Feeding Quality Forum speakers encourage new thinking
Miranda Reiman, CAB
via The Fence Post - September 5, 2019
The cattle industry needs to make some bold, creative changes to ensure its viability.
That was the wakeup call from speakers at the Feeding Quality Forum, Aug. 27 to 28 in Amarillo, Texas. Persistent problems may require new approaches.
“Revenue is the reward for doing the right thing,” said Anne-Marie Roerink, principal at 210 Analytics.
The retail food expert talked of marketing claims, consumer preferences and buying trends she studies in the Power of Meat survey, but the idea that doing right would eventually yield more profit was a common theme at the two-day forum, hosted by Certified Angus Beef LLC and supporting sponsors.
“Everyone throughout the grocery store is stealing our protein argument,” she said, pointing out sales of peanut butter to granola bars. “Meat is still the superior deliverer of protein.”
Consumers want to include more plants in their diets, but that doesn’t mean it’s at the expense of meat.
“Sometimes we have to have an open mind to still be on the menu,” Roerink said.
Joe Leathers, 6666 Ranch, said cattlemen need to shift their perspective on cattle tracking, too.
“I hear a lot of talk about how are we going to pay for a disease traceability program? There’s no added incentive to do it,” he said. Indeed, it’s a cost to the industry. “But how can we afford not to have a disease traceability program as an insurance policy?”
It’s “realistic” to think there will be another disease outbreak, Leathers said.
Breaking away from tradition may help the industry solve ongoing challenges in feedyard receiving pens.
John Richeson, West Texas A&M University, said one future strategy could be targeting only the highest risk share of a pen with preventative measures. Everything from chute-side nasal swabs to haptoglobin-measuring blood tests could help find the animals within a pen or load that need the most attention.
It would be more labor intensive but reduce antibiotic usage because most cattle may not need treatment.
“I don’t think the consumer is going to accept metaphylaxis if they understand that, so we need to find ways to better target,” he said.
Yet, a cattleman’s priority is to keep cattle healthy, and in some cases, the only tool we have today is turning to health products.
Feedyard consultant Scott Laudert explained the cause and incidence of liver abscesses in fed cattle, where minor differences in performance and carcass merit still add up to major costs.
“Losses for the packer can be a combination of time, labor and saleable product,” he said, noting a $60-million price tag.
Today’s advice is pretty routine: “Control liver abscesses as early as possible or the train will have left the station,” Laudert said.
But negative consumer perception of mass preventative treatment motivates the industry to keep learning more about best practices for Tylan or researching alternatives.
“It’s going to take some outside-the-box thinking from feedyard managers and nutritionists and veterinarians,” Laudert said. “What can you guys do that you haven’t been doing to soften the impact?”