In This Issue...
Celcbratmnn the 57'' Annual FL Beef Cattle
More Seek the Simall-farm Dream. but Need
Help From Fncnds. E\pltIs Sa\
Colll Pricc' Dominate In "111S
Canada C'onfirms BSE in ",-\ cear-old D;amn
S Dates to Remember
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Celebrating the 57th Annual
Florida Beef Cattle Short Course
4 .--- --,
Hilton University of Florida Conference Center, Gainesville, FL
April 30 May 2, 2008
Continued on page 2...
The Institute ofFood and Agncultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Employment Opportunity Affirmave Action Employer authorized to provide research, educational information, and
other services only to individuals that function with regard to race, color sex, age, handicap, or national origin. For information on obtaining other extension pubhcations, contact your
county Cooperative Extension Service office.
Celebrating the 57th Annual FL Beef
Cattle Short Course continued from page 1...
"Positioning Cattle Producers to Access Markets,
Choose Bulls, and Fine Tune Management"
Beef cattle producers continue to face challenges
that affect the potential for profitability of their beef cattle
enterprise. Increasing production costs coupled with
unfavorable weather patterns continue to drive cattlemen
to examine their bottom line. To that end, today's cattlemen
continue to explore potential marketing options, means to
improve the quality of the calves they market, and improved
production practices as well. The 5 7 Annual Florida Beef
Cattle Short Course continues the rich tradition of quality
programs from the UF/IFAS Department of Animal
Sciences that address the issues facing the beef cattle
industry. The 2008 Florida Beef Cattle Short Course begins
Wednesday afternoon with the annual market outlook.
Looking at current market trends is important as the beef
industry faces increasing production costs and expansion
of the ethanol industry and the associated implications. The
afternoon program continues with a pair of current topics
that outline the implementation of instrument grading for
beef carcasses and marketing and alternative production
systems. The final installment of the program that afternoon
is an economic comparison of alternative production
systems for beef cattle producers. The afternoon program
concludes with an opportunity for the participants to interact
and exchange information during the evening reception and
Allied Trade Show. Thursday's program is entirely
dedicated to bulls. A wide spectrum of important topics
related to bulls will be addressed throughout the day.
Thursday starts with a discussion that addresses EPDs to
select and evaluate bulls. The theme continues with a
discussion of genetic markers that should help clarify fact
from fiction in this emerging genetic selection tool. The
program shifts from selection to production as we look at
how to adapt bulls to the Gulf Coast region and bull
management considerations for commercial producers.
Finally, because buying a bull is a financial investment, it is
important to address how much a producer can pay for a
purchased bull. The afternoon program continues to
address the bull component of the beef cattle enterprise
through live animal demonstrations. Three different
assessment and evaluation criteria will be applied to bull
selection. Demonstrations and discussion of phenotypic-
live animal, ultrasound, and fertility and breeding potential
evaluations, along with matching bull selection to the cow
herd will give participants a comprehensive experience in
bull selection and evaluation. The annual Cattlemen's
Steakout on Thursday evening provides an event for all
participants to enjoy a prime rib dinner and time for
conversation and relaxation. On Friday, the program
highlights the University of Florida's emphasis on
production practices. The program will present some of
the recent research and production methods that UF
researchers are exploring to improve beef production in
Florida. Topic areas will include backgrounding calves
with co-products, replacement heifer management,
factors affecting the value of calves from Florida,
application ofbiosolids as fertilizer sources, and utilization
oflimpograss for grazing. The 2008 Florida Beef Cattle
Short Course promises to continue the tradition of being
the best educational event for beef cattle producers in
the Southeast. The spectrum of topics related to beef
production, marketing, and selection of bulls should
provide something for every beef cattle producer
regardless of size. Make plans to attend the Short Course
and come away with new and innovative knowledge about
the beef cattle industry. Complete information, schedules,
and registration can be found online at http://
animal.ifas.ufl.edu/extension/beef/short.shtml, or contact
the University of Florida, Department of Animal Sciences
at (352) 392- 1916.
Dr. Matt Hersom
UF/IFAS, Department of Animal
Sciences; Gainesville, FL
Phone: (352) 392-2390
More Seek the Small-farm Dream,
but Need Help From Friends,
It wasn't long after longtime commercial writer
Sandra "Sam" Williams and husband Jerry left their full-
time desk jobs to start a 200-acre farm in Starke that
they realized they could use a little help.
"Sitting at a keyboard doesn't give you much insight
into how to harvest chickens or ward off whiteflies,"
she said. "And those are the easy problems. These aren't
the smoothest of times for anyone, let alone small
Many are following their dream of starting their
own small farm in Florida, but the economic climate
makes maintaining those farms difficult. Unstable
property values, skyrocketing oil prices and a weak
economy have shaved away profits.
However, experts from the University of Florida's
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences have literally
gone out of their way to uncover the best advice for small
farmers, and are beginning to spread the word.
Last May, IFAS personnel and other small farm
experts toured some of the most successful small-scale
agricultural businesses throughout South Carolina, North
Carolina and Georgia. They gleaned the most profitable
aspects from booming produce markets, countless fields
The most revealing truth was that successful small
farmers help one another out, said Danielle Treadwell, an
assistant professor in the UF Horticultural Sciences
Department. So the team's first step was to organize local
farmer meetings, such as one Williams attended along
with 30 other farmers in Baker County Feb. 12. Several
recent meetings in South Florida also drew crowds.
"I think there's a growing number of small farmers
in Florida that need this kind of knowledge to make it
work," Treadwell said. "It might be a retired couple who
came here to raise blueberries. Or it might be idealistic
young people who are just trying to scratch out enough to
make a lease payment on an acre of land."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines a farm
as any place used to generate at least $1,000 worth of
agricultural products annually-whether or not those
products are actually sold at market. A "small farm" is
one that generates agricultural products worth less than
$250,000. In the 2002 Agricultural Census, 93 percent of
Florida's 44,000 farms were in this category.
The February 2009 release of the 2007 Agricultural
Census will be the definitive answer to whether small
farming is on the rise in Florida, but early numbers and
anecdotal evidence suggest significant growth.
For example, data from the Columbia County
Appraiser's Office shows an increase in the number of
farms in that North Florida county from 688 in 2002 to
nearly 1,700 in 2007. Although, by the USDA's definition,
these farms could be as little as two cows and a horse or
a half-acre of nursery plants.
IFAS-led meetings of these small farmers are
enabling them to begin to share resources, coordinate
farmers markets, and swap how-to information.
In addition to face-to-face meetings, today's small
farmers are Internet savvy, and have no trouble developing
their own Web sites or providing information about their
farming operation to consumers on farming Web sites such
"What may be even more important than their ability
to talk among themselves is how effective they can
suddenly become at talking to their community," said
Robert Hochmuth, an IFAS extension agent based in Live
Additionally, the May 2007 tour found that successful
small farms take advantage of the resources that local
and state agencies provide. Local extension agents and
nearby land grant universities can offer specialized
information and cutting-edge expertise on levels that small
farmers would otherwise be unable to afford. "Large
commercial farms can pay private specialists to come out
and do work for them, but many small farms are operating
on a shoestring-a frayed one at that," Williams said.
"But small farms are able to get services like affordable
soil analysis. There's even a specialistjust for livestock."
Another rule of thumb is to develop a broad
knowledge base. For more information or to contact a
local extension agent, please visit http://
The IFAS site features information on farming topics
as well as small local conferences attended by more than
1,700 people last year. The extension agents behind the
effort hope to use it to organize a statewide conference in
Phone: (386) 362-1725, ext. 103
Phone: (352) 392-1928, ext. 210
By: Stu Hutson
Release February 18, 2008
h Corn Prices Dominate
The corn market will dominate
cattle talk in 2008. While the industry
struggled to adjust to $3 per bushel
corn for most of last year, prices
exploded to over $5 per bushel by
January. Volatility in the grain markets is sure to squeeze
cattle feeders and limit prices for feeder calves in the
"There is even more reason to be concerned about
corn prices this year," says Randy Blach, executive vice
president of Cattle-Fax, speaking from the annual Cattle-
Fax Outlook Seminar at the Cattle Industry Convention
and NCBA Trade Show in Reno, Nev. "Prices for other
commodities have risen along with corn, increasing
competition for what farmers choose to plant."
Prior to the latest spike in corn prices, Cattle-Fax
had projected that corn plantings would decrease by 6
million acres in 2008, down from the 93 million planted in
2007. Now the Centennial, Colo.-based market analyst
firm says one of the key indicators to watch is how prices
for other commodities respond. If they stay high, it's a
signal that other grains are ready to compete for planted
Unprecedented demand for corn, wheat and
soybeans is driving the price surge. Export demand is strong
and Congress in December increased the ethanol mandate
to 15.2 billion gallons from livestock feed sources like corn
by 2012. While the 2007 corn harvest was record-large
atjust over 13 billion bushels, Cattle-Fax analysts say the
need for another near record-large corn crop will pressure
margins across the industry.
Other observations from the Cattle-Fax Outlook
* Rising input costs such as fuel are chipping away at
profits. Increased risk is afoot. This volatility is stalking
the entire cattle industry. Reduced cattle numbers have
left both industries with too much capacity, as much as 20
percent by some estimates.
* Rising commodity prices also are causing some
farmers to convert pastures to cropland. With the
continued drought in the Southeast, where about 25
percent of cow/calf production exists, it will remain difficult
for growers and feeders to acquire the grazing volume
* All of this puts renewed emphasis on getting export
markets fully restored. International markets offer
producers the chance to be paid more for products U.S.
consumers don't value much. Increasing exports will help
increase demand for U.S. beef, which can offset some of
the other input costs the industry is being forced to absorb.
* This is a year in which it will pay to learn about
foreign markets and understand the value of trade. For
example, the U.S. cattle industry can export tongues for
about $10, or use them domestically for 40 cents.
"Profit opportunities exist, but it will take tough
management to find them this year," says Blach. "We are
in a period of rapid change and thin margins."
He added that rather than producers pushing beef
through the production chain, consumer desires
increasingly drive it, offering cattlemen more chances than
ever for profits. Today, nearly 25 percent of cattle are
sold through some sort of certified program. Nearly 60
percent of all fed cattle do not sell on the cash market.
"There are a lot of programs out there that hold
promise for increased value," Blach says. "But you have
to do your homework to make sure you're selling into one
that actually pays. We always have to re-evaluate our
business, and some of the dynamics this year make it
imperative that cattlemen position their business to
minimize risk as much as possible and take advantage of
the profit opportunities that are out there. Volatility will be
more extreme than in years past."
Phone: (303) 694-0323
Release: February 7, 2008
S Canada Confirms BSE in
6-year-old Dairy Cow
A 6-year-old dairy cow from Alberta is
Canada's latest case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy,
the Canadian Food Inspection Agency announced
The animal's carcass is under CFIA control, and no
part of it entered the human food or animal feed systems.
CFIA said the age and location of the infected animal
are consistent with previous cases detected in Canada,"
and the agency did not expect the finding to affect
Canada's status as a Controlled Risk country for BSE, as
recognized by the World Organization for Animal Health.
This is Canada's 12th case of BSE since the first was
discovered in May 2003.
An epidemiological investigation is underway to
identify the animal's herdmates at the time of birth and
how it might have been infected.
Ann Bagel Storck
Release: February 27, 2008