William L. Davis, Chaney, John A. | 4/19/2005 10:29:00 PM
ALEXANDRIA – Farmers, agribusiness people and government leaders attended a two-day LSU AgCenter Beef and Forage Short Course here late last month.
The short course was the fourth of its kind and was held at the LSU AgCenter’s Dean Lee Research Station and the LSU-Alexandria campus May 27-28. It was designed to give cattle and forage producers an opportunity to listen to and visit with some of the leading experts in the field, and it attracted more than 90 participants, said LSU AgCenter beef cattle specialist Dr. Bill Davis, coordinator of the event.
The keynote speaker was James Henderson, president of BC Natural Foods of Childress, Texas. The company harvests more than 150,000 cattle a year and supplies natural beef products that are high in quality and free of antibiotics and hormones.
"The beef industry must carefully listen to the consumer and deliver products they want to buy in a timely and efficient manner," Henderson said, adding that consumers buy beef products because of taste, customer satisfaction, diet, products free of antibiotics and hormones, and, of course, price.
The taste of beef is primarily controlled by the breeding and feeding of the animal, Henderson said, stressing, for example that consumers recognize the Certified Angus Beef label and associate it with a high value product.
"Realizing customers want a product that tastes good, we hire inspectors to quality grade all beef; purchase young cattle (under 18 months of age); buy animals free of implants, hormones and antibiotics; select cattle with docile temperaments; and strive to purchase animals with a traceable history," he said.
"We harvest cattle, cut carcasses into 232 parts and market the parts according to consumer demands," said Henderson, adding, consumers are interested in buying certain cuts at specific times of the year.
For instance, consumers purchase the following beef cuts at various holidays, according to Henderson: Valentine’s Day – tenderloin; St. Patrick’s Day – corn beef brisket (especially on the East coast); Passover – brisket and ribs; Mother’s Day – tenderloin; Graduation – top round; Memorial Day (the largest beef day of the year) – strips and top butts; Father’s Day – strips and top buts; July 4 – hamburger and hot dogs; Labor Day – brisket, hamburger and hot dogs; Christmas – ribs and tenderloin; and New Year’s – tenderloin. Thanksgiving is primarily a turkey holiday, he said.
"It is important to communicate with consumers and know what they want," said Henderson, "then strive to package a high-quality product consumers want to buy."
Since the BSE, Newcastle and Avian Influenza outbreaks, consumers want to know the food products they consume are high quality, safe and have a traceable history, Henderson stressed.
"I believe the public has a high regard for USDA," he said, continuing, "And the cattle industry did a good job in telling the story following the BSE outbreak in the state of Washington."
Henderson said he believes the future is bright for cattle producers in the United States, because cow numbers on farms are the smallest they have been since 1952, and the number of people to consume beef products is larger today, especially in this country.
"We paid $1.20 for calves going to the feed lot this morning," he said. "And we hope to make a profit when the animals are harvested."
But Henderson cautioned producers to maintain an efficient operation, market every animal as an individual and find the best market for every animal.
Other topics addressed during the short course included animal health and biosecurity, financial management, marketing, making the most of forages, managing calves, country of origin labeling of animals, feeding southern cattle and the beef quality assurance program.
The event was sponsored by the LSU AgCenter, McNeese State University and the Louisiana Cattlemen's Association.