"The stocker and backgrounding segments have always been critical to the overall success of the beef industry. The structural changes brought about by higher grain prices and input costs make these segments even more critical," says Dale Blasi, beef stocker specialist at Kansas State University (KSU).

Yet, there has never been a national effort to benchmark and characterize the management practices and challenges of stocker operators and backgrounding operations.

That's why 12 Land Grant Universities are collaborating with BEEF magazine to conduct the nation's first National Beef Stocker Survey.

"This survey will help benchmark this segment of the industry for individual operations, collective regions and the industry as a whole," says Jason Sawyer, a Texas A&M University stocker specialist. "Along the way we hope it will also identify critical needs and areas of management that can enhance profitability within the stocker segment."

BEEF magazine mailed the National Beef Cattle Stocker Survey Oct. 31 to an extensive list of stocker and backgrounding operations representative of the segment's size and geography. However, producers who don't receive a survey in the mail are encouraged to participate online at: www.snap-surveys.com/prismb2b/grau/NSSAlt/ntlstkrs07alt.htm.

"This is an historic opportunity for stocker operators and backgrounders to provide input that will guide industry investments in research, education and communication for this essential industry segment," says BEEF contributing editor Wes Ishmael. He adds all individual data will be kept in strict confidence.

"The time backgrounders and stockers invest in completing this survey is truly an investment in their future," says Blasi.

Information from the landmark survey will be shared with the industry via a number of avenues, including through Land Grant Universities and Extension.

The participating institutions include: Auburn University, Iowa State University, Kansas State University, Mississippi State University, North Carolina State University, Oklahoma State University, South Dakota State University, Texas A&M University, University of Florida, University of Missouri, University of Nevada, and Western Kentucky University.