By Audrey Hambright
A diverse group of beef producers, veterinarians and agricultural economists gathered to discuss opportunities in the beef industry at the Beef Sustainability Knowledge Summit hosted by the Beef Cattle Institute at K-State and K•Coe Isom at the K-State Alumni Center in Manhattan, Kansas.
Sara Harper, K•Coe Isom and Dr. Brad White, of the Beef Cattle Institute at Kansas State University, who served as moderators, welcomed the group of 91 industry enthusiasts for a day of discussion and debate on beef sustainability issues. The collaboration of K•Coe Isom and the BCI for the event was created with the intention of bringing perspectives together.
“Most questions for the industry are not from one discipline, we need a holistic answer,” White said.
Animal Health & Care Challenges & Solutions
The summit kicked off the day with a panel on Animal Health & Care Challenges & Solutions. Panelists Dr. Bob Larson, Kansas State University, Dr. Trent Fox, Veterinary Research & Consulting Services, Tim Hardman, World Wildlife Fund and Christy Goldhawk, Elanco, fielded questions from the audience and moderators.
Goldhawk helped addressed animal health in terms of transportation. She said the beef system is not one single person’s ownership.
“We forget to look at factors that can make it go well,” she said. “It’s like preparing for game day and it comes down to management.”
Fox took an active approach on the topic of antimicrobial use. After providing some background on the upcoming Veterinary Feed Directive changes, he emphasized that veterinarians need to do their part in reducing use of antimicrobials.
“[Veterinarians] need to be treating the right disease at the right time,” he said. “And we should be empowering people to help identify proper diseases.”
Grazing & Grain Feedstock Challenges & Solutions
A panel on Grazing & Grain Feedstock Challenges & Solutions followed consisting of Dr. Chuck Rice, Kansas State University, Shawn Tiffany of Tiffany Cattle Company, and Rob Manes of The Nature Conservancy. Each identified successful systems as well as the need for diversity and flexibility. The panel overall reiterated the options we have with different types of food systems.
“You don’t have to be big, you just need to be a part of something big,” Tiffany said. “Sustainability is about relationships.”
Dr. Ted Schroeder, Kansas State University, Dennis Roddy, K•Coe Isom and Paul Smith also of K•Coe Isom made up a strong panel to discuss Economic Management Challenges & Solutions. Dr. Schroeder pointed out the importance of not focusing on one single driver, but collectively recognizing all pieces of the system and what the future holds.
“We need to empower the new generation, they will find the solution,” Schroeder said.
The Emerging Technologies panel consisting of Dr. Dan Goehl, Precision Animal Solutions, Tim Evans, CattleFax and Kelly Kim, K•Coe Isom, each with a slightly different approach to embracing technology in the industry. Evans reinforced the need to empower the next generation for the future.
“Engaging young people, is engaging technology,” he said.
Dr. Goehl outlined his experience using technology to successfully decrease the amount of antibiotics given to cattle using a 24/7 monitoring system. The active RFID tag on each calf provides a series of metrics including distance and speed traveled as well as location and social interactions. This allowed feedlot management to more accurately diagnose cattle in a shorter amount of time.
Kim debuted the online sustainability training modules created in partnership with the BCI. The modules provide information for beef producers using a holistic approach and cover the four areas of sustainability – animal, environmental, economic and social.
“The training is intended to be very practical,” she said. “They can take the information and implement change right away on their operation.”
Each module is 6-8 minutes long with a short quiz at the end. Producers can then take the certificate of completion to show stakeholders what they are doing to improve sustainability on their own operations.
Spotlight on Emerging Sustainability Beef Programs
Whether personal interest or livelihood of business, panel members are motivated to promote their respective beef programs. Todd Allen, Cargill Cattle Feeders, LLC, Nicole Johnson-Hoffman, managing director of Cargill’s North American McDonald’s business, represented the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, Tim Hardman, Wildlife World Fund and Emily Johannes, K•Coe Isom comprised the final panel for the event.
To meet the consumer emotionally, Hardman emphasized the need to create a story for food with beef due to the millennial generation placing importance on food and culture. Hoffman noted an additional shift in the food industry, where producers need to renegotiate with their communities due to changes driven in consumer perception.
At the end of the day, a common theme in empowering and engaging people is based on three main pillars – environmental, social and economic, which all play a vital role in the success to lead the conversation forward on sustainability.
Panel introductions and discussions from the Beef Sustainability Knowledge Summit can be viewed online: http://www.beefcattleinstitute.org/kcoe/.