Transportation, traceability draw cattlemen's attention
The anxiety over the Veterinary Feed Directive has settled down, but new Georgia Cattlemen’s Association President Kristy Arnold has plenty of challenges to keep her busy.
Arnold, a third-generation rancher from Wayne County, said the organization is focusing more attention on transportation, animal traceability and attracting younger producers into the industry.
“I think the dust has settled on VFD,” Arnold said. “I think everybody that really needed that information has gotten it and knows what to do with it now.”
Transportation poses challenges in multiple ways. First, there is the electronic logging device mandate for tractor-trailer drivers, who are subject to hours-of-service rules that conflict with animal welfare practices; livestock, for instance are susceptible to heat stress if kept in a stationary trailer. Agricultural haulers have a temporary waiver that runs through Sept. 30.
“It’s going to be an issue for us and it’s something we’re continually working on,” Arnold said. At least we get through the summer, the hot part of it.”
Even if the trips aren’t cross-country, many producers around the state have to move their cattle significant distances to sales or slaughter. The greater the distance, the greater the expense, trimming already thin profit margins.
Looking to alleviate transportation needs while capitalizing on the consumers’ growing tendency to seek locally grown products, Georgia’s beef producers are considering pursuing a collection of regional slaughter facilities.
“I think there are some really strong benefits that come out of that, but I think there are some really deep holes that we’re going to have to try to fill,” Arnold said, noting the need for consistency of product quality and developing production to the point where such facilities can be profitable.
During a panel discussion at the Georgia Cattlemen’s Association Convention on marketing local beef, Joe Hall of Grady County posed the question: A similar approach has worked for cotton and peanut producers in cooperative ventures; why not beef?
Hall joined Keith Kelley of Kelly Products, Adam Bruuck of the Georgia Department of Agriculture and Steve Whitmire of Brasstown Beef to discuss local marketing. Bruuck pointed out that a group of ag stakeholders including Georgia Farm Bureau, Farm Credit and EMCs are funding a UGA feasibility study on the regional slaughter model.
Arnold, GCA’s second female president, said the organization’s aging membership is a concern.
“Most of our cattle producers are 55 or older, so that’s one thing I really want to try to focus on this year, trying to find routes that get some of these younger producers more involved in our organization so we can help them help themselves,” Arnold said.
The 57th Annual GCA Convention featured the 21st Annual Georgia Beef Expo as well as the Georgia Forages Conference. GCA members heard from National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Executive Director of Producer Education Josh White, preacher/humorist/motivational speaker Van McCall, Texas A&M researcher Dr. Monte Rouquette Jr. and University of Arkansas researcher Dr. Paul Beck.