With cargo ships floating by outside the Marriott Savannah Riverfront, the Georgia Cattlemen’s Association (GCA) conducted its annual business, which included installing 2022 GCA President Rodney Hilley, a keynote address from agricultural advocate Amanda Radke and more during its 2022 annual convention, Feb. 15-17.
Hilley, of Pike County, said his focus will be across-the-board improvement, with specific emphasis on membership growth.
“We’re in good shape in spite of the pandemic. We went through some tough times, and membership was down, but now it’s bounced back,” Hilley said. “I don’t have a personal agenda. I just want to make Georgia Cattlemen’s better than it’s been.”
Hilley, a Berry College alumnus, said he’d like to see more interaction between GCA and the smaller schools with animal science programs, like Berry, Fort Valley State University and Emmanuel College.
The convention offered a chance to connect with the cattle sector’s next generation. The GCA welcomed leaders from the Georgia Junior Cattlemen’s Association (GJCA), who saw how the organization operates and heard Radke speak about the importance of promoting beef and other cattle products directly with consumers.
GJCA Board Members Maddie Deen and Cora Crews, who are interested in pursuing ag careers, welcomed the chance.
“I enjoyed listening to Miss Amanda talk about marketing and how to get our stories out there, rather than just raise cattle, sell cattle and stay behind the scenes,” said Deen, of Crisp County.
“In our school, there’s a bunch of people who aren’t as interested in ag,” said Crews, of Charlton County. “Hopefully I can take away the communication [skills] and get out and get other young people interested in agriculture.”
Convention workshops addressed biosecurity, beef processing, grazing and pest management.
In the biosecurity workshop, Iowa State University Professor of Food Safety & Public Health Danelle Bickett-Weddle covered ways diseases can be introduced to cattle herds and steps to keep pathogens out.
“Biosecurity helps with animal health and public health,” Bickett-Weddle said, noting that protecting herds from diseases comes with financial benefits. “Better animal health means you’re not treating animals; you’re not having to cull for reproductive issues. These are all things that better biosecurity, because we have less infectious disease challenges, can do for you.”
To improve biosecurity, Weddle recommends having designated footwear for on-farm use and off-the-farm footwear, preventing vehicles from off the farm going into areas frequented by cattle and implementing quarantine for cattle brought to the farm from elsewhere.
“Think about - if we do some things daily on our operations that help against common diseases - could those also protect our cows against that big, weird, unknown thing that [may] come in?” Weddle said. “It spreads the same way. If your herd is at risk for bovine viral diarrhea today, and foot and mouth disease hits the United States, you’re at risk.”