Five leading consulting nutritionists recap 2013 and offer their professional opinions on what's ahead in the short term for the U.S. beef industry.

Bill Dicke – Lincoln, NE           

The cattle feeding industry is in a more festive mood compared to this time a year ago. Record-high prices for fed cattle, and major drops in ration prices, and thus production costs, in the last six months, have helped bring a much-needed return to profitability after a long period of equity loss for many cattle feeders.

Looking forward, sustainability will continue to be a challenge for feedlots and related businesses due to high feeder cattle prices and short cattle supplies. Thus, the ability to adapt to change may be more critical for survival than ever before.

Meanwhile, with the exception of the high entry and expansion costs, opportunities in the cow-calf sector are promising. Perhaps the tighter margins in the farming sector will result in some crop producers getting back into the cow business.

Overall, we can expect higher taxes and more government regulations. And there’s always the possibility of major unexpected events or problems hitting the U.S. economy.

Looking ahead, the industry must work together better and unify around a positive message regarding our product. The past year was disappointing at times in regard to how the beef industry communicated on handling issues related to technology, production efficiency, beef quality, animal welfare, etc. And we must not ignore sound science.