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HIGHLIGHTS FROM 24TH ANNUAL CATTLEMEN'S COLLEGE
Source: National Cattlemen's Beef Association news release

Education is the focus for the first days of the 2017 Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show, with more than 1,250 cattlemen and women on-hand for the 24th edition of Cattlemen's College, sponsored by Zoetis Animal Health.

The event has become the gold standard for educational seminars with more than 15 educational sessions focused on providing opportunities for participants to improve the profitability, productivity and ultimately the sustainability of their farms and ranches.

"The focus of Cattlemen's College is to provide real-world solutions and ideas that participants can take home and apply to their operations. The information that panelists are providing at this year's event will provide ideas that can be applied right away," said Josh White, NCBA executive director of producer education.

"We have an impressive array of speakers representing every segment of the beef community. With five different educational tracks, participants can focus on their specific areas of interest. From changing consumer attitudes to topics focused on succession planning and specific animal management information, each session was developed to help move our industry ahead."

The Cattlemen's College event began Tuesday afternoon with two sessions, "Turning Loss into Gain: Managing Risk to Improve Fertility," featuring Alison Van Eenennaam, Ph.D., and Megan Rolf, Ph.D., who presented new research on cowherd fertility and its impact on profitability. A concurrent session featured Kent Andersen, Ph.D., who examined the use of genetic tools for building more productive cowherds and adding value to feeder and fed cattle.

This morning, Cameron Bruett, head of corporate affairs for JBS USA, spoke to a packed room about the changing consumer expectations for beef. He emphasized the need for every segment of the beef supply chain to better understand their customers to meet the needs of a changing industry. He also emphasized the significant challenges posed by competing proteins, an uncertain political environment and its impact on labor in the United States.

"Today, it's very difficult to find someone to work in a packing plant," said Bruett. "Much of our labor force is comprised of first-generation immigrants and they're great people, but we still face significant turnover and unplanned absenteeism among our work force, and that makes it difficult to run a business.

Ultimately, it makes it difficult to get our product out the door. That impacts the cattlemen and women who depend on the packers to supply beef to the consumers. The bottleneck in our industry isn't in the number of animals any more. The bottleneck is a labor shortage in the plant, and it's a major problem."

Bruett, who has played key roles in the beef sustainability movement, also spent time defining beef sustainability and illustrating the importance and benefits of the industry's path of continuous improvement.

"There are a lot of labels out there, but those labels aren't about sustainability," said Bruett. "Those labels are about a production practice, but sustainability is much more than any single production practice. In order to evaluate the sustainability of the product, the profitability, social and environmental aspects must be considered equally. Something may be good for the environment, but if it's not also profitable, then it's not sustainable.

"There's a great deal of concern that there's going to be a mandate about practices, but that's not what sustainability is about; it's about the end product. If that product is profitable, contributes to the social landscape and has positive environmental benefits, then it becomes sustainable," Bruett said.

That message resonated with the 200-plus collegiate Cattlemen's College participants in attendance at this year's event.

"It's encouraging to see so many college students in attendance," said White. "These students represent the future of the beef industry and I'm proud that we've been able to put together an event that is providing them with information that they will be able to take forward and apply to their future careers. Ultimately, Cattlemen's College is designed to benefit and improve our industry and I'm confident that these collegiate participants will help to create a bright future for our industry."

Presentations from the 2017 Cattlemen's College will be available online after Feb. 17. Cattlemen and women who were unable to attend the event in Nashville can take advantage of this online option at: www.beefusa.org.


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