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Beef Program Benefits Regional Cattle Producers

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Written Friday, February 01, 2002  

The ability of beef producers to exchange information, track production of an animal and study marketing trends is key to providing a product that not only satisfies consumers but is more profitable for the producer.

A beef industry program called the Five State Beef Initiative, has been developed by university officials, commodity organizations, industry representatives and state departments of agriculture from Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Michigan, to provide producers with that kind of information.

Amy Radunz, an Ohio State University Extension beef associate and Ohio's Five State coordinator, said the program's goal is to help Eastern Corn Belt beef producers strengthen economic opportunities by providing added value to the consumer through responsive productive and marketing information systems.

"What we are trying to capture is the value of the product from the consumer level," Radunz said. "Producers want to produce a quality product, and consumers want to be assured that the products are safe and wholesome."

Since the program's inception in 1996, its representatives have been working to keep beef producers competitive within a fragmented industry through two objectives: developing an education and outreach effort with training and certification programs; and creating a data management system to track cattle as they move through the industry. One of those goals has been met.

Over the next several months, comprehensive beef cattle management training and certification programs will be held for producers throughout the five-state region. The first two sessions will be in Ohio: Feb. 6 in Chillicothe and Feb. 19 in Newark. The sessions are the first of three components producers need to become certified under the Five State Beef Initiative alliance. The other two components require completion of an Ohio Beef Quality Assurance program and an Ohio Livestock Environmental Assurance Program.

"Each producer who is part of the program will be certified in such areas as beef quality assurance, health and well being, genetics, environmental and health management and data management," Radunz said. "The information provided will help producers be more profitable and move in the direction of the industry to a value-based system with various alliances or partnerships."

Unlike the poultry industry, where producers maintain ownership of their product through the production process to consumer marketing, the beef industry lacks a method that allows producers to track animals through the production process, share information with other producers and study marketing trends that would make their product more profitable. There are several independently owned and operated segments in the beef industry, including seedstock, feedlot, processor, distributor and retailer. As a result, an animal may change ownership several times during the production process.

This segmentation stems in part from economic changes in the beef industry over the past 20 years that has favored large operators.

Since the late 1970s, the industry has seen beef consumption across the U.S. steadily drop, with small- to medium-sized producers from such states as Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky and Illinois unable to compete with larger conglomerates. According to the National Agricultural Statistics Services, one of every three cattle operations in the region has folded since 1986, thereby reducing the number of processors and limiting beef production and marketing.

"It's harder for small beef producers to remain competitive with their own efforts," Radunz said. "Whether it be small producers, medium-sized producers or those with a large herd, through the five-state program, we can bring those producers together and build business relationships. Value is in numbers and information."

For more information about the certification programs, contact Radunz at (614) 247-8884 or by email at radunz.1@osu.edu. For more information regarding the Five State Beef Initiative, log onto http://www.5statebeef.org/.

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