Parsons, Kansas —
The gravel road to Kansas State University’s Beef Stocker Unit filled with dust on Sept. 26 as cattlemen and women from across Kansas and bordering states gathered to listen to industry leaders speak of the future of the beef stocker segment and how to make improvements in their own operations.
“We’re in the midst of several big changes,” KSU Agricultural Economist Glynn Tonser said. “Some will see opportunity, some won’t. That will dictate who comprises the industry moving forward.”
Dwindling national beef cow numbers has been a driving factor in change — something the self described cynic believes will take until 2015 to see improvements on.
A September USDA Cattle on Feed report shows this Sept. 1 feedlot inventory as the smallest September inventory since 2003 — down seven percent from a year ago. With an increase in bunk space availability at feedyards, Tonser believes opportunities await Beef Stocker producers willing to repurpose feedyards.
“There are probably going to be feedyards with low asking prices,” Tonser stated, adding that the open bunk space could be used to background cattle, intensifying the beef stocker segment.
Admitting this investment isn’t for every producer, Tonser said it should be something to consider if the opportunity to buy at a low asking price, locking down a low interest rate, presents itself. This would also help with the limited acreage availability.
“If we intensify the stocker segment, one way is additional backgrounding on concrete, compared to what we’ve done in the past,” he said.
When it comes to marketing, Tonser believes a forward-looking approach is essential to economic success on the futures market.
“You’re projecting prices at points in the future. If the purchase is three weeks from now and the sale is 16 weeks from now, you have to look at what the world will look like then,” Tonser said. “The futures market gives us a starting point for that.”
Tonser reminded producers consumers control the market and shared a tweet The Center For Food Integrity (@foodintegrity) from Sept. 4:
“Science tells us if we can do something. Society tells us if we should do it.”
In recent Beef Checkoff Program research, the Beef Demand Determinant Study (http://www.beef board.org/evalua tion/ 130612demanddeterminantstudy.asp) was conducted to find what checkoff programs should focus on to drive beef demand forward. Ranking in order of importance was:
1. Food safety
2. Product quality
6. Social aspects
7. Sustainability dimensions.
Tonser reminded producers that no matter what they thought, scientific feasibility was not the same as public acceptance, something Tom Field of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln agreed on.
“We can get it right or we can explain to customers and critics why we didn’t,” Field stated. “If we loose trust with consumers, we will loose market share that we will not recover.”
Field warned that the agriculture industry can’t be selectively transparent.
“We must evaluate decisions, processes, inputs and technologies by asking these three questions:”
1. Will this decision affect eating satisfaction?
2. Does this decision improve product integrity and thus consumer trust?
3. Am I proud to make this part of the beef story?
Field emphasized that delivering best in world products and services to customers was directly correlated to how beef producers treat their employees and how they handle health and welfare of their cattle.
Speaking on receiving health programs was Mark Spire of Merck Animal Health, something he said has been changed in the last five years by weather.
Weather extremes play a major role in animal health programs. Drought impacts protein quality and energy content of forage along with water quality. Low feed abundance can lead to management practices like early weaning and out of season supplementation. Heavy rainfall brings an increase of flies and weed bloom, while extreme cold hurts calves viability and cow immune response — all things that must be taken into consideration.
“It cost us money when Mother Nature is not providing forages. It also changes management styles.” Spire said. “If we start having forage issues, we start changing immune response.”
Spire said cows will be more likely to abort and get phenomena, while calves will be weak and prone to scours.
Shortage of quality forage also impacts implant programs for commuter cattle.
“Whenever we start adjusting cattle to new social groups, that ends up costing us in the long run. We end up having to move from a more aggressive implant program to a softer implant program,” he said. “We’re seeing a lot more Ralgro and Revalor-G used in programs where we know we may have shortage in quality forage.”
Spire also stressed that having a good deworming program was essential. For the last 30 years Ostertagia (brown stomach worm) has been the number one parasite, until recently being replaced by an intestinal parasite.
“It’s changed the products that we routinely use. It’s changed the way that we use the products,” Spire stated.
According to him, pour-on’s are around 60 percent effective.
“We know that if we don’t connect with parasite control in beef stocker cattle, it’s going to effect gain and it’s going to impact immune response,” Spire said.
Injectables hold a similar pattern at 57 percent effective. To get a greater impact with dewormers, he suggested to use a combination of products.
“One thing that’s come to work that we’ve seen, is the use of combination products. Each one of them, whether they’re a pour, injectable, or oral administerd product, have their advantages and disadvantages,” he explained. “But if we come back to look at what happens when we use them together, we see a very high efficiency rate.”
Beef Stocker Day attendants also heard from Professor Emeritus Terry Mader, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, on the environmental impacts of beef stocker health and wellness, along with carry-over effects of stocker cattle systems on feedlot performance and carcass characteristics by Ryan Reuter of Nobel Foundation. At the end of the presentations, Associate Editor of BEEF Magazine, Wes Ishmael, conducted a producer panel. Panelist included:
Mike Arndt, Emporia, Kan., Frank Brazle, Chanute, Kan.; Tracy Brunner, Ramona, Kan.; Kevin Gant, Wilsey, Kan; and Mark Sullivan, Dickson, Tennessee. Topics included cost of grass, surviving drought and risk management. Full sessions of the 2013 Beef Stocker Day will be posted on DVAuction’s Website in the future at www.dvauc tion.com. £