Students plan the topics, find speakers and raise funds for Nebraska Beef Summit | TheFencePost.com

Students plan the topics, find speakers and raise funds for Nebraska Beef Summit

Terri Licking

If there is any evidence that the future of the beef industry will be in good hands, it was shown recently at the ninth annual Nebraska Beef Industry Scholars 2015 Beef Summit. The Summit is produced in cooperation with the Nebraska Cattlemen Association.

"Beginning in August when we come back to campus was when we began making plans for The Summit," explained Maci Lienemann, one of the 13 senior scholars. "We do all aspects of the organization of the day-long event. If it fails, we are the ones held accountable."

Lienemann's parents are Trevor and Torri of Princeton and they are commercial cow/calf producers. Other scholars included Steven Fish, Lukas Fricke, Laura Gorecki, Alex Heine, Devin Heusinkwell, Hannah Kesterson, Jenny Keyes, Jared McKeever, Logan Peters, Lilin Scheele, Travis Schiefelbein and Curtis Wetovick. All except Schiefelbein are from Nebraska; he hails from Minnesota. Their future plans vary as did the roles they had for the Summit. Some of them plan to pursue jobs with emphasis on range management, another wants to do beef research and Kesterson wants to use her love of photography to be part of her future beef industry career. She was the event's "official photographer," illustrating the Summit program as well as covering the event with her camera.

The scholars receive timely advice if asked from their professor, Dr. James MacDonald, and Ag Sciences department head Dr. Larry Berger. Otherwise the students plan the topics, find the presenters, arrange refreshments and lunch and most importantly, find funds from donors to cover the cost. This year's scholars raised a record breaking $17,000 for the Summit. After expenses here, the remaining funds will help to cover their trip to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association convention in San Diego, Calif., on Jan. 27-29, 2016.

"I have been UNL Ag Sciences Department head for seven years. If there is anything similar being conducted elsewhere by students themselves, I am unaware," Berger said. Over 100 beef industry partners, from producers to feedlot managers attended and were not disappointed in the content from the speakers.

First speaker of the day was Stan Moore of Michigan State University addressing the ever challenging issue of recruiting, hiring, and retaining quality labor in beef production. Mr. Moore is a senior educator in the dairy department at Michigan State and has taken special interest in labor management, having developed and presented multiple presentations on the topic throughout the Midwest. When many Nebraska ranchers and ag producers are asked what their biggest challenge will be in the next 10 to 20 years, they respond, "finding and keeping good help."

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Moore provided some great insight to the strategies and effort it takes to attract quality employees and prevent your operation from being limited by a lack of labor. Some of his key points pertained to working with family members. "The need for communication, describing expectations and complimenting your workers in a timely matter are all crucial aspects for all to do."

Michael Maroney, a representative of Commodity and Ingredient Hedging (CIH) in Chicago, Ill., talked about "Managing Risk in Volatile Markets." Maroney leads CIH's Beef Margin Management Service team to help cattle producers manage profitability. He began his career as a runner on the floor trading futures and options in grains, equities, and treasuries at the Chicago Board of Trade and his expert knowledge of managing risk in the markets has led him to his current position at CIH. "One cannot eliminate all risks, but shifting to a narrow band will bring more profitability," he said. "Risk management in the markets are as important as nutrition, procurement, etc."

An update and question-and-answer on "Beef Industry Issues in the Nebraska Legislature" was led by Jay Rempe of the Nebraska Farm Bureau. Rempe is Nebraska Farm Bureau's vice president of governmental relations. He provided quality insight to both the issues currently being discussed and those that may be coming in the future, and what action producers need to take to have their voices heard or prepare to adapt.

There was also a panel discussion titled "Freedom to Operate vs. Sustainability — Do They Conflict?" This discussion was deemed appropriate following the recent discussion about sustainability in beef production and its inclusion in the U.S. Department of Health's 2015 Dietary Guidelines. With so many definitions and connotations of the word sustainability, is it just a way for anti-agriculture agencies to paint the wrong picture of beef production? This panel will address the challenges beef production faces to continue to operate amid growing environmental and external regulations. Present on the panel were Joan Ruskamp of Dodge, Neb. Ruskamp and her husband Steve own and operate a feedlot west of Dodge. She is an avid "agvocate" having worked in beef production advocacy through a multitude of positions and agencies including the Beef Checkoff, NCBA, American National Cattlewomen, Common Ground and many others. Dean Settje of Raymond, Neb., is the founder of Settje Agri-Services and Engineering Inc. (SASE), a company that has been the leader in the Midwest for livestock systems design and environmental compliance. SASE provides assistance to beef producers through a team of professional engineers, agronomists, geologists, and groundwater monitoring specialists.

Steven Zabel, ag department of NDEQ, represented the Department of Environmental Quality and explained some of the development and enforcement of environmental regulations with a feedlot emphasis. Scott Yager, National Cattlemen's Beef Association environmental counsel, has spent much time advocating for the beef industry regarding the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) proposed legislation.

"Every operation is unique; they should not be one size fits all," Ruskamp said.

The final speaker of the day was Brian Lubbers, DVM, of Kansas State University. Lubbers is the director of the Microbial Surveillance Lab at K-State and oversees the day-to-day case management of bacterial and fungal diagnostic specimens. He addressed the upcoming Antibiotic Regulations and Veterinary Feed Directive and the imminent changes producers will have to make in their beef herd health programs and systems.

"More record-keeping, tighter relationships with your vet and feed supplier will be mandatory," he said.

Closing remarks was given by Troy Stowater of Wayne, Neb., Nebraska Cattlemen vice president who praised the work of the scholars and the presenters and encouraged all to get involved.

"We must be the ones to define who we are and what we can bring to the table," he said. He encouraged all to attend the Nebraska Cattlemen convention in Kearney on Dec. 2-4. For more information please visit http://www.NebraskaCattlemen.org. ❖