To assure consumers will continue to receive a consistent, high-quality product, Texas cattle producers zeroed in on the latest technological advances in beef production recently at the 48th annual Beef Cattle Short Course.

The two-and-a-half day event, which was at Texas A&M University, attracted 1,100 cattle producers and exhibitors from throughout Texas and across the country.

“What we've talked about here is working with producers to come up with that ultimate, high-quality product for consumers,” said Dr. Larry Boleman, Texas Cooperative Extension beef cattle specialist and short course chairman. “In addition to that, we're trying to raise safe, nutritious beef.

At the same time, what we're trying to do here is teach the producers to do all of those things because it enhances consumer confidence, which enhances consumer expenditures. If you've got a good, healthy and safe product, people are going to buy it.”

“These Are Challenging Times,” the theme of this year's short course, was fitting as the beef industry continues to undergo some of the most dramatic changes ever seen, Boleman said.

“The entire industry, all of the segments, are working more closely than they ever have before,” he said. “All of it is with the consumer as a goal or opportunity in mind rather than where we used to stop at just producing choice cattle or making cattle that didn't get sick.

“We're not going to abandon that, all of those are good things. But we're looking beyond that. Every one of those can be good or bad. You can have a high-average daily gain, but if it's with an animal that has an inferior tasting meat, because you bred it to the wrong kinds of bulls, then you didn't give the consumer a good product.”

“More than any other time in history,” Boleman said “all segments of the beef industry — the purebred cattle producer, the cow-calf producer, the stocker operator and the feedlot operator — have joined together in a coordinated effort to share information.

“All of that information is coming back (through each segment), say for example, the gain of the bulls, whether your cattle got sick in the feedlot, whether they made a lot of money. We're not vertically integrated, but we're integrated to the degree of cooperation.

“That's a change in the philosophy we've not had before. That's a good thing.”

And the beef industry's leading producers are already becoming more integrated, Boleman said, either by owning or sharing ownership of cattle that are sent to the feedlot.

“And some are either owning them all the way through to the packer, or sharing ownership to the packer.”

Some producers are even retaining ownership until the carcass is packaged as cuts and sold exclusively to restaurants or to retail outlets.

As producers adopt better breeding systems and more value-added practices to their operations, buyers will take notice and reward them with premiums paid for their cattle, Boleman said.

“Once there is a quality product that you can have some consistency, with no surprises, you can go all the way to the end. Every time you sell this to somebody else, you've added value. The more ownership you can take every time it changes hands, you're the recipient of that value. That's going to take place with the most forward (thinking) producers.”

Smaller producers may not have the resources to retain ownership from “pasture to plate” but will adopt some of the same practices used by larger operators, Boleman said. In return, they will be rewarded for their efforts, receiving premiums when selling their cattle.