For all the inspirational noise that's made about the “heart” of a fighter, the truth of the matter is that a healthy infrastructure, proper conditioning and an effective strategy are a heck of a lot more important to the outcome.

The same goes for cow/calf producers hoping to compete and prosper in the tough game that is becoming the new beef industry. Like a fighter, producers need to understand the challenge, assess and polish their strengths, compensate for their weaknesses, know the competition, develop a strategy, work hard to realize it and continue to do it over and over again.

On the following pages, we've asked some of the country's leading beef industry experts to analyze by segment what they think it will take to compete in the beef industry in the coming years. Following that, we've talked to producers within those segments on what they expect from the new beef industry and the cow/calf producers they hope to do business with over the coming years.

Taken together, we hope the material in this special issue provides you with some points to ponder as you continue to fine tune your winning strategy.

I offer my special thanks to the august group of industry experts who contributed to this issue. They're literally some of the best in the business. A special thanks to Harlan Ritchie, who provided valuable oversight of the project in addition to penning the introductory story with fellow Michigan Stater John Allen.