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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Topics vary at cattlemen's conference

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Speakers at the 43rd annual Beef Cattlemen's Conference in Monett are shown above. From left, are: Corbitt Wall with the USDA; Scott Hill, a cow-calf producer from Miller; Stan Lock with Genex; Kaity Holtman with the Missouri Beef Council; Ron Keith, a farm loan with the Farm Services Administration; Lonnie Duckworth, Missouri Cattlemen's Association president; Joe Horner, Extension economist; Dr. Scott Brown, livestock marketing specialist; and Eldon Cole, livestock specialist who served as master of ceremonies. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
Beef producers heard a variety of strategies for improving farm operations during the 43rd annual Beef Cattlemen's Conference, held Feb. 21 at the National Guard Armory in Monett.

Two presentations focused on bringing the next generation, known as Generation Y, into the farming business. Kaity Holtman, director of communications for the Missouri Beef Industry Council, said those born between 1980 and 2000 have a different outlook and have been shaped by their use of Internet-based social networks.

These young families and college students use social networks to be recognized. They like to feel appreciated and make a difference, Holtman said. They also tend to be very transparent and talk very openly about salaries and their home life on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and through blogging. She suggested older producers engage young people in their own social networks.

Holtman offered tips on how to share a personal story, and specifically experiences in agriculture, using social media. She suggested using tools like Facebook to advance a farm's visibility, and to reach out to leaders in schools and get them involved in ag discussions.

A panel on getting started in the beef business offered practical tips for introducing younger farmers into the business. Joe Horner, a beef and dairy economist with the University of Missouri Extension, said it was important for a younger person to have responsibilities on the farm before being expected to take over management and borrow a lot of money.

"There are no magic bullets," Horner said.

Ron Keith, an area farm loan specialist with the Farm Services Administration, gave an overview of available loan programs. He advised not going too deeply into debt too quickly, but instead planning for growth and sticking to the plan.

Keith said families get in trouble making unplanned capital purchases, like a new pickup or tractor. Instead, they should target spending on items that will help the bottom line.

Scott Hill, a young cow-calf producer from Miller, said understanding the overall business is crucial to establishing footing. He felt it was important to make as much profit as possible at first to gain working capital. "Finding a financial institution that's willing to take a risk on you is very important," Hill said. "Don't be afraid to put in the effort."

Recognizing standards

Corbitt Wall, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's grading service in St. Joseph, said one of his jobs is to promote the USDA's grading standards. Many producers sell their cattle to feedlots and consequently may not know the grades that bring in premium prices.

"They probably don't know that heavy muscle hurts quality grade," said Wall. "Fat is still king when it comes to the best and highest quality cuts."

Wall described how the standard is achieved. The question came up later when economist Scott Brown detailed the new Missouri Beef Project, a joint venture with the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, Genex and several feedlots.

Brown said premiums of $200 to $450 per head of cattle are available for achieving quality levels in the animal carcasses. The average of cattle selling as prime meat is only 3 percent.

As an alternative, Brown looked at the university's Thompson Farm Research Center that had developed a high genetic quality in the herd over a 10-year period. When taken to slaughter, 31 percent of the Thompsons' cattle grade prime.

"We think you have an opportunity to increase substantially the genetic quality of your herd," Brown said. "There is a recipe. The Show-Me Select program has been part of it. You've got to commit for the long haul. It could be difficult in the short term."

Missouri is now the third highest beef producing cow state. Brown said the Missouri Beef Project seeks to find a way to capture premiums regularly.

One of the cattlemen in the audience said it generally seems like a fluke to get a animal that grades prime. He said on a trip to Pennsylvania, he saw herds of much higher quality that are fed a steady diet of grain. Brown said getting results starts with learning the genetic quality of a herd as a starting point.

Cattle handling tips

One way to get better cattle at market is to reduce their stress, said Stan Lock, with Genex in Republic. Lock suggested using a "Bud Box" in cattle pens that helps direct cattle movement.

Cattle have four basic behavior patterns, Lock said. They want to see their handler, they want to go around the person in front of them, they want to be with other cattle and they only think of one thing at a time.

Lock recommended working slowly around cattle to save time, since quick actions will alarm them. Working from the front to draw cattle forward works if the animals are not afraid. There is a right way to apply pressure, and if handled properly, cattle will move forward and stay straight.

The "Bud Box" principle helps a handler to work with cattle in and out of a chute. Lock provided dimensions, advising that wider boxes require directing from horseback. Starting cattle young with proper handling will make them easier to manage at a larger size.

"The days of 'whoop and holler' cattle handling need to pass, and quickly," Lock concluded.

Around 175 people attended the conference. Suzy McElmurry, executive director for the Monett Chamber of Commerce, said attendance numbers represented a good turnout. The University of Missouri Extension and the Southwest Missouri Cattlemen's Association helped organize the event.

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