May 31, 2001 | By: Kenny Burdine, Mark Eclov

The beef cattle industry is in the midst of major structural change to provide a more consistent and palatable beef product for the consumer.

To accomplish this task, a group of producers, processors, and vendors have formed a Five State Beef Initiative (FSBI) to develop a system that responds to the concerns of the consumer and captures the true value of beef products. The initiative is a cooperative effort between the states of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio.

In Kentucky, the initiative is a coordinated effort among the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, Kentucky Cattlemen's Association, Kentucky Farm Bureau, and the University of Kentucky.

"The participating states have received a USDA grant to assist the FSBI in implementing these changes over the next three years." said Lee Meyer, Extension economist in the UK College of Agriculture.

The system is designed to provide feedback to the producer from the time that animal leaves the farm until it is slaughtered, through the use of electronic identification tags and a comprehensive data management system. This information will provide producers with the tools needed to make management and marketing decisions.

"We are looking for producers interested in targeting their cattle towards premium markets and who are willing to make necessary management changes," said Kenny Burdine, economist in the UK College of Agriculture. "These producers will have the opportunity to become partners in the project."

Partnering producers must provide basic production information, participate in a uniform health program, and market calves in a way that allows data to be obtained.

In the first year, 2300 cattle were tagged and the members of the FSBI are currently in the process of retrieving feedlot and carcass data on these cattle.

Interested producers should contact their local county agriculture agent, John Johns, Extension beef cattle production specialist (859) 257- 2853 or Tim Dietrich (859) 564-5665 ext. 273.