Jay O’Brien, Amarillo, TX

Too much focus on breed

"Unfortunately, I don’t think the industry will be a lot different relative to today. But I do accept that competition will be more intense for pasture as stocker operators compete with cows, as well as misguided recreational landowners who don’t understand the synergies possible with grazing and continued urban sprawl. Increasing weaning weights will continue to squeeze stocker operators.

"Another possible difference will be that more stockers may profit from feedyards’ challenges with keeping freshly weaned calves alive, and stockers may profit as much by conditioning calves as by adding weight. Economics may reward placing two turns of cattle on pasture.

"Thus, I would rather answer the question, “What should be different 10 years down the road?”

Jay O Brien"Today, alliances focus too much on breed. Part of the problem is that packers make money from commodity beef, but this is escalated by the difficulty of transferring information or data among the cowman, stocker, feeder and packer. Thus, breed is used as a poor substitute for data.

"A better system would be for a packer to bid with a grid published on the Internet for weekly delivery dates for at least a year. This grid would include whatever specs are important, but would not forget red meat cutout. Packers would benefit because they could contract their beef to restaurants that want a fixed menu price. Cattle feeders would benefit because they could contract cattle from stockers or cowmen based on known performance.

"Known performance would require mandatory individual identification. Carcass data would be available to producers at every step, and producers would be able to predict the appropriate grid for cattle, better evaluate true value and market accordingly. Breed would become less important, and predictability would improve.

"Meanwhile, stockers, as an important link, would benefit by delivering data on genetics with healthy cattle. The more progressive stockers would probably retain profit interest up the chain."