Tech Days tent reflects market, public curiosity
Despite some tough economic times for the agriculture industry as a whole, the beef market seems to be staying fairly strong; it continues to attract consumers. The beef tent at this year’s Wisconsin Farm Technology Days in Walworth County, sponsored by the Wisconsin Cattlemen’s Association, did well, with 10 cattle breeds exhibited – including Shorthorn, Simmental, Angus, Buelingo, Scottish Highland, Belted Galloway, Wagyu, Normande, Hereford and Pinzgauer.
“We exhibited the Normande breed in the beef tent,” said Mike Mueller, a member of the beef-tent coordinating committee. “Our purpose was two-fold: to show the consumer there is a wide variety of beef breeds in the beef industry and to expose other beef producers to our breed of cattle.”
Mueller said conversations with visitors to the beef tent centered on two general areas: sharing information with people who weren’t familiar with agriculture and sharing information with people who are familiar and involved with agriculture. According to Mueller, consumers who weren’t involved in agriculture wanted to discuss the breeds themselves, their origins, why breeders preferred those specific breeds and beef production in general. Those involved in agriculture wanted to know more details about the breeds, how specific carcasses compare to other breeds, where they can buy semen, animal costs and breeder locations.
He said he believes the Wisconsin beef industry is starting to reflect the expansion of the beef herd overall, creating a sense of uncertainty due to declining prices. But he believes the industry will continue to expand as small dairy farms go out of business and those farmers transition into beef production. Beef producers nationwide continue to move forward with expansions but are using caution, he said.
“I think it is safe to say there will be a demand for more meat as third-world economies improve, with a resulting increase in demand for foods high in protein, with meat being one of them,” Mueller said. “The past has shown us that as the middle class grows, so does the demand for meat as a source of protein.”
Arin Crooks, former president of Wisconsin Cattlemen’s Association and President-Elect of the Wisconsin Beef Council, said the association’s mission is to promote all the state’s beef industry through advocacy, leadership and education. Through the booth at Farm Technology Days this year, held July 19-21, the association hoped to provide a one-stop learning experience on the Wisconsin beef industry.
“We hoped to provide a wide array of learning opportunities for all segments of the public – whether that was learning more about cattle, beef products, or other affiliated businesses and organizations that are part of the Wisconsin beef industry,” Crooks said.
He said he believes the state’s beef industry is still strong despite declining cattle prices from the all-time high prices of a few years ago. Crooks believes the nationwide beef outlook is similar to Wisconsin’s. He said the primary focus of the beef industry is to show consumers that beef is a highly nutritious product worth the investment to feed their families.
“Feed and other input prices still allow for profitability raising cattle for beef, and our state’s herd numbers are continuing to grow for the near future,” he said. “The beef industry strives to let consumers know that beef producers take care of their cattle and environments around their farms and ranches. We strive to do our best and are always looking for ways to improve our management and operations.”
During the next five years Crooks believes all markets will level out, including beef, and provide producers with a chance for better profitability across the board. Though he hesitates to predict the future, he said he believes the beef industry 20 years from now will be similar to what it is today. There aren’t enough viable, long-term replacements for beef cattle that use forages off land that’s unsuitable for other purposes, he said.
“Beef cattle do a great job in producing valuable food for our growing world’s population from areas that otherwise would be much less productive,” Crooks said. “Technologies like genetic testing, feed byproducts and other feed additives will continue to be incorporated to improve the efficiency of production, but will need to meet the expectations and comfort levels of consumers as they will continue to want to know where their food comes from.”
The association will again offer a beef tent at next year’s Wisconsin Farm Technology Days, to be held July 11-13, 2017, in Kewaunee County. Visit www.wifarmtechnologydays.com for more information.