Area herdsmen head West

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 26, 2004

When the first classes graduated from the Alabama Master Cattle Producer course, many asked the question “What next?”

For Alabama Cooperative Extension System county agents, the answer was obvious.

Go West.

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Johnny Gladney, a Tuscaloosa County Extension agent, and fellow agents who conducted Master Cattle Producer programs knew that Alabama producers would benefit from seeing the beef industry from another viewpoint.

“We wanted to take them out of state on an intensive study tour to view the entire industry from conception to consumption,” said Gladney.

A team of Extension agents took 43 producers to Nebraska and Kansas on the first Alabama Pasture to Plate Study Tour.

While these tours are not new, this venture was the first in Alabama geared specifically to studying the beef industry.

“There were no antique stores on this trip, just beef-related stops where we could learn something new,” said Kent Stanford, St. Clair County Extension agent.

“This idea has been tossed around for several years, and we decided it was time to offer the next step for our progressive cattle producers.”

Producers from 11 Alabama counties spent four days examining various segments of the beef production system.

Improving genetics was the focus of several stops on the tour.

At the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Meat Animal Research Center, Dr. Larry Cundiff, an authority on cattle crossbreeding systems, gave an overview of his research. Producers also visited Flying H Genetics where purebred and composite cattle are raised.

Effective management techniques were also highlighted on the tour.

Producers learned how ranchers in the Sand Hills area cope with 16 inches of rainfall per year on native-grass pastures. Dr. Patsy Houghton of Heartland Cattle Co. outlined how to develop productive replacement heifers for the beef herd.

Many of the Alabama producers had never seen a large-scale feeding operation.

The more than five miles of covered pens at Mead Cattle Co., a major feeder of Alabama calves, was an eye-opening experience for the producers.

Professionals at the high-tech Decatur Co. Feedyard showed how data can be collected at their facility and utilized by a producer to improve the genetics of the cowherd.

During a visit to Excel Corporation’s Schuyler, Neb., processing plant, the Alabama producers had the rare opportunity to see the complete harvesting and fabrication operation -definitely a tour highlight and a new experience for most.

At the University of Nebraska, the group learned about the new flat iron steak developed there. They also had the chance to try one of the steaks during dinner with Nebraska Cattlemen and Nebraska Corn-Fed Beef officials.

Producers learned that many techniques could be applied to their cowherds, no matter the herd size.

“I see now how these marketing alternatives work and that I can do it with my 25 calves,” said Ronnie Cook, a cow-calf producer from Shelby County.

The tour also established new lines of communication between the Alabama beef industry and Midwest feeding operations.

“Our folks were able to make connections that boost the demand for our cattle while clearing up misconceptions about Southeastern calves,” said Kevan Tucker, Marengo County Extension agent.

Linden Stockyard owner Jerry Etheredge agreed.

“We should definitely see more buyers lined up to purchase our quality calves,” said Etheredge.

Tucker said new contacts may help reap higher calf prices now, but the real profits will come from what producers learned.

“These lessons will affect each of these producers’ farms,” he said. “The changes they implement will add value to their animals and help the farms be sustainable in the future.”

Beef Tour 1.jpg – From left to right,

Joe Tidmore of Shelby County, Leonard Moseley of Marengo County, Jerry Bice of St.Clair County, Mitchell Hale of Marengo County, and Ricky Colquitt of Shelby County listen as the herdsman at Flying H Genetics in Arapahoe, Nebraska explains their feeding and marketing programs.

Beef Tour 2.jpg – Area Beef Cattle producers that attend the week long Alabama Pasture to Plate Beef Study Tour.

The participants toured over 1200 miles throughout Nebraska as well as Kansas.

The tour included beef producers from 11 Alabama Counties including Marengo Hale Perry and Clarke.

There were visits on the trip that included Cow-calf Operations, Feedlots, Beef Processing Facility as well as Internationally recognized Research Facilities.