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Specialists promote beef industry success

Friday, March 12, 2010

Speakers at the 41st annual Beef Cattlemen's Conference in Monett provided insight on achieving more success in the cattle industry.

Dr. Bryon Wiegand, team leader of the University of Missouri's commercial agriculture meats team, talked about understanding beef grades. Grading standards for beef have dovetailed into value-added quality.

Grades put on meat by the United States Department of Agriculture inspectors mean more than just a price point for the sale of meat. Grades make it possible to sell into niche markets. Wiegand said certified Angus beef, for example, now has been broken down for even more specific markets into categories such as "natural Angus beef" and "prime Angus beef."

Just as auto makers have different types of Fords and Chevrolets, grading allows diversification in meat sales. Wiegand said when all beef is not treated the same way at market, more opportunities exist for profit gains.

Dr. Justin Sexten talked about the special issues facing the stocker, the cattleman who raises calves to market weight, as opposed to the cow-calf producer, whose goal is to add more babies to the herd. A beef nutrition specialist with the University of Missouri Extension Service, Sexton had six keys for success for stockers.

Seventy percent of a stocker's commitment is purchasing the calf. Sexton said a stocker has to know where the calf can go in price. The secret is to either buy cheap or focus on adding quality, such as knocking off the horns. Market speculation is the least reliable strategy.

Keeping cattle healthy, Sexton continued, means getting an energy dense bite in the diet of young cattle, especially in the first 10 days on the farm. Utilizing technology includes strategies like deworming and using growth promoting implants and supplements that help cattle digest their food more efficiently.

Three-quarters of cattle performance depends on what they eat, Sexton said. Pasture control and adding forage supplements will lead to better results. Sexton stressed cattlemen must know how much it costs for an animal to gain weight to make a profit. Labor and the cost of maintaining the farm must be considered in the equation.

Finally, Sexton said a stocker needs to sell cattle when it's profitable, based on cattle weight, time on the pasture and the profit margin.

Jason McCann, president of the Missouri Cattlemen's Association, spoke about legislative issues facing the cattle industry in light of the state budget crunch. He urged support for continued funding of the Department of Agriculture.

A major concern comes from petitioned initiatives placed before the general public, rather than bills emerging from the Missouri General Assembly. Legislation has been introduced in the State Senate to tighten standards by requiring anyone passing a petition to be a registered Missouri voter. McCann said the Cattlemen's Association supports steps that would limit the influence of outside groups on Missouri's legal landscape.

The Cattlemen's Association is also interested in maintaining present land valuations for tax purposes, contrary to the Missouri Tax Commission's attempt to change rates.

Having all of Missouri's ag producers speaking with one voice is the goal behind organizing Missouri Farmers Care and other farm groups. The unified voice will provide a proactive approach to legislative challenges, McCann said.

One specific approach introduced in the Missouri House this session is HCR 89, a parallel to the Right to Farm Act that establishes a right to be involved in animal agriculture. McCann also encouraged those in attendance to join the Missouri Cattlemen's Association to have a voice in the public discussion.

Eldon Cole, Extension livestock specialist from Mt. Vernon, served as master of ceremonies. The conference was a cooperative effort of the Monett Chamber of Commerce, the Southwest Missouri Cattlemen's Association, the Extension Service and the trade show exhibitors.



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