October 27, 1999 | By: Aimee D. Heald
MERCER CO., KY

The 1999 Kentucky Beef Symposium, Oct. 20, at Anderson Circle Farm focused on the future of beef and tips to get through the current farm crisis.

Sponsored by the Kentucky Farm Bureau and the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, the symposium gathered experts from the beef industry including Wayne Purcell, Virginia Tech; Mark Williams, Iowa Quality Beef; and UK's own John Johns. The experts took turns discussing the current situation and how to survive it and improve it.

"The future of the beef business rests in our ability to restore profitability," Purcell said. "Anybody who's in the business for profit knows that anything they can do to reduce costs will immediately show up in a better bottom line."

Purcell went on to say that beef producers have to be concerned with consumers changing demands if they plan to remain viable in the industry. Convenience and quality are the main consumer concerns. Most people don't start to think about what they will prepare for the evening meal until they are on the way home from work. They want products that are easy and quick to prepare; something they can "pop" in the microwave.

Simply put, the consumer wants a consistent high-quality eating experience every time the meat is prepared. They want a meal that is not so loaded with fat and cholesterol that they worry about eating it.

Williams agrees that the industry is changing and producers must change with it to survive the financial crunch.

"Opportunity will abound to those who have vision to see it," he said.

With the drought of 1999, producers are having to be creative in feeding their herds. They have to find ways to get the cattle the nutrients they need and still keep their finances in check.

"The short term issue in this drought is feeding," Johns said. "If you think you have to feed hay, think again. Use the cheapest source of available nutrients. Limit-feed high energy rations like corn. It doesn't matter the source of the nutrients; it matters that you get the nutrients in the animal."

Three farm lenders were on hand at the beef symposium to offer advice and answer questions about the farm crisis. One common thread that ran through their presentations was record keeping.

"You need to keep records for yourself, to make business decisions," Harry Young, Central Kentucky Ag Credit, said. "Bring those records to the lender so you'll both know what's going on in your operation.

Lenders realize producers are facing rough financial times and are sympathetic. They urge farmers who are falling short to come in and talk to them. They want to know about the problem before it hits.

"If you think you're going to have cash flow problems, go talk to your creditor, they can work with you if you're working with them," Young continued. "We don't like surprises, so if you think you're going to be short, go in and talk to us now. I'm not concerned with borrowers being short, but if the borrower is not concerned, I get worried. We're there to help you make good loans and to see you prosper.

John Groggin, senior vice president of Farmer's National Bank of Danville, said he doesn't think this will be the worst year producers have seen. All the lenders agree that it's usually not the year of the drought that causes the most problems...it's the year after.

The time to plan for the future is now. If you are experiencing financial stress, contact your county Extension office for information on how to handle the stress and how to make sound financial decisions.

Contact: 

Writer: Aimee D. Heald 606-257-9764