Attending the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association annual meeting in
Fargo, ND, was good. The meeting, as with all meetings, picked up the
flavor of the region, a fact of life throughout the world.
It seems beef meetings are filled with good humor, with much of it
directed at chickens. Unlike many ethnic stories, there is no offense
taken to a good chicken joke among the beef folks.
In this case, egg laying Ginger was the center of attraction. Ginger
starred in the movie “Chicken Run,” a funny movie by Aardman Animations
involving a flock of chickens bent on not becoming chicken pie. The
chickens spent the majority of the movie developing and executing a plan
to escape. In the end, they succeeded, met their goals and retired in
Perhaps there is a lesson in that brief statement, but I would like to
make a broader point. The chicken and cow thing has been going on for
some time. For the most part, the early settlers would have insisted on
both, plus a milk cow, a sow and maybe sheep.
As time went on, the need, or at least the desire to specialize, negated
the lack of competition. The result was a competitive atmosphere by
those who have survived the process of presenting consumers with
something that fancies their palates. This is big business and the
sparring within the world of meats began.
Today, looking the competition in the eye is very real. What seems
interesting is that the poultry industry, like Ginger, has a plan. Al
Kulenkamp of Shaver Poultry Breeding Farms Ltd., detailed the plan for
egg layers in his article, “Profile of the Layer of 2010.”
Kulenkamp says, “The layer in 2010 will be substantially improved, but
not dramatically different. She will be capable of laying 12 to 15 more
eggs of better quality … and consume up to eight grams less feed per
egg. With improved breeding techniques, the 2010 layer will be better
able to cope with group-type environments.”
The opposition for beef has a plan, a goal and a process to achieve that
goal. They will.
Where are beef producers and the mighty beef cow? Do we have a plan that
entwines increased production, better quality of product, more
efficiency and increased flexibility to cope with environmental
Ginger may tolerate a little fun poked at her, but it is not at her
expense. Rather, the fun is at the expense of the beef cow. Long-term
According to Kulenkamp, today’s hens lay 50 or more eggs using 25
percent less feed compared with the hens of yesterday. Chicken breeders
utilize consistent, long-term breeding strategies that not only produce
change for the breeder, but for the entire commercial industry as well.
Yes, the beef cow has changed, but is there a plan to do what the
chicken did? Can we increase production, quality, efficiency and
positive environmental impacts?
All of these issues are addressed. In one room, the cow/calf people
gather. The meats people are across the hall and the nutritionists will
have their own meeting next week. The beef animal waste people had a
call to arms, but no one attended the meeting, so the points were
Instead, the perceived “big” issues, such as animal identification and
premises registration, are bubbling to the top. Meanwhile, we entertain
ourselves with chicken jokes. Ginger is no joke. She had a plan, set her
goals, got the flock to work as a unit and they all retired in paradise.
Our cows have a lot of work to do.