Minnesota Beef Council, Extension examine state’s beef industry

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Minnesota Beef Council, Extension examine state’s beef industry

A University of Minnesota Extension veterinarian and researcher says a new study shows how the state’s beef producers compare to other states and where the extension needs to focus its resources. 

Dr. Joe Armstrong

Dr. Joe Armstrong says the study began with funding from Minnesota’s Beef Council as both wanted to get real Minnesota numbers and feedback. “We had a lot of assumptions about a lot of things in the beef industry and we wanted to either confirm or really look at are those assumptions right?  Are actually assuming cattle are where they are? And, it’s been a long time since we updated something like this.”

Armstrong says north-central Minnesota is still a big deal for cow-calf operations, and so are southeast and southwest Minnesota.  He says the new survey shows most feedlots are in the southern half of the state.

Armstrong tells Brownfield he wasn’t expecting to see so many producers relying on outside jobs. “So, 80% of the producers, when I’m talking to a room of cow-calf producers, have some other primary source of income, so they have basically a day job that’s not cattle, and that really hit home and surprised me that it was that large.”

Armstrong says for some farmers, raising beef cattle is a way to diversify the farm’s income stream.  And, he says the size of Minnesota’s beef operations might surprise people. “When we talk about the size of the operations in Minnesota, most of the cattle are represented by a small number of large operations, but most of the people are still involved in small operations, and most of our operations in the state are still relatively small.”

Armstrong says there are a few producers with 2000 cow-calf pairs, but many with only two or three, so the type of information they need from Extension is different. “It’s just different knowledge that needs to be conveyed, and a different set of programming that people are looking for.”

Armstrong says the survey confirmed how complex cattle movements are, and he found most producers in Minnesota still use auction markets. “Seventy-four percent of the people in our survey that they use an auction market in some way, so that’s a majority of the people in the system that still use an auction market, and I think that’s a good thing.”

And, he says the auction markets also provide a place for cattlemen to gather and socialize.

Armstrong says the study found fewer Minnesota beef producers adopting pre-conditioning practices than surrounding states. “Our best producers are doing excellent, but our bottom 10% of producers that are struggling compared to other states, and I think we need to bring them up.”

Armstrong says helping the lower ten percent acquire more basic management knowledge first without focusing on cutting-edge ideas should help make them more profitable and prepared for more possible changes later.

Dr. Joe Armstrong discusses the Minnesota beef industry study with Brownfield’s Larry Lee

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