Keeping an Eye on Ukraine, Other Black Sea Countries’ Wheat Markets

The growing importance of wheat production from Black Sea-area countries Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan on the world market has Daniel O’Brien keeping a close watch on geopolitical events there – and he’s encouraging U.S. wheat producers to do the same.

Wheat and feed grain exports from those three countries have been growing since the mid-1990s, said O’Brien, an agricultural economist with Kansas State University. Speaking at K-State’s recent Risk and Profit Conference in Manhattan, O’Brien said world wheat prices initially seemed mostly unaffected in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine which developed early this year. But the wheat market in recent months has been put on edge by developments of the conflict.

O’Brien and North Dakota State University agricultural economist, Frayne Olson have been tracking world hard red winter and hard red spring wheat markets, trying to determine the inter-relationships of Black Sea region country wheat export prices, both within the Black Sea region and with major world wheat exporters, including U.S. wheat.

What they found was that changes in U.S. hard red winter wheat prices most closely associated with prices in Russia, but to a lesser degree with wheat prices in Ukraine, Australia, Germany, and with the prices of other major U.S. wheat classes.

“Daily and weekly prices on world wheat markets typically work or move together, but the closeness or co-integrated nature of their co-movements vary among classes and export supplying countries,” O’Brien said. He noted that the Black Sea-area countries’ advantage in world wheat trade is their geographic proximity to buyers in North Africa and Middle Eastern countries, which translates to lower shipping costs. Some of those countries, including Egypt and Nigeria, are also significant potential buyers of U.S wheat.

He noted that the main Ukrainian port for wheat export shipments is Odessa: “If Ukraine lost control (of that port) it could be devastating for that country’s wheat market.”

Physical differences in wheat-by-class are often reflected in U.S. and world cash wheat prices, he said, noting that different types of wheat lend themselves to use in different products – for example durum wheat is best for making pasta and hard red winter is best for certain bread products – but there is only so much blending you can do.

In their analysis, O’Brien and Olson found that:

  • Black Sea region wheat prices display some degree of price interrelatedness for milling quality wheat, but not complete uniformity.
  • Ukraine milling wheat export prices show evidence of being co-integrated with German milling wheat export prices, but less so with those of Russia.
  • Russian milling wheat export prices appear to be co-integrated with both U.S. hard red winter and soft red winter wheat export prices, but less so with those of Ukraine.
  • Kazakhstan milling wheat export prices show evidence of being somewhat associated with Russian milling wheat export prices, but not so close with those of Ukraine.

O’Brien noted that a major difficulty in attempting to thoroughly analyze the wheat market in Black Sea-area countries stems from gaps in price and other grain market information for countries in that region.

O’Brien’s presentation and others from the 2014 Risk and Profit Conference are available at http://www.agmanager.info/events/risk_profit/2014/Papers.asp.

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K‑State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well‑being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K‑State campus in Manhattan.

Story by:
Mary Lou Peter
mlpeter@ksu.edu
K-State Research and Extension
http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/

For more information:
Daniel O’Brien – 785-462-6281 or dobrien@ksu.edu

World-renowned Kevin Saunders visits Dr. Biere’s Orientation Class

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A group of the students from the orientation class pose with Kevin Saunders and Dr. Biere for a group picture.

Kevin Saunders, originally from Smith Center, Kan., presented to Dr. Arlo Biere’s orientation class, which is specifically for freshmen, on September 17. Saunders’ powerful message to the class came from years of dealing with challenges and adversity.

Saunders is a alumnus of Kansas State University where, in the late 1970s, Dr. Biere was his academic advisor. Shortly after his college graduation, Saunders found himself in a cush job with Federal Government, which he noted would have allowed him to eat lobster and steak on a daily basis. His life took an abrupt change of path in April of 1981, with the explosion of the grain elevator he was inspecting in Corpus Christi, Texas. He recalled that day to the class: how the head-splitting sound could not be put into words, and how he only had the time to see his supervisor fall to the floor before Saunders was thrown 300 feet, over a two-story building and to the concrete parking lot. With a severed spinal cord and his body nearly snapped in two at the chest, paramedics nearly left Saunders there on the ground due to a lack of ambulances. He was transported to the hospital in a station wagon with a blown off door as a gurney.

The recovery that Saunders made after the explosion was the focus of his presentation to the class. Immediately after, he had seen no prospect of living up to the life he had before, in which he had been very active in athletics. It was a few of his friends that finally helped him take a proactive step in his life by encouraging him to begin with lifting weights. In 1984, Saunders was encouraged to enter the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta, a race that 50,000 participate in annually. He arrived in his hospital-issued wheelchair with racquetball gloves to protect his hands, was left in the dust by fellow wheelchair competitors and was never allowed to finish the race. Following that race, Saunders trained often and saw many successes in the Olympics, became a member of the President’s Board on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition; was named the World’s Greatest Wheelchair Athlete, and even recently won the USA Track and Field Half-Marathon in Houston. The list of challenges that Saunders overcame and the victories that ensued is very long and impressive.

Even with all of the world attention that he has gained, he still cares a great deal for his Alma Mater. Saunders visits the Wildcat football team often, as he is its Motivational Coach. He also makes sure to visit his college advisor, Dr. Biere, whenever he is in town. Biere hoped the class would take away encouragement to be the best that each of them can be from Saunders’ lecture to the class.

To read additional information about Kevin Saunders, check out his website www.KevinSaunders.com or look at the feature article in the most recent edition of the Exchange http://issuu.com/ksuagecon/docs/summer2014-exchange-9-20-2014?e=7151046/9342252.

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Saunders challenges the class to think about future dreams and visions, and provides encouragement.

Best Water Management Under Limited Irrigation

Irrigation

When it comes to managing limited irrigation for crops, research suggests pumping more intensively on fewer acres might show more value than spreading out the irrigation over more acres.

Getting the most value out of irrigation water is likely on the minds of many Kansas farmers. As groundwater supplies diminish, pumping rates decline and talk of local water conservation policies surface in the state, these farmers face even more difficulty in determining how to best manage limited water.

Nathan Hendricks, assistant professor of agricultural economics at Kansas State University, recently examined how the value of agricultural production declines as water availability decreases. He specifically looked at two general management methods to determine which is more effective: deficit irrigation on a larger number of acres versus more intense irrigation on a smaller number of acres.
Intensive focus on fewer acres seems to have the upper hand

To answer the question of which is better, pumping more intensively on fewer acres versus less intensively on more acres, Hendricks said he first looked at the basic economics. The question only relates to those facing limited irrigation, not those farmers who currently have limited authorized irrigated acreage and can fully irrigate that acreage.

“The simple intuition is you first want to decrease intensity and maintain acreage if a 1 percent reduction in intensity decreases returns by less than 1 percent,” Hendricks said. “But, eventually as irrigation becomes more limited, you want to end up at an intensity level such that if you decreased (irrigation) intensity by 1 percent, you would decrease your returns by 1 percent.”

“The economically optimal place is where either reducing intensity or reducing acreage gives you the same loss in return,” he continued. “This is constant returns to intensity. Once you have reached this intensity, then it is optimal to further reduce irrigation water use by reducing acreage.”

A county-level data analysis of crop production in the Great Plains and Corn Belt showed losing about 1 to 1.5 inches of precipitation short of meeting the evapotranspiration demand for crops, including corn, is about the place where water hits this constant returns to intensity, Hendricks said.

Crop water need, as defined by the Food and Agriculture Organization, is the depth of water required to meet the water loss through evapotranspiration—loss of water through evaporation from the soil and transpiration from the plant. Evapotranspiration helps determine how much water is needed by rain or irrigation for crops such as corn.

“One of the key things that surprised me when I did the analysis is that’s quite a bit of water per acre only being 1 to 1.5 inches short of meeting evapotranspiration demand for corn,” Hendricks said. “It suggests that a pretty intense level of irrigation is optimal even when water is severely limited. As we’re seeing dwindling water supplies, it will likely be optimal to start reducing irrigated acreage relatively soon.”

To further illustrate, Hendricks gave an example where a farmer may choose to cut his or her irrigated acreage almost in half—say 120 acres of limited irrigated corn (irrigated at half of corn evapotranspiration demand) down to 66 acres of more intensely irrigated corn (irrigated at optimal constant returns to intensity). That farmer originally had 40 acres of dryland corn, but now tacks on the remaining 54 acres of those 120 acres formerly under limited irrigation, to now equal 94 total dryland acres.

“Before, you were only doing half of corn evapotranspiration demand,” he said. “It could be that you’re planting wheat to do that, or whatever other crops, but the idea is that you’re doing a limited intensity over a large acreage. What’s optimal, according to my numbers, is that you would more intensively irrigate, but you would reduce your irrigated acreage. If you do this, you could pay another $4,260 in rent over the entire 160 acres. You’re getting a lot more value by irrigating a limited area at a more intense level.”

Irrigators should crunch their own numbers to figure out when they are getting below this constant returns to intensity level, Hendricks said, and then they would likely be better off reducing irrigated acreage and increasing intensity.

The role of LEMAs and irrigation timing

Policy-wise in Kansas, the role of local enhanced management areas (LEMAs) comes into play, if groundwater management districts (GMDs) decide to establish their own groundwater conservation policies. LEMAs are water conservation plans voluntarily implemented by agricultural producers, and made possible by a bill passed in the Kansas Legislature in 2012. The first LEMA in Kansas, the Sheridan-Thomas County LEMA, or Sheridan 6 LEMA, is in the northwest part of the state.

“As people are talking about LEMAs, they’re thinking about reducing their water use,” Hendricks said. “How are they going to adapt to less water? How can they get the most value if they’re going to limit the amount of water? How will the value of agricultural production decline if they restrict their water use?”

In addition to examining how LEMAs could further affect limited irrigation, Hendricks said he would like to research further how farmers could time irrigation to get more value out of it. Perhaps they could reduce intensity more just by optimally timing irrigation.

Hendricks said he wants to know how much water farmers could reduce before they see a 10 percent decrease in water use decreasing returns by 10 percent.

“At some point we’re going to hit that, my analysis suggests,” he said. “I’m not exactly sure where, but that’s certainly a conversation for producers. It’s this idea that we can decrease water use without a huge loss in returns. Then at some point it starts to decline at a linear rate.”

Information for this story was presented at the 2014 K-State Risk and Profit Conference in Manhattan Aug. 21-22. View details of Hendricks’ presentation at K-State’s Ag Manager website http://www.agmanager.info/events/risk_profit/2014/Papers/12_Hendricks_LimitedIrrigation.pdf.
For more information:
Nathan Hendricks, nph@ksu.edu, 785-532-3740

Story by:
Katie Allen
katielynn@ksu.edu
785-532-1162
K-State Research and Extension

Jorge Gattini, Paraguay’s Minister of Agriculture, to Receive K-State Alumni Honor at Department of Agricultural Economics Banquet

The Kansas State University Department of Agricultural Economics has announced that it will present an award to someone who has made his mark in Manhattan and abroad.

Jorge Gattini, Minister of Agriculture in Paraguay, will receive the department’s 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award. The award is given to an alumnus who has demonstrated significant professional achievement related to agricultural economics or agribusiness.

On Wednesday, Sept. 24 Gattini will give a lecture about “Agriculture, Agribusiness and Rural Development in Paraguay.” The lecture will be at 2:30 p.m. in Forum Hall at the K-State Student Union.

Gattini will be honored at the department’s alumni and scholarship banquet on Friday, Sept. 26 at the Kansas Farm Bureau building in Manhattan, Kansas.

Gattini was sworn in to his position as the Paraguay Minister of Agriculture on Aug. 15, 2013 under President Horacio Cartes. He has held several positions mostly in the agriculture ministry’s marketing department under three agriculture ministers.

He earned a master’s degree in agricultural economics at K-State in 1998, and a master’s degree in applied economic environmental at the University of London, Imperial College.

Gattini came to Manhattan from Paraguay in a cultural exchange program with Kansas 4-H, staying for about a month during the early 1990s. The Kansas Paraguay Partners program was an international volunteer organization promoting people-to-people exchanges between Paraguayans and Kansans.

Allen Featherstone, department head and professor of agricultural economics, served as Gattini’s professor during his graduate school work and oversaw his master’s program, where he studied “The Agricultural Financial System in Paraguay.” The purpose of the project was to set up a financial system to allow farmers to get credit for purchasing inputs.

“I always knew Jorge would excel in his future just from the interactions that I had with him as a student,” Featherstone said. “We are honored that he is coming back to visit the department and to accept this award.”

Gattini will also give a guest lecture on the Manhattan campus.

Student event update: NAMA meeting tonight, Monday, September 15

TODAY – September 15 7:30 p.m. | Waters 336 | Professional panel on the topic of tips for interviews and elevator speeches, with representatives from Agri-Gold, Kansas Department of Agriculture and Osborn Barr.

September 29 7:30 p.m. Chips, Dips and Internships; a panel of students talking about their internships. We are collaborating with ACT and AgEcon club. There will be two students from each club on the panel and we plan to recognize all students in our 3 clubs that had an internship over the summer. Of course there will be chips and dip at the event because they are delicious and it rhymes so well with internships! Leasure Hall lecture room


Club Meetings – Twice a month, on set Mondays at 7:30

NAMAAt our student chapter meetings, guest speakers provide valuable insight on a variety of topics including:

  • Career Development
  • Marketing
  • Motivation
  • Research and Development
  • Personal Advancement
  • Advertising
  • Public Relations
  • Sales

To learn about upcoming meetings:

-Like our page on Facebook – Follow us on Twitter @KansasStateNAMA – For any questions or if you would like to be added to the listserv please contact: Marie Annexstad: mannexst@ksu.edu

http://www.ageconomics.k-state.edu/undergraduate-programs/student-organizations/nama/index.html

Calling all agriculture majors! The career fair is September 23-24!

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to let your name be known by nationally recognized companies at the upcoming career fair! Get your best professional attire and resumes ready to go for the event, which is happening September 23 and 24th in Bramlage Coliseum. It is a unique opportunity to network and learn about internship experiences that fit your interests and studies.  The agriculture industry will be thoroughly represented, so check out the list below for companies that may be interested in you!
Archer Daniels Midland
Ag Processing, Inc.
Ag Valley Co-op
AGCO Corporation
AgReliant Genetics
AgriGold
American AgCredit
Bartlett and Company
Buhler
BWI Companies, Inc.
Cactus Feeders
Cargill
Cattle Empire, LLC
Central Valley Ag Cooperative
Christensen Farms
Claas Of America
The Climate Corporation
Case New Holland Industrial 
Crop Quest, Inc.
Crop Production Services
Diamond Ag Research, Inc.
Dow Agrosciences, Inc.
DuPont Pioneer
Eli Lilly Company/Elanco Animal Health
Farm Bureau Financial Services
Farm Credit
Farmway Coop, Inc.
The Gavilon Group, LLC 
Green Plains, Inc.
Helena Chemical Company
High Plains Farm Credit ACA
Hoegemeyer Hybrids
Indiana Packers Corporation
JBS USA, LLC
JD Heiskell & Company
John Deere
Kent Nutrition Group
K-State Research & Extension
Kansas Cooperative Council
Kansas Department of Agriculture
Kansas Farm Management Association
KSI Conveyors
Kuhn Krause, Inc.
Land O’ Lakes, Inc.
Lang Diesel, Inc.
Lansing Trade Group
The Maschhoffs
Messengers Lawn & Landscape, LLC
MGP Ingredients, Inc.
MHC Kenworth
Midwest Poultry Consortium, Inc.
Monsanto
Murphy Family Ventures, LLC
New Fashion Pork
Orthman Manufacturing
Schenck Process LLC
Servi-Tech, Inc.
Smithfield- Farmland
Syngenta
Tri-County Seeds & Blue Sky Crop Consulting
Tyson Foods
United Suppliers, Inc.
USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA)
Wilbur- Ellis
Many of these companies have been hiring K-State students for internships and full-time post-graduation jobs for many years, and you could be one of the next hired!
See the CES website for further information regarding the Career Fair at http://www.k-state.edu/ces/students/cfalluniversitycareerfair.html.

Briggeman explains how recession causes crash, and the slow recovery in Kansas’ Forest Industry

In the past decade, Kansas has seen hazardous ice storms, devastating drought and soaring grain prices, which make deforestation increasingly likely. However, the reductions seen in the state’s forest products industries aren’t linked to a physical loss in forestland, but rather a loss in consumer demand. 
           
Blame is cast to the Great Recession, which may have only officially lasted from December 2007 to June 2009, but its impact on the economy and the entire timber industry can still be seen today.
           
A report recently released by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), titled “Kansas Timber Industry,” indicates the status of the industry in 2009 and tracks changes from the last inventory conducted in 2003.
           
In 2009, an almost 50 percent reduction in the amount of timber processed by mills occurred—a loss of about 1.6 million cubic feet. Kansas’ sawmill receipts showed a decrease of 65 percent since 2003.
           
It would be easy to blame this trend on the burst of the housing bubble that began the recession or the country’s shift toward electronic communication and record keeping.
           
But, Kansas is primarily a hardwood state, meaning the types of trees harvested such as walnut, oak and cottonwood, don’t serve the same purpose as the softwoods used in construction and paper manufacturing. 
           
Most timber processed locally in Kansas is used for pallets and crates, but the higher quality logs are exported to other states such as Missouri or sent overseas to be made into furniture.
 
Demand for forest products
           
Brian Briggeman, a Kansas State University associate professor of agricultural economics, explained the situation as one of the many real-life examples of supply and demand. 
           
During the recession, Briggeman said the nation saw surging unemployment rates, shrinking real wages and capped salaries.
“If you can’t afford a house, how can you afford furniture to put in it?” said Briggeman, who explained that the steep drop in disposable income affected consumer demand, and people began searching for cheaper substitutes.
           
Instead of going to their local vendor to buy the high-quality solid oak furniture like many of their parents and grandparents once had, consumers turned to places such as IKEA and Wal-Mart to save money.
           
“The question has become, will demand ever fully come back for furniture?” Briggeman said. “We have improved, but I wouldn’t say we’re to a point where the U.S. consumer is ready to go out and spend like they did before the recession.”
 
Available supply
 
According to the USFS report, in 2009 there were 2.27 million acres of forestland in Kansas. Even with a million cubic feet harvested annually, an average of almost 15 cubic feet of annual net growth per acre remains in Kansas’ forests, suggesting that the number of trees is not the issue.
           
Because most of the state’s forestland is privately owned, the problem now lies in the landowners’ willingness to harvest, which is most often dictated by market price.
           
Charles Barden, state extension forester for K-State Research and Extension, said part of the problem began before the recession fully hit. 
           
“Like so many other things, there was a bubble in the hardwood industry,” he explained. “China was buying every walnut log they could lay their hands on at the time. There were reports of buyers literally going out and buying logs as small as 14 inches in diameter, which is kind of a small log, but people were happy because they could finally sell such a small log for a good price.”
           
Barden compared this situation to a rancher that can either sell a 400-pound calf now, or wait until that calf grows to be 800 pounds.  The larger the diameter, the more money the log is worth.
           
When the recession hit, international buyers no longer wanted to pay high dollar for raw materials to manufacture a product they couldn’t sell back to the United States. Consequently, landowners stopped harvesting their forestland.
           
“Working in the woods can be expensive and dangerous,” Barden said. “What happens is you can always sell a log, but the landowners decide if they want to sell that log for $50 when they remember their neighbor sold one the same size for $500 a couple years ago. So, they don’t sell it, it keeps getting bigger and they wait for the market to come up.”
 
Like consumer demand, the forest products industry has been slow to recover, but it is improving.  As consumers become more active, so will the markets.
           
“Luckily the trees we didn’t cut are still growing,” Barden said. “They are a long-term crop. Demand has already started to slowly come back, and we are seeing more walnut being harvested and more logs being cut.”
           
Barden’s message to the landowners waiting for higher prices is simple: it’s ok to wait, but be sure to provide proper tree management to promote good health and growth of their tree crop. He also encourages contacting the Kansas Forest Service if anyone has questions or needs assistance developing a marketing plan for their timber harvest.
           
For more information about the Kansas timber industry, landowners can visit the Kansas Forest Service website,www.kansasforests.org.
 
Story by: Kaitlin Morgan, knmorgan@ksu.edu
For more information:
Bob Atchison, Kansas Forest Service, at atchison@ksu.edu or 785-532-3310
Charles Barden, cbarden@ksu.edu or 785-532-1444

Applications due tomorrow: Friday, September 12 for Risk Management Student Fellows

Applications are now being accepted for the 2015‐16 class of Risk Management Student Fellows. The application deadline is September 12, 2014. The Student Fellow program provides a foundation for undergraduate and graduate students to gain hands‐on risk management skills and knowledge. More information is available at the CRMER website at http://www.k‐state.edu/riskmanagement/.

Students accepted to the program will receive fellowship stipends for three semesters. Target students include anyone interested in risk management with three semesters left in their program including graduate students as of Spring 2015 semester.  The program has high expectations for student academic performance as well as risk management interest and engagement, so we will be selective in reviewing applicants.

Applications should include a resume, a statement of career objectives, and contact information for two or more academic references. Send resume, reference list, and career objective statement via email attachments to Ted Schroeder, tcs@ksu.edu by September 12, 2014 (he will confirm receipt of your application via email reply). Contact Ted Schroeder, Waters Hall 219, if you have questions.

Check Out Ag News Now for College of Agriculture Updates

Read Ag News Now at: http://www.ag.k-state.edu/agnewsnow

In this edition:

- KSU Horseman’s Association to host jackpot barrel race
- Follow Ag Council on Social Media!
- College of Agriculture T-Shirts for sale
- Cargill to host information session on Sept. 16
- Pre-Vet Club Applebee’s Fundraiser

Attention Agricultural Economics students: the Cargill Information Session is open to all College of Agriculture majors and is Tuesday, September 16th in Weber 146 & 123. They will be presenting on entry level positions as well as internship positions. Show up at 6:30 p.m. for pizza, drinks and socializing in Weber 146. The formal presentation will be at 7:00 p.m. in Weber 123.

Contact us or submit news on the Ag News Now webpage. 
Questions about Ag News Now? Contact us at gmkoester@ksu.edu.

Glynn Tonsor and Melissa McKendree research Beef Animal Welfare Views: U.S. Public vs. Cattle Producers

A main goal of research in any area is to address a knowledge or information gap. Although prior research has addressed the issue of animal welfare in certain areas—the swine and egg industries as examples—limited research currently exists comparing producer and consumer views of beef and dairy animal welfare, said Glynn Tonsor, livestock economist for Kansas State University. 

Tonsor, along with Melissa McKendree, a doctoral agricultural economics student at K-State and a team of veterinarians and animal scientists, have taken the lead in finding out more about the similarities and differences in U.S. beef producer and public views on animal welfare practices in the cattle industry.

The researchers note that all livestock industries, beef included, are faced with mounting pressure to adjust animal welfare practices in response to societal concerns. The intent of this project is to take information learned regarding animal welfare in the beef industry to pinpoint where producers in the industry might improve, identify areas for possible consumer engagement, and highlight existing points of agreement between producers and consumers.

In national surveys, cow-calf producers and consumers in the general public answered questions about their views of cattle animal welfare. Preliminary results indicated similarities in views between producers and the public, as well as knowledge gaps and differing views.

Public concerns

McKendree said a key finding in the study showed 65 percent of U.S. consumers reported they were concerned about the welfare of beef cattle in the United States. And while most beef producers strongly disagreed that a tradeoff exists between profitability and animal welfare, consumers tended to believe that being more profitable means sacrificing on animal welfare.

“Producers believe there is a connection between profitability and animal welfare,” she said. “So, a healthy animal is going to be more profitable.”

Another major difference between the two groups was their views on providing overall care to cattle. While 73 percent of cow-calf producers believed that U.S. farms and ranches provide appropriate overall care to their cattle, only 39 percent of the public believed this to be true.

“We don’t exactly know the reason for this gap and what the views are, but one hypothesis is that there’s a difference in what consumers think appropriate overall care means,” McKendree said. “Appropriate overall care to consumers, for instance, might be related to using or not using antibiotics or hormones. Conversely, producers might think that overall appropriate care is making sure that (the cattle) are not sick, giving them appropriate feed and water, and protecting them from the elements.”

McKendree said these preliminary results show opportunities for cow-calf producers and the general beef industry to communicate with the public about practices on farms and ranches. Having a discussion about items such as appropriate care would help more clearly define it with expectations of both producers and consumers.

Common ground

While differences in views did exist, the study also showed producers and consumers are on the same page on some items. Both groups (72 percent of producers and 57 percent of consumers) overall did not agree with statements indicating that low beef prices are more important than the well-being of cattle.

 Both producers and consumers picked the same top three most effective and practical actions to improve animal welfare based on nine total options. Those top three selected include: provide access to fresh, clean feed and water appropriate for the animal’s physiological state; provide adequate comfort through the use of shade, windbreaks and ventilation assuring clean, dry, sanitary environmental conditions for cattle; and promptly treat or euthanize all injured or sick animals.

 The survey showed 80 to 90 percent of producers said they have already implemented these top three selected practical applications on their operations.

 “Out of all of the practices we investigated, those are probably the least hands-on that would need to be changed on the farm or ranch within in the industry today,” McKendree said, while noting that requiring employees to complete a consistent training program, castrating and dehorning with pain control, requiring third-party verification that appropriate animal care is being provided on the farm, and developing a herd health plan with a veterinarian are examples of more hands-on changes that were listed and did not rank as high.

 Futuristic look

Tonsor said one of the “take homes” from the study is that the issue of animal welfare is in the eye of the beholder and includes many different practices: providing pain control, using antibiotics, and providing adequate feed and shade as some examples.

“There’s a growing list of third-party verifications that are available to verify that proper animal welfare is in place at different stages in the cattle industry,” Tonsor said.

He added that these verifications could allow for broader marketing claims on animal welfare, such as certified labels on retail meat products. “I envision our work, once it’s analyzed and out for full public dissemination and absorption, to be useful as supplemental input in guiding the prioritization of those protocols and third-party efforts.”

The items of agreement between the public and producers would be comparatively easy to add to those third-party verifications, Tonsor said. A bigger challenge, but just as important, is incorporating and addressing those areas of disagreement between the public and producers today.

“That’s where our work comes in, highlighting some of those issues or on-farm practices that might be either a threat to the industry with no action required or an opportunity to get the public up to speed with producers,” he said.

The study was made possible by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The preliminary findings were presented at the 2014 K-State Risk and Profit Conference in Manhattan Aug. 21-22. View details of the presentation at K-State’s Ag Manager website (http://www.agmanager.info/events/risk_profit/2014/Papers/8_McKendree-Tonsor_AnimalWelfare.pdf).

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