice to have,” it is not a “have to have.” For small operations, it can be cost prohibitive ($2,000-plus). A head gate (starting at $550) mounted on two sturdy posts or head gate stand will provide the safety and animal husbandry benefits needed until you can work into a squeeze chute.

Beef Producers Optimistic that President Trump Can Work Trade Deal with Japan

image of the whitehouse

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) was just one of many agricultural organizations closely monitoring President Donald Trump’s meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) was just one of many agricultural organizations closely monitoring President Donald Trump’s meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last month at the White House.

“On the economy, we will seek a trading relationship that is free, fair and reciprocal, benefiting both of our countries,” President Trump stated during their joint press conference. Both leaders seemed optimistic that a bilateral trade deal could be made.

“Free and fair common set of rules should be created for the free trade in the region,” Prime Minister Abe said.

Just two weeks earlier the newly elected president had made good on one of his campaign promises and pulled the U.S. out of a trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The agreement was put together by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama as a way to deepen economic ties, slash tariffs, foster trade and boost growth among the 12 member countries involved.

Many U.S. food and agribusiness groups strongly supported the trade deal, seeing it as a way to boost agricultural exports with other countries like Japan. According to the USDA Economic Research Service, Japan imports over $30 billion in agricultural products each year, one-third of which comes from the United States.

There have been concerns from the agricultural sector over the President’s actions as a successful TPP agreement would have significantly reduced barriers on American imports to Japan. In order to help foster a new trade deal with Japan, more than 80 food and agribusiness groups sent a letter to the President urging for a new trade deal. The letter emphasized the importance that the Asia-Pacific region has on the U.S. economy and jobs. The NCBA followed suit with their own letter to President Trump.

Kent Bacus, NCBA Director of International Trade and Market Access, said he was encouraged by the positive dialogue between the two world leaders but still had questions as to what steps would be taken to keep the U.S. competitive with other countries like Australia who already have favorable trade agreements with Japan.

“The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association is encouraged by the recent meeting between President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Abe,” Bacus said. “Unfortunately, U.S. beef still faces a 38.5 percent tariff which will be a growing trade barrier in future years unless the United States takes swift action to level the playing field by establishing a free trade agreement with Japan.”

Bacus stated that competing countries like Australia have preferential tariff treatment due to their 27.5 percent rate as part of its trade agreement with Japan. Having a TPP agreement, he argued, will keep the U.S. on a level playing field.

“However, since the United States has decided to withdraw from TPP, we must do all we can to encourage the Trump administration to prioritize bilateral trade with Japan,” Bacus said. “Otherwise, we will become much less competitive in Japan and will lose market share to Australia.”

New York Beef Council Chairman Rich Brown was also encouraged by the positive dialogue between the two world leaders. As a producer of Black Angus cattle in Port Byron, New York, Brown said he has been closely following TPP trade negotiations over the past several months.

“We have to change the trade that we have with Asia in general. We’re seeing a demand in Japan for the type of high-quality beef that we produce here in the U.S.,” he said. “I’m very optimistic that the two leaders will be able to put together a better deal than what the TPP offered.”

Brown did comment that the TPP agreement was potentially good for the beef industry over a period of years; however, it was going to take quite a while for to actually materialize. Yet, he remains hopeful for a new trade agreement.

“I’m optimistic that the time frame will be reduced and that we will be able to increase our trade with Japan at a higher rate than it currently is,” he said.