Livestock

Livestock Methane Emissions Data May Be Faulty

For decades scientists have sought to measure animal methane emissions to determine the impact food animals have on our environment. Such studies often provided unfavorable results for animal agriculture, and the results have supported radical ideas that all forms of animal food production be halted. New research, however, suggests current estimates of total livestock methane emissions may be faulty. Scientists at Pennsylvania State University have concluded those estimates rely on outdated factors and do not fully consider feed intake, differences in animal diets or the facilities used to store manure. In short, the researchers claim there are large uncertainties in methane emission figures and that the amount of gas animals release remains open for debate. Published in the American Chemical society's peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science & Technology, the Penn State researchers analyzed feed intake data for cattle and manure storage practices for cattle, pigs and poultry at the county and state levels in the United States. A total of 3,063 counties in the contiguous U.S. were included in the cattle methane emission database with inventories from the 2012 Census of Agriculture (latest Census available). The study found total livestock methane emissions comparable to current U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates, and to the estimates from the global gridded Emission Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR) inventory. However, methane estimates by location varied significantly from those reported by EDGAR. Specifically, manure methane emissions from Texas and California were 36% less and 100% greater in the Penn State study than reported by EDGAR. Using their data, the researchers believe that results from studies that use inaccurate distribution inventories to determine emissions sources must be interpreted cautiously. The U.S. EPA says livestock production is responsible for 36% of anthropogenic methane production in the U.S. That's second behind the combined energy sector (natural gas, petroleum systems and coal mining; total 40%), and ahead of landfill methane production at 18%. The researchers said there is a large uncertainty in both enteric and manure methane emissions from livestock. "Work around the world has shown that variability in enteric methane emissions can be largely explained with variability in feed dry matter intake (DMI). Nutrient composition of the feed is also important but has a lesser impact on enteric methane production than DMI."
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NPPC Announces Support for Farmers for Free Trade

Today, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), the global voice for the U.S. pork industry and leader on public-policy issues for America's 60,000 pork producers, announced its support for Farmers for Free Trade. Farmers for Free Trade is a bipartisan campaign co-chaired by former Senators Max Baucus and Richard Lugar that is working to rebuild support for trade at the grassroots level. The National Pork Producers Council joins the American Farm Bureau Federation and other agriculture trade and commodity groups that are partnering with Farmers for Free Trade to strengthen support for trade in rural communities. "NPPC is proud to get behind this bipartisan effort to build a sustainable network of support for trade among our nation's farmers and ranchers," said NPPC President Ken Maschhoff, a pork producer from Carlyle, Ill. "Exports are vital to the financial livelihoods of pork producers. We need help getting the word out more broadly in rural America that trade generates jobs and prosperity. "We look forward to working with our friends in many other sectors of American agriculture as well as with Farmers for Free Trade to get out the message that rural America benefits from trade." "The support of the National Pork Producers Council is a huge boost for our bipartisan effort," said Senator Baucus. "Not only because they'll help us reach pork producers across the country, but also because they've long led the fight for smart trade policies that help American farmers. The Pork Producers understand that rebuilding bipartisan support for trade on Capitol Hill requires first reestablishing consensus at home among the American people. With the support of the Pork Producers we're going to continue to organize, educate and mobilize farmers whose livelihoods depend on trade." "Momentum behind this effort continues to grow," said Senator Lugar. "With the support of groups like the Pork Producers and the Farm Bureau, we are going to ramp up our efforts at the state and district level. This effort is more needed than ever in order to help alleviate the decline in farm incomes by opening new export markets and safeguarding access to the markets we have." Farmers for Free Trade is currently working at the grassroots level to organize and educate farmers about the importance of trade, including through work at state commodity conventions, through state proclamations, by reaching farmers through social media, and by identifying local spokespeople, among other efforts. Senators Baucus and Lugar outlined some of the key policy priorities that will help rebuild bipartisan support for trade in an op-ed earlier this year.
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Hog Price Prospects Strengthen

Hog prices this fall have been stronger than anticipated. In early October, USDA analysts estimated that fourth quarter live prices would average $38 to $40 per hundredweight. Now it looks like the actual price will be $46 to $47. It is always enjoyable to exceed expectations, but what is the source of the better hog prices and will those factors continue in 2018? The answer to the last question appears to be YES! The better hog prices are due to consumer demand. The U.S. economic growth in the third quarter reached 3.3 percent with the unemployment rate at 4.1 percent, the lowest since 2000. Strong income growth and more people working improves the consumption of meats including pork. The 2018 outlook is for continued income growth and even lower unemployment. In addition, higher stock and housing values tend to cause consumers to spend more freely as well. Pork is growing in popularity with our foreign customers. The world economy in 2018 is expected to have its strongest year since the 2008-2009 recession. A little additional information on how pork trade is helping to enhance hog prices is important. So far this year, pork exports are up eight percent and net trade (exports minus imports) is up 10 percent. U.S. pork production is up about 2.5 percent this year but the more positive trade balance means that U.S. consumers have only one percent more pork available. With domestic population expanding by near one percent, this means that pork available per person this year is about the same as 2016. Mexico is the biggest reason for increased exports so far this year. Mexican pork purchases surged above Japan in 2015 to become our number one export destination. Since then, Mexico has continued to put Japan in the rearview mirror. In 2017, Mexican pork purchases have exceeded Japan by 45 percent. South Korea, our fourth largest buyer has increased the volume of pork purchases from the U.S. this year by 18 percent. What about pork exports in 2018? USDA analysts are suggesting an additional six percent rise for 2018. Finally, increased packer capacity has begun to reduce packer margins and is likely contributing to higher farm level hog prices this fall. Packer margins began to drop sharply beginning in August 2017 as new capacity began to come on-line. By October, the packer margin, as reported by USDA, fell to 48 cents per retail pound compared to 79 cents per retail pound one year earlier. These new plants are expected to continue to expand numbers in 2018 as they work toward full capacity. A year-ago we were talking about higher pork supplies in 2017 and higher hog prices. That prediction has turned to reality. Live hog prices in 2016 averaged about $46 per live hundredweight. That price will be near $51 for 2017. The lean futures market is currently optimistic for the same outcome in 2018 suggesting that live prices may average about $53 in 2018. My estimates are for pork supplies to rise around 2.5 percent in 2018 and if hog prices do rise again, it will most likely be due to the demand factors outlined earlier. My estimates of feed cost are to rise modestly in calendar year 2018 with corn prices up about 15 cents per bushel and meal up about $15 per ton compared to calendar 2017. My estimated total costs of production increases from around $49 in 2017 to a bit over $50 for 2018. With moderate feed costs and a low general inflation rate, my estimated total production costs have been near $50 for the most recent four calendar years from 2015 through 2018. What a different world it was in the nine years from 2005 through 2013 when my estimated annual costs ranged from $35 per live hundredweight to $67. For 2018, the current outlook is for positive returns above all costs. The level of positive returns is expected to be in the range of $6 to $8 per head for both 2017 and 2018.
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Pork Industry Advances Sustainable Practices

Sustainability is integral to operating a multi-generational family farm, says Brad Greenway, a pork producer in Mitchell, S.D. For the past year, he has spoken across the U.S. as the 2016 America’s Pig Farmer of the Year, a designation the National Pork Board awards annually. “I’m very proud of the changes we’ve made and the reasons why,” says Greenway, referencing ongoing upgrades to boost animal comfort and feed efficiency, during a panel discussion at the 2017 Sustainable Agriculture Summit in Kansas City, Mo. “We’re always looking for ways to improve.” Greenway spoke about the pork industry’s ongoing commitment to sustainable production practices. Panelists who joined him in the conversation were Sara Crawford, ‎assistant vice president of social responsibility for the National Pork Board; Dan Wetherell, environmental health safety manager for JBS Live Pork; and Dr. Megan Schnur, a veterinarian with Carthage Veterinary Service in west-central Illinois. Consumer concerns over animal welfare and antibiotics are top of mind for professionals in the pork industry, so efforts to educate the public about animal agriculture remain a focus. Those efforts, along with use of the latest scientific research and tools, will help promote greater animal well-being and better biosecurity to limit the spread of disease and a smaller environmental footprint. “We are constantly training employees about how to use the correct needles and provide the correct dose of medicine,” Schnur says. New resources such as probiotics help improve gut health of nursery pigs, and judicious use of antibiotics ensures there are no negative side effects for the environment or human health, she adds. Manure applications also frequently raise red flags on consumers’ radar because of health concerns and smell. But Wetherell notes it’s also a sustainable practice that has benefits for the environment. “It’s really a natural fertilizer,” Wetherell says. “Farmers are true recyclers.” Greenway notes precision application of manure can have immense benefits for his corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa. This year’s corn and soybeans are especially notable. “It was a very dry year, but we had the best crops in my life with 200-plus-bushel corn,” he says. The panelists urged food companies, food retailers and other stakeholders along the supply chain to support production practices that are in the best interest of animals and consumers. Those practices should also be economically viable. Greenway owns a sow farm with 14 other producers in his region of South Dakota, and to change to group sow housing, the business would need to modify its 4,000-sow barn by increasing its size by one-third or reducing its livestock head count by one-third. In addition to the added cost, they would need to consider animals injuring one another or their employees. “It is very important to consider ‘all these ramifications before production changes are forced onto farmers,” he says. Looking ahead, the industry could benefit from a calculator that allows producers to measure the full scope of their environmental footprint. A good starting point is the National Pork Board’s Pig Production Environmental Footprint Calculator developed by researchers at the University of Arkansas, Wetherell says.
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China’s Pig Farmers Go North, Upend Meat, Grain Markets

China's largest pig farming companies and new entrants are racing to build vast, modern hog farms in the north-eastern Cornbelt, expanding the world's biggest pork market and upending traditional trade flows in meat and grain. At least eight listed companies have announced or confirmed plans to produce around 17 million pigs annually in the north-east in coming years. Many more companies, including the country's biggest pig farmer, Guangdong Wen's Foodstuff Group Co Ltd, are building farms in the area, suppliers and sources say, adding to China's annual $1 trillion pork market. Some researchers expect output in the northeast to hit nearly 120 million pigs a year, almost double the 69 million head produced in the area by Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning and Inner Mongolia provinces last year. "In the next few years, almost 20 percent of China's hogs will be transferred to new territory. That's equivalent to the number slaughtered in the U.S. annually,” said Feng Yonghui, chief analyst at consultancy Soozhu.com. China hog production by province Temperatures go well below freezing in the winter in China's northeast, but the area is sparsely populated and allows for setting up large farms that would not be possible in more crowded parts of the country. "The costs in the north-east are higher because of heating. But we can achieve scale there," said Song Weiping, vice president at Beijing Dabeinong Technology, an animal feed firm that is diversifying into pork production. "We're building seven farms in the northeast this year. In total, we'll have around 20 farms in the region." The output increase in the northeastern provinces would take their share of hogs raised in the country to around 17 percent of the 2016 total and would almost match combined production of 129 million from the top producing provinces, Henan and Sichuan, which currently account for 20 percent of total supplies. GOVERNMENT PUSH Ramping up output in the northeast will speed up the modernization of China's hog farming sector, which has been dominated for centuries by smallhold rural family-run operations. It will also create mega integrated farms that produce everything from animal feed to meat and will be equal in size to the hog stations that have transformed the U.S. market in recent decades. The drive fits with Beijing's goal to turn its northeastern grain basket into a meat and dairy hub aimed at boosting demand for the region's main crops, revitalizing some of the country's poorest regions and fighting farm pollution in populated areas further south. Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning and Inner Mongolia produced more than 40 percent of China's corn last year. A three-year campaign to crack down on waste has already pushed many smallhold farms out of business. The campaign coincided with a long period of low prices that had already forced many smallholders, concentrated in southern provinces, to leave the business altogether. But as prices spiked last year on the shrinking herd, large farming companies began expanding rapidly, seeking to capture market share once occupied by backyard farms. The share of pigs produced by backyard farms will fall to below 52 percent by the end of 2017, down from 57 percent in 2015, or a reduction of 66 million pigs, said COFCO Meat, a unit of state-owned agribusiness COFCO Corp [CNCOF.UL] in September, citing "huge development space" for large firms. COFCO and others are now "fighting for land" in less developed regions up north, with environmental laws making it almost impossible to get permits for large-scale farms in much of the south, said Martin Jensen, managing director of Carthage & MHJ Agritech Consulting, which manages pig farms in China. GRAIN DRAIN Not all of the projects announced will be completed, said experts. Frigid winter temperatures mean construction must stop for months, delaying projects. Still, even a handful of them would reshape grain trade. If 20 million more pigs were raised in the north-east each year, corn needs would increase by at least an annual 4.6 million tonnes, according to Reuters calculations based on estimates that a pig slaughtered at 120 kg would consume around 230 kg of corn over its lifetime. That's about 12 percent of the surplus corn expected in the northeast this year, according to forecasts from government think tank CGNOIC, draining grain supplies from the biggest southern hog producers, and potentially forcing them to import grain. "The amount of corn transported out of the north-east will fall, and fall very quickly," said Meng Jinhui, corn analyst at Shengda Futures. Surplus pork output in the north-east should in theory compensate for smaller supplies of grain for feed in the south. But industry experts say farms in the north-east may struggle to get their meat to markets far away. "Consumers still want to consume freshly slaughtered pork that has not been on trucks and trains for several days. That will change, but gradually," said Fred Gale, senior China economist at the USDA Economic Research Service. Trucking pigs long distances can lead to weight loss and raise the risk of disease. Slaughtering pigs in the north and transporting fresh or frozen meat carries risks too. That could be a boon for exporters though. As production shifts north, major consumption centers in the south may increasingly turn to cheaper imports to boost quality meat supplies, said Pan Chenjun, senior analyst at Rabobank. "There will be a surplus in the north and a deficit in the south. That means China will continue to import meat," she said. ($1 = 6.6347 Chinese yuan renminbi)
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October Calves, Feeders 3% to 5% Higher

Feeder cattle and calves continued their fall rally during October, gaining 3% to 5% at auctions. The gains followed similar improvement in September, leaving prices at the beginning of November nearly 9% higher for both calves and yearlings than the August averages. Calf prices in the Drovers auction summary averaged $174.65 per cwt at the end of October, up $9.69, while yearlings averaged $150.80, up $6.14 per cwt. Beef's economic indicators made an abrupt turnaround during October due to higher cattle prices and strong beef sales. October's analysis found just two arrows pointing lower, while September saw four arrows down. While October's overall arrow points up, the worry over increasing supplies of beef and all proteins remains. Production costs are lower still, encouraging the feeding and production of livestock. Packers are earning solid profits, which suggests they'll remain fairly aggressive bidders. Competitive meats remain a concern with increases in pork and poultry production. Overall red meat and poultry production will weigh on markets throughout 2018. U.S. beef exports remain strong, accounting for $325 of the value of a fed steer.
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Forage: Create the Future

The well-known saying is something along the lines of “You never know what the future holds.” We all know what that means. It is saying that you don't know what will happen tomorrow, often encouraging us to not worry about what will happen because we can't control it.  And in some ways, the saying is correct. Certain things are out of my control, so I shouldn't spend a lot of time fretting or worrying about things I can't control. Let's just see what happens and we will figure out what to do when the time gets here. When it comes to our forage program, we don't always have to wait to see what is going to happen, however. In fact, it is best to have exactly the opposite attitude. Think about what you want out of your forage program in the future, then put practices in place that will get you there. We can have a huge influence on what occurs in the future based on things we can do today. Here are a couple of examples of choices you may make over the next few months that can dramatically affect your forage future. Which forage species you use. There may not be a more important choice in your operation than the species of forage crops you use. Using red and white clover in tall fescue will dramatically affect your fertilizer needs and your animal production. Choosing a warm-season forage to supplement tall fescue will impact your grazing management and possibly how long your tall fescue stands survive. Scouting fields for weeds. A perfect of example of doing something now to impact future production is weed control. If you don't scout fields now for weeds, then you may not realize you have a weed issue until it is too late to spray and the fields are blooming with weeds. A few minutes walking over your fields can help you determine if a timely application of herbicides now can improve your forage program in several months. Forage testing your hay. Everyone knows that all hay is not equal in nutrient content. Early cut has is better than late cut hay. But without taking a sample of your hay and testing it for nutrient content, there is no way to know if you are meeting the nutrient needs of your animals during the winter. You shouldn't wait until the last minute to get a forage test run. Do it now so that you can plan your winter feeding strategy. There are plenty of things that happen on the farm that can't be predicted. The name of the game is being flexible and adaptable. I guess that is one of the things that makes agriculture such an interesting field. But if you have the opportunity to change the future for the better, why not go ahead and do that. A little work now can make things much easier in the future.
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TPP-11 Agreement Heightens Concerns about Market Access

The 11 remaining members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)* recently announced plans to move forward with a modified trade agreement. U.S. Meat Exporter Federation (USMEF) Economist Erin Borror explains that if the agreement, now known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), is implemented without the United States as a participant, it will create significant tariff rate advantages for competitors of U.S. beef and pork. The U.S. has free trade agreements in place with several CPTPP countries, but the major exceptions are Japan and Vietnam. Borror notes that Australia, Mexico and Chile already have economic partnership agreements with Japan, but the CPTPP would provide even more tariff relief for beef imported from these countries, and would lower tariff rates on Japan's imports of Canadian and New Zealand beef. Japan's beef import safeguards, which are administered on a quarterly basis for countries that do not have trade agreements with Japan, would shift to annual safeguards for beef imports from CPTPP countries, making them less likely to be triggered. Under Japan's frozen beef safeguard, the tariff rate on U.S., Canadian and New Zealand beef was recently increased from 38.5 percent to 50 percent, where it will remain through March 31, 2018. CPTPP would provide tariff relief for Canadian pork, the United States' largest competitor, in Japan's imported chilled pork market. Pork from Mexico and Chile would also make market access beyond their current economic partnership agreements with Japan. Perhaps the largest breakthrough in the CPTPP's pork provisions is Japan's gradual elimination of tariffs on processed pork products  something Japan has never previously included in a trade agreement. Borror adds that while the European Union is not included in CPTPP, the EU and Japan are expected to finalize an economic partnership agreement in the next few months, which includes similar terms. This would leave the United States as the only major pork supplier to Japan without a trade agreement in place. *The full list of CPTPP participants is: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
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Cattle Groups Glad to Continue ELD Conversation

Two national cattle industry groups are supporting the Department of Transportation's (DOT) decision to delay implementation of electronic logging devices (ELD) for livestock haulers. The United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) both believe continuing discussions on how ELDs will impact hours of service for cattle transport is important. On Nov. 20, DOT's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced a 90-day waiver period would be allowed for agriculture commodity transport starting Dec. 18, 2017. The 90-day window will allow FMCSA to better hear the concerns of producers and truckers who would be impacted. Steve Hilker, transportation committee chairman for USCA, has been to Washington, D.C. to discuss the issue with both Congressmen and officials from FMCSA. Hilker, owner of a cattle hauling business, is happy the conversation will continue and hopes it will result in a positive action for cattle raisers and haulers. "We're confident that upon further examination, the Administration will find that livestock haulers need additional flexibility in the mandate, specifically in the restrictive hours of service (HOS) rules. USCA will continue to be an active participant in these discussions and asks its members to do the same by submitting comments and keeping pressure on their elected officials to support the industry in securing these needed changes," Hilker says. Craig Uden, president of NCBA and a cattle feeder from Nebraska, believes the FMCSA announcement is good news for cattle and beef producers. "We've maintained for a long time that FMSCA is not prepared for this ELD rollout, that there needs to be more outreach from the Department of Transportation to the agricultural community, and that there's currently still major confusion on the agricultural exemption on hours of service known as the 150 air-mile rule. "This rule would certainly be helpful to our cattle haulers across the country. We want to thank Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao for listening to our concerns, and we'll continue to work with her and FMCSA to make sure that our cattle are delivered safely, and that our drivers and others on the road are safe as well," Uden says. ELDs are a record keeping device synchronized to a truck engine that logs information digitally. In real-time an ELD records data such as time spent on the road, miles driven, location and engine hours. Under the ELD rule, truckers have an hours of service limit of 11 hours of driving in a 24 hour period. Drivers can be on-duty a total of 14 hours consecutively, including the 11 hours of drive time. After 11 hours are reached, drivers must rest and be off-duty for 10 consecutive hours.  
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