Much has been written about the state of cattle numbers across the nation. Shrinking herd numbers have experts concerned about the industry’s ability to fill available feedlot pen space, keep packing plants operating and meet the demands of retailers, food service, restaurants and export markets.
Another less discussed pending crisis is the aging beef producer. According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture more than half of Iowa cattle producers are over the age of 55. Less than 10 percent are under 35 years of age. Those in the 10 percent are the ones who will rebuild the beef herd and feed the global population of 9 billion people expected by 2050. This all comes at a time when costs of land, feed, machinery and virtually all inputs are at record levels. The good news is that cattle prices are also at record levels.
-- Leadership for the future
Farm organizations including the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association have recognized the need to develop future leaders though young producer leadership programs. The Iowa Young Cattlemen’s Leadership Program (YCLP) is an exciting opportunity for young producers to get involved. This can also lead to participation in national beef leadership opportunities such as NCBA’s Young Cattlemen’s Conference and Young Producers council.
-- Beginning and Young Livestock producer success network
Thanks to a special initiative from the ISU Vice President for Extension and Outreach, we have been able to begin the Young and Beginning Livestock Producer Success Network. In this program, local peer groups are being developed to share ideas, bring in educational speakers and improve awareness of leadership and other opportunities like the YCLP. Currently there are groups formed or forming in Northwest, Southwest, East Central and Northeast Iowa. Other areas have discussions underway about forming groups. For more information about this program, call your Iowa State Extension beef program specialist or send an email to project coordinator Colin Johnson (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Of course at ISU we understand the importance of preparation of the next generation as part of their college experience. We appreciate our partnerships with Iowa cattle organizations to accomplish this. The Iowa Cattlemen’s Foundation is a great supporter of scholarships for college students, Iowa Beef Industry Council staff have educated students on Beef Quality Assurance, and in January, Iowa Cattlemen’s Association CEO Matt Deppe reviewed the organization, its industry leadership programs and issues with ISU students in the Beef Systems Management class.