September 11, 2002 | By: Aimee D. Heald

Nine beef cattle producers in the Green River Area have teamed up to add value to their operations by combining resources of capital and information.

This year-old, small-scale vertical alliance coordinates cow/calf production, weaning/backgrounding, feeding to finish, local processing and direct distribution. They focus on quality over quantity and have three goals for the products they produce - quality, reputation and safety.

"We knew we were good beef producers, but we also knew we were bad marketers, said David Givens, Green County beef producer. "We're excited to get a little of the added value that is further up the distribution chain."

Givens said the group wanted to go beyond weaning cattle, so instead of sending them on to a feedlot they decided to sit down and see what opportunities they had to finish the beef and sell it locally.

With grant money from the Kentucky Ag. Development Fund, Green River Cattle Company began last year by doing a comparative data collection. The company sent 20 cattle to finish in Kansas feed yards and finished another 20 in Greensburg, Ky.

"The cattle in Kansas finished a few weeks ago," he said. "The market turned around and we lost some money on those cattle. But nonetheless, we put good cattle out that performed very well on feed. They were very efficient in their gains and graded fairly well on their carcasses."

Givens said the 20 cattle finished in Greensburg also performed well. He admitted the cattle did not finish quite as good as the ones sent to Kansas, but attributed that to the fact they are not as experienced at finishing cattle yet.

The good news is the group will probably not lose money on the cattle finished at home because of creative marketing that will allow them to capture some of the added value by selling the cattle as burgers, roast, steaks and other finished beef products.

"The University of Kentucky College of Agriculture was a major role player in bringing this group of nine beef producers together and helping them understand they are producing more than just beef cattle," said Brian Newman, Cooperative Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources in Green Co. " They are actually producing beef for the consumer."

The producers in GRCC will soon end a trial marketing phase and then move into three or four months of strategic planning with the Governors Office of Agricultural Policy. Givens said the planning is another way to use a variety of resources available to them.

"It takes a network of resources to make the whole thing work," he said. "We need to invest in human capital and spend money on talent like the UK Cooperative Extension Service, graphic designers and the state Ag. Development Board."

Currently GRCC products are available at Central Farmer's Supply in Greensburg, as well as two upscale restaurants in Louisville.

"Hopefully we can roll out in May or June of 2003 with more cattle," Givens said. "We also want to tap a few more markets than we have now and eventually expand into the Lexington area."

Newman said the Green River Cattle Company is a good example of a feasible project that others in the Commonwealth can use to promote beef in their home areas.

"These gentlemen are closer to the consumer than anyone else in the food chain," he said. "Consumers are getting a product that is bred, raised and finished in the state of Kentucky. This is a direct source-verified product. You can see the farm where it came from, you know the local small farmer who produced it."

Givens said it means more to them than just raising and selling beef.

"Along with promoting beef, we're hometown guys and we'd love to draw people to Greensburg to buy some patties to put on the grill," he said.


Brian Newman  270-932-5331