From the field: Beef Education Summit 2018

by Bob Sims
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MANHATTAN, Kan. – Alameda, California-based Niman Ranch’s inaugural Beef Education Summit, held May 1-3, covered all things beef from the birthing of calves to the future economics of the industry.

Starting at the Edelman family cattle ranch, attendees got a snapshot of the practices used by Niman’s beef producers. The Edelman Ranch breeds and births its calves, feeds and finishes them before sending them on to be harvested.

A.J. Tarpoff, DVM, Assistant Professor at Kansas State Univ., and Extension Beef Veterinarian, started the event with a demonstration on calving. He covered the birthing stages, the importance of timing, how a newborn calf is taken care of by both the cow and the veterinarian delivering the calf, and even c-section procedures in cases of emergency.

Cattle feed details were covered and John Tarpoff (aka: “the steak whisperer”), vice president of beef at Niman Ranch, described the Edelman feedlot and why Niman likes it. He emphasized a design that minimizes stress and keeps the animals comfortable. A tree line around the outside of the feedlot deflects harsh weather conditions. A “loafing” shed gives the cows a place to relax outside of the elements. A lower density gives them more room and keeps manure levels low. “It doesn’t have to be a showplace,” Tarpoff said. “It just has to be functional and maintainable.”

Next, bulls and breeding stock were covered. Topics included how Edelman Ranch ensures good genetics when purchasing bulls and the care of first-birth heifers to ensure their ability to join the mature cow herd after their first calf. After touring the Edelman Ranch, attendees traveled to Kansas State Univ. (KSU) for further education presentations.

After arriving at the KSU campus, Tarpoff presented three bulls and two heifers to demonstrate how Niman chooses cattle for its beef programs. “When Niman goes into a pen, they look at each animal individually,” he said. The fullness of the backside is considered as well as the development of the brisket. And even the shape of the head makes a difference when Niman chooses cattle looking for those that will offer the highest-grade carcasses.

Other presentations focused on topics that included animal handling and husbandry by Dan Thomson, Ph.D., Jones Professor of Production Medicine and Epidemiology; dry-age versus wet-age by Melvin Hunt, Professor Emeritus; and the Economic Outlook and Eating Trends of Beef by Glynn Tonsor, Professor of Agricultural Economics, wrapped up the day.

On May 3, Associate Professor Terry Houser, Ph.D., detailed new meat cuts during a demonstration while Associate Professor Travis O’Quinn, Ph.D., conducted a sensory panel demonstration.

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