People love their American beef.

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Coming off the heels of a tough week in which one of the nation’s top beef processing plants, the Tyson plant in Holcomb, Kansas, received substantial damage and is in a temporary shutdown, causing future prices to take a tumble, some normalcy is starting to return.

At the grassroots level is where beef production is visual and that was on display at recent Gelbvieh tour that included a stop near Dodge City, Kansas. In full disclosure, Publisher-Editor Holly Martin’s family had organized the southwest Kansas stop and she and livestock representative Nick Wells, who served as a judge, encouraged me to see what was going in today’s cow-calf industry.

Livestock breed tours are a fascinating way to find out what cow-calf producers are thinking and what other seedstock producers are doing with their genetic programs. This year a few of the comments included, “the winter was tough during calving season,” “an over abundance of rain in late and early spring changed my management style,” and “hopefully the markets will find a positive upward trend.”

Perspective is a great teacher as these comments were timeless and yet refreshing as that insight provides a bridge to the future. Successful ranchers are innovators, they look for ways to improve their herds and they are willing to share their insight with others.

Consumers continue to clamor for protein sources. They love the taste of beef, pork, lamb, poultry and goats and recognize its nutritional value. It is reassuring consumers continue to put their faith in farmers and ranchers who go to great lengths to produce protein, a source that is affordable and plentiful. The consumer also recognizes the producers need to make a profit.

As part of the exercise at this field day, producers were asked to “score” a group of heifer calves on their potential, and Wells shared his thoughts. To a novice, it is hard to differentiate yet to the judge knew that overlooking minor details is the difference between a profit and a loss. Each decision a producer makes has to be based on sound science and reasonable expectations.

Wells’ views were based on how the heifer calves will develop over the next two years. He tried to predict a return not only for the cow-calf producer, but also how the heifer will fill out for stocker-feedlot operator and ultimately go into the food processing chain so the consumer can recognizes the taste and value on the grill or in a restaurant. 

Even with the eyeball test, the sophistication is evident as Kinsley Feeders manager Derek and his brother Eric Martin shared their expertise as they explained what improvements they and their families hoped to make to their herd.

In the end, that’s what all producers do in the High Plains region. It is a testament to entrepreneurial spirit that is alive and well in many aspects of production agriculture. Certainly it is a tougher time and 2019 is one most producers are eager to close the financial book on. Their eagerness to press ahead and improve their herds and production techniques really shines during the one-on-one interaction during a field day.

One of the greatest benefits of animal agriculture is the willingness of producers to share their knowledge, genetics and insight with others.

Sustainable beef starts at the grassroots level and that has never changed. When an opportunity arises to learn more about your industry, by all means take advantage and share your insight. The input benefits your bottom line and benefits the consumer who believes in and enjoys the quality of home-raised meat.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or dbergmeier@hpj.com.

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