Consistency is key to continued value in the beef industry

Source: Farm Progress. The original article is posted here.

Consistency is key to continued value in the beef industry

In the beef industry, consistency is key to, well, just about everything. From sire and AI choices to ration options to market opportunities, producers can add value at each production stage based on their decisions. Garrett Englin, cattle buyer for JBS USA, said consistency is key for packers, too. Speaking at the 2024 Feedlot Forum in northwest Iowa, he told attendees how a current trend is helping.

"Having cattle at the same size and same weight is key, and the beef on dairy crosses help a great deal in reaching and maintaining consistency," he said. "Being able to provide the same product to consumers starts with getting similar cattle from producers."

With 2024 Feedlot Forum sponsored in part by Iowa Beef Center and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Englin was asked to talk to the group about the beef-dairy cross that's becoming very popular. A big part of how this approach works is the narrowing of genetic diversity. Holstein cows are quite consistent, and with the use of fewer sires, the sire base is consistent. So, producers have more control over that animal during its entire life than they would by buying cattle from a variety of sources.

"It's always easier for a packer to buy your cattle if he knows what to expect from you," Englin said. "Continuing to provide a consistent quality animal helps with market acceptability, which benefits the producer and the packer."

Using these similar genetics also allows cattle raised in Texas or South Dakota or Iowa to continue to draw packer interest regardless of where the animals are from. And speaking of geographic location, northwest Iowa is ideal for the beef cattle business.

"I've been fortunate to have spent my entire professional career in this very progressive beef community in northwest Iowa," Englin said. "People here grow their crops, feed them through their cattle, and their total farm income is safer because of this diversification and consistency."

A native of Cottonwood County, Minnesota, who eventually moved to Sioux County, Englin has been involved with cattle since his early days. He showed cattle through 4-H and started a cow-calf herd as a teenager.

"I love the showing side, I love the genetic side, I love the breeding portion side, and all of my cattle now are designed around creating junior exhibitor project animals," he said. "When I was in college, I was on the meat judging team and I got a very good understanding of the meat side of the industry. I also worked in the feed industry."

Combined, these opportunities paved the way for another opportunity for him to help the industry by being on the board of the Iowa Beef Industry Council.

"I believe in the checkoff program, and our (IBIC) job is to promote beef and to promote research through Iowa State University and other places to help benefit beef producers," he said. "I'm also the representative for the U.S. Meat Export Federation and have gone on trade trips to places like Columbia to encourage the purchase of Iowa products and create more value for Iowa farmers."

The consistent theme running through Englin's experiences is that the Iowa beef industry is in a good place, and it can get better. By taking advantage of the science and the available research and making decisions to improve individual operations for the long term, chances of success for all parties continue to rise.

"Sometimes we forget that we are one unified group, and it doesn't matter if you're a cow-calf guy, you only have cows, you sell feeder cattle, you're a backgrounder or a feed person or a packer or a retailer," he said. "We all should have the same objective of making sure that our animals are taken care of, producing the highest quality food – animal protein – so we're profitable and it's affordable for consumers to use.

"The packing industry would not survive with cattle feeders, and cattle feeders can't survive without a packing industry," Englin said. "Consistency at all levels helps make this possible."

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