“Fill Your Grill” With Farm-Direct Meats With Pick Tennessee Products

Burger Photo by Art ColebankBetween June 1 and 15, you have the chance to win $200 worth of local meats from a Tennessee farm.

Pick Tennessee Products, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s promotion that connects farmers directly to consumers is offering a “Fill Your Grill” contest. A total of 12 winners will be randomly chosen on Monday, June 18 and notified by Pick Tennessee Products.

A link to the contest website can be found online at www.PickTnProducts.org. You may also search “Pick Tennessee Products” on Facebook and click on the “Fill Your Grill” post, which is linked to the directory of participating farmers. Contestants must choose which Tennessee farm to visit to collect their meats if they win, and then submit that choice with their own contact information.

The Tennessee Beef Industry Council, the Tennessee Pork Producers Association, and the Tennessee Sheep Producers Association are among the organizations that partner with Pick Tennessee to promote state meat producers and help fund the contest. The goal is to spread the word to the public that purchasing meats directly from nearby farms is easy to do.

By choosing a preferred farm, contestants are able to choose what kinds of meats and cuts they would select if they win. Each contestant just needs to be sure to choose the farm that offers what he or she wants, whether it’s beef, pork, lamb, goat, poultry, or some of everything. There is no cash prize. Entrants win the opportunity to visit a farm or local meats business and choose up to $200 of Tennessee meats, with no cost to the winner.

More information about the contest is available on the “Fill Your Grill” contest page at www.picktnproducts.org/Grill.html. Follow Pick Tennessee on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

2018 Tennessee Junior Beef Expo Schedule Announced

CR 6The 2018 Tennessee Junior Beef Expo will be held July 10 – 13 in Murfreesboro at the Middle Tennessee State University Livestock Center. Below, you will find a schedule of events. On the morning of July 12, be sure to enjoy a free steak biscuit from the Tennessee CattleWomen and milk provided by the MTSU Creamery. For more information, please contact Dr. Jason Smith: jason.smith@utk.edu.

2018 Tennessee Junior Beef Expo

Schedule of events

Monday, July 9th 7:00 AM – 11:00 PM, Facilities open for setup (no cattle allowed in the barns)

Tuesday, July 10th  7:00 AM – 11:00 PM, Facilities open for cattle to arrive

4:00 PM – 8:00 PM, Central region check-in, and weigh-in

Wednesday, July 11th  6:00 AM – 10:00 AM, Facilities open for cattle to arrive

8:00 AM, completion, Central region show begins, Stock show U2

9:00 AM – 2:00 PM, Steer check-in, and ultrasound, Registered and commercial heifer check-in

Thursday, July 12th  8:30 AM – completion, Steer show3, Showmanship4

10:00 AM – 3:00 PM, Skillathon

Friday, July 13th  8:00 AM – 3:00 PM, Skillathon

8:00 AM – completion, Heifer show, Exhibitor awards5

11:30 AM – 1:00 PM Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation Lunch

 1No animals are permitted in the barns prior to having their health papers checked, and all animals must arrive prior to the end of their check-in period

2Stock show U will begin approximately 30 minutes following the completion of the Central Region Show

3The steer show will begin with dairy feeders, followed by prospects, then market steers

4Showmanship will begin approximately one hour following the conclusion of the steer show

5Exhibitor awards will be presented as soon as possible following the conclusion of the heifer show

FIVE on Friday: 5 Livestock Markets in Tennessee


The cry of the auctioneer, stock trailers lining the parking lot, and the distinct smell of cattle mingling in the air. There is only one place this could be… the livestock market. Tennessee is fortunate to have many livestock markets across the state to meet the needs of the cattle industry. In this week’s FIVE on Friday, we are sharing FIVE of the livestock markets in the Volunteer state. Stay tuned as we highlight ALL the livestock markets in the coming weeks!

  • East Tennessee Livestock Center, Sweetwater, TN—Regular sale each Wednesday at 12:30 p.m, EST. Visit their website, easttennesseelivestock.com for special sale dates.
  • Smith County Commission Company, Carthage, TN—Regular sale each Saturday with cattle starting at 1:30 p.m. Visit their
    Facebook page (Smith County Commission Company, Inc.) to stay up to date!
  • Tennessee Livestock Producers- Columbia Livestock Center, Columbia, TN—Regular sale each Thursday at 1:00 p.m. Special sale and other event dates can be found on their website, tennesseelivestockproducers.com.
  • Dickson Regional Livestock, Dickson, TN—Weekly sale held on Monday. Stay up to date special sale dates by liking their Facebook page, Dickson Regional Livestock Center.
  • Athens Stockyard, Athens, TN—Regular sale held each Tuesday at Noon, EST. Upcoming special sales can be found on their website, athensstockyard.com.

Weekly market reports can be found at www.cattle.com! Stay tuned to learn more about the livestock market in your area in the coming weeks.



Tennessee Cattlemen’s To Hold Summer Conference in White Pine

summer conference fb event photoThe Tennessee Cattlemen’s Association will hold its 2nd annual summer conference and trade show, “Tennessee Valley Livestock Conference,” at the Walters State Expo Center in White Pine, Tenn. This one-day event will be on Saturday, June 30, 2018.

The event, sponsored by Tennessee Farmers Cooperative, will include the North Carolina State “Amazing Grazing” Coordinator, Johnny Rogers, a live cattle grading demonstration by USDA Grading Specialists, and live demonstrations on animal health and low-stress cattle handling from UT Extension Specialists, Dr. Justin Rhinehart and Dr. Lew Strickland. The event will also host a large, multi-vendor trade show.

“We are very excited about our 2nd Annual Summer Conference in White Pine,” said Charles Hord, TCA Executive Vice-President. “The benefit of the Walters State Arena is our ability to bring in cattle and have events like a grading demonstration and low-stress cattle handling. We are excited to visit East Tennessee and be more accessible to our members in that region of the state.”

Pre-registration is $20 per person and includes lunch served in the arena and a biscuit breakfast sponsored by the Tennessee Farmers Coop. Pre-registration ends June 20th. Late registration and registration at the door will be an additional $10 per person over the pre-registration fee.

The registration form is available in the Tennessee Cattle Business magazine and on TCA’s website. Registration can also be completed by calling the office: 615-896-2333.

Meet the Future Monday: Dailyn Miller from Loudon County, Tennessee

Dailyn Miller is the focus of this week’s Meet the Future Monday. Dailyn plays a significant role in his family’s farming operation, Sunset View Farm, by lending a helping hand caring for the herd and putting up hay. With Dailyn’s drive personality, he will playMiller1 an important for many years to come. Dailyn tells us more about his operations and plans for the future in this Q&A.

Describe your operation.

My family and I own a commercial cow/calf herd and hay production farm in Lenoir City, TN. I own my own purebred Shorthorn and ShorthornPlus herd that I have been building for the past three years.

Who has been your biggest role model in pursuing your farming aspirations?

My dad is my biggest role model in pursuing my 4-H beef cattle project. He helps me take care of my animals every day and makes sure I have the resources I need to be successful.

Miller4What are you most passionate about in your business?

My favorite part of my project is taking care of my cows on a daily basis,
washing/grooming them, and taking care of their health needs.


What are some of the greatest challenges that you face as a young farmer?

My greatest challenge is not knowing everything I need to know but I learn something new every day. I also want to run the hay equipment but I’m not quite old enough to do all of it just yet.

Where do you see yourself and your operation in 10 years?

My goal is to eventually be able to round bale hay with my dad and actually run theMiller2 baler myself. I also want to own my own hay equipment and tractor one day.

How will you continue to improve and grow your operation?

I will continue to grow and improve my operation a little at a time buying equipment and cattle as I can afford to. I want to be one of the biggest cattle farmers in Tennessee one day, and I also hope to become a musician, too.

What could the existing farmers do most to help future farmers such as yourself?

I think existing farmers can help future farmers like me by providing them with opportunities to work on their farm to see how they do things so that young people can learn more than just what their own families know.

What is your favorite beef dish?

My favorite beef dish is a sirloin steak.





FIVE on Friday: Top 5 Cattle Producing Counties in Tennessee


Today, we are kicking off our new Friday blog series called “FIVE on Friday.” Each Friday throughout the summer, we will feature FIVE bits of information about raising cattle, the Tennessee Cattlemen’s Association, events throughout the state, resources available to cattle producers, etc. We hope that you’ll follow along with our new blog series!

If you’ve been in Tennessee agriculture for long, you’ve probably heard by now thatjones-beefmaster_38551196170_o cattle and calves are Tennessee’s top meat animal. From Johnson County in upper East Tennessee to Shelby County in West Tennessee, beef cattle are produced in all 95 counties in Tennessee. This makes Tennessee one of the top beef-producing states in the nation. Learn more below about the counties in the Volunteer state that make the largest contribution to the state’s beef cattle numbers.

  1. Greene County—Located on the Tennessee, North Carolina state-line, Greene County has the highest inventory of cattle in Tennessee. Greene County is home to 70,000 head of beef cattle.
  2. Lincoln County—Elvis Presley spent the night ONE time in Lincoln County, but 61,00 head of cattle spend the night there regularly.
  3. Giles County—As Lincoln County’s neighbor, Giles County ranks third in beef cattle production. Giles county is home to 59,000 head of cattle.
  4. Bedford County—Also in the central basin region, Bedford County makes the top FIVE with 52,000 head of beef cattle.
  5. Maury County—Rounding out the top FIVE, Maury County is home to 51,000 head of cattle.

In addition to there being cattle in all 95 counties across Tennessee, each county has their own county cattlemen’s association or is affiliated to a county cattlemen’s association. Visit www.tncattle.org to learn more about how to join your county and state association today! Let Tennessee Cattlemen’s be your voice!

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Information obtained from the Tennessee Ag Insider.

Grass-Fed Beef Workshop Scheduled for West Tennessee

bigstock-cattle-in-a-grass-field-12154154For the third consecutive year, University of Tennessee Extension will offer producers a “one-stop” opportunity to learn about producing and marketing grass-fed and pasture-raised beef. On August 14, 2018, at UT-TSU Extension’s Gibson County Ed Jones Agri-Plex Auditorium in Trenton, Tennessee, a full-day workshop will be conducted to introduce producers to pasture-based beef production systems and help producers address challenges of managing forages, finishing cattle and marketing beef.
“The interest in grass-fed beef has increased in recent years. Some customers are interested in buying beef that is ‘grass-fed’ or ‘pasture-raised.’ Producers who can tap into this niche market could potentially increase the price they receive for their cattle,” says UT Extension farm management specialist Danny Morris, one of the organizers of the event.
Also, according to UT forage specialist and workshop presenter, Gary Bates, “Transitioning from a conventional cow-calf operation to pasture-based cattle finishing can present many challenges and often entails a knowledge base and skill set distinct from more traditional pasture management programs.”
These topics will be discussed at the workshop:
* Considerations for grass-fed finishing.
* Developing a forage system for grass-fed beef.
* Grass-fed beef nutrition.
* Carcass characteristics of grass-fed beef.
* Marketing and labeling considerations for grass-fed beef.
* Production economics of grass-fed beef systems.
* Grass-fed beef producer experiences.
The workshop qualifies as one educational course requirement for Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program (TAEP) Producer Diversification Value Added Sector only. Check-in and networking will start at 8:30 a.m. CDT and the event will begin at 9 a.m. The workshop will conclude at 4 p.m.
The registration fee is $25 per person, which includes a meal. Preregistration is required as space is limited. The pre-registration deadline is August 3, 2018. To pre-register, please complete and return a registration form to the Gibson County UT Extension office, 1252 Manufacturer’s Row, Trenton, TN,  38382, by August 3, 2018. The registration form can be found online here: tiny.utk.edu/2018GFBeef. 

Meet the Future Monday: Eli Dotson from Petersburg, Tennessee

Determination, hard working, and a clear vision of the future are just a few of the traits that Eli Dotson embodies. Eli has what it takes to be successful and chart his own path ineli-dotson_40277512452_o the agriculture industry. In this week’s Meet the Future Monday, Eli shares with us his insight working in the cattle industry.

Describe your operation.

I live on a 218-acre farm in Petersburg, TN with my parents and brother. We have 60 head of Angus, Red Angus, and Commercial cattle. I have 10 head of my own and also have 20 market goats. I’ve shown cattle, market hogs and market goats.

What have you enjoyed most about growing up on the farm?

The lessons you learn. I’ve found that things like always “shut the gate”, “yes, we do have to get up at 5 AM,” and “don’t chew your fingernails” translate into finish what you start, Dotson1don’t be late, and you better think about consequences. When you’re a teenager those are skills necessary in academics, sports and business.

Who has been your biggest role model in pursuing your farming aspirations?

Well at my house I didn’t have a lot of choice. I don’t remember my first trip to the barn. In lots of families everybody does their own thing and goes their own direction. Livestock and the farm are what my family has always done together. So, I would have to say my family in general has been my biggest role model in pursuing my farming aspirations.

What are you most passionate about in your business?

My passion is livestock reproduction. I went to a Select Sires Artificial Insemination School when I was 15 and that was a great opportunity. Since then I’ve been breeding cows and I’ve started learning to pregnancy check. I’m hoping to gain more experienceDotson2 with that this summer.

What are some of the greatest challenges that you face as a young farmer?

I’ve been blessed because my family had the land, equipment etc. I think it would be difficult for someone to start from scratch. Overall, it’s hard to predict income and make money because the market is so up and down. I would love to breed cows for the public but everyone isn’t comfortable with a 16-year-old breeding their cows. Maybe farmers will read this article and call me.

Where do you see yourself and your operation in 10 years?

Working in some aspect of livestock production or sales. Something where you talk to and meet lots of people because I love to meet and talk to people.

How will you continue to improve and grow your operation?

I think improving any livestock operation is about improving genetics and working with Dotson3a goal in mind. You must make data informed decisions while looking at genotype and phenotype. I think livestock can be functional and attractive at the same time

How do you intend to leave your footprint on the beef industry in Tennessee?

I think my generation must be willing to step into the leadership roles across the state and country that are going to become our generations responsibility. We will have to do it with greater balance between government regulation, efficiency and the environment than any other generation before us. It won’t be easy.

What could the existing farmers do most to help future farmers such as yourself?

I would say give us a chance to have agricultural experiences. They should find kids in their communities and lease them a heifer and let them keep it on the farmer’s farm. They should hire a kid with no background but a lot of desire to work on their farm.Dotson4 They could always have me come breed their cows.

What is your favorite beef dish?

Steak, rare ribeye with no sauce because it ruins the meat.



LEAD Conference: Under the Big Sky in Montana

harrison-montana-around_11983069344_oThe Leaders Engaged in Angus Development (LEAD) conference is set to take place August 2-5 in Billings, Montana. The 2018 event theme is “Angus Under the Big Sky” and is designed for National Junior Angus Association (NJAA) members age 14 to 21.

Junior Angus members will travel across the nation to experience local agriculture and will partake in leadership workshops put on by the National Junior Angus Board (NJAB). According to NJAB Leadership Director Jordyn Wagner, LEAD gives participants a chance to leave the cattle at home, grow as a leader and build relationships with peers.

“LEAD is an opportunity that comes around once a year where our juniors can leave their cattle at home and spend a long weekend making friends, going out of their comfort zones and learning more about the industry,” Wagner said. “As a breed, we are not only focused on building up cattlemen and women but we want to help guide these juniors to be leaders, listeners and advocates of the agriculture industry.”

Angus juniors will have the opportunity to hear from Darryl Stevenson on Angus diversity, Angus Ambassador Sydni Lienemann and American humorist Jane Herlong.

Tour stops include: Genex Bull Stud, a trusted provider of world-class animal genetics; Midland Bull Test, one of the top performance tests in the Northwest; Billings Livestock Commission, one of the oldest, continuous livestock auctions in America; ORIgen Beef, one of the most innovative and independent bull studs in the nation and Vermilion Ranch, home of award winning Angus cattle.

In addition, junior members will participate in numerous breakout sessions and a float trip down a nearby river.

“Junior Angus members will have the chance to explore what Montana has to offer. I am blessed to have the opportunity to watch these young leaders from all over the United States grow as individuals, connect with the beef industry and network with their Angus family.” Wagner said.

Conference space is limited and the early registration deadline is June 15. The early registration fee for NJAA members is $250. After June 15, registration will be $275 and accepted based on space availability. Sign up online at www.angus.org/njaa.

LEAD Scholarship Opportunities

      First or second-time LEAD attendees may consider applying for the Gary M. Stoller Jump Start Your LEADership Award, which helps provide financial assistance with LEAD travel expenses. Interested applicants must submit a one-page typed essay expressing why the LEAD conference is important, what they hope to gain by participating, and the extent of their financial needs. For more information, visit www.angus.org.

In honor of his dedication to the Angus breed, the family of the late Stan Prox, Macomb, Ill., created the Stan Prox Memorial LEADers Engaged in Angus Development (LEAD) Award. Contributions from friends and family in his honor will award one NJAA member with funds necessary to cover LEAD registration costs.

The recipient will be selected by random drawing from those Illinois youth who registered for the LEAD conference by the early registration deadline. If an individual is already receiving funding through the Angus Foundation for this purpose, another name will be drawn.

      For more information, contact the events and education department at 816-383-5100. LEAD is funded by the Angus Foundation and is a program of the NJAA, which provides programs for nearly 7,000 members across the nation. A tentative schedule follows.

About the NJAA

The NJAA promotes the involvement of young people in raising Angus cattle, while also providing leadership and self-development opportunities for nearly 7,000 active members nationwide. For more information about the NJAA, look online or call the Association at 816-383-5100.

— Written by Amber Wahlgren, Angus Communications

ANGUS MEANS BUSINESS. The American Angus Association® is the nation’s largest beef breed organization, serving more than 25,000 members across the United States and Canada. It provides programs and services to farmers, ranchers and others who rely on the power of Angus to produce quality genetics for the beef industry and quality beef for consumers.

For more information about Angus cattle and the American Angus Association’s programs and services, visit www.angus.org.

LEAD Conference | “Angus Under the Big Sky”

Aug. 2-5, 2018 | Billings, Mont.

Tentative Schedule

Thursday, August 2

2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Registration

4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Ice Breakers

5:00 p.m. Welcome & Introductions – Jordyn Wagner

5:15 p.m. Welcome to Montana – Kurt Kangas

6:30 p.m. Angus Ambassador – Sydni Lienemann

6:45 p.m. Angus Diversity – Darryl Stevenson

7:45 p.m. Retiring Thoughts – Michaela Clowser

8:00 p.m. Speaker – Jane Herlong

9:00 p.m. Retiring Thoughts – Catie Hope

9:15 p.m. Team Building Activity– New 6 NJAA Officers

9:45 p.m. NJAA Board Skit

11:00 p.m. In Room Curfew

Friday, August 3

7:00 a.m. – 7:30 a.m. Breakfast – Doubletree

7:30 a.m. Depart for Genex Bull Stud

7:45 a.m. Arrive at Genex

Station Tours:

1) Tank room/lab 4) South Barn Collection

2) International Collection 5) Walking Tour S (bulls/housing)

3) Careers in Ag/Genex 6) Walking Tour N (nutrition)

10:15 a.m. Depart for Midland Bull Test

11:30 a.m. Arrive at Midland Bull Test


1) Lunch 3) Feed Efficiency Scenario

2) Tour

1:30 p.m. Depart for floating the river

Early PM TBD

Retiring Thoughts – Corbin Cowles

Saturday, August 4

7:30 a.m. – 8:15 a.m. Breakfast – Doubletree

8:30a.m. Agricultural Breakouts – Part 1

9:15 a.m. Break

9:30 a.m. Agricultural Breakouts – Part 2

10:15 a.m. Depart for Billings Livestock Commission

10:30 a.m. Arrive at Billings Livestock Commission

11:45 a.m. Depart for ORIgen Genetics

12 p.m. Arrive at ORIgen


1) Q&A 3) Distribution/Health Testing

2) Lab 4) Embryo/IVF


Bulls – Hayride

2:30 p.m. Depart for Little Big Horn Battlefield

3:00 p.m. Arrive at LBHBf

4:30 p.m. Depart for Vermilion Ranch

5:30 p.m. Arrive at Vermilion Ranch



Retiring Thoughts – Jordyn Wagner

Dance, Outdoor Games

10:00/30 p.m. Depart for Hotel

11:30 p.m. In Room Curfew

Sunday, August 5

7:00 a.m. Breakfast – Doubletree

8:00 a.m. Devotional

8:15 a.m. Retiring Thoughts – Will Pohlman

8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. Workshops (Character Development)

10:15 a.m. Speaker – Rhett Laubach

11:15 a.m. Retiring Thoughts – Maddi Butler

11:30 a.m. Wrap Up and Depart

Beef Improvement Federation Celebrates 50 years

By Lisa Bard, BluePrint Media | BIF Sponsor

BIF_LogoThe Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) is celebrating 50 years in 2018. Themed “Elevating the Industry,” the Annual Meeting and Research Symposium is poised not only to celebrate the last 50 years but launch into the next 50.

BIF was officially founded in 1968, but its formation began the previous January during a meeting at the National Western Stock Show. At that time, a group of producers and researchers – spearheaded by Colorado cattle producer, lawyer and performance evaluation advocate Ferry Carpenter, and Frank Baker, the federal Extension livestock specialist in 1967 – met with the goal to move the cattle industry from its historical basis of visual appraisal to one of evaluation based on performance.

Thus began a very powerful and intentional “performance movement” in the cattle industry that continues and thrives today. Fifty years later, the 2018 BIF Annual Meeting and Research Symposium will return to Colorado June 20-23 at the Embassy Suites Convention Center in Loveland.

Each year, the symposium focuses on research, innovation and education for producers and scientists alike on current issues facing the beef cattle industry “to connect science and industry to improve beef cattle genetics.” BIF’s three-leaf-clover logo symbolizes the link between industry, Extension and research.

The beginnings

In the late ’60s and ’70s when BIF was formed, the cattle industry was experiencing a great deal of change with the influx of Continental breeds and the implementation of artificial insemination and crossbreeding. Many states had Beef Cattle Improvement Associations (BCIA) but no standard procedures or measurements. At the same time, land-grant universities were conducting more research on genetics and how genetic evaluation could improve cattle herds. Germplasm research being conducted at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center would provide incentive and data to create and formulate genetic evaluation. Other data collected by producers and breed associations would add to that.

Creating and utilizing new evaluation methods based on performance versus visual appraisal was not an easy road. The first step was to standardize performance testing, including the terminology, the actual methods of measurement and the education as to what the information meant. Over the years, there were a few growing pains and disagreements, but the common goal prevailed.

Steve Radakovich of Radakovich Cattle Company, Earlham, Iowa, was BIF president in 1983-1984 when BIF was still young and evolving. As a graduate student at Colorado State University in the ’70s under renowned animal geneticist Jim Brinks, Ph.D., Radakovich was encouraged to attend BIF. This early exposure led to his lifelong participation in BIF.

“Back then we were a bit of a divided camp. We had one group who were the ‘weigh and pray’ folks,” Radakovich says. “They would stand by the scales and pray that the animal weighed more than he did the time before. Then there was the systems group, which I was a part of, who asked questions such as, ‘Is bigger really better?’

“The weigh and pray guys thought that the systems guys were nuts and these two approaches led to some pretty good arguments.”

At that time, some were leaning heavily toward advancing methodology and figuring out how to standardize data collection and utilization, which then led to discussion about the direction of the seedstock industry. During this critical time in the industry, BIF facilitated this direction through the exchange of ideas.

Willie Altenburg, owner of Altenburg Super Baldy Ranch just north of Fort Collins, Colo., and breeder of Simmental and Angus seedstock for more than 40 years, was BIF president in 1999-2000. His recollection of the early days was that BIF “was very small with not very high attendance. In some ways that was positive because you make a lot of progress, given small committee meetings.

“There were times when maybe six people were voting and making decisions on things like formulas and direction, and people like me would sit back in awe in those small meetings and watch those great minds at work.”

Once BIF began to grow and reach a larger audience, in part due to the availability of the presentations and proceedings online, BIF exploded, with attendance now more than 500 people and sometimes as large as 700. It not only affects meeting attendees but also reaches a global audience who access online information after the meetings.

“BIF has always been the place where performance cattlemen gather and philosophize about performance and genetic issues,” Altenburg says. “Over the years, the contributions of BIF to the performance cattle industry have been industry leading. BIF gave the concepts, research and performance philosophy a place to launch and grow, and other countries still look to the United States for performance testing and evaluation.”

Angus and Braunvieh breeder Steve Whitmire of Ridgefield Farms in North Carolina served as BIF president in 2013-2014. He originally became involved in BIF to get as close as possible to the cutting edge of the beef industry – and is why he continues to be involved.

“Because BIF is the one organization that bridges across all breeds and academic institutions, it helps focus limited research dollars into the most promising areas,” Whitmire says. “The early pioneers set aside their breed priorities and personal egos and focused on what was best for the industry.”

Mark Enns, Ph.D., professor of animal breeding and genetics at Colorado State University and organizer of the 2018 BIF Symposium, also got his first exposure to BIF as a graduate student in the ’80s.“BIF helped create the unified vision for genetic improvement throughout the beef industry and established common ground for all the breed associations and all the cooperative breed improvement groups to work under,” Enns says. “We cannot discount the brilliant minds who came up with the idea for BIF and recognized the need for it.”

Throughout the years, BIF has made significant contributions to the beef industry, particularly the seedstock sector. “BIF has allowed the smaller, family seedstock producer to compete on the same playing field with the larger seedstock producer,” Radakovich says. “BIF standardized evaluation so that the smaller operators could utilize the methodology, could pursue an objective selection process and could compete with larger operations. Without the standard methodology, they would not have access to those tools.”

Matt Spangler, Ph.D., associate professor of animal science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, says he believes that “the work of the initial founders of BIF created the platform that we know today as National Cattle Evaluation. Without these efforts, estimation of the genetic merit of animals as parents would have been delayed and would look substantially different today.”

Current BIF President Donnell Brown, R.A. Brown Ranch, Throckmorton, Texas, remembers his first BIF meeting. “BIF was the first cattle meeting I went to after I graduated from college,” Brown says. “I was able to talk with the scientists whose research I had studied and talk to the breeders whose catalogs I had been pouring through. They were the leaders in the beef industry. It was inspirational.

“The seedstock producers weren’t in sales mode and we weren’t at a breed association meeting where politics were involved. It was just a meeting about the facts and how we would use the resources we had to more efficiently and effectively raise better beef. BIF is still about that.”

Others believe that BIF’s greatest contributions have been the development of expected progeny difference (EPD) standards and technology; advancing the use of new, more accurate selection tools and providing a forum for the industry and scientific communities to exchange ideas.

Today’s challenges and beyond

Fifty years later, genetic evaluation has progressed to genomically enhanced EPDs, across-breed evaluations, evaluation indexes and EDPs on a huge array of traits. Today’s cattle industry is also faced with a great many issues including animal welfare, the environment, diet and health, and food safety, all of which can be affected by genetics in some part.

According to Radakovich, genetics can have a big effect on issues for the future, particularly in adapting cattle to different climates and environments all over the world as well as in the United States. Some are studying the grazing habits of different biological types of cattle, which appear to have the same heritability as weaning weight.

“We could be breeding cattle in the future that are hill climbers and will graze hillsides versus riparian areas because that is their genetic predisposition,” Radakovich says. “This is where BIF fits in with issues such as animal welfare, animal behavior, etc., especially with genomics. If we can isolate the gene that determines grazing habits, then it will have a big impact.”

According to Enns, BIF will help guide the industry in how we use, validate and verify the rapidly evolving genomic pipeline and put these new traits to use. Regional evaluation will be a big thing in the future, including the development of regional EPDs and development of specialized adaptability traits. Scientific attention to these traits has been coming for the past five to 10 years and is now becoming more important for regions of the world where climate, adaptability, disease tolerance and feed efficiency are big issues.

“Genetic evaluation may help us balance the competing needs of global beef production with sustainability and conservation,” Enns says. “The United States is a first-world country and our needs are different than those in third-world countries who are simply concerned with finding a protein product to eat. Understanding these competing visions and how genetic tools can be used to address these visions is important.”

Radakovich agrees. “The population increase of today and tomorrow poses a great threat to resources and, as beef producers, we have to figure out how we can remain sustainable under this pressure that gets worse and worse all the time,” he says. “We must be adaptable with fewer and fewer resources. Our big advantage is that cattle are ruminants and can consume feedstuffs that can’t be consumed and converted by other protein sources.”

Genomics can be comparable to the computer age with gene mapping and epigenetics as the next cutting-edge technologies. Genomics and genetic advancements will also allow commercial producers to concentrate on other issues.

“If a commercial operation is doing well genetically, then they can move on to address some of the larger, industry concerns such as environmental issues, food safety and animal welfare.  A good manager can only handle a few topics at a time, and if their genetics are solid, then they can worry about the other concerns,” Radakovich says.

While many, including Whitmire, believe that BIF’s greatest contribution was the development of EPD standards and technology, the future is wide open. “I have no doubt that the genetic tools for evaluation will become infinitely more accurate and widely used in the coming decades, and the industry will profit from this,” Whitmire says. “BIF will help recognize the long-term issues that face the cattle and beef industry and will focus resources to solve those problems.”

Spangler has a broader view. “Genetic evaluation will change such that ‘seedstock’ will drift further and further away from ‘purebred,’” Spangler says. “The data used to inform genetic merit will be weighted more heavily towards commercial-level data. The entities participating in data generation for genetic evaluation and seedstock production will change such that there is more alignment between the end-product and germplasm at the nucleus level. The general nature of breed associations, and their role, will change. I’m not sure if these changes occur in 10 or 50 years, but they will occur.”

Elevating the industry

The 2018 50th Anniversary BIF Symposium promises to address all this and more.

“BIF is the one meeting where you get the interaction of the genetic improvement leaders in both industry and academia,” Enns says. “If what we are developing in science is not able to be translated to the industry, then we are wasting our time. There has always been this free-flow conversation of constructive criticism for the betterment of genetic improvement. This meeting is where the appropriate application of science is developed by discussions of the people using the science and the people developing it.”

BIF Vice President Lee Leachman, Leachman Cattle of Colorado, Wellington, Colo., agrees. “This is the meeting where practice and theory meet and the learning is going both ways. If we really could get into the nuts and bolts of the history of BIF, we would likely find that most of the innovations sprang from the BIF meetings and the discussions there. If you want to stretch your imagination, but do so at a level that can be put into practice, this is the place to do that,” Leachman says.

For 2018, the first day is dedicated to what the future of North American beef production looks like. The speakers, breakout session and wrap-up will evaluate the future from a variety of viewpoints, including beef quality, sustainability, efficiency and traits not yet considered.

The second day is about data – how to collect it, who will own it and how it’s used. How can we better leverage all the data in an internet-permeated society? This year’s program is also about helping the industry look at the possible/probable issues that will need to be addressed over the next 50 years.

The meeting also includes a Young Producer’s Symposium, an evening at the CSU Stadium Club, a Friday dinner out sponsored by Leachman Cattle of Colorado and Zinpro, and area tours on Saturday.

The 2018 BIF Research Symposium and Convention is hosted by the CSU Department of Animal Sciences, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association and the Colorado Livestock Association. For more information, a full schedule and registration information, visit beefimprovement.org.