Lots to learn at 2007 Farm Show
The dust had barely settled over the stockyards in Denver. Meanwhile 50 miles north in the city of Greeley, tractors and chairs, loaders, booths and a large plastic cow were being set up at Island Grove Regional Park. The stage was being set for the 2007 Colorado Farm Show, “Safeguarding our Agricultural Heritage.” Since its inception the Colorado Farm Show has strived to educate those involved in agriculture with the most pertinent and current information to make their operations a success. From the cowboys who open the doors on Tuesday to the growers who help close them on Thursday, there is something to learn for everyone.
Each day at the Farm Show has a theme. Tuesday at the Farm Show was “Beef and Equine Day.” In addition to bovine and horse seminars, there were also some “Ag Spotlight” seminars, including keynote speaker David Kohl. Dr. Kohl spoke about the future trends in agriculture and shed a little light on finances for the producer. Over on the equine side of the park, horse enthusiasts had an information-packed morning where they learned all there is to know about bits and their uses.
Attendees were treated to a live demonstration of acupuncture on a horse by Dr. Tim Holt. Despite the cold weather, the horse moved much more freely by the end of the treatment.
The beef day seminars ranged from genetics to finishing and producer opportunities. Jim Coakley of Coleman Natural Meats shed a little light on how anyone can become a producer of natural beef. Inspired by their children, Mel and Polly Coleman began Coleman natural beef to provide people with the natural beef option that their kids had grown up with on their ranch. Since the 1970s, natural beef has moved from a “mom and pop” operation and niche market to national chain stores with label recognition, brand loyalty, and double digit annual growth.
In a national survey of people buying Coleman’s products, 32 percent of consumers said they had begun buying organic and natural foods within the past year. With a constantly growing consumer base, Coleman Beef and many other natural beef suppliers are always looking to form relationships with producers who are willing to raise cattle naturally. The requirements for natural beef begin from birth, and producers must be pre-approved to raise the cattle naturally. To become a part of the “pre-approved suppliers program,” the first step is to have someone from Coleman, like Coakley, come out to your operation and talk about the process from calving to finishing. Vaccination programs, feed, vitamin and mineral programs are a few of the protocols that need very little adjustment to become natural. The focus of the program is more on overall herd health than a change in management practices.
The verifying process is extremely important for natural beef. The producer needs to be able to verify that the protocols have been followed from the birth of the calf until they are sent off for finishing, or sent to Coleman for processing. Coakley recommends that the calf producer try to finish the animal on their own, if they have the feed and the ability. Otherwise, Coleman has a list of approved feeders they use for their cattle.
Being a member of the pre-approved suppliers program does not require the producer to sell to Coleman, or any certain company, for that matter. The producer simply has that option should it prove to be the most profitable at the end of the season. More often than not, natural beef is the more profitable route. Consumers of natural beef are willing to pay a higher price, and that additional money filters all the way back to the cow-calf producer.
Not only is Coakley an employee of Coleman, but he is also a producer. His advice is to develop a relationship with a purchaser for a long-term contract. Call the purchaser of your cattle after they have gone to slaughter and find our how they did. Ask for suggestions on what they think you could do differently next time to achieve desired results. All beef companies are looking for the same thing, to maintain a constant, high-quality supply of beef products for their consumers. Natural beef is no different except that their programs tend to pay off higher for the producers.
The overall management and health of the herd is of the utmost importance when you are a part of a pre-approved program. There is no cost to be a part of these programs, and the benefits are many. Be aware that you do not paint yourself into a corner. Different companies have different requirements, so raising one’s cattle to fit more than one program can be beneficial. The same rules apply ” the companies must know ahead of time that you are planning on raising beef in accordance with their program. Records are the way to prove that you have followed the requirements and protocols, and they must be kept well.
Questions were raised about animal identification and age verification. Whether your animal has an eID tag or a name, as long as the records on each animal are complete and accurate, most companies do not have a preference as to how records are kept. Age verification can be as simple as circling the date on a calendar. Do not plan to rely on dentition; “records will trump dentition every time,” said Coakley. Too many factors can affect teeth. Keep track of your animals’ age; it will be worth it in the long-run.
The opportunities for producers to expand their options are out there, but a little leg work is necessary. Granted it will probably take some changes as well, but the future is all about change, and in order to safeguard our future, we may have to acquiesce to a bit of change here and there.
Each year at the Farm Show a committed group of women organize seminars that are educational, funny, and based on recommendations from Farm Show attendees. The Partners in Ag work hard to make sure the special interests of Farm Show participants are met. This year the Partners in Ag called upon Dr. Ilisha Newhouse to give a step-by-step tutorial on writing a business plan that would help secure government funding. When applying for grants, Dr. Newhouse cautioned to be aware of the source. You want to make sure you’re submitting your information to a reputable place like USDA, or the Department of Commerce. “Most unsolicited grants or ones that ask you for money are scams,” she said.
In writing a successful business plan Dr. Newhouse referred to “10 Power Steps.” These steps, when followed and expanded on, can help a business plan secure grant money. The 10 steps are: forming goals; market segmentation; market planning; business planning; financing; forming a team; making a formal strategic business plan; crating a formal marketing plan; acquiring capital on your terms; and marketing and managing to meet your set goals. Setting goals referred to what you want to achieve by your 5th or 10th year in business, who you’d like to gift your business to when you tire of it, etc. Market segmentation is who your business will target and how you’ll get your message out to them. Financing, she said, is very important to talk about. Where were the fees to supplement the grant monies going to come from? Newhouse said grants can not be a business’ main source of income or it will fail. Investors, savings, or other sources are necessary, especially when initially securing a grant.
Forming a team for your business is also very key. You will need receptionists, management and more. Rather than simply hiring for a position, keep an open mind and hire them for the company, then use their strengths in the position that will work best. In your formal business plan, grant readers will want to see a timeline; the same goes for the formal marketing plan. Acquiring capital usually involves banks. “When you least need the money is when they’ll want to give it to you the most. Banks want to see that you’re going to be viable,” Dr. Newhouse said. Finally managing and marketing to meet set goals involves heart and soul. If you’re considering opening any business from a llama farm to a car wash, you’ll have to love it. You most likely won’t turn a profit for at least two years, you will have complete ownership of this business, and it will be built on your blood, sweat and tears. With all of that to consider, it had better be something you love, or you’ll burn out long before you have a chance to leave it to anyone.
The business plan itself, Dr. Newhouse broke into several sections including: introduction; marketing; financial management; operations; and conclusion. The introduction will include the goals of the business, what you can do to achieve them, and how you plan to get there. It will also need to incorporate legal aspects like ownership and liability, and discussing how you will acquire the skills or experience you need to make this a success. In the marketing section you will need to identify the demand and market for your products or services. You will also need to explain your advertising tactics and your pricing strategy. This is where you need to make your business work on paper. If it’s not profitable on paper, you may want to reconsider.
The financial section will entail your initial source of capital, operating budget, cash flow projections, projected income statements, balance sheets, accounting officials, and a crisis plan. Showing potential investors that you have formulated a plan if the market bottoms out, your assets versus liabilities, what you plan to pay for rent, salary and insurance will give them confidence in your business. The operations section will describe your day-to-day management. Personnel, human resources, pertinent expense issues, production and distribution, will all be detailed in this section of the business plan. Finally the conclusion will summarize the goals and objectives, show readers how this is a positive investment opportunity for them, and project profit in five to 10 years.
Some of the other aspects of business plan include choosing a name, acquiring an ID from the IRS, licenses for your area, deciding your corporate structure, and keeping up with technology ” in other words, having a website. There are also organizations out there like S.C.O.R.E, made up of retired executives who volunteer their time to read business plans and critique them. The information and help is out there; all you need is a passion and an idea! (Dr. Newhouse also handed out a tutorial packet on business plan writing. This is available by contacting Kitty Michelotti-Glaser at the Fence Post.)
Dr. Frank Garry from Colorado State University spoke about adult dairy cow mortality as a part of Dairy days. Throughout his lecture, Dr. Garry posed many questions like what death rate is normal among dairy cows and what are these causes of death? What Dr. Garry has found on his quest for the answers to these questions, is more questions. Rarely do dairymen keep track of exact reasons for culling animals out of their herd, or do necropsies to determine cause of death. There are many theories from “pushing animals too hard” to “disease “X”, but none have the research or numbers to back them up. What is known is that adult dairy cow mortality is on the rise, and is adversely affecting many dairy operations.
Feedlot operators and cow-calf producers know what their “normal” death loss is and why it happens, but there is no research or reporting of these events in the dairy industry. In order to change the trend of increased loss and little explanation Dr. Garry has been involved with studies though CSU to determine some of the top causes of loss. Dr. Garry hypothesizes that if we determine the top three causes and work on them, death loss may be improved. In addition, Dr. Garry asked many more questions. Feedlots do necropsies, why not dairies? What are the “unknown” or “other” causes of death or herd removal that some dairymen give as reasons? What can be done now before we have all the information we need? Dr. Garry suggested monitoring programs that include routine necropsies, facilities and housing maintenance, and attention to hygiene. He also suggested worker training on the basis that the people who are out with the animals aren’t always the ones who will most readily recognize an issue right away. The more training and ownership workers have of the herd, the more care they can give.
Although no hard and fast answers were given ” in fact, most left with more questions than when they arrived ” Dr. Garry’s point was received loud and clear. Why hadn’t these questions been asked sooner? And what is being done now to answer them? Because these questions had been posed, the future was already looking brighter because more information was on its way. In the words of Albert Einstein, Dr. Garry posed, “problems can’t be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.”
A new presentation at the Farm Show this year was a showmanship demonstration by a champion 4-H showman. Andy Killion, a member of the Hearts and Hands 4-H club, along with one of his hens, gave a presentation on what a showman can do to be successful with the poultry project. From the appearance of the showman to trimming the toenails of the bird, Andy gave a thorough presentation to 4-H’ers and adults alike.
Andy stressed the importance of really spending time working with the bird ” handling them, practicing putting them in and out of a cage, so that movements are smooth and natural in front of the judge, are key elements to a showman’s success. In addition, knowing as much as you can about our bird, its anatomy, how to show it in and out of the cage, how to tell if it’s laying and even knowing a bird’s disqualifications are all important. For instance, if a hen is missing a wing feather there could be a disqualification but because it’s a showmanship competition, the bird won’t necessarily get disqualified.
At the end of his demonstration, Andy shared some of his personal secrets while he allowed the 4-H’ers to handle his bird. He talked about using baby shampoo to clean his animals a few days before show and using vegetable oil on the waddles, combs and legs of his birds. Andy also recommended using “a little bit of blueing” on white chickens to make them look their best. But he did caution not to use too much, lest the bird arrive at the fair blue! He sounded like a man who had maybe experienced it first-hand. Andy imparted his knowledge to all who came and answered any questions thrown at him. His willingness to help the future poultry project 4-H’ers made his grand champion showmanship buckle shine just that much brighter.
From educating the current farmers and ranchers of today, to helping the future of agriculture through 4-H, the 2007 Farm Show lived up to its motto this year of “Safeguarding our Agricultural Heritage.” Weld County is lucky to have such a rich agricultural heritage. Everyone who attended, learned, made connections, were vendors, and supported the Farm Show has done their part to make sure that heritage is around for generations to come.
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