Cattle-Fax's Blach: A great time to be in the cattle industry
By Larry Dreiling
Randy Blach says times are good in the cattle business and producers should feel good about it.
"If you've been around this business for any period of time, you're probably feeling pretty good today, and darn it, we shouldn't have to apologize for these high prices. They're a long, long time coming," said Blach, president and CEO of Cattle-Fax.
Blach spoke at the annual Red Meat Club dinner, recently sponsored by the Friends of the National Western Stock Show.
"When you think about this business between 1980 through 1990, we lost 20 million head of cattle in our inventory," Blach said. "Demand for beef was cut in half. In 1980, we were exporting 1 to 2 percent of our beef production.
"Today we export 12 to 13 percent of our total production. We export 24 percent of our total pork production. We export 20 percent of our poultry production. Last year 18 percent of our protein was exported."
When added with exports from Brazil, that's over 50 percent of the protein that was traded on the world market, Blach said.
"Most of that beef came from the U.S. and we do it with fewer cattle," Blach said. "We have 91 million cattle in our inventory. Brazil has 170 million head. We produce more beef on an annual basis.
"We do it because of the contribution each and every one of you make to this industry in the roles that you play; the animal health industry, the feed industry, genetics, animal husbandry practices. For every 100 cows that has a calf, we're weaning five to six more calves than we did in 1980. That's all because of our animal husbandry practices. You know, they're worth $1,000 more apiece, think they're worth the investment? That's pretty incredible."
Blach said the five-state area of Colorado, Nebraska, Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma represents 35 percent of the total U.S. cattle inventory. Of high-quality fed beef, 82 percent is in this region and 75 percent of the fed cattle harvest capacity is in this region.
"This is a big industry. This isn't some little mom and pop thing," Blach said. "I think sometimes, when we get down, we forget how relevant we are to feeding people, not only in the United States but around the world.
"The U.S. is the premium quality protein provider all around the globe. We need to earn that every day. Every decision we make as producers, providers, or whatever role we play in the industry, we need to continue to earn that and not take it for granted."
Blach reminded the gathering that from 1980 to 1990, the average cow-calf producer made about $2 a head.
"It's no wonder we lost 20 million head in our inventory during that time," Blach said. "We need to be making these kinds of profits we're enjoying now. It's what's going to put an entire new generation of people back on the land. As I travel across the country, I see more young people involved in the business than in all the years I've been in this business. For those of you who have an opportunity to help one of these young people, get involved.
"The amount of capital it takes to start out is the biggest limiting factor in getting young people involved. We have an opportunity, those of you who have enjoyed this ride, to reach out and help one of these young people get started. Bank them along like someone likely helped us. It's a great opportunity for us to give back to this great industry we've been so lucky to be associated with continues to thrive and prosper for generations to come."
Blach added that producers should give back because they're so lucky to have the relationships they have in the industry.
"I want you to congratulate yourselves for being in this industry. You've stuck with it through the thick and the thin," Blach said. "It would have been easy to bail out. We lost 25 percent of the cattle producers in this country from 1980 through 2000. For those of you who got through it, I hope you have prosperous times ahead. Don't forget to give back."
During the dinner, the "Friend of the National Western Stock Show and Red Meat Industry" Award was presented to Bill and Lindsay Serrell. Bill has been a member of the National Western Association since 1950, a director since 1961, a Catch-A-Calf donor, chairman of the Junior Sale Committee for 13 years, and creator of many buying combines for the Junior Sale of Livestock Champions, including the Douglas County Combine and Silver Spur Club.
Lindsay has been a member of the Junior Auction Sale Committee for more than 30 years as well as an active member of the Citizen of the West Committee. The couple had the National Western's 1983 Grand Champion Red Angus Bull.
Larry Dreiling can be reached by phone at 785-628-1117, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.