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USDA Ag Marketing Service Adds Monthly National Grass Fed Beef Market Report

In September, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service initiated a monthly national grass fed beef market report. The report is housed in the USDA Market News for Beef section under the ‘monthly’ reports listing. This is the first report of its kind, filling a significant data gap for the industry and increasing transparency in the marketplace.

For almost a century, USDA Market News has provided farmers, ranchers and businesses with market and pricing information.   With the new market report and better access to information, USDA is helping farmers and ranchers who are considering converting to grass fed operations and those who are already producing grass fed beef.

The first monthly grass fed report was issued on Monday, September 23, 2013.  In addition to market commentary, the new report includes three sections: prices paid for live cattle, wholesale beef prices, and direct-market beef prices. This monthly report brings market clarity and exposure to assist the grass fed industry in marketing their products.  In the future, as the number of market reporting participants grows, USDA will continue to expand the report by including trade volume data, and adding graphs and other visuals. Source: USDA news blog

Grazing Seminars at 2013 World Dairy Expo


The fifth annual dairy grazing seminar series to be held on Friday, October 4 during the 2013 World Dairy Expo.

The events will include four seminars starting at 10:00 am in the Mendota 3 Room and a reception from 3:00 to 6:00 pm in the Waubesa Room at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison (click here for 2013 WDE Grazing Seminars agenda). There is no charge to attend the seminars or reception. World Dairy Expo admission is required.  Planned topics this year include:

  • Benefits of grazing replacement heifers, Dr. Dave Combs of the University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Genetics for the whole cow: breeding for grazing systems, panel moderated by Dr. Les Hansen of the University of Minnesota with representatives from six cattle genetics companies
  • What’s new in grass and legume varieties? Drs. Geoff Brink, Mike Casler, and Heathcliff Riday from the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center
  • Supplementation for the grazing cow: corn and alternatives, Dr. Kathy Soder of  USDA-ARS/Penn State and Dr. Brad Heins of the University of Minnesota

The grazing events at World Dairy Expo are a partnership between the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), University of Wisconsin-Extension, University of Minnesota-Extension, and private farmers and businesses. Sponsors this year include Byron Seed, CRV, Crystal Creek, DFA Dairy Grazing Services, the GrassWorks Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship Program, Horizon Organic, Midwestern BioAg, Normande Genetics, Organic Valley, Prairie Creek Seeds, Spaulding Laboratories, Taurus Service, and Hoof-Tec. For more information on being a sponsor or attending the events, contact DATCP’s Laura Paine at 608-224-5120 or email

Conditions Ripe for Ergot this Summer

There have been several recent reports regarding ergot in pastures and hayfields coming in from neighboring states due to the cool, rainy spring and summer we’ve hosted here in the Midwest this year. UW-Madison Extension specialists Damon Smith (Plant Pathology) and Dan Undersander (Agronomy) have prepared a short factsheet profiling ergot issues to alert Wisconsin producers on this potential toxin.

In a nutshell, ergot is an alkaloid toxin produced by a fungus that grows on the seedheads of a number of grasses and small grains.  Animals that consume ergot-laced feed or forage may show symptoms of vasoconstriction (reduced blood flow to extremities), including lameness, loss of hooves, tail, etc., reduced milk yields, onset of gangrene and even death in severe cases. The toxic effects are cummulative if exposure continues over a period of time.  The best option to control potential for toxicity is by preventing animals from eating feeds, forages and bedding materials containing ergot.

Ergot is fairly easy to identify, so scout your farm to determine if it is present (see additional resources listed below for pictures). Quickly scouting my own farm last night, I found only a very few infected grass plants located in non-crop areas, since my hayfields and pastures have already been harvested or clipped for other weeds this season. Right now, areas of primary concern are small grains planted for grain  and grass-predominated fields or pasture areas to be used for a late harvest or grazing, including CRP fields that are eligible for hay harvest or grazing, and roadsides that might be harvestable. Scout pastures, small grains and grassy hayfields to determine the prevalence prior to harvest. Pastures should have grass seedheads clipped prior to turnout of livestock as a primary prevention measure. Avoid harvesting hayfields with seedheads showing a significants ergot infestation, and avoid purchasing late-harvested grassy hay, bedding, and small grains from areas where ergot has been a production issue this season. 

Here are a few other useful resources on ergot issues in pasture, hay and small grains:

What’s that Weed?

We often will see weeds also develop along with our new hay and pasture seedings. Occaisonally, it will be a species that is not among the “usual” suspects”. Such is the case with a recent “find” here at the UW Lancaster Ag Research Station in a new grass seeding for Dr. Ken Albrecht. Thanks to Drs. Jed Colquhoun and Mark Renz for the correct ID:  a vegetable, bok choi!

No, this wasn’t included as part of a “salad bar grazing mix”, apparently the seed came in as a contaminant when the grass seed was processed. And while we don’t expect that it will take over the new grass stand, this experience does bring to mind that we have information on our certified seed tags that will give us an indication of the presence of “weed or other seed” in the bag of seed, along with other information that may be useful to us. When you plant new pasture and hay fields, keep those seed tags handy for a season or two in case there is a question later.

The USDA-NRCS Plant Materials Center has a nice fact sheet on understanding the information on seed tags. For links to weed management and identification resources, go to our pasture Weed Management page.

Per.Weed,LARS,'13 Bok ChoiBok Choi in new grass seeding, Lancaster, 2013.

Watch for Pasture Weeds this Spring

According to Extension Weed Scientist, Dr. Mark Renz, although spring precipitation has alleviated some concern about a continued drought, we can expect some lingering effects in 2013 related to weed management.  Many pastures last summer were overgrazed, and only the weeds remained green until the late rains in September.  The combination of slow regrowth this spring and stress on pasture forages last year will result in significant changes in pasture plant composition in 2013, with the potential for weed species to increase. Mark reviewed several management practices to consider in pastures related to weed management in this week’s issue of WI Crop Manager.