Rick Carlson, former agriculture industry executive and now an independent consultant for various cattle operations around the world, spoke to more than 300 beef producers at Alltech’s Global 500, a recent event hosted by animal health and nutrition company, Alltech.

Efficiency, Carlson stated, is the basis for survival during the next decade of cattle production and many U.S. producers are taking the concept in stride. In 1977 the U.S. yielded 12 million tons of beef and the 2011 numbers reflect the same data, but with fewer cattle – proof the industry is holding on even in the midst of difficult times.

Carlson, who owns an operation near Kansas City, Missouri, and is involved in operations in China, said the best way for producers to face challenges is through harnessing the power of genetics and nutrition to create a better product that will in turn address consumer demands.

“Genetics are tremendously important in building a better, high quality product,” Carlson said. “Combining that with nutrition is imperative to creating that product. Nutrition, to me, is one of the areas that offer the most benefits when it comes to the future of beef.”

He encourages producers to gather data and analyze their cowherd. This gives an opportunity to cull nonperformers and add higher performing replacements.


Rick Carlson

By looking at the changes in the DNA sequence, researchers can see how different traits are impacted. 50K SNIP (single-nucleotide polymorphisms) technologies analyze 50,000 sequences to enhance expected progeny differences (EPDs).

“We used SNIP technology to breed high accuracy bulls and used the top 50 cows to get 42 heifer cows out of it,” Carlson said.

According to Carlson, the cows later looked like “two peas in a pod.” “I have no doubt this technology will allow us to move ahead very quickly in genetic turnover. It pays for itself very quickly,” he said.

This technology is even available to producers with smaller cow/calf operations and should be considered if producers want to stay ahead of the game.

Carlson said good genetics will never make up for poor nutrition so the two must go hand in hand.

“Nutrition hasn’t made as many strides and genetics in the last ten years. As we understand the genetic makeup of the animal, the more we can feed those genes,” Carlson said.

Steve Scott, a member of Tennessee Cattlemen’s Association and an attendee of Alltech’s Global 500, said he believes in the importance of having a quality nutritional program in his cattle not just during calving season, but year-round.

“What cattlemen don’t realize is the price you pay for a quality nutritional program is really buying fertility and performance in your dams and offspring,” said Scott.

Incorporating different minerals and vitamin levels can give better results in the end with meat quality in mind and it’s the producer’s job to stay open to new information and technologies.

“Utilizing products from quality companies and going to industry conferences to learn is the best advice I can give,” Carlson said. “If you do it like you did the last 30 years, you won’t survive the next five in the beef industry.”

Carlson also encourages producers to be involved in their local and state organizations to give the agriculture industry a strong voice in the face of misinformation and critique from consumers. Agricultural communications tend to be reactionary rather than proactive, he said. And while agriculture is not always a pretty business, connecting ranchers and the consumer is an imperative element in bridging the communication gap.

“In order to one day feed nine billion people, you have to protect agriculture and engage the consumers with us,” Carlson said. “There is a big disconnect between people living in the cities and those who farm. We need to tell our story and what the real industry is all about.” end mark

Amy Schutte is Alltech Idaho’s territory marketing coordinator. For more information about Alltech email her at aschutte@alltech.com.

TOP: Beef producers at Alltech’s Global 500 listen to Rick Carlson discuss beef goals and the marketplace. Photo courtesy of Alltech.

BOTTOM: Rick Carlson goes over beef goals and the marketplace during the beef session of Alltech's Global 500 2012. Photo courtesy of Alltech.