Cattle industry is 'moving' in a new direction in terms of efficiency and traceability

(WTVY News 4)
Published: Feb. 17, 2020 at 6:29 PM CST
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Beef has been a hot topic in the tristate area recently.

Last week, Marianna hosted its 35th Annual Beef Conference and the Alabama Cattlemen's Association had its annual convention in Montgomery.

“We don't do stuff the same way we do 50 years ago," said cattle producer Pat Durden.

Pat Durden grew up raising cattle with his father in Northwest Florida.

In his time in the business, he's seen quite a lot of change, especially when it comes to efficiency.

"We're producing more pounds of beef, with fewer cows, on less acres, using less water and less resources, so that's efficiency,” said Durden.

Durden attributes that efficiency to concepts like cross fencing.

"You’re moving those cattle around,” said Durden. “They're not congregating in one place all the time."

And planting cover crops, like clover, which produces nitrogen and maintains the soil quality.

"Rotating them on and off helps you utilize more of it,” said Durden. “It stretches it."

Jackson County Cattlemen Association President Jeff Snell said water conservation has come to the forefront recently in the industry.

"We plant grass and basically take out production of any areas that are along stream beds or standing water to try to protect that water and give it a filtration flow from whatever is planted around the surrounding area,” said Snell.

Durden says not only has the industry changed, but the cows, they don't even look the same, and that's all thanks to DNA research.

"A bull is half of a man's herd, so half of the genetics, come from the bull,” said Durden.

Now that those strides have been made, the next thing Durden is looking to see improved is traceability.

"The consumer likes the idea of knowing where their stuff comes from, but we like the idea so we know, if there's ever a problem, we can trace it back to the neighbor,” said Durden.

Durden says technology has gotten to the point that the tags in cows’ ears can trace them back to the different ranches they've been raised at,

"Almost like a bar code at the grocery store,” said Durden. “It scans it. It knows that cow came from this premise ID."

Once the meat starts getting sent all over the place, that's when the issues with tracing it start to come up, but he thinks the industry will be 'beefing' up its technology soon.

"Stayed tuned,” said Durden. “The more technology comes around, the easier all these things are going to be."

According to the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, it takes 36% less cattle to produce the same amount of beef now as it did in 1975.