As BEEF Feeder heads into 2000, the industry that supports it is racing toward greater changes than it's ever experienced.

Veterinarian Jerry Rains is technical services manager for Hoechst Roussel. Speaking at the Missouri Farmers Association's recent Beef Innovators Seminar, Rains predicted a falling total cattle population and fed slaughter numbers close to 21 million head in 2002 compared to the current 24 million head. He also noted a move toward a higher proportion of black genetics and a focus on red meat yield at the packer level.

That latter factor should by itself be enough, he says, to push the industry toward individual animal identification and management. He's convinced that once line-speed instrument evaluation becomes viable, packers will be paying for cattle on three factors only: red meat yield, palatability (marbling score) and tenderness. He expects this to begin within two years.

Realizing this, how can you make best-bet cattle buying decisions without historical data on each animal?

Some have already made the switch to buying only source-verified cattle. Alan Janzen of Circle Five Feed Yards Inc., Henderson, NE, is one feeder staying ahead of the curve. He no longer accepts cattle where no source is known. His feedyard reaps the advantages of fewer trips through the chute and his customers reap better dollars, he says.

In trials he conducted in his feedyard, Janzen found the health-performance cost difference between two sets of known-source calves and sale barn calves was about $5.42/head or $1/cwt. The spread increased between the poorest lot and the best lot at $31.11/head or about $5.40/cwt.

Additionally, four years of Janzen's own feedlot performance data on known-source steers shows greater consistency in average daily gain, dry matter conversion and total cost/lb. of gain than sale barn calves.

But, this is just one major change reshaping the way you'll do business. More are coming. Your ways of doing business will change, just as the challenges of the next century will mold changes in this publication.

Our charge with BEEF Feeder is to provide the information you need to better cope, adapt and innovate to meet the coming challenges. With that in mind, I hope you'll help us out by passing on your thoughts on what type of information you want to see in BEEF Feeder in the coming year.

Think about the subject areas you want us to cover. Then, send those ideas by fax to us at 816/734-5313, or by e-mail to beef@intertec.com. Your name/address/phone is, of course, optional.

We're in this together.