Education, new marketing opportunities highlight Cattlemen’s Conference | TheFencePost.com

Education, new marketing opportunities highlight Cattlemen’s Conference

Teresa Clark
For The Fence Post

The Wyoming livestock industry has a bright future, according to speakers who laid out future plans for cattle, and other livestock in the state, during the 2017 Cattlemen's Conference held during the Wyoming State Fair in Douglas.

Rindy West, who works with the Wyoming Agriculture in the Classroom program, and Monty Gilbreath, with Converse County School District No. 1, discussed the important role agriculture and livestock production play in Wyoming schools.

West said the Wyoming Agriculture in the Classroom project currently focuses on Wyoming school students in grades second through fifth. "We wanted it to be part of their day-to-day learning, so we asked stakeholders in this project, through a survey, what they wanted the students to learn," she said.

The stakeholders identified some key learning concepts, and after many discussions, it was determined that every sector of the learning plan must include natural resources. "We have included these key stakeholders in every part of the program," she said. "We wanted them to provide input as the program was written, piloted and revised."

During the 2016-2017 school term, the initial ag in the classroom program lessons were piloted across the state. West said the next step will be to premier two units on the website, and the pilot those created. "These authentic classroom lessons were created for Wyoming teachers by Wyoming teachers," she said. "We look at it as an opportunity to empower our current and future generations to be critical thinkers and problem-solvers."

BEEF ON LUNCH MENUS

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Gilbreath outlined the new Farm to Plate program, which is designed to bring Wyoming raised beef into the statewide school lunch system.

Over the years, Wyoming ranchers have asked to donate beef to schools in the state, but were turned away because the school system didn't have the funds to pay for processing. During the last legislative session, Wyoming Sen. Brian Boner was instrumental in writing a bill that passed the legislature, creating funding for the schools to pay for livestock processing. Through the Farm to Plate program, Gilbreath says Wyoming ranchers can now donate Wyoming-grown beef to the school district. If the school district has the freezer space, and accepts the beef, the cattle must be processed through a state-certified meat packing plant. "It has to be inspected by a state health department official," Gilbreath said.

Converse County has received donated beef through this program, and hopes to receive enough donations to feed their students throughout the school year. Gilbreath said two swine were also donated through 4-H and FFA market sales at the fair. "Our school is developing ways to promote and market this progam to our students, their parents, and our faculty and staff," he said. "When we serve it, we want to let everyone know who donated it. It shows how proud we are to have Wyoming-raised product in our schools."

Currently, most of the meat is processed into hamburger, but Gilbreath is hoping stew meat, and roast for roast beef sandwiches can be added to future menus. "We have the option of tailoring it how we want to have it cut up," he said. Currently, most of the donated beef is grassfed cattle, with the exception of 4-H and FFA beef that have been donated. "We are proud to be able to serve Wyoming-raised beef to our students," Gilbreath told the ranchers. "It is an opportunity to put exceptional product in the schools, where it should be."

TRADE WITH CHINA

Wyoming Extension beef specialist Steve Paisley provided ranchers with an update of how a trade agreement with China will impact the U.S. cattle market, and what opportunities exist for Wyoming cattle producers.

When China chose to no longer import U.S. beef in 2003, it has left a void in the U.S. market for the last 14 years, Paisley said to producers. With the opportunity to export to the country again, producers are anxiously awaiting the two countries to sign an official agreement, he added. "Right now, we have an agreement in principle that hinges on a signed trade agreement with China," he said. "There is tremendous potential for us there, but the agreement has been slow to develop. There has been some short-term excitement," Paisley said, "but realistically, it may take a long-term to develop."

With China becoming more affluent, and the middle class population growing, the demand for U.S. beef could be quite high, he said. "Their demand has really increased in recent years. Chinese beef imports grew to $2.5 billion in 2016."

What does that mean for U.S. producers? Paisley is certain beef exported to China will need to be source-verified to prove it was raised in the U.S. "The cattle must be able to be traced back to their first residence in the U.S., unless they are going directly to slaughter," he said. "There will also be a requirement that they are under 30 months of age," he added. Paisley warns producers interested in this program to make sure and use an approved USDA source-verified program, and participate in a third-party auditing process.

Chilled, frozen, bone-in and deboned beef will all qualify for the program, as well as carcasses, meat and meat by-products. Many lower-end cuts and variety meats may also be exported there.

Other speakers giving presentations during the meeting were Congresswoman Liz Cheney, University of Wyoming Sheep Extension Specialist Whit Stewart, Don Day Jr. with Day Weather, and Scott Zimmerman with the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. More than 50 cattle producers attended the afternoon event.❖

— Teresa Clark is a freelance livestock journalist from western Nebraska. She can be reached by email at tclarklivenews@gmail.com.

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