Pitching a wearable to make cattle farming more sustainable, Vence raises $2.7 million – TechCrunch

A new startup called Vence from sunny San Diego is aiming to make cattle farming more sustainable with a wearable device to create virtual fences for livestock.

The company has raised $2.7 million in new funding to bring its product to market and develop new services for farmers in a round led by Eniac Ventures with participation from the venture capital arm of the Dutch investment bank, Rabobank.

Vence’s wearable, which fits over the ear of an animal, works similarly to a dog collar or other devices that are used to create virtual fences.

According to the company’s co-founder and chief executive, Frank Wooten, animals are trained to avoid a certain area using low voltage shocks or uncomfortable sounds with warning stimuli like vibrations to let the animals know when they’re approaching an area they shouldn’t be heading towards.

While it may sound cruel, Wooten says that the work is based on research done by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in conjunction with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“One of the things that’s used is an upward barometer and upward threshold of any electric stimuli that is already what’s used for electric fencing, which is used throughout the world to manage cattle or any sort of livestock,” Wooten tells me.

The difference with virtual fencing is that it allows the cattle to graze more freely and in a controlled manner, which Wooten says is better for the environment.

The proper form of cattle management does some wonderful things for the planet in terms of carbon sequestration and becomes a net neutral to the environment instead of a net negative,” Wooten says. 

The result for rotationally grazing cattle is similar to the effects of rotating crops — something that was first popularized with George Washington Carver and peanut cultivation in the United States.

“What happens when you start to rotationally graze your crops is you’re not having cattle overeat in different spots,” says Wooten. “Moving cattle throughout a property at a specific pace and timing increases grass growth which enhances the soil and root structure of those grasses and shrubs. [That] allows the soil to sequester carbon while not over-polluting one area with waste from the animals.”

In all, Wooten says, it’s a net positive.

Vence devices

The technology has the backing of one of the financial services industry’s most experience agricultural investors in Rabobank — the Dutch fund that has invested billions in agricultural businesses.

“Working across the global food and agriculture sector, we recognize Vence’s value proposition for an industry that is hungry for new, dynamic solutions to traditional practices,” said Richard O’Gorman, Director of Rabo F&A Innovation Fund in a statement. “Profitability can be significantly increased in many cases by enabling faster and actionable insights in livestock and natural resource management. As global animal protein demand continues to rise, Vence’s virtual fencing solution will become central in assisting livestock farmers to continue to meet this high demand more sustainably, with better insight into animal health and welfare, but at a lower cost.”

Vence’s virtual fencing is only one aspect of the company’s business plan. While there’s a clear need for famers to better manage livestock grazing, Vence’s wearable will also provide realtime data on the health of an animal and the entire herd — all delivered via a mobile app.

Fencing is expensive and creates a source of perpetual cost and labor, and the idea of virtual fencing has been around for ~30 years, but it never made economic sense, until now,” said  Wooten, in a statement.

A former hedge fund investor and investment banker, Wooten was brought into the business through a mutual friend named Jasper Holdsworth — heir to a hundred-year-old cattle farm in New Zealand.

Holdsworth discussed the technical aspects of virtual fencing with Wooten and the financial benefits it could bring to farming and a partnership was born.

“They’ were spending in excess of $500,000 per year in fencing,” Wooten said of Holdsworth’s family farm. “He started describing this problem and he said he would be the first customer as well as help fund the business.”

With an initial customer…and strategic investor in place, finding additional capital became less difficult.

“Globally, livestock and pastureland are multi-trillion dollar assets that are currently managed with a bifurcated approach of manual labor and legacy technology, with a limited view into true real-time data,” said Vic Singh, Founding General Partner at Eniac Ventures, in a statement. “Vence has already seen immediate demand in seven countries from suppliers with over 1 million livestock, and the Eniac team is fired up to support them during this critical stage.”

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Humane Society races to shelter 300 malnourished Longhorn cattle before it gets cold – Fort Worth Star Telegram

Volunteers with the Humane Society of North Texas were working feverishly through the night on Friday to shelter at least 300 abused and malnourished Longhorn cattle before an expected cold front sweeps into Texas on Saturday.

Several cattle were found deceased as workers searched a property in Central Texas looking for strays, a Human Society official said.

The Humane Society volunteers are working in conjunction with deputies and officials from the Hill County Sheriff’s Department who are investigating the property with possible criminal charges looming in the future, said Cassie Lackey, Humane Society of North Texas spokeswoman.

It is unknown how many Longhorns had not been located or how many dead cattle may still be on the property, Lackey said.

“This is all very disturbing and unsettling,” Lackey said. “We are working against time to get these animals sheltered before the cold front comes in on Saturday.”

This is the largest seizure the Humane Society has worked on in the past two years, topping the more than 200 animals seized in one incident in 2016, Lackey said.

Lackey estimated that perhaps as many as 400 large animals would be recovered before the end of Friday night. The animals were located on property near FM 933 and County Line Road in Hill County, according to reporting by WFAA.

A hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Feb 16 to determine whether the cattle should be returned to their owner, a news release from the Humane Society of North Texas stated.

Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752, @mitchmitchel3

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Drought lands more cattle into US feedlots than expected – Reuters

    * December placements up 0.8 pct vs year ago
    * Jan. 1 feedlot cattle at 108.3 pct of year ago
    * December marketing down 1.4 pct vs last year
    * Report mildly bearish for CME live cattle futures

    By Theopolis Waters
    CHICAGO, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Ranchers sent nearly 1 percent
more cattle to U.S. feedlots in December than the same time a
year earlier, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported on
    The result topped most analysts' predictions, mainly led by
worsening drought in the U.S. southern Plains that shriveled
available winter wheat grazing pasture.
    Corn Belt states were the recipients of cattle from areas of
Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota where insufficient
moisture persists.
    "These very dry conditions that are developing in wheat
pasture country drove change in placements in November. And I
suspect we got some of that in December also," said Texas A&M
University economist David Anderson.
    Some analysts cited cheaper feed, which lowered input costs
for feedlots, as another reason behind last month's placement
    And more heifers are entering feedyards, suggesting to
analysts that the rate of cattle herd expansion is slowing. 
    On Monday Chicago Mercantile Exchange live cattle futures
       may open lower following USDA's report, but could quickly
rebound spurred by higher-than-expected prices for market-ready,
or cash, cattle later on Friday.
    USDA's report showed December placements at 1.799 million
head, up 0.8 percent from 1.785 million a year earlier and
exceeded the average forecast of 1.730 million. 
    The government put the feedlot cattle supply as of Jan. 1 at
11.489 million head, up 8.3 percent from 10.605 million a year
ago. Analysts, on average, forecast a 7.7 percent rise.
    USDA said the number of cattle sold to packers, or
marketings, were down 1.4 percent in December from a year ago to
1.752 million head.
    Analysts had projected a 1.2 percent drop from 1.777 million
last year.
    "The big placement figure tells you that we're going to have
big numbers of cattle coming at us for the foreseeable future,"
said U.S. Commodities President Don Roose. He too alluded to the
bump in feedlot cattle placements in Corn Belt states where feed
is more plentiful.
    "You continue to be in a drought in the Southern Plains,
that continues to expand, so it no doubt is another factor that
you have to throw into the placement discussion," said Roose.

 (Reporting by Theopolis Waters in Chicago; Editing by Lisa
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Nalivka: 2018 Beef Supply Big Picture Outlook | Agweb.com – AgWeb

USDA’s December 1 Cattle on Feed report showed a sharp increase in the number of cattle placed on feed during November – up 14% from a year earlier.  In fact, 9 of the 12 states included in the monthly survey posted double digit gains over the prior year.  Coupled with a 3% gain over the prior year for fed cattle marketed during November, the on feed inventory jumped 8% from a year earlier. 

For all of 2017, feedlot placements were up 9% from 2016, the largest annual tally since 2011.  It’s not much of a mystery why there was such a significant increase – higher fed cattle prices than expected, relatively low feed costs, and perhaps, most important, a 14% drop in the breakeven price of fed cattle marketed during 2017 compared to 2016.  These factors in concert left feedlots with an average per head feeding margin during the year of $235.  That compares to -$4 per head for 2016 and -$110 per head in 2015.   Simply put, it was a solid year for feeding margins and feedlots are motivated to continue filling feedlot capacity into 2018. 

Again, relatively low feed costs and breakeven prices are supportive to margin expectations.  Cattle inventory numbers will also increase, feeder cattle supplies will continue to increase and feeder cattle prices will be pressured lower for 2018.

We can work through the weight breakdowns of cattle placed during the month in an attempt to estimate when those cattle will be marketed, or we can suffice it to say, the placement figure serves as a pretty solid indicator of the direction of fed cattle supplies during the first half of the year. I opt for the latter, and I use the monthly feedlot data in combination with my slaughter model to develop monthly steer and heifer slaughter projections.

Aside from the distribution of cattle within each weight range, there are numerous other factors affecting the final marketing date for those cattle.  Within that steer and heifer supply, heifers are the biggest variable and are dependent upon retention. 

Along with the increased fed cattle supplies going into 2018, I expect carcass weights will increase.  They have steadily increased since hitting a low for the year in early May, and on a combined weighted average for steers and heifers, are up 74 lbs. into mid-December.  Those 74 lbs. coupled with increased cattle numbers have resulted in a notable increase in beef tonnage.

Feedlot placements will continue to trend higher.  The economic incentives for this increased supply will leave the market facing not only 5% more beef in 2018, but also nearly 4% more pork and 2% more poultry and thus, a record per capita meat supply.   Demand is the key, both domestic and global.   Maximum U.S. participation in global demand depends upon concluding bi-lateral trade agreements in Asia that represent both free and fair trade, as well as a “reworked” NAFTA agreement that is signed.

John Nalivka is president of Sterling Marketing, Inc., Vale, Oregon, and Drovers economic consultant.

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PETA billboard to go up near Riverdale cattle truck crash site | KUTV – KUTV 2News

Peta Billboard. (Photo: courtesy PETA)

(KUTV) Animal rights group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) will place a billboard near the site where a cattle truck crash in Riverdale caused the death of over 80 cows on Nov. 22.

In a press release, PETA says the billboard is meant to memorialize the cows affected by the crash. However, the billboard does not address the Riverdale cows. Rather, it bears a generic message that reads, “I’m me, not meat. See the individual. Go vegan.”

“Cows plummeted from an overpass and lay dying on the pavement, and those who survived the terrifying crash presumably ended up facing the slaughterhouse knife,” says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. “PETA’s billboard urges motorists to prevent needless deaths like these by keeping cows and all other animals off their plates.”

The same billboard being used for the Riverdale crash was also used in Memphis, as an act of protest outside a McDonald’s.

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50th annual Missouri Cattle Convention nears – High Plains Journal

Hundreds of Missouri cattle producers are expected to convene in Columbia, Missouri, Jan. 5 to 7, 2018, for the 50th annual Cattle Industry Convention and Missouri Cattlemen’s Association Trade Show. MCA Vice President and Convention Committee Chair Bobby Simpson, a cattle producer from Salem, Missouri, said the convention is the largest event of its kind in the state solely focused on the state’s vibrant cattle industry.

“The convention is where we as an association gather to chart the course for the coming year. Members set our policy priorities and oversee the direction of this association. It’s more than just business though. We honor outstanding county affiliates, recognize individual contributions and dedicate an entire evening to the next generation of farmers and ranchers,” said Simpson. “This is also a tremendous time to network with agribusinesses and producers from across the state.”

Simpson said the change in venue from the Lake of the Ozarks to Columbia, Missouri, leads him to believe the MCA trade show will attract more vendors.

“The convention center is large enough to allow vendors to bring in large equipment and machinery for display. We fully expect to have more vendors and more things for producers to see,” said Simpson. “The trade show is the perfect place for cattle producers to catch up on the latest technology and products to help us improve our respective cattle operations.”

Registration for the event is now open by visiting https://www.mocattle.org/missouricattleindustryconventionandtradeshow.aspx. Attendees must register by Dec. 11 to receive the discounted rate. Vendors interested in exhibiting at the convention should contact the MCA office or visit the MCA website.

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Why Niger and Mali's cattle herders turned to jihad – Reuters – Reuters

NIAMEY/NAIROBI (Reuters) – When Doundou Chefou first took up arms as a youth a decade ago, it was for the same reason as many other ethnic Fulani herders along the Niger-Mali border: to protect his livestock.

A Fulani cattle herder walks with his cows outside the city of Tillaberi, southwest Niger, about 100km south of the Mali border, Niger November 1, 2017. Picture taken November 1, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer

He had nothing against the Republic of Niger, let alone the United States of America. His quarrel was with rival Tuareg cattle raiders.

Yet on Oct. 4 this year, he led dozens of militants allied to Islamic State in a deadly assault against allied U.S.-Niger forces, killing four soldiers from each nation and demonstrating how dangerous the West’s mission in the Sahel has become.

The incident sparked calls in Washington for public hearings into the presence of U.S. troops. A Pentagon probe is due to be completed in January.

Asked by Reuters to talk about Chefou, Nigerien Defence Minister Kalla Mountari’s face fell.

“He is a terrorist, a bandit, someone who intends to harm to Niger,” he said at his office in the Nigerien capital Niamey earlier this month.

“We are tracking him, we are seeking him out, and if he ever sets foot in Niger again he will be neutralized.”

Like most gunmen in so-called Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, which operates along the sand-swept borderlands where Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso meet, Chefou used to be an ordinary Fulani pastoralist with little interest in jihad, several government sources with knowledge of the matter said.

The transition of Chefou and men like him from vigilantes protecting their cows to jihadists capable of carrying out complex attacks is a story Western powers would do well to heed, as their pursuit of violent extremism in West Africa becomes ever more enmeshed in long-standing ethnic and clan conflicts.

For now, analysts say the local IS affiliate remains small, at fewer than 80 fighters. But that was also the case at first with al Qaeda-linked factions before they tapped into local grievances to expand their influence in Mali in 2012.

The United Nations this week released a report showing how IS in northern Somalia has grown to around 200 fighters from just a few dozen last year.

The U.S. military has ramped up its presence in Niger, and other neighboring countries, in recent years as it fears poverty, corruption and weak states mean the region is ripe for the spread of extremist groups.


For centuries the Tuareg and Fulani have lived as nomads herding animals and trading – Tuareg mostly across the dunes and oases of the Sahara and the Fulani mostly in the Sahel, a vast band of semi-arid scrubland that stretches from Senegal to Sudan beneath it.

Some have managed to become relatively wealthy, accumulating vast herds. But they have always stayed separate from the modern nation-states that have formed around them.

Though they largely lived peacefully side-by-side, arguments occasionally flared, usually over scarce watering points. A steady increase in the availability of automatic weapons over the years has made the rivalry ever more deadly.

A turning point was the Western-backed ouster of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. With his demise, many Tuareg from the region who had fought as mercenaries for Gaddafi returned home, bringing with them the contents of Libya’s looted armories.

Some of the returnees launched a rebellion in Mali to try to create a breakaway Tuareg state in the desert north, a movement that was soon hijacked by al Qaeda-linked jihadists who had been operating in Mali for years.

Until then, Islamists in Mali had been recruiting and raising funds through kidnapping. In 2012, they swept across northern Mali, seizing key towns and prompting a French intervention that pushed them back in 2013.

Amid the violence and chaos, some of the Tuareg turned their guns on their rivals from other ethnic groups like the Fulani, who then went to the Islamists for arms and training.

In November 2013, a young Nigerien Fulani had a row with a Tuareg chief over money. The old man thrashed him and chased him away, recalls Boubacar Diallo, head of an association for Fulani livestock breeders along the Mali border, who now lives in Niamey.

The youth came back armed with an AK-47, killed the chief and wounded his wife, then fled. The victim happened to be the uncle of a powerful Malian warlord.

Boubacar Diallo, president of the livestock breeders association of north Tillaberi on the Mali border, goes through a list of over 300 Fulani herders killed by Tuareg raiders in the lawless region, during an interview with Reuters in Niamey, Niger October 31, 2017. Picture taken October 31, 2017. REUTERS/Tim Cocks

Over the next week, heavily armed Tuareg slaughtered 46 Fulani in revenge attacks along the Mali-Niger border.

The incident was bloodiest attack on record in the area, said Diallo, who has documented dozens of attacks by Tuareg raiders that have killed hundreds of people and led to thousands of cows and hundreds of camels being stolen.

“That was a point when the Fulani in that area realized they needed more weapons to defend themselves,” said Diallo, who has represented them in talks aimed at easing communal tensions.

The crimes were almost never investigated by police, admits a Niamey-based law enforcement official with knowledge of them.

“The Tuareg were armed and were pillaging the Fulani’s cattle,” Niger Interior Minister Mohamed Bazoum told Reuters. “The Fulani felt obliged to arm themselves.”


Gandou Zakaria, a researcher of mixed Tuareg-Fulani heritage in the faculty of law at Niamey University, has spent years studying why youths turned to jihad.

Niger Defence Minister Kalla Mountari poses for a portrait at his office after an interview with Reuters, in Niamey, Niger November 1, 2017. Picture taken November 1, 2017. REUTERS/Tim Cocks

“Religious belief was at the bottom of their list of concerns,” he told Reuters. Instead, local grievances were the main driving force.

Whereas Tuareg in Mali and Niger have dreamed of and sometimes fought for an independent state, Fulani have generally been more pre-occupied by concerns over the security of their community and the herds they depend on.

“For the Fulani, it was a sense of injustice, of exclusion, of discrimination, and a need for self-defense,” Zakaria said.

One militant who proved particularly good at tapping into this dissatisfaction was Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, an Arabic-speaking north African, several law enforcement sources said.

Al-Sahrawi recruited dozens of Fulani into the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA), which was loosely allied to al Qaeda in the region and controlled Gao and the area to the Niger border in 2012.

After French forces in 2013 scattered Islamists from the Malian towns they controlled, al-Sahrawi was briefly allied with Mokhtar Belmokhtar, an al Qaeda veteran.

Today, al-Sahrawi is the face of Islamic State in the region.

“There was something in his discourse that spoke to the youth, that appealed to their sense of injustice,” a Niger government official said of al-Sahrawi.

Two diplomatic sources said there are signs al-Sahrawi has received financial backing from IS central in Iraq and Syria.

How Chefou ended up being one of a handful of al-Sahrawi’s lieutenants is unclear. The government source said he was brought to him by a senior officer, also Fulani, known as Petit Chapori.

Like many Fulani youth toughened by life on the Sahel, Chefou was often in and out of jail for possession of weapons or involvement in localized violence that ended in deals struck between communities, the government official said.

Yet Diallo, who met Chefou several times, said he was “very calm, very gentle. I was surprised when he became a militia leader”.

U.S. and Nigerien sources differ on the nature of the fatal mission of Oct 4. Nigeriens say it was to go after Chefou; U.S. officials say it was reconnaissance mission.

One vehicle lost by the U.S. forces was supplied by the CIA and kitted with surveillance equipment, U.S. media reported. A surveillance drone monitored the battle with a live feed.

The Fulani men, mounted on motorbikes, were armed with the assault rifles they first acquired to look after their cows.

Editing by Sonya Hepinstall

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Vietnam strong market for some Texas cattle flown overseas – Seattle Times

HOUSTON (AP) — Ten Brahman bulls sat patiently in 10-by-8-foot crates as the doors were drilled shut. They peeped through slats when lifted some two stories into the air and onto a Boeing 747 cargo plane at George Bush Intercontinental Airport. They would go much higher and farther during the 30-hour-plus journey to Vietnam.

The Houston Chronicle reports international sales of Texas cattle are not new, but they are increasing as population growth and rising incomes around the world have more people introducing beef, pork and other meat-based proteins into their diets.

“As their incomes go up, people eat more meat,” said David Anderson, a professor and agriculture economist at Texas A&M University. “And so there are countries who want to upgrade their quality of meat production and quantity of meat production.”

In Vietnam, specifically, beef production has been relatively stagnant while demand has increased. Imported beef made up 19 percent of consumption in 2016, compared with 5 percent in 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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Seeing the strong demand, Vietnamese producers have been investing in their herds. The USDA reports the value of U.S. shipments of live cattle and bovine semen reached $11.6 million and $1.1 million, respectively, between January and August.

Houston-area exports of live animals to Vietnam was worth $731,554 last year, according to WISERTrade data provided by the Greater Houston Partnership.

The 10 Texas Brahmans flown out in late October will be bred with local cows to improve Vietnamese beef’s quality and quantity. Texas cattle have more meat with better marbling and tenderness.

And since one bull produces 30,000 units of semen throughout his lifetime — about two units of semen are required to inseminate a cow — each of these 10 bulls could produce 5,000 calves.

Alfredo A. Muskus, of the family-owned Santa Elena Ranch in Madisonville, first went to Vietnam a year ago on a trade mission with the American Brahman Breeders Association, based in Houston, and Holstein Association USA. Santa Elena sent its first shipment of bulls to Vietnam in March.

“I think a lot of cattlemen in the United States need to start realizing that there’s a lot of international markets,” Muskus said.

Eight of the bulls headed to Vietnam were from Santa Elena Ranch. The other two were from Detering Red Brahmans.

After the cattle were loaded onto the plane in their two crates, Muskus climbed aboard himself. As the livestock attendant for the flight, he would sit on the 747’s upper deck while the cattle, with some room to lie down inside their crates, are in the bottom portion of the plane. Muskus will feed the animals and be available should they need anything.

He compared it to flying in first class with food and a few lie-flat beds. The cattle might as well be flying first class, too, as the cost to ship a bull to Vietnam is similar to the cost of a premium airline ticket.

The 747 departed for Anchorage, Alaska, and will then fly to Taipei, Taiwan. The crates are unloaded in Taipei and placed onto another plane that will travel to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and then their ultimate destination in Hanoi.

The cattle will be taken to a breeding station that, according to an article in the Brahman Journal, is run by the Vietnamese government. It collects semen from beef and dairy bulls to sell to local producers.

Vietnam is just one of the markets where Texas cattle are being sent. Muskus said 60 percent of his ranch’s business is with international customers. He’s sent live Brahman cattle, frozen semen or frozen embryos to countries including Thailand, Pakistan, Venezuela, Paraguay, Colombia and Mexico.

The Texas Department of Agriculture has also expanded international agriculture trade programs. It has coordinated activities on every continent, except Antarctica, and the department said trade missions to countries like China have opened new markets for Texas.

The department’s Livestock Export Facility at Bush Intercontinental Airport was built in 1978 to export cattle. But the focus shifted to exporting horses about a decade ago, said Dr. Netia Abercrombie, a veterinary medical officer with the USDA.

Cattle began coming through the export facility again about a year ago, and last month’s flight marked the fifth cattle shipment in the past year to go through the site. In general, animals pass through the export facility two to three times a week.

But only certain cattle are worth first-class tickets.

“They have to be really expensive, high-dollar breeding stock,” Anderson said. “Meaning they’re going to be some really special bulls or cows.”

The exported Brahmans are a good fit for Vietnam because they’re a resilient breed that does well in hot, humid weather.

“They truly thrive where it’s harsh,” said William Bunce, executive vice president of the American Brahman Breeders Association.

Muskus will spend four days working with his counterparts in Vietnam. He’ll make sure the bulls are settled, check on the bulls his ranch previously sent and make suggestions that could improve the program.

Gordon Thornhill, general manager for T.K. Exports, which specializes in livestock, said Muskus will be able to teach them some tricks of the trade.

“You have an opportunity to take what you’ve learned and share it with somebody else,” he said.


Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com

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LIVESTOCK-Cattle futures surge to contract highs on higher cash … – Reuters

    By Michael Hirtzer
    CHICAGO, Oct 30 (Reuters) - U.S. live cattle         and
feeder cattle futures contracts         surged to lifetime peaks
on Monday, boosted by unexpectedly high-priced sales in cash
cattle markets that occurred after the futures close on Friday,
traders said.
    Cattle futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange surpassed
Friday's highs when trade resumed on Monday and some contracts
briefly rose by their daily price limits, before finishing
slightly below those levels.
    "We expected a gap higher and we got it," said Zaner Ag
Hedge broker Tim Hackbarth.
    Most-active CME December live cattle        settled 2.575
cents higher at 123.400 cents per pound, off their earlier
life-of-contract high 123.825 cents. The October contract
      , which has no price limit ahead of its expiration on
Tuesday, climbed 4.200 cents to 119.575 cents.
    The futures gains came after cattle at U.S. Plains feedlots
sold between $116 to $119 per cwt on Friday, deals that were up
$6 to $9 per higher than the previous week.
    Beef packers were buying aggressively to satisfy expanding
seasonal consumer demand ahead of the holidays and to take
advantage of big packer profit margins that were linked to
rising wholesale beef prices.
    Choice-grade beef prices were up 2 cents to $203.32 per cwt,
highest in more than two months, according to U.S. Department of
Agriculture data.           
   Cattle futures were trading at a premium to the cash market
on expectations that beef packer demand will remain robust,
Hackbarth said.
   "There's certainly really good movement of beef," he said.
   CME January feeder cattle futures        settled up 1.400
cents at 157.350 cents per pound after earlier reaching 159.825
cents per pound.
   Cash feeder steer and heifers fetched prices up as much as $9
per cwt at a closely watched auction in Oklahoma City, USDA
   CME lean hog futures         were higher, tracking gains in
cattle prices amid support from technical buying after hogs fell
on Friday. CME December lean hog futures        settled up 0.725
cent at 65.175 cents per pound.
   Hogs in the top cash market of Iowa and southern Minnesota
were up $1.23 to $64.91 per cwt and wholesale pork up $1.32 to
$78.88 per cwt, according to the USDA.                    

 (Reporting by Michael Hirtzer; Editing by Andrew Hay)
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture students roundup range cattle on horseback – Scottsbluff Star Herald

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OSHKOSH — Five riders parked a truck and trailer early Saturday morning at the side of a narrow oil road through the Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

They toiled with fencing tools and baling wire in a brisk autumn wind, assembling a temporary corral and loading chute, then set off on horseback across two miles of remote refuge prairie that few visitors ever see. Their destination was the Graves Ranch, owned by the Nature Conservancy. Their mission was to round up 21 head of cattle from their summer range and drive them back to the corral. Their long day ended with a 160-mile trip home to Curtis, about 43 miles south of North Platte on the highway to McCook.

The roundup was a field trip with a purpose for four students of the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture and their supervisor.

At the 840-acre ranch, a tarnished windmill spins and creaks, still drawing water 34 years after the conservancy bought the property in Garden County. Surrounded by broken water pipe and failing fences, a ramshackle cabin remains, abraded by decades of blowing sand and loosened from its foundation by the muscular bodies of Angus cattle that crowd against it for relief from prairie wind and harsh Nebraska winters. The conservancy’s interest in the ranch lies in thousands of flowering prairie plants that thrive in pockets of sand known as blowouts, where the thin veneer of vegetation has peeled away from the underlying dunes. Known as blowout penstemon, the endangered plant was once thought to be nearly extinct. The conservancy acquired the land as a refuge where the delicate perennial, which requires bare sand to thrive, might maintain a sustainable, naturally producing population.

Part of the effort requires grazing. Cattle take the place of ancient bison herds that helped the penstemon evolve by exposing blowouts to winds that sustain the desired habitat. NCTA, part of the University of Nebraska family of campuses, provides the cattle, both as an aid to the conservancy and as a teaching tool for students in its veterinary, ranching and equestrian programs.

“The college leases the pasture for a nominal fee and pays the taxes on it,” said Mary Crawford, who works for the NCTA in marketing and recruiting. “We consider this one of our field laboratories.”

In spring and fall, students help move the cattle on and off the property as part of a range management plan.

“You need grazing to help the pastures,” Crawford said. “There are different strategies for grazing when you have the endangered species, as far as carrying capacity. There is a real defined plan on when you can get on the grass and get off the grass.”

While the college’s cattle don’t graze federal pastures, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff allows students to cross its protected property on horseback to collect the grazers and drive them back to the loading area. They’re supervised by Roy Cole, a Curtis native who serves as the college’s farm manager. He handles college ag properties, which include a 580-acre farm, field laboratory and pastures near campus. Students learn to operate farm equipment and machinery, build and repair fences and corrals and study animal husbandry as they tend livestock. Cole works the Graves Ranch project with Douglas Smith, associate professor and chair of animal science and agricultural education and coach of the NCTA Livestock Judging Team, and Brad Ramsdale, associate professor and chair of agronomy and agricultural mechanics.

Because of the distance from the refuge to the campus, students spent Friday night at the refuge’s bunk houses and were allow to pasture their horses and use other refuge facilities to ease their travel to the isolated ranch. After a truck arrived to carry away the cattle, they still had to break down the corral sections and tend to their mounts.

Two of the students on the cattle drive, KeAnn Jacobs of Dresden, Kansas, and Frances Holley of Weston, Nebraska, both veterinary technology students, also work for Cole. The other two, Garrison Fisher of Beaver City, Nebraska, and Damian Wellman of Almena, Kansas, major in livestock management and are members of NCTA’s Ranch Horse Team. Like many of their fellow NCTA students, they’re experienced hands who come from a farm and ranch background.

“We’re not frou-frou show people,” Wellman said of the horse team, which studies equine care, nutrition and riding skills. “We’re people who know how to work a horse.”

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