Beef Cattle Farming For Beginners

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>> 90 years ago, the Virginia Farm Bureau made our local farmers a promise to protect and preserve a way of life they worked so hard to establish. Today, our insurance agents work to protect all of Virginians, not just farmers. We want to keep Virginia Virginia. More information is at >>The remarkable soybean. From its oil, we get products like ink, candles, and paint. From its meal, we get a high-protein fiber used in foods and animal feeds. Natural soy is replacing chemicals in products you use everyday. You can learn more about soybeans at >>Hey everybody, welcome to Virginia Farming. Today, Jeff, we’re talking about the beef cattle industry and there’s a lot going on with it. >>Such an important industry to the Commonwealth of Virginia, Amy. We’ve been raising beef cattle in Virginia for over 400 years now, but we are seeing some trends in beef cattle production, and that’s what we’re gonna talk about today.

>>So today’s show is gonna be a little unique. We’ve got four questions for four farmers and Jeff, I think we’re gonna get different answers from everybody. >>No doubt about it. No two cattlemen are alike and we hope to get some interesting responses. >>Absolutely. >>That’s on this edition of Virginia Farming. (upbeat music) (cow moos) >>So today on Virginia Farming, we’re gonna try something a little bit different. We’re asking four different farmers the same four questions about the beef cattle industry. >>And Amy, I’m really interested to see their responses to these questions, because it’s all about trends we’re seeing in Virginia beef cattle production. Of course, we have a long, long history in Virginia, more than 400 years of cattle production here in the old dominion, but we’re seeing some new trends in cattle production. >>Absolutely right, and I think the best way to learn about those new trends is to ask the farmer themselves. >>Four farmers, four questions. (upbeat music) >>I believe that it is genetic improvement, trying to make these cattle better. There’s so many tools available to us these days. We have AI, we have multiple different sire companies, where you can select sires, where you can do artificial insemination.

Embryo transfer has really picked up. I know our farm is relying heavily on embryo transfer. That’s where we take the embryos from a donor cow and put it into a recipient, a surrogate mother, and that allows us to provide better genetics to help feed the world. >>I think the biggest single trend in Virginia cattle is, I think, we’re seeing that our kids are coming back. They wanna come back to the farm and they’re very interested and this is a true example of what we have here at VCCP because we have over 500 head and these are used in families and I think there’s a need and a want for these kids and families to come back. Family farming is heading back and family direction, I think, is coming that way too.

>>Trend that probably in the past year or two, or a couple years, that we’ve seen is, primarily in Virginia, there’s a lot of cow calf producers. We’ll grow calves to a weaned age, six, seven months, and a lot of these cattle go to a feed yard. Trend that we’re probably seeing is those feed yards are growing cattle a lot bigger, so they’re on feed a little bit longer, but those carcasses are getting a lot heavier. That’s probably the thing I’ve noticed in the beef industry as of late. >>I think the biggest trend, or probably the best trend, is what we’re doing with the embryo transplant, trying to get better quality cattle, not have to keep so many cattle on your farm in order to improve the quality. We are transplanting our best, a herd of 50 cows, you take two or three of your best cows, and you can produce cattle from those two or three and at the end, you’ll have a calf prop that will be equal to five or six years of doing it in a single operation.

So, I think the biggest trend is our embryo transfer, as more people are doing that now and it is improving our cattle a lot. Herd, tremendously. (upbeat music) >>If I can be Secretary of Agriculture for one day, the biggest things that I would do is get our youth, so we can continue on with the future of agriculture and allow them somewhere they can afford to farm, where they can get into farming. You know, if we have to match up families that kids don’t wanna farm, if we could do that, plus the other thing is, make it more affordable.

Yes, it’s nice that people wanna live in the country, but there’s a trade-off. Those people that, in terms of, make our cities, let’s grow back our cities. Let’s grow back our country, our country people, and the two can work together to build a better nation. >>I think the biggest thing would be consumer education. I know, right now, there are so many folks that don’t really understand agriculture. They don’t understand what they’re eating. They’re scared of everything, it seems to be. We need to educate these folks. We’re farmers, we’re out here trying to do a good job, raise good beef, crops, and other food products as well, but the consumers don’t understand and they’ve almost become scared of our food, yet we’re all trying to do a good job in raising good quality products. So, consumer education is what I think the most important thing would be. >>The thing I’d probably do is I’d just continue to focus on foreign country relations, export markets. Being a beef producer, the better the price for us, the better, so foreign markets are very important to the cattle industry and if we can keep those pathways open, it’ll benefit the cow calf producer.

>>Okay, if I was secretary for a day, I would go in the office of the secretary, get his rules and regulations, and tear ’em up and throw ’em in the trash can, and I would start with some people that know what they’re doing, instead of the kind of people we have that have no idea, making these rules and regulations, and have no idea what we’re doing. We need to know, from the top down, the bottom end, the hard-working people, know what they’re doing, but it’s the upper end that does not know what we’re trying to do.

They don’t know how to help us. We need to get more education. Everybody says that the people need to be educated. First of all, we need to get our upper end educated. (upbeat music) >>The way that I got involved in agriculture was showing cattle. You put a halter on that calf and you let a little kid become buddies with that animal and it just takes off from there. I’m hooked. I don’t come from a farm. My parents didn’t farm, but a friend of the family got me involved in showing cattle and I’m telling you, I’m hooked. I live, eat, sleep, drink cattle now and it all started because of the show cattle industry.

It teaches kids so much about responsibilities and how to take care of an animal and it’ll just get ’em hooked. >>Couple things, I would say. Obviously, the show industry is a nice avenue into the cattle industry, whether it be cattle or sheep or other livestock. It gets young people started, teaches ’em responsibility at a young age, and hopefully garners an interest there. Obviously, FFA and 4-H clubs, adults getting young folks involved in those organizations, and get ’em a background in agriculture and see if they are interested to have a forward career path. >>Probably the best thing we can do to get more people, more young people in agriculture, is to show them that there is some rewards at the end.

They can start out with just a small amount while they’re in school. They can start out and have a few things. There’s plenty of farmland in Virginia left, but it is disappearing. We need to keep the kids doing the things that we did when we were kids, so they know what to do and we have to keep them involved so they appreciate and know at the end… Most of the kids, they don’t have any values to know, at the end, they’re gonna have something. In farming, if you were building something all the time, you are educating our kids so they know that there is a future in farming. >>I think the biggest thing that we can do to attract more young people is kinda what we do and what I do, ’cause I’m an ag teacher at Buffalo Gap High School.

We need to work with the kids. We need to show the kids, because a lot of them don’t come from farms, but they’re just eager and they enjoy animals and they’re eager to work with and how we can get those kids more involved. Maybe they show, maybe they want to do chickens, whatever, but anything that we can do to help our youth get involved in agriculture is great and we really need that. (upbeat music) >>As a young producer, I would focus on just trying to stay on the leading edge of technology. Utilize some artificial insemination, good genetics, and also a health program is very important to keep for keeping good herd health, so you don’t have sick calves and whatnot. Utilize the genetics that are available that will help you grow your herd and have a better herd of cattle. >>I would have to say, it goes back to the genetics. You need to stay on top of what’s available, the technologies on how to get there. The genetics is so important in raising the next generation of beef animal. There’s EPDs that are out there, where you can read the numbers. There’s the livestock evaluation classes, where they teach you how to make visual appraisals of the cattle.

The genetics, to me, that would be my advice. Stay on top of genetics. A cow is not a cow. There’s more to it. There’s lots of difference amongst cattle. >>Well, I think, first of all, if you’re gonna try to improve anything, you need to get some education and I am a firm believer that you need a good education in order to have the knowledge to know what you’re doing, but then, you need to get some experience and you need to work with these cattle. You need to find out for yourself what works in different areas. I’ve been all over the country. Spent a lot of time in Texas and it’s different out there than what it is here. So, we need to keep the kids learning what they can do. Everybody has a different view. Everybody has a different way of finding the best results of an operation, so each kid’s gonna have to go out and try to find what works for them the best, but as long as we keep ’em working, then we’re gonna have a chance, after the end, to have that to work out.

>>Well, I guess, this is a really big thing. It’s extremely important to me and I grew up in western Canada and I have siblings that farm in Kansas and also in Canada and Nebraska and South Dakota and I think we see the same thing, all the way through the nation. How we can get our kids and what we can do to tell these kids it’s about family. What these kids learn in terms of on farms is responsibility, good qualities of life, and being together, and it makes a more manageable kid, or a person, in terms, a workable kid, for the working environment. There’s no comparison and I think they’ve done a lot of research in how good are kids that are raised on farms are. (upbeat music) >>Well, on this episode, we’re talking about trends in the beef cattle industry, here in the Commonwealth of Virginia and I wanna thank our participants in the first part of the show. They really filled us in on a lot of things that are going on in the Virginia cattle industry and now I’d like to welcome to the program, John Benner with Virginia Cooperative Extension.

John, you work out of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Tell me about your involvement with the cattle industry. >>Well, Jeff, thanks for having me on, first and foremost. I am the animal science extension agent for Virginia Cooperative Extension. I work out of the Augusta County office in Verona and I service producers in Rockingham, Rockbridge, and Augusta County. >>You work with cattle producers here in Virginia on a daily basis and I wanted to ask you about your perspective. We’ve already heard from the cattlemen about their perspective on the farm, so to speak, but what is your perspective with Virginia Cooperative Extension and educational perspective? What are you seeing in the cattle industry today? >>Probably the biggest change I’ve seen over the past several years is really a paradigm shift in cattle marketing.

It really seems that a lot of the cow calf producers here in Virginia that market their feeder calves at local auctions or through order buyers, through buying stations, they’re really looking to put together load lots of feeder calves to save on freight and shipping with some of the regulations coming forward for electronic driving logs and out of service rest periods. All of that kinda factors into really pushing the feeder cattle market into much more of a load lot game, which 50,000 pounds of feeder cattle really command premium prices over what you are gonna see just in a normal graded sale. >>So, consolidation is the word I’m hearing. I think that you’re describing when it comes to marketing the cattle. >>Right. I do believe that, it seems that there’s power in volume and that, once you have that number, you’ve got a lot more people willing to bid more for your calves.

I also see a trend, not just in Virginia, but nationally, that those load lots of feeder calves, they really prefer weaned and pre-conditioned cattle and by weaned, they mean off the cow for 45 days. Really reduces a lot of stress from the weaning process, so those calves are ready to be shipped to the next phase of production, whether to a stocker operator or direct to a feed lot. And then, having vaccinations against respiratory disease. Both of those two things, combined with that volume of attractive trailer loads, seem to be driving price discovery here. >>Let me ask you about another topic, and this was one that I’ve seen grow over the past 15 to 20 years, and that is the natural market. I believe it’s more consumer-driven, with grass-fed beef and certified organic beef. What are you seeing in that regard? >>Well, right now, we’ve got several buyers, some along the eastern seaboard, that search after high quality, natural cattle.

They really look for those cattle to be as they’re natural and they can’t receive any antibiotics. They need to be healthy, they need to be thrifty. So, in that, they really look for weaned cattle. They really like them to be one or two owner lots and going forward, it may be something to where you’re gonna see more buyers wanting a natural distinction. So, it may be something to be aware of, going forward. >>If you produce certified organic cattle, I guess you have to have a source of certified organic hay and feed.

>>Right, and those are some of the challenges that go along with organic certification. There’s a little bit more oversight. Producers need to be just in time with getting paperwork to the USDA and making sure that whatever’s going on in their program is being followed to a T. A lot of the natural programs are that way, too. There’s good production practices and then the GAP Partnership, which is the Global Animal Partnership for production agriculture and they will have audits of places that they’re buying natural calves from.

So, all that gets into some of the natural and the organic markets that has probably slowed some of their growth. >>One other topic I’d like to get your opinion on and more and more cattle producers are learning and being educated about this trend we’re seeing with cultured beef. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association just recently came out with some of their top priority issues for 2019 and one of those they listed is the development of this technique, cultured beef. How do you define that, first of all, for consumers? >>Cultured beef, from my understanding, they’ve put together… designing proteins in a lab, culturing them to produce different cuts of beef and other meat products and that will be something, going forward, that the beef industry and other meat industries are gonna have to compete against.

Naturally, the NCBA, which is sort of the national leader for cattle producers, is gonna be very active in at least promoting actual beef and really defending the production practice of beef versus some of the oncoming cultured meats. From a regulatory standpoint, the definition of the cultured meats need to be looked at and I think the NCBA’s going to, hopefully, really put forth removing meat from that cultured label, so that producers as well as consumers know it’s not an actual meat product. >>I’m sure labeling will be one of the top priorities when all of this technology matures and you have to agree that the technology is amazing. To think that you can produce meat and it was never part of a living animal. I mean, how do you do that? So, we’re all gonna learn together over the next decade or so about cultured beef.

Onto our final topic, and we’re talking with John Benner with Virginia Cooperative Extension about trends in the Virginia beef cattle industry. John, what are you seeing with land ownership here in Virgnia? We’ve heard numbers from Virginia Tech about a massive turnover in farmland. >>Well, we are expecting probably 60 to 70% of farmland turning over out of the upcoming 10 to 20 years and that’s really gonna cause a lot of hardship in terms of some of the smaller herds being able to continue. When you’re looking at an enterprise budget for cow calf operation, there is a lot of difficulty in making the numbers work to pay down a significant land note. So, having some way to pass down land to enable it to stay in agriculture production will be a challenge. Going forward, some different programs that the Virginia Farm Bureau, Virginia Department of Ag, and Extension have put together to help ease farmland transition. The other aspect is keeping young people involved in agriculture and letting them see that there is a path to having a career and making a living in the field of agriculture. >>Well, this is an interesting time in Virginia agriculture.

Cattle production is still one of the leading components of Virginia agriculture and we have a long history, over 400 years, of cattle production. There was a very famous book published just a few years ago about the Virginia cattle story. We’ve been producing cattle for a long, long time. The younger generation, John, how do we romance them, so to speak, into commercial agriculture and specifically, cattle production? >>Well, I think that starting at the ground level, getting non-farm kids, maybe if they live in a rural area, which we see is sort of a growing trend of a lot of rural families that aren’t connected to land or connected to at least agriculture. Getting them involved in agricultural production. Expanding their experience with agriculture through 4-H and FFA activities. Getting them into livestock shows, letting them study fields including embryology, getting them to farm in progressive ag safety days. All of those things will help spark their interest and then, showing them as they kinda mature into adulthood, that there are a lot of career paths that service agriculture and that farming can be one of them.

But, really, just making sure that we’re doing a good job within the education system to show and really put agriculture in the forefront of careers. >>I wanna thank you for being our guest in this segment and I wanna thank our guests in the previous segment here on this episode of Virginia Farming. Thank you so much for what you do for Virginia agriculture and thank you so much for talking with us today on this episode >>Thank you so much. >>of Virginia Farming. If you wanna get more information about commercial cattle production here in Virginia, your local extension office is a great resource. I’m Jeff Ishee, for Virginia Farming. (upbeat music) (auctioneer calling) (auctioneer calling) (auctioneer calling) (auctioneer calling) (auctioneer calling) >>90 years ago, the Virginia Farm Bureau made our local farmers a promise to protect and preserve a way of life they worked so hard to establish.

We want to keep Virginia Virginia. Anyone can be a Farm Bureau member and there’s a local farm bureau in every county. More information is at >>Virginia soybean farmers are hard at work, growing soybeans to produce products you use everyday. Candles, soaps, even crayons can be made from soybeans. Remember, when you buy soy, you’re helping to support American jobs, the economy, and our nation’s energy security. (upbeat music) .

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