More science behind burger appears to lead to more glyphosate in burger

A new article by


“We are shocked to find that the Impossible Burger can have up to 11X higher levels of glyphosate residues than the Beyond Meat Burger according to these samples tested. This new product is being marketed as a solution for “healthy” eating, when in fact 11 ppb of glyphosate herbicide consumption can be highly dangerous. Only 0.1 ppb of glyphosate has been shown to destroy gut bacteria, which is where the stronghold of the immune system lies. I am gravely concerned that consumers are being misled to believe the Impossible Burger is healthy.” stated Zen Honeycutt, Executive Director of Moms Across America.

To read the full story click here

Posted on May 19, 2019 .

The Heartbreak Bull

For some of us, a new bull or blood line is just what we think we need this year. We have to decide whether to choose: 1) from our herd, 2) an out cross (same breed, different blood lines) or 3) a different breed than we currently own. The latter two options give us some hybrid vigor, but with that comes a dilution to the genetics that you have created to perform on your ranch. Everything else being equal, the bull of a different breed will give us more hybrid vigor (Webster: Increased vigor or other superior qualities arising from the crossbreeding of genetically different plants or animals. Also called heterosis.) than staying within our breed. Now, I don’t know that these qualities are always superior to what nature has in mind at our zip code. This article is not about that whole discussion.

Both of these crossing scenarios will give different results themselves and differing amounts of hybrid vigor depending upon how much crossing the creator of the bull(s) has already done himself.

More of us need to think about the characteristics this selected bull is going to be passing along to his daughters rather than just a bigger weaned calf. We HAVE TO live for the next two to seven years with those heifers-become-cows that are the siblings to the short-term-profit from a larger weaned calf (maximum production at all costs). If we base our selection criteria for this new bull on what mother nature will throw at him and his offspring in our environment, we GET TO live for the next ten to twelve years (low input cost and high fertility) with his heifers-become-cows.

Why the difference in longevity between the two scenarios I proposed above? Hormonal function, butterfat and phenotype are the genetic differences. Epigenetics* also play a part in how performance plays out from ranch to ranch. Better hormonal function is observed in both bulls and cows that shed their winter hair coat early and in bulls whose shoulders are taller than their hook bones. The genetic ability to pass along butterfat can be observed in a bull with unusually small legs (length and diameter) and numerous vertical folds in the hide (hopefully this phenomenon can be seen extending all the way to the back of the ribs). The phenotype that most closely indicates fertility in a bull is seen in wide shoulders, a large crest and large testicles in a scrotum that is bald and shaped like a football. These highlights are only a few of the many indicators of each of these desirable traits.

And then there is the whole discussion around developing on grain or not and what that does to the quantity and quality of semen production. Long story short, we wind up with fat cells taking the place of semen-producing cells and the testicles stay too warm, thereby producing more abnormal cells and fewer sperm cells in general.

Let’s assume we have decided the space race (long, tall cows with a reverse wedge) is not working for cow fertility and that the keeping costs of the resultant heifers-become-cows on the ranch is too high. Looking for a smaller-frame bull to bring our cow size back down seems to make sense.

We should NOT go from frame-score seven bulls to frame-score three bulls on frame-score seven cows all in one year. Remember how many calves were pulled as you tried to go up in frame score trying to get that higher weaning weight? Large moves in either direction have consequences!

Just think of the angles involved at the time the bull joins with the cow. That really short bull on a tall cow is similar to laying the target at the rifle range away from you on a forty-five-degree slope: much harder to hit at one hundred yards. And then if our cows have forward-sloping vulvas instead of vertical vulvas, we have made the angle of entry even more shallow. Just as in the movie Apollo 13, where they were worried about the returning capsule skipping off the earth’s atmosphere because the angle kept lessening because they had not brought back any moon rocks. But I digest.

Regarding hitting the target at the rifle range, the closer the steady rest is positioned to the front of the barrel of the rifle, the more accurate the shots are grouped on the target. Similarly, with the bull, the closer the prepuce opening is to the belly of the bull the more accurate his aim. A prepuce that hangs down three to four inches makes it harder for the bull to aim during mating.

A frame-three bull at fifteen months of age is 47.1 inches tall. A frame-seven heifer at fifteen months of age is 52 inches tall. OK, I can see how that COULD work. But what if we are trying to breed mature frame-seven cows at 55.8 inches tall. That frame-three bull is not as tall or long as that frame-seven bull, so during breeding attempts, he looks a bit like Trigger when Roy Rogers asked him to rear up. Add in that non-vertical vulva and, “Houston we have a problem.”

Usually when I finally hear about the problem of a broken tool on a young bull it was almost always on the best yearling bull someone bought. To start off, I have to consider what would have been going on in that bull for him to be considered the best and why did that lead to the problem?

In a bull, fertility (I don’t like to use masculinity anymore because it is too subjective) can be measured in shoulder width and the total dimension of the testicles. There are secondary traits that are also described in Herd Bull Fertility by James Drayson’s, Bonsma Lectures by Jan Bonsma, Factors Affecting Calf Crop by Koger, Reproduction and Animal Health by Gearld Fry and others. The wider the shoulders of the bull are compared to the length of the rump, the more fertile the bull, everything else being equal.

Drayson’s book lays out testicular circumference and LENGTH for various ages of the animals and puts them into five categories of breeding capability. You want a bull in the top two categories, optimal and tolerable. Regarding length and circumference, length is absolutely the most important measurement (well documented in Drayson’s book), yet we typically don’t even measure it anymore.

So that bull with the large factory and wide shoulders is looked upon as the best one you bought, and he probably is. When it is time for him to mate with the cow, he is all business and nothing is getting in his way. He has already bested the other bulls in the pasture and there is work to do. If he is TOO much shorter than the cows (target laid over at a forty-five-degree angle) and the vulva is sloped forward (now the target is eighty to ninety percent smaller), it is increasingly hard to hit the target. But his instincts say go for it, and he misses the target. You can picture in your mind’s eye why he is the one who winds up with a broken tool. He quite possibly could have bred those frame-seven heifers, but the mature frame-seven cows were “A Bridge Too Far.”

A better scenario would be to go to a mature frame-score 5 bull to breed your cows, and use the fifteen-month-old frame-score three or four bull on the replacement heifers. To get rid of those sloped vulvas, make sure there is no raised-tail process in the bull. Better yet, a rounding down from the hook bones to the back end with plenty of slope from hook bones to pin bones would make the transformation even more rapid.

Why should we be looking for this different bull in the first place? Large, long, tall cows with the reverse-wedge look do not thrive, do not breed back, and generally cost a lot to supplement to have any chance of surviving, let alone thriving, in an all-grass environment.

*Epigenetics: the study of heritable changes in gene function that do not involve changes in DNA sequence

Posted on May 6, 2019 .

Recent Webinar and radio interview

In the last two weeks I was invited to “give my opinion” on the Soil, plant animal and human health.

The first link (found here) is with Robin Clair of tributaries radio. She made me sound more intelligent than I am. Bless her heart!

Jared Sorensen invited me to do a webinar (found here) on the same subject. I hope you enjoy/get something out one or both of these.

Posted on February 10, 2019 .

Big Bellies, Bare Backs, Bald Udders and wide Butts

Recently I was talking to a group of land stewards that were touring the ranch in Australia where I was a guest. The end of the tour found the group across the fence from a herd of two thousand cows with calves. The landowners asked me if I would spend a few minutes going over a few of the concepts that we had been talking about the previous two days.

I did not have much time; however, I wanted to touch on phenotype and hormonal activity and how they positively or negatively impacted fertility in the herd.

Starting off with phenotype (or shape) was easy with so many examples just across the fence. A “wedge” shape cow is the most fertile for many reasons. Starting with the shoulders (small part of the wedge), she should be shorter here on the topside than at the hook bones. Hmmm? Sex hormones shut off long-bone growth. The earlier in life and the more estrogen a heifer calf is producing, the more she should look like she is walking downhill while traveling on level ground. From the side view this would create the top part of the wedge.

On the bottom side, the heart girth (taken around the smallest circumference behind the front leg) should be equal to the topline (measured from pin bone to poll). To give the cow (or heifer) a wedge look, her flank circumference needs to be larger than the girth measurement by a minimum of two inches, but a plus four-inch, six-inch, or eight-inch flank is even better. Kenneth Redman of Sydney, Montana (406-480-2312) found in his analysis that old cows typically had larger flanks than the herd average, meaning that they could “digest enough for three” even during the poor, dry years. This larger flank gives the look of an ever-increasing wedge towards the rear of the cow from a side view.

Moving to the rump of the cow, she needs to have a rump at least two and a half inches wider than it is long. The length is measured from the back of the pin bones to the front of the hook bones. The width is measured at the widest part of the rump area (usually the stifle muscle on each side). Michael McDonald of Nebraska (God rest his soul) found that the best indicator of fertility in a cow or heifer was how much wider the rump was than its length. Kenneth Redman found that those old cows that had given us ten calves in a row had a wider rump than the average cow in the herd. With this wide rump, a view from the top of the cow is going to also give us a wedge-shaped look.

At that point the group had an idea of the shape of a replacement heifer that is in the ballpark with her phenotype. Next, my explanation turned to hormonal activity and butterfat. That short leg up front was created by high production of estrogen. Two other places we would see early estrogen expression is in hairs standing up in the adrenal whorl and the stifle muscle developing early. In most cases, higher hormonal activity is expressed in an early-shedding animal with a uniform haircoat. If your heifers all shed late and have hair sticking every which direction, it is time to take a serious look at the feed and mineral quality provided to your animals.

The bare backs I alluded to in the title is a reference to early shedding. Dr. Jan Bonsma said that if he could use only one of all of the indicators he knew for selecting which animal he would eat that year, it would be the one that shed its winter haircoat the earliest. That animal had the best glandular function in her environment and would be the most healthful for him to eat. We can use this to our advantage IF we start observing what we look at. That early-shedding heifer will typically have fewer flies than her herdmates. She will maintain body condition easier/better. One of the big keys to heifers and cows getting pregnant is the ability to gain weight between calving and breeding. That bred replacement heifer must be able to eat enough for two. Late shedding first calf heifers typically are the ones who breed back late or come up open in the fall. Part of this is glandular function, but in a number of cases it is related to a phenotype that hinders the heifers ability to gain weight during lactation before joining her with the bull.

Butterfat in the heifer can be observed in a number of ways the day she is born (These are not listed in order of importance): 1) an adrenal hair whorl located in the shoulder blade area or further forward, 2) extra teats, 3) an area around the teats that has shorter, nappy, lighter hair color than the rest of her body, a precursor to a bald udder later in life, 4) the correct outline of her escutcheon showing high butterfat when she is milking, 5) the presence of vertical folds in the hide, and 6) a small diameter cannon bone and a pointed poll. In the mature cow, a bald udder is the number one indicator of butterfat. The more of the previously enumerated characteristics we see, the more likely we are to have a high butterfat-producing cow.

I summarized my talk by saying, “you need a cow with a big belly, a wide butt, a bald udder and a bare back.”

Any one animal might “prove” these comments incorrect. However, one hundred cows with all of these traits will give you more and better-quality calves than one hundred cows that have few or none of these traits. If you have questions or comments, please contact me at 208-315-4726 or by email at

Posted on January 22, 2019 .