TUCUMCARI – Niche markets for New Mexico cattle producers and export opportunities to Asian counties will highlight the Southwest Beef Symposium Jan. 18-19 at the Tucumcari Convention Center.

“There are niche markets here for organic, natural and grass-fed beef,” said Clay Mathis, a livestock specialist with NMSU’s Cooperative Extension Service. “But to qualify for some of these markets, New Mexico producers must follow a specific set of required production criteria.”

The two-day program, coordinated by NMSU and Texas A&M University, brings together some of the top names in the beef world. “This meeting is tailored for beef producers in the Southwest,” Mathis said. Registration for the symposium at 1500 West Historic Route 66 in Tucumcari begins at noon, and the program starts at 1 p.m. The cost is $50.

Another key element of the program is age and source verification for Asian markets, said Pete Walden, Quay County agricultural agent with NMSU Extension. The Japanese market is expected to reopen shortly to American beef, but there will be new requirements for U.S. producers to follow, he said.

Japan barred U.S. and Canadian beef in 2003 after cases of mad cow disease and has come under intense political pressure to resume the multibillion dollar trade.

Talks will cover a broad range of issues facing the beef industry, including an afternoon update on animal identification guidelines by Ted McCollum, an Extension beef cattle specialist at the Texas A&M University Science Center in Amarillo. Manny Encinias, a livestock specialist at NMSU’s Clayton Livestock Research Center, will follow with a discussion of animal tracking technology. The following morning, the discussion turns to health and management.

Cattle experts will address forage-based growing programs and the occurrence, control and prevention of bovine viral diarrhea. The program will include talks on wheat and small grain stocker systems, summer grass stocker programs and how early weaning fits into a beef management program.

Afternoon sessions focus on natural, organic, grass-fed and conventional cattle production and marketing. A highlight will be a panel discussion on alternative beef product marketing led by Tom Bertelle, head of meat sales at Zanio’s Foods; Sage Faulkner, a Los Ojos-based cattle producer; Rocky Beavers, president of Davis Mountain Organic Beef; and Coy Meyring, cattle supply coordinator with Nolan Ryan’s All Natural Tender Aged Beef.