Expert: U.S. beef industry improving over time, still room for growth

The quality of U.S. beef cattle has come a long way in the last two decades, but an expert with the Oklahoma State University Extension says there is still room for improvement.

Beef cattle

The quality of U.S. beef cattle has come a long way, and Oklahoma State Extension beef specialists say the industry is more efficient than it was decades ago.

“If you look at the amount of beef we produce today and cow numbers compared to what we were doing 30 years ago, the progress is incredible because we produce a whole lot more beef with a lot fewer cows today than we used to — that’s a really good thing and progress for sure,” said Oklahoma State University Extension Beef Cattle Specialist Dave Lalman. “The other thing the industry’s done a great job of is reducing dystocia problems and tackling the calving-ease issue. For the most part, all you have to do is select the genetics that fit your cow herd and the heifers, and we can find those cattle with calving ease and tremendous growth potential afterward. So, today’s cow herd is much better in that regard, in particular.”

Technology has played a big role in the boost to efficiency. Just recently Merck Animal Health created a new tool they hope will keep bovine respiratory disease out of the U.S. herd.

The Sensehub Feedlot is an ear tag that monitors the animal’s biometric data such as temperature and activity. Researchers say this allows farmers and ranchers to monitor cattle health in real time, so sick animals can be removed for diagnosis and treatment sooner.

Lalman says, that despite the progress, there is always room for improvement.

“We probably haven’t made as much progress on fertility and reproductive efficiency as we have on a lot of the other traits that have progressed like growth and those kinds of things,” he said. “So, I think there’s opportunity there going forward.”

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