The Nebraska Cattlemen's (NC) Nebraska Corn-Fed Beef (NCFB) Program has three basic requirements for membership: You must participate in the Nebraska Cattlemen effort, keep health and genetic records on each animal from birth to slaughter and attend one of the Beef Quality Assurance training schools in the state. More than 2,300 veterinarians, Extension workers and producers are currently certified in this effort.

The aim is to produce more quality and consistency in the cattle we produce, says Dave Hamilton of Reed Hamilton Ranch. Hamilton and other task force members, Extension and allied industries began 18 months ago to design the NC managed-label program that differentiates its product from commodity beef.

The goal: to answer concerns about declining market share and live-cattle market information, lack of source-verification back to the ranch and a shortage of value-added and consistent beef products available to consumers.

IBP has agreed to sign on as packer cooperator and has worked with the NCFB program in developing an exclusive grid-pricing program. The first of the 5,000 head enrolled in the program will go to slaughter in April or May, according to Lee Weide, director of the NCFB program. The two-year goal is 1,000 head a week or 50,000 each year.

Hamilton is one of those members who keeps individual health and genetic records from birth on each of his Angus-Simmental calves. For source verification and identification, he puts the tamper-proof Allflex tag with the exclusive NCFB label on each calf before it leaves for the feedlot. One number on the tag identifies the ranch, another the individual animal. The cost is $2/head for Nebraska producers and $3 for out-of-state-members.

Program Specs - The NC Committee has designed its live and carcass specifications. Cattle must contain no discernible Bos indicus influence. They are to be fed at least 90 days in a NC member feedlot on a high-concentrate ration of at least 50% corn or corn by-products. Out-of-state producers can participate if they belong to their own state cattle association.

Cattle must be marketed at less than 30 months of age, but don't have to come right off the cow into the feedyard. "They can be on a yearling program provided they grade 'A' maturity when slaughtered," notes Weide.

A $5/head enrollment fee covers basic carcass data collection such as hot carcass weight, quality and yield grades. Additional carcass data such as marbling score and ribeye area will cost extra.

Nebraska Corn-Fed Beef has been designated as the brand name with three product specifications being considered: Prime for export and hotel-restaurant trade, upper 21/43 Choice for this same market and upper Select to low-Choice for retail trade. Weide believes that 70-80% of NCFB cattle will meet these specifications.

For more information on NCFB contact Lee Weide at 402/475-2333.