Supplement to “Beefy Business”
Adding Value with Beef Cattle Certification
Though only a fraction of Kentucky’s 40,000 cattle producers brand their products, many are experimenting with ways to increase the value of their animals.
As coordinator of Beef Integrated Resource Management at the University of Kentucky, Jim Akers’ job is to help typical Kentucky beef cattle farmers with technical support and advice.
In the last two years, he’s had a lot of help from the state legislature. The state, which is encouraging farmers to find tobacco alternatives, has allocated more than $40 million to the beef cattle industry, according to the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy.
The money has gone toward everything from educational programs that teach beef producers how to rotate their pastures to gain the most productivity, to breeding programs that help them improve the genetics of their animals, to technical assistance with business skills such as record keeping and marketing.
One long-standing program that helps farmers earn higher prices for cattle is Kentucky’s Certified Preconditioned for Health-45, better known as CPH-45.
Farmers in this program follow procedures such as putting their cattle through standard health and vaccination programs and keeping their calves for 45 to 60 days after weaning to teach them to eat and drink out of troughs. (Studies have shown that weaning and health management programs like CPH-45 can reduce sickness in cattle in feedlots by 75 percent, Akers says.) In addition, all cattle in the CPH-45 program are tagged so they can be traced from the farm where they were born to the plant where they are processed.
Cattle that go through the program are then sold at special elite sales.
“We’ve built a customer base over the year that recognizes the value of those calves and they pay some nice premiums for them,” Akers says.
Interest in the CPH-45 program has soared over the last five years—with the number of cattle involved increasing from about 10,000 to 40,000, he says.
A national identification system would be complex, says Nevil Speer, associate professor of animal science at Western Kentucky University. And the industry continues to debate how it can work efficiently.
“But I think that’s where we’re headed for the food system,” he says. “More and more consumers want some information about what they eat.”
To read the Kentucky Living January 2004 feature that goes along with this supplement, click here: Beefy Business