As we enter the year 2014, I am sure many of you have established personal or business-related goals for the coming year. I know the whole New Year's Resolutions issue can be very exciting to some as we set such lofty goals as weight loss, regular church attendance, increasing charitable donations, and generally being a better person. When we reach the end of a given year, our frustration level grows significantly as we realize that we didn't reach those optimistic targets. Do you remember the goals that you set 12 months ago?
Every business needs to set aggressive goals for improvement to remain competitive and profitable in today's challenging economy. This is especially true for the beef industry in the United States. While price prospects for most segments of the beef cattle industry look promising for 2014, we can't afford to become complacent and be satisfied with the "status quo." The following are my New Year's Resolutions for the Beef Industry in 2014.
1. Increasing the supply of beef cattle in the United States.
According to Cattle-Fax, the nation's beef cowherd will be at 29 million head on January 1, 2014 which reflects an over 6 million cow decline since 1995. Market prices have encouraged producers to consider expansion and drought relief in larger geographical areas across the country is allowing some increase in numbers to actually become a reality. However, this large decline in numbers has occurred over many years and the rebuilding process will take time.
The industry has made efforts to keep the levels of beef production up to keep up with demand. Harvest weights have increased steadily over the past several years but there are practical limits as to how far they can continue to rise. The use of beta-agonists will increase muscle tissue and reduce the fat percentage on carcasses but there are questions about domestic and foreign consumer acceptance of the product. The continued use of currently available antibiotics to enhance performance is a hotly debated component of the entire antibiotic resistance issue.
Now more than ever, producers must optimize reproduction rates to help increase the size of our calf crop. This can be accomplished through better adoption of proven, effective management practices. Unfortunately, time-tested technologies such as palpation, breeding soundness exams of herd sires, and body condition scoring are woefully underutilized. According to the 2007-08 National Animal Health Monitoring System's Beef Study, less than 20% of all beef operations use any one of these practices.