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Value Is Driven By Information

by Troy Smith, field editor

LOVELAND, Colo., June 22, 2018 — The beef industry has shown that it can make dramatic improvements in traits that we can measure. It has used information and technology to make improvements and add value to its product.

Value has been added at an accelerated rate over the last 10 years. According to Wade Small, identifying ways for the industry to collect data on traits that will add the greatest value over the next 10 years will be more challenging.

Small is president of the livestock division of Washington-based Agri Beef Inc. and responsible for the firm’s cattle-feeding segment. He spoke during the 2018 Beef Improvement Federation Research Symposium and Convention hosted June 20-23 in Loveland, Colo. Small described Agri Beef’s integrated operations, which include cow-calf production, cattle feeding and beef processing. The company also markets beef under multiple branded labels.

Small said Agri Beef has utilized information and technology to drive its production system and improve the quality of beef produced. The progress made is reflected in increased volume of sales of upper-Choice and Prime product. This is not unique to Agri Beef, but mirrors an industry trend toward creating more value through a focus on quality.

According to Small, daily gain and marbling have been significant drivers of value captured by cattle feeders. These drivers are associated with traits for which data is relatively easy to collect and analyze. He warned the audience that continuing to meet consumer demand and improve profitability will require innovative ways to capture and analyze traits that are more difficult to measure.

“Consumers are recognizing value differently,” said Small. “Increasingly, they are assigning more or less value to how our product is produced. There is growing concern over animal welfare and health, and increased scrutiny of antibiotic use.”

Small cited traits associated with disease resistance as the kind for which data is difficult to capture due to the lack of a standardized data collection platform and management practices. He called for more collaboration in finding ways to collect, analyze and utilize the data necessary to develop tools for genetic selection that will increase value that can be shared throughout the industry.

“We’ve got to stay ahead of the game,” warned Small, “and continue to identify what it is that truly adds value.”

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