The Beef Improvement Federation(BIF) may be the beef industry's best kept secret. Yet, while many in the industry are unaware of the BIF's structure or mechanics, almost everyone benefits from its activities.

BIF is a nonprofit organization funded by dues from member organizations that include breed associations, state and provincial beef cattle improvement associations, university personnel representing the efforts in national cattle evaluation and other national and international organizations. A board of directors, elected from these member organizations, governs the activities of BIF.

Formed in 1968 with the aim of standardizing beef cattle performance records, BIF published the first Guidelines for Uniform Beef Improvement Programs in 1970. Now in its 7th edition, Guidelines is the standard reference for beef performance programs in North America.

Today, BIF is considered a world leader in beef cattle performance programs, and continues to work to standardize performance records. Results of such efforts help provide producers such needed evaluations as cowherd fertility and tenderness.

Currently, BIF's working committees are: 1) Emerging Technologies 2) Genetic Prediction 3) Multiple Trait Evaluation 4) Live Animal Carcass and End Product 5) Producer Applications and 6) Whole Herd Reporting.

In addition, BIF attempts to cross traditional lines to set an example of cooperation with all phases of the beef industry. The 1999 Cattlemen's College conducted in cooperation with NCBA is one example, as well as BIF's collaborative effort with BEEF magazine to produce this special issue, and BEEF's1999 cow/calf issue entitled "The Genetic Revolution."

An annual meeting is held each summer for anyone interested in beef cattle improvement. This year's program - BIF's 32nd Annual Meeting and Research Symposium - will be held in Wichita, KS, on July 12-15. The program will focus on emerging technologies and includes speakers on cloning, DNA, sexing semen, video imaging, ultrasound and electronic identification. We hope you'll join us!

For more information and fact sheets covering beef cattle performance topics, visit the BIF Web site at www.beefimprovement.org.

The National Beef Cattle Genetic Evaluation Consortium project is an effort to coordinate and fund the work of the four universities primarily responsible for the research and production of beef cattle genetic evaluations in the U.S. The aim is to develop and implement improved technologies and methodologies for genetic evaluation of beef cattle. Thepurpose is to maximize the impact genetic programs have on the economic viabilit y, international competitiveness and sustainability of U.S. beef cattle producers, and provide consumers with affordable, healthy beef products.

Researchers at Colorado State, Cornell and Iowa State universities and the University of Georgia are jointly seeking a USDA grant of $9 million over five years. This will help develop the technology to ensure that U.S. producers continue to have the tools that make U.S. seedstock the best in the world. The grant will match $1.75 million of non-federal support provided by the four universities and $1.8 million contributed by beef breed associations over the same period.

For selective breeding, Expected Progeny Differences (EPDs) have been the most important tool available to seedstock and commercial producers of beef cattle. But, the infrastructure of the current system has much duplicated effort and is fragile because only a few scientists actually do most of the work. Coordinating efforts and sharing resources will raise efficiency and alleviate concerns regarding the fragile nature of the current infrastructure.

Technologies like the Internet and molecular genetics, combined with food safety concerns for product traceability and economic pressure for production efficiency, make such an investment in the next generation of national genetic evaluation technology essential. It will allow the U.S. beef industry is to play a leadership role in the global markets of the new century.