Vet’s Voice by Dr. Dave Barz: Funding still sought for SDSU cow-calf unit
September 26, 2014
The fall had been great in our area. The crops are maturing rapidly and harvest will soon begin. The silage is piling up and many clients are snapping some corn for feed. The cows look great and the calves are growing rapidly. We have a lot to be thankful for; adequate rains, good crops and a great cow and calf price.
This weekend I attended the Beef Bowl at SDSU in Brookings, S.D. This highlights a great time in the cattle industry. Calves are at all time high prices. Cows are in short supply and at high price levels also. Feedlot cattle are at great prices, but require a lot of dollars to replace them. We are riding a 'high' and nothing appears to be on the radar to break it in the near future.
What has changed in the last few years? We had a great draught, which decreased the cow herd to record low numbers and the high calf prices have made it tough for producers to retain heifers because they are attempting to decrease debt. One of the major problems is not a small or aging cow herd, but an aging cow-calf owner. With the profits available at this point of the cycle, many aging producers are tempted to take their profits and retire. No one can blame a producer for finishing his or her cow-calf career on a high note, but somewhere we need to find producers to fill in and add cows to increase the cow herd.
The 'Beef Council' has done a great job promoting our product. We all know we produce the best, most wholesome product in the market place. Our check-off dollars have helped increase our share of export markets. China and the Pacific Rim have developed a taste for our beef and they now have many to buy it. This is phenomenal since about ten years ago our exports were at zero because of the "California cow that stole Christmas."
Demand is still great stateside. We all thought the increased prices would cause people to not eat as much beef and substitute cheaper protein sources. People still demand beef and are willing to pay for it.
The market has totally changed to adapt to the need for fed beef. Most heifers, and cows entering the market channels now go to the feedlots to be fattened. Even the fat cattle have increased carcass size. Steers and heifers entering the market go back to the country to be fed to 1,400-1,500 pounds. I really don't see much deduction for over-fat animals. Obviously the packer needs pounds.
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The future appears bright for the cow-calf industry, but where will the additional pounds of beef come from? We need to continue our support of the Beef Council as the fund promotions, BQA, research and marketing.
New technologies and well-trained new producers must come from land grant institutions like SDSU. The cow-calf unit at SDSU is in need of an upgrade. It was built some fifty years ago and a lot of technology had changed since it was built. Dean of Agriculture, Barry Dunn has proposed the need for a new unit, but state funding is not available at this time and it must be financed by donations on a grassroots basis. A group of interested individuals have promoted a 'Cow-To-College Program', where producers donate a cow for the future of the cow-calf unit as well as the future of the cow-calf industry. If you would like to help in the project, contact the SDSU Foundation or SDSU Extension allowing you to invest in the future of South Dakota and the beef industry.