COLLEGE STATION New York prime rib is going the way of a New York public relations campaign to e-commerce, niche marketing and Web-based advertising. Organizers of the annual 46th annual Beef Cattle Short Course here this week hope to help ranchers stay out of the digital divide and ahead of changes in livestock marketing systems.
“It’s going to be very difficult to sell cattle that don’t meet the demands of the consumer,” said Dr. Larry Boleman, beef cattle specialist with the Texas Agricultural Extension Service and coordinator for the event. “It may come down to whether they can sell that calf at all, not will I take a lower price for it.”
The three-day Beef Cattle Short Course, which continues through Wednesday, has drawn about 1,200 producers and cattle experts from across the state to the Texas A&M University campus.
“Ranchers are now able to market the value of their calves,” Boleman said. “The producer can actually be rewarded for raising the product consumers want. We’re marketing way beyond our front gate. Now, we’re beginning to think about selling that steak in New York City.”
According to Dr. Ernie Davis, Extension economist and one of the speakers at the short course, consumer demand and production of beef continue to go up. Even better news for the producer is that prices also stayed up. Usually as demand and production go up, the price for cattle drops.
The United States produces about 26.2 billion pounds of beef per year, and the per capita consumption is 68 pounds of retail weight annually, Davis said. At 5.4 million head, Texas produces four times as many beef cows as any other state.
Speakers at the short course are advising producers on how to prepare a calf and how to evaluate markets.
“The producer has always been a marketer, he just didn’t know it,” Boleman said. “Every time he bought a bull, he set a market.”
Now, he explained, by the employment of every available management technique such as ensuring calves are healthy when they arrive at market, the rancher is setting another type of market one that in the end is more profitable to the producer.
These types of topics are very different from those that used to be covered at the short course when Boleman began coordinating it 10 years ago. Then, he said, producers were more concerned about the market at the local level. Topics focused on farm management or how to make a profit.
Attendance at the short course peaked in 1996 at 1,300. The next year, attendance dropped to about 1,200 producers where it has since remained. That is in spite of a drop in the number of beef cattle producers from 150,000 in 1990 to 137,000 in 2000 and a 5-year drought that has plagued much of the state.
Why? Producers “still love to raise the cattle, and they conscientiously want to do the right thing and make a profit,” Boleman said.