Value-added marketing was the theme at the South Dakota State University (SDSU) Extension "Cattle Marketing: An Explorative Approach" meeting held June 5 at the Mitchell Region Extension Center, Mitchell, SD. Niche markets were explored ranging from non-hormone treated cattle to branded beef programs. One of the programs discussed was the South Dakota Certified program. Sarah Jorgensen, Livestock Development and Marketing specialist for the South Dakota Department of Agriculture (SDDA), works on the live-animal side of the South Dakota Certified program, and she offered an overview, plus new updates, for producers to consider if interested in applying for the program.
"To qualify for the program, cattle have to be born, raised and slaughtered here in South Dakota," explained Jorgensen. "They cannot leave the state. The big problem is we don't have a main processor yet, but the plant in Aberdeen will be big for South Dakota, once it opens."
While there was once 240 producers enrolled in the program, numbers have dwindled to 80; however, for those producers who stick with it, there are great opportunities.
"We aren't trying to tell you how to market your cattle, but we want to help guide you and earn a premium for your cattle. South Dakota Certified is the only government-run entity in the country. This is a niche for us. Asian countries have great respect for government entities, so they will choose our product over others just because it's a government-run program."
SDDA recently announced changes in the South Dakota Enrolled Cattle Program. The cattle certified through this program are now eligible for age- and source-verification through other processors out of the state.
"Right now, our state doesn't have a packing plant to harvest these cattle, so using our label, we have worked with processors outside of the state to qualify them for their age and source requirements. We want to make sure we can open up all marketing channels, so if you use the South Dakota Certified Program, there is no hiccups on receiving those premiums," she added.
For interested parties looking to apply to partake in this program, there are a few requirements, however.
"To partake in it, you have to be Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) trained and certified," she said. "You can now get BQA certified through the South Dakota Beef Industry Council. Producers used to have to pay to get certified, but now it's a free service provided by the beef checkoff program. Producers also must have a critical management plan (CMP), but they are no longer required to have a premises identification. You can send in your application, then we come out and do an on-site evaluation."
Producers can go through the BQA course at AgXchange in Pierre, SD on June 29, as well as in Mitchell, SD this August during DakotaFest.
To enroll in the program, there are a few start-up costs, but the opportunity for premiums is promising.
"There is a one-year license agreement when you apply," Jorgensen said. "There is also an evaluation for us when we come out. The cost is $100 a year. It's $0.50 to enroll the calves and $0.50 to transfer. If sold, the customer pays the fee - not the owner. Our costs are pretty low.
"I'm hoping the premium will be a good one for South Dakota Certified producers," she said. "The main goal was to add a value-added product for our state's producers. I can't guarantee a premium - that's up to Northern Beef Packers.
"We haven't had a lot of animals go through the program, as of yet, but one producer received a premium for $12 per hundredweight just last month to go into age- and source-verified program to be sold out of state."
Editor's Note: To learn more about the South Dakota Certified program, visit www.southdakotacertifiedbeef.com. For more information on South Dakota Certified Enrolled Cattle, link to www.sdcec.sd.gov.