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Published September 26, 2009, 12:00 AM

BeefTalk: Age and source verification

In nature, fall brings a shift in focus. It is time to accumulate, evaluate and tabulate. For beef producers, gathering and marketing animals are front and center because the store is closing for the year, so come back next summer.

By: Kris Ringwall, NDSU Extension, The Dickinson Press

In nature, fall brings a shift in focus. It is time to accumulate, evaluate

and

tabulate. For beef producers, gathering and marketing animals are front and

center because the store is closing for the year, so come back next summer.

This is the time of year when life gets a little tougher. For many, the

grocery

stores remain stocked, which is the consumers' only view of food production.

In past generations, grandma stocked the root cellar, canned the summer's

produce and added a few pullets to the hen house. Grandpa harvested the

grain

and started the calves, pigs or lambs on feed for winter meat.

Through the years, farms have increased in size and productivity, ultimately

supplying our city cousins with a near endless supply of food. At the same

time,

people simply have forgotten where food comes from.

In the last decade, there has been a movement to reconnect the art of food

production from the producer to the consumer. While the reasons may vary,

this

new dimension of agriculture is growing.

Age and source verification for meat and source verification for many more

food

products are management processes that seem to please consumers. While the

connection back to the actual producer may be marginal, the knowledge about

the

food we eat brings some contentment to human well-being.

For beef producers, age- and source-verified cattle are earning premiums of

$25

to $35 per carcass. The premiums vary depending on the program, but cash is

being offered for ranch- or feedlot-verified cattle through to the packer.

Chip Poland, Dickinson Research Extension Center livestock specialist, and I

start two days of each week teaching the cow-calf management class at

Dickinson

State University. The attitude of the 15 potential beef producers is

reflective

of the industry.

The struggle with the concept of premiums from age and source verification

is

real. The skepticism is not easily overcome because new programs require

work

and working cattle is never easy.

While additional money may be offered to the industry, there are many in the

industry with their hands out. The cow-calf producer often is last in line.

The so-called premiums, if one wishes to call them that, seem to be thinner

for

those at the end of the line versus those at the beginning of the line.

However,

there is opportunity. With opportunity, the challenge of capturing more

market

share is real.

Unfortunately, business as usual must be set aside. For these 15 students

and,

we hope, other producers as well, a willingness to make the connection from

producer to consumer needs to be approached. The process can be complicated

or

relatively simple.

The amount of the premium is dependent on the current demand that feedlots

have

to buy age- and source-verified cattle and the availability of properly age-

and

source-verified calves. Most markets will indicate a positive relationship

between age- and source- verified calves and value, depending on the

underlying

worth of each producer's calves.

Calves doing poorly still are calves doing poorly, with or without age

verification. Good calves always find their way to the top.

The only real way to grab the full premium is for the producer to retain

ownership of the calves all the way to the packer. In that case, the packer

will

hand you the premium and all skepticism should end.

However, that means increased market risk. For many, $35 is not worth the

retained ownership. However, for today, feedyards are looking, so why not

age

and source verify your calves and work diligently with your local sale barn

to

make sure all buyers are well aware of the quality of your calves and their

eligibility for additional foreign markets?

It never hurts to brag a little while you sell your calves.

May you find all your ear tags.

Your comments are always welcome at www.BeefTalk.com.

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