Sandhills Cattle Association hosts 73rd Annual Convention |

Sandhills Cattle Association hosts 73rd Annual Convention

Story & Photos by Gayle Smith
Potter, Neb.

There was a full house of cattle producers and associate members on hand for the 73rd annual convention of the Sandhills Cattle Association in Thedford, Neb. Participants in the convention learned everything from how to properly cut a chuck roll to get the most value, to food safety and cattle size to equine acupuncture and spousal relationships. The association also held its annual meeting and presented scholarships to five students.

UNL Extension Educators Bethany Johnston and Jay Jenkins kicked off the day with a demonstration of chuck roll beef value cuts. During their demonstration, the pair taught producers how to cut the chuck roll into several different cuts depending on serving size and use. The recommended serving size of beef is 3 ounces, Jenkins told producers. “That is about the size of a deck of cards. But, most of the steaks are a lot bigger than a deck of cards,” he said.

Depending upon how a piece of meat is cut, the value can differ at the meat counter, Johnston said. A cut like the Denver steak has a lot more value than some other cuts, Jenkins added. What cuts are available will also depend upon who is cutting the meat, he added.

Beef producers were treated to samples of the meat cut that morning after it was grilled and seasoning was added.

Dr. Ty Lawrence, meat scientist and professor at West Texas A&M University followed their demonstration with a presentation on food safety and carcass size of beef. According to Lawrence, the U.S. has one million beef cattle producers, 2,500 commercial feedlots, and 35 packing plants. An average of 120,000 cattle are processed each day.

Lawrence, who spends a lot of time in processing plants, said carcass weights vary from under 600 pounds to over 1,000 pounds. Currently, packers discount carcasses $55/cwt if they are under 600 pounds, and $15/cwt if they are 900-1,000 pounds. Carcasses that are over 1,000 pounds can be discounted 15-$50/cwt. “Where is the top of cattle size?” Lawrence asked producers. “From growing up on a cow/calf operation, I can say a 1,500 pound cow is not very efficient, and an 1,800 pound cow is even less efficient,” he said. “The weaned calf weight just seems to grow, and grow, and grow, and the maximum weight at the packing plant continues to grow,” he continued. “It is not uncommon today to see carcasses that touch the ground on the packing plant floor. It takes a big animal carcass that can hang from the top of the rail, and is dragging the ground,” he said.

Lawrence also relayed to producers how the industry has responded to food safety issues, with E. coli being the biggest concern. According to the meat scientist, nearly 32,000 people become infected with E. coli bacteria each year, typically from eating undercooked beef. Of those, he estimated 30 will succumb to the illness, mostly from kidney failure.

The E. coli strain most prevalent is Eschericia coli 0157:H7, which is found mainly in the intestines of livestock – particularly in cattle. This strain produces a toxin in humans that damages the intestinal lining causing severe bloody diarrhea (HUS), abdominal pain and vomiting. The illness, which typically lasts about a week, is most severe in children under five and the elderly over 65.

Although 0157:H7 is the most commonly identified serotype of E. coli, more than 200 other serotypes have been associated with human illness, Lawrence continued. Beginning June 4, 2012, beef processors will be required by law to test for six additional serotypes before beef can be sold to the public. These new serogroups are: 026, 045, 0103, 0111, 0121, and 0145. He said it would be a felony for any processor to knowingly sell beef to the public that has tested positive for one of these serogroups.

Dr. Roy Schnell, who is a veterinarian certified in animal chiropractic and acupuncture showed producers how both techniques can relieve pain in sore horses. Schnell told the group that horses may need chiropractic and acupuncture, much like humans do, to relieve soreness in the body. Horses can become sore for a number of reasons, but the main culprit is from performance. Cutting, barrel racing, and roping can all strain the horse, but Schnell said he can alleviate that soreness by giving the horse an adjustment or acupuncture.

During an acupuncture demonstration, Schnell showed participants how he pinpoints where the horse is sore and how he places the fine needles into the horse’s hide. “These needles are so fine, the horse can’t even feel them when I put them in,” he said. As the muscles and tissue react to the needles, they will push them from the horse’s body so Schnell can easily remove them. “Sometimes, they will just fall out,” he said.

The last speaker during the conference was Mike Kesselring, who is co-owner of the family business, High Plains Homestead, home of the Drifter Cookshack and Bunkhouse, northwest of Crawford, Neb. Kesselring’s topic was “Can you work with your wife and still sleep with her?” The humorist talked to producers about their relationships with their spouse and how important it is to communicate.

He told producers they should designate some portion of their day to discuss problems and solve them, preferably not when it is time to go to bed. Kesselring said discussing problems at bedtime was difficult for him because his wife would tell him the problems, and since he was the problem-solver in the family, he would lay awake all night figuring out how to solve them. His wife would get a good night’s sleep, since she had unloaded everything on him. He discussed how other families would discuss problems first thing in the morning, or after the noon meal, which seemed like better timing.

During the annual convention, participants visited a large trade show with everything from animal health products, tractors and haying equipment, to cattle chutes and panels, to insurance, banking and colleges.

According to association manager Ronna Morse, the Sandhills Cattle Association continues to grow. Currently 500 beef producers belong to the association, and 300 associate members. They also continue to promote their group to young people who intend to return to the ranch. They have a next generation committee, whose mission is to develop and find programs to help young people return to the ranch and stay involved in cattle production.

Scholarships were also awarded to outstanding youth pursuing college degrees. Lindsay Adamson of Cody, Justin Taubenheim of Amherst and Sydney Gehl of Erikson accepted 1,000 scholarships from the Sandhills Cattle Association. Lindsay Adamson was also presented a $500 Howard Wright Memorial Scholarship during the ceremony.

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