In the 1970's Detroit decided Americans wanted big cars. American consumers didn't agree. The foreign market swelled overnight and today dominates several automotive sectors. American automakers learned a healthy, expensive lesson: In a consumer-oriented market, give consumers what they want.

Automakers also learned a couple other lessons: cooperate and listen to the customer. Today, every American auto manufacturer has alliances with overseas manufacturers. In fact, manufacturer ownership crosses oceanic boundaries, such as Ford owning more than 25% of Mazda and General Motors jointly designing and manufacturing with Toyota.

The result is that we, as American auto consumers, enjoy better automotive reliability, more choices and increased value in our automobiles. Automakers in turn are enjoying higher profits and an increasing customer base.

Some feeders elect to participate in a single alliance, others find their yards can accommodate the needs of several alliances, based on their customer base and variety of incoming cattle. Customer education, genetic counseling and carcass data feedback are often part of the feedyard's role.

The beef industry is learning this lesson now. Cow-calf producers, stockers and feeders are seeking to regain market share and to improve their bottom lines. Partnerships are being formed, new business opportunities are being created and groups who previously felt they shared no common interests are working hand-in-hand to enhance beef products.

This issue of BEEF Feeder is a tool to help you benefit from this trend. Our intent is to provide an overview of marketing alliances, what they are, what's out there and how you and your customers can take advantage them.

Ideally, you'll find this will help you and your customers work together to enhance beef quality and in the long run, viability. You might even find a new business opportunity.

We've probably missed an alliance or two. Business is changing so fast, it's hard to keep up. If so, let us know about it and we'll publish its specs in an upcoming BEEF Feeder.