United States Prepares Ground for Successful Beef Cattle Production | Agriculture

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The abundant forage growth and proximity to row crop feed sources set the stage for successful beef production in some Midwestern states, and the beef industry people in those states are proud of their success.

Dave Patterson, a chancellor’s professor in the Animal Sciences Division at the University of Missouri, says cattle producers in these states benefit from proximity to animal feed, including ethanol plant by-products such as distillery grains.

“I think that’s one of the big benefits of animal production in the Midwest,” he says.

According to the USDA, in 2021, Missouri has the third highest number of beef cows in the country, at 2.035 million, behind Texas and Oklahoma. Iowa is 13th in the United States with 890,000 beef cows. Illinois ranks 26th, with 356,000 beef cows.

Patterson says growing forage is the key to being able to raise lots of cattle.

“A lot of that is the forage base, the formidable forage base of the state,” he says. “In a normal year, there is the expected annual rainfall to allow grazing. “

Even in the drier years, Patterson says the availability of byproduct foods allows for more options.

Jim Humphrey, a breeding specialist at the University of Missouri who raises cattle in northwestern Missouri, says Missouri’s climate can also be useful for raising cattle.

“Our climate, we don’t get extremely hot like the Southeast, and we don’t get extremely cold like the North,” he says.

He also says Missouri has a wide variety of terrain and the ranching operations south of Interstate 70 may be different from those in the north, with rocky soil and rolling hills to the south.

But the consistent theme of successful beef production areas is that of quality cattle producers.

“You have to be laudatory to the producers,” says Humphrey. “They are doing a good job.”

Patterson is working with MU’s Show-Me Select heifer replacement program, and he says producers in Missouri have been working to make advancements in genetics, building their herds.

“There has been a lot of emphasis on genetic improvements in the condition,” he says.

Of course, the state’s fescue can present toxicity issues during the hot summer months. But Patterson says growers can manage this by having forage diversity in the pastures and supplementing fescue with other feed sources when toxicity is high.

“The fescue is our biggest obstacle that we have here, along with the endophyte,” says Humphrey.

He says Missouri has a long history as a major breeding state.

“St. Joe and Kansas City were big beef cow towns,” he says.

The towns were home to large stockyards and are still home to some headquarters of cattle breeding associations.

Humphrey says that Missouri’s neighbor to the north of Iowa is also a major livestock-producing state, with great access to affordable corn-based foods and food byproducts. He says total rainfall in the Midwest can be a hindrance to feeding livestock, but Iowa makes it work, taking advantage of the state’s fertile land.

“You can get by without breaking the bank,” he says. “You cross the line way back into Iowa, they start feeding the cattle.”

Dr Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, talks about the state’s COVID-19 outbreak and the stress on hospitals, especially in southern and central Illinois.



Teresa Steckler, an extension educator at the University of Illinois, says her state also has some advantages as a cattle-producing state, including the state’s prowess in row crop production.

“One of the biggest factors is the fact that we have a lot of cheap corn,” she says.

Similar to Missouri, Steckler says Illinois has some areas that are better suited for animal production, including its region in southern Illinois.

“We have hilly areas that are not suitable for row crops, but they are good for livestock,” she says.

Steckler says one of the challenges for Illinois cattle producers is competition for land and land costs. When older producers leave the business and families rent land, it is often converted to row crops. Market fluctuations can also be a challenge.

Steckler says cattle ranchers take pride in their industry no matter what state they find themselves in.

“When they’re at the fair, they’re proud when their granddaughter is there, interested in (raising cattle),” she says.

She says beef producers like to do their part to make the United States the world’s leading supplier of beef. No matter what state they find themselves in, they know they are part of something bigger, of a way of life.

“Like cattle ranchers across the United States, they take pride in what they do,” Steckler says of cattle ranchers in his state.


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