Nebraska Cattlemen Convention highlights |

Nebraska Cattlemen Convention highlights

Terri Licking
for Tri-State Livestock News
The Nebraska Cattlemens Foundation began in 1968 after the Nebraska Stock Growers Association launched an effort to acquire a research ranch in the Sandhills for the University of Nebraska Experiment Station.
Courtesy photo

KEARNEY, Neb. — Snow across the state did not deter over 600 registrants from congregating at the Younness Center in Kearney, Neb., Dec. 4-7 for the annual convention and trade show of the Nebraska Cattlemen.

Tuesday and Wednesday activities included Cattlemen’s College, Young Cattlemen’s Roundtable as well as council meetings of cow-calf, farmer-stockman, feedlot, feedstock, allied industry and membership services committees prior to the opening general session Wednesday night which was capped off by the opening of the trade show and the welcome reception.

During the opening general session, emceed by Mike Drimmin, NC president elect, he welcomed keynote speaker Joan Ruskamp, who partners with her husband Steve on their J&S cattle feeding business at Dodge, Neb. She is the National Cattlemen’s Beef Board chairman. She discussed the need to keep the beef check-off viable. “It is our voice, it amplifies our message. If the check-off does not tell our story, who will. Because of the check-off in 2018, 65 percent of consumers felt positive about beef. Northeast beef promotion worked with Pandora, reaching 2.2 million through social media and Pandora. At the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association convention in January, the automated beef ‘know-it-all,’ will be officially launched. Chuck Knows Beef — is the guide for all things beef, from recipes, cuts, nutrition, cooking tips and anything consumers want to know about beef, funded by the beef-check-off (”

Ruskamp was dismayed that Nebraska is not even in the top five of states whose producers are beef quality assurance certified. “Alabama is No. 1, we lead the nation in cattle on feed, and we let the crimson tide and other states beat us in BQA. She did compliment attendees that Nebraska youth is second in the number of BQA certified, 50,000 youth are BQA certified in Nebraska, thanks in large part to the 4-H and FFA requirements. Other points she emphasized:

• For every $1 into the beef check-off program, $11.20 is garnered.

• Foreign markets ­— despite the tariffs, U.S. had a 9 percent increase in exports, or $6.2 billion increase from January through September of 2017, compared to the same time this year.

• Trade missions do not concentrate on changing the diet, but incorporating beef into the culture already there, such as not sushi, but beefshi.

• By not promoting and buying into the beef check-off ­— “When we shoot ourselves in the foot, we also pay the medical bill.

• And last “We don’t just raise cattle, we produce beef.”

Ken Herz, NC vice president and Mitch Rippe, with the Nebraska Beef Council staff discussed the success of the Beef in Schools program.

• Sixty schools are now enjoying Nebraska beef in their school lunch menus thanks to the NC.

• It is 100 percent community driven; producers may donate, but community businesses and others donate for processing, which enhances the local economy.

• It has increased the frequency of serving beef from once per week to two or three times per week.

• The schools have seen a 10 to 12 percent increase in students participating in school lunches.

Last speaker of the opening session, Marty Smith, from Florida, is the NCBA vice-president. His family’s ranch dates to 1852. He became a lawyer when he was told the ranch could not support everyone. He is passionate about cattle producing because he does not want to have to tell his family they could not be supported on the ranch if they have a desire to return. Coming from the sunshine state to frigid temps, “I did not bring enough clothes.”

He expounded on some of Ruskamp’s comments. “China in the next 10 years will have 300 million in the middle class; that will allow them for the first time to have a choice of what to eat. They will demand more beef, it is our duty to provide them with not only the product, but the knowledge of incorporating it into their diet.”


Throughout the convention, individuals were recognized. During the opening general session, the retiring board members, the Nebraska YCC Class of 2017 graduates, and the Top Hand winners were applauded. The latter individuals were recognized for their recruitment of new NC members. Ed Klug, Columbus, was the No. 1 Top Hand, recruiting 15 new NC members.

During the Nebraska Cattlemen Research and Education Foundation luncheon on Thursday, emceed by Scott Knobbe, NCF president, awards presented, and their recipients included:

• Nebraska Range and Conservation Endowment Awards – $2,000 and a plaque presented to Bethany Johnston, Thedford, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension educator for the Central Sandhills which includes the counties of Blaine, Thomas, Hooker and Grant and another $2,000 and plaque to Aaron Berger, Lincoln, UNL Beef Systems, Extension educator.

• Nebraska Beef Industry Endowment Awards – $4.000 and a plaque given to veterinarian Brian Vander Lay for his work on bovine congestive heart failure.

Knobbe prior to the last award at the NCF luncheon brought attention to the booklets at each place recognizing the 50th anniversary of the NCF. “The NC divides the state into nine regions, each region has a representative on the NCF board of directors, plus two members at large and the NC vice president sits on the NCF board (Mike Drimmin this year) as well as its own two staff members, Jana Jensen from Bingham and Lee Weide, Lincoln. Our mission statement explains best who and what we are, ‘to advance the future of Nebraska’s Beef Industry by investing in research and education programs.’” Board members can serve three years per term, up to three terms consecutively before going off.

The NCF began in 1968 after the Nebraska Stock Growers Association launched an effort to acquire a research ranch in the Sandhills for the University of Nebraska Experiment Station. The U.S. Department of Agriculture terminated the research station at Fort Robinson, moving it to Clay Center, where it is yet today, known as the Meat Animal Research Center. The research station at North Platte redirected its emphasis from feedlot to cow-calf. At the 1967 NSGA convention a resolution to form the NSGA Research and Education Foundation was passed. Articles of incorporation were filed on Nov. 16, 1967, with original incorporators/directors being Merlyn Carlson, Lodgepole; Sid Salzman, Ainsworth; Alvin Kroeger, Cody; B. Wallace Mills, Hay Springs; E.H. Shoemaker, North Platte; and staff member Jesse Felker, Alliance. Fundraising efforts began in October 1967, but it wasn’t until July 9, 1968, that the NSGA Research and Education Foundation was official, thus this year marking its 50th anniversary. On hand to explain the history of the NCF, by way of video, compliments of Jana Jensen, was Merlyn Carlson, the only surviving charter member of the NCF. He calls Arizona home now and though he could not see those at the luncheon, he was elated to speak, “Isn’t technology wonderful when it works.” Knobbe went on to explain, “Plaques will be sent to Merlyn, and to the families of those members that started this amazing journey. We felt, this our 50th year was the year a long overdue thank you was given to the vision of our founders.”

The NCF focus continues to be on education. Between the 17 scholarships/grant accounts, the six endowed accounts and two funds at UNL foundation plus the three designated accounts, the 2018 financial summary of the NCF as of June 30 was $373,284.39. Funds at the mid-year meeting in June amounted to $55,200 in scholarships awarded to 43 high school seniors and college students.

Besides memorials, charitable gifts and the donations of individuals, every year a Retail Value Steer challenge is conducted. Next year will be the 20th year for the primary NCF fundraiser. Steers are fully donated; all funds go to the NCF. Darr Feedyard, Cozad, continues to house the steers. A total of 160 steers from numerous donors were entered this year, the largest test to date. Overall winners: first, Northeast Cattlemen; second, Berger’s Herdmasters; third, Wayne and Roxanne Eatinger. Average daily gain winners: first, Jim Ramm/Don Schmaderer/Sedlacek/Nebraska Cattlemen Foundation; second, UNL Animal Science Faculty; third, Loseke Feedyard/Folken Feedyard. Carcass Value winners: first, Graff Cattle; second, Todd Schroeder/Kelly Bruns “Go Jacks”; third, Miles Cattle Co./Trampe Cattle Co.

The annual convention banquet held that evening also had award recipients. Gina Hudson, with the Nebraska Cattlewomen acknowledged the new beef ambassadors. Hannah Pearson, high school senior from Thedford and Devin Jakub, UNL college senior from Brainard were recognized. Industry Service Awards went to Stanley Garbaccz, the agricultural trade representative for the Nebraska Department of Agriculture. Posthumously, awards were given to family members of Jeffery Biegert, an inductee last year into the Cattle Feeders Hall of Fame and Robert Gottsch, founder of Gottsch Cattle Co.

The most prestigious award of the year, the Nebraska Cattlemen Hall of Fame Award was given to Bill and Kathy Rhea from Freemont.

Friday, the NC convention concluded with its year end business meeting and passing of the presidency from Galen Frenzen, Fullerton, to Mike Drimmin, Clarks. Frenzen’s duties now will be to chair the nominating committee. ❖

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