August 11, 2000
Grant awarded to Purdue to benefit cattle producers
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. Smaller cattle operations in Indiana will get help with making their operations more competitive through a grant awarded to Purdue University Extension specialists.
The United States Department of Agriculture, through its Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program, awarded Purdue beef specialists Ron Lemenager and Matt Claeys, along with meat science specialist John Forrest, a $78,000 matching grant to strengthen Indiana's cattle industry.
Lt. Governor Joe Kernan, who serves as Indiana's commissioner of agriculture, submitted the grant proposal on behalf of the state's agriculture office. "The goal of this USDA program is to help small farms thrive, through the development of new market opportunities or products," Kernan said. "That is why we were eager to submit this grant to the USDA. The FSMIP proposal will help small-scale beef cattle producers survive in an increasingly competitive and concentrated market."
Lemenager, in outlining details of the proposal, said it will help make smaller cattle operations more competitive. "Most small producers cannot sell cattle in semi-load quantities," he said. "They don't have the numbers to put together a load that is uniform in size, gender, color and quality. Their transportation costs per head to haul cattle to market are greater than the larger producer.
"First, we will provide local beef processors with the ability to evaluate cattle and provide timely feedback to the producer, so the farmer can benefit from higher prices paid for producing better quality beef," Lemenager said. Carcass evaluation provides valuable information and enables producers to make adjustments in genetics and feeding to improve beef quality. A small producer's transportation costs become less of a factor if he can take cattle to local markets and be paid a premium for quality.
The second phase of the proposal will create a certified freezer-beef program where small to mid-sized producers and packers and processors can work together to enhance profitability. "The quality assurance established between the local processor and producer creates a niche market that allows them to sell a more flavorful and tender beef product directly to the consumer," Lemenager said. "They can ensure the health, safety and wholesomeness of the beef they sell. This is value-added agriculture at its best."
Building on quality assurance, the final phase of the proposal calls for establishing a Web-based system to collect, track, analyze, coordinate and disseminate information on Indiana cattle. "This will allow us to develop a complete history on beef cattle marketed in Indiana," Lemenager said. He added that the tracking system would help in quickly detecting problems and ensuring continuous supplies of quality products for processors and consumers.
Victor L. Lechtenberg, Purdue Dean of Agriculture, praised the team's efforts. "Purdue is proud of these Extension specialists and their commitment to Indiana's cattle industry," he said. "The essence of the project emphasizes Purdue agriculture's commitment to Indiana farmers large and small. It tells farmers that you don't have to be big in order to be a viable cattle producer, and provides them with the tools to be financially successful."
The Purdue proposal complements Indiana's work in the Five-State Regional Beef Initiative, a partnership made up of individuals from universities and beef industry representatives in Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio.
Lemenager coordinates Indiana's delegation to the initiative. Through the effort, Eastern Corn Belt states are working to improve the profitability of their cattle industries by capitalizing on the large grain production in the five-state region. Innovative marketing, consistency of genetics and information sharing are helping the five states compete with their Western counterparts.
Indiana has approximately 23,000 feeder cattle and 15,000 beef cow operations, with a total of 970,000 cattle and calves, placing Indiana 32nd in the U.S. for cattle production.
Source: Ron Lemenager, (765) 494-4817; firstname.lastname@example.org
Writers: Beth Forbes, Purdue Ag Communications, (765) 494-2722 and DeeDee Sigler, Office of the Commissioner of Agriculture, (317) 233-2207.
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; email@example.com