Left side

The Role of Research Herds

Live Animal, Carcass & End Product Committee considers availability of research herds and what that means to beef cattle research in the future.

by Troy Smith, field editor, Angus Journal®

LINCOLN, Neb. (June 20, 2014) — Agricultural researchers are in a precarious position. The cost of research is growing, while government appropriations for public research are declining in many states and flat in others. According to Kansas State University Animal Science Department Head Ken Odde, even land-grant universities now rely on private sources for an ever greater portion of revenue.

Ken Odde

Speaking during the Advancements in Live Animal, Carcass and End Product Committee session, Ken Odde said university beef cow-calf research and teaching herds have fared better than some other areas.

“What’s happening is the privatization of our public institutions,” lamented Odde, in a presentation delivered during the 2014 Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) symposium June 18-21 in Lincoln, Neb. “Private donations often come with strings attached. They may not be driven by concern for the public good, but by an agenda.”

Speaking during the Advancements in Live Animal, Carcass and End Product Committee session, Odde said university beef cow-calf research and teaching herds have fared better than some other areas. He cited a survey of university animal science departments, including most of the larger beef states, which suggests that, collectively, the tally of cows in research, teaching and demonstration herds has remained relatively stable. Greater than 27% of cow-calf units have actually increased their inventories, while 41% have maintained nearly constant numbers, and 30.7% of units have decreased their numbers.

Odde said stable numbers probably are the best that can be expected in the future, with slight decreases just as likely. In his opinion, it’s a sorry situation.

“Cow-calf units remain critical to answering important questions,” stated Odde. “For example, we need to really understand feed efficiency in cattle. I think it’s critical that we measure feed intake of cows on pasture. We could do that but we aren’t.”

Listing threats to the viability of university cow-calf units, Odde included land use restrictions due to urbanization, aging facilities, labor availability plus environmental and waste management issues. Budget constraints present a major threat, forcing researchers to become increasingly dependent on self-generated funds and grants.

“We haven’t been selling the public good that comes from public institutions. And I put part of the blame on institutional leaders. University presidents and regents aren’t talking about it like they once did,” declared Odde.

The 2014 BIF Annual Meeting & Research Symposium was hosted by the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center and the Nebraska Cattlemen June 18-21 in Lincoln, Neb. The Angus Journal and LiveAuctions.tv provide comprehensive online coverage of the event at www.BIFconference.com. Visit the Newsroom for summaries, proceedings, PowerPoints and audio of the sessions; and the Awards page for announcements of award winners.

Editor’s Note: This summary was written under contract or by staff of the Angus Journal.Through an agreement with the Beef Improvement Federation, we are encouraging reprinting of the articles to those who will adhere to the reprint guidelines available on this site. Please review those guidelines or contact Shauna Rose Hermel, editor, at 816-383-5270. PowerPoints are posted with permission of the presenter and may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the express permission of the presenter.

API's coverage of the event is made possible through collaboration with BIF and sponsorship of LiveAuctions.tv. For questions about this site, or to notify us of broken links, click here.

Headquartered in Saint Joseph, Mo., API publishes the Angus Journal, the Angus Beef Bulletin, the Angus Beef Bulletin EXTRA, and the Angus Journal Daily, as well as providing online coverage of events and topics pertinent to cattlemen through the Angus Journal Virtual Library.

BIF Conference

Site sponsored by


Other Angus Journal
event sites …

Visit the
Angus Journal
topic library …

The topic sites in our library offer gateways to information on body condition scoring, beef cow efficiency, country-of-origin labeling, targeting the Certified Angus Beef® brand and more.

Sign up for…

Angus Journal.
Angus Journal
Copyright © 2014

Right side