John Nalivka: A few thoughts – marketing beef from the ground up
It seems as though marketing has always been kept at an arms-length from production agriculture. Until recently, raising cattle has been well-defined just as the name says – raising cattle. This may or may not include marketing cattle. I know, you sell your calf crop every year. You list them on the video sale, have a buyer come and make a bid, or take them to the sale yard. The real work was calving, turning cattle out, putting up hay, gathering, weaning calves, feeding through the winter and starting all over again. Like I say, raising cattle – not raising and marketing cattle.
I firmly believe that 2013 was the defining year when the way of doing business changed. The industry had gone through 3 years of severe drought and by the beginning of 2014, the U.S. cattle herd had been liquidated to a 60-year low or better yet, culled to a 60-low year low. Culling selectively removes undesirable traits from the herd. In other words, cattlemen took the most undesirable cattle out of the U.S. herd. In terms of beef demand, that was significant. Furthermore, and even more significant was to place greater emphasis on the selection of genetic traits that would carry the industry forward with a focus on consumer demand and herd efficiency and productivity. The industry moved from production and selling a calf crop to production and marketing a calf crop. Remember those bred heifers with quality genetics that sold for $3,000 per head in 2015 and the jump from 78 percent Choice and Prime carcasses in 2012 to 87 percent Choice and Prime carcasses in 2020? It all goes together.
Raising cattle profitably requires total involvement from production to marketing and I will say it once again, producing and marketing the right cattle for the right market – a market defined by consumers who will always come back to buy your quality beef. So, let’s take it one more step – production, marketing, and education. Take the lead to tell their story of sustainable production. Cattlemen know better than anyone what it takes to keep the land and grazing resource healthy for future generations – your kids. Cattlemen should tell that story.
It’s about sustainability and you live it every day. Sustainability is profitability. Sustainability is your livelihood. Production, marketing, and sustainability are all closely connected and it is up to cattlemen to get deeply involved in educating the public. It will pay dividends.
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