May 29, 2002 | By: Laura Skillman

As an usually cool May wind blew across the pasture and hay fields in Allen County, cattle producers gathered to talk about forage, fencing and consumer issues.

While the area has held beef meetings in previous years, this is the first to incorporate consumer issues into the mix with production issues, said Steve Osborne, Allen County Extension Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources.

"This is a beef integrated resource management field day, which means using those things that we have - a forage base, a cattle base, marketing skills, hay storage to work together to provide the greatest profit for our beef industry," he said.

Consumer impact was included in the program because it makes sense, Osborne said. "The consumer drives the beef industry and we need to recognize that and grow our product for them. We are growing food, not just growing cattle."

Other topics along the late afternoon tour were controlled grazing, fencing and watering systems, insect control on beef cattle, forage variety selection, weed control, bull fertility and hay storage.

"Also today we are talking about electronic identification, because in the future industry segments are going to want to know where the cattle came from and producers should not be afraid of that," Osborne said. "They should be proud of what they are growing and marketing and they will want people to come back to them to buy their product."

This year's Mammoth Cave Area Beef Integrated Resource Management field day was held on the farm of William "Dub" McClure. McClure has tried to incorporate many of the IRM techniques into his operation, such as intensive grazing, and believes it pays off.

McClure said tobacco settlement money has helped him make some improvements and he is looking to add more improvements to his operations such as better facilities for handling cattle.

Understanding what the consumer wants is important, said McClure as steaks sizzled in the background.

"When I work my cattle, I try to do it the proper way so when they go to market there are no problems." McClure said. "If the consumer is not satisfied, then they are not going to buy it."

He also butchers his own cattle for his table and knows the quality. "We don't put anything in our beef that we don't eat ourselves."

Traditionally beef is one of the most popular items in our food supply and it is a big factor in the local economy, said Janet Johnson, Allen County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Science.

"In the past producers have understood the market to mean where they took their livestock to sell, but their market is really driven by the consumer market," she said.

Consumers are interested not only in the nutritional aspect but also in food safety issues of tracking a particular cow - source identification - knowing that health practices have been done but not overdone, and that vaccinations have been done in line with quality assurance guidelines, Johnson said.

"In the presentation today we are trying to show how these procedures can actually add value to that carcass in the long run on the retail market," she said. "That means dollars in the producers pocket and it provides the consumer the benefit they want in terms of quality assurance, food safety assurance and the opportunity to have a variety of products."


Steve Osborne, Janet Johnson, (270) 237-3146