It is no secret to cattle operators that health status of cattle dramatically impacts profit/loss margins, and thus sustainability for the enterprise. With the price of calves now at record highs, keeping one’s cattle healthy may be the difference between hedging a profit and absorbing a large financial loss. Both cattle health and profits in the beef industry will be addressed at the Driftless Region Beef Conference in Dubuque Jan. 22-23.

Featured speaker Mark Hilton, DVM and clinical professor of beef production medicine at Purdue University, will help producers explore improving the health of feedlot cattle. One way is through his presentation, “ Ensuring feedlot health -- Where does it all begin?”

The importance of health throughout the life cycle, from fetal programming to slaughter, will be highlighted “because everything impacts health,” Hilton said.

Hilton is a trusted resource for all things related to animal health in the beef industry, and is well known as a regular contributor to Beef Magazine, authoring feature articles and serving as an expert on the Vet’s Opinion blog.

Hilton will add to the conference discussion on health issues with a breakout session on the second day. He’ll highlight the value of a solid preconditioning program to the cow-calf operation’s bottom line. Because many producers may question the value of a preconditioning program in a market like the current one, he will outline why the “preconditioning bonus” plays only a minor role in the overall profitability of a well-executed preconditioning program.

Conference attendees also can learn about enhancing profitability and reinvesting beef operation profits in sessions presented by Lee Schulz, Iowa State University extension livestock economist.

He’ll describe and explain the use of decision tools to enhance profitability of the beef enterprise in one session, followed by a presentation on strategies for reinvesting profits from the beef operation.

The ability of beef producers to grasp the profitability and overall risk situation of their operations and broader industry trends is critical for long-term business success. The size of the U.S. beef cow herd is at historically low levels and prospects for national herd expansion continue to grow. However, producers who are considering expansion need to make sound decisions to make sure their operations are economically sustainable and well positioned to succeed. In addition, opportunities exist for integration of young producers and future generations into cattle production, but these individuals need knowledge and tools to help them thrive in the industry.

To hear more about these as well as other timely topics presented by prominent figures in the beef industry, producers are encouraged to register soon for the Driftless Beef Conference that runs from 1 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 22 through 11:45 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 23. The Thursday afternoon program focuses on improving efficiency and profitability of beef production in the upper Midwest, followed by an evening discussion focused on opportunities to capitalize on the diversity in the beef industry. The Friday morning agenda includes four breakout sessions each for feedlot operations and cow-calf producers.

The early registration fee for the conference is $85 per person and must be received prior to midnight, Jan. 14. The price increases to $115 after that date. More information about the conference, including topics, speakers, and lodging is available at

The Driftless Region Beef Conference is sponsored by the University of Illinois Extension, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, University of Minnesota Extension, and University of Wisconsin Extension. The planning team strives to deliver the latest in research-based information regarding the beef cattle industry. For more information or to receive a brochure, contact Denise Schwab at 319-721-9624.