One face among thousands in the cattle industry Vetter faces challenge to increase efficiency, profit margin
Rick Vetter, a rural Westside cattle producer, completed the cattle building behind him on January 2, one of three new buildings constructed on his farm in the past three years. He said putting cattle under a roof has helped with rate of gain and feed efficiency. Vetter spoke about a number of cattle industry issues, commenting that the industry needs faces of producers to go along with the information about beef and beef production. Photo by Gordon Wolf
By Gordon Wolf, The
As a life-long cattlefeeder, Rick Vetter of rural Westside knows how to raise beef efficiently and realizes the impact of cattle production on the local economy. He also knows the value of beef in people's diet and the importance of personalizing the message of the cattlemen.
"It's important to be a member of the cattlemen's organization and to promote beef," said Vetter, a member of the Crawford County Cattlemen's Association board. "We need people talking about beef and need faces of producers to go along with the information about the industry."
Vetter was raised in the cattle feeding industry. His grandfather, Herman, raised cattle on a farm a mile south of where Vetter lives and farms. His father, Harvey, also raised cattle on that farm and in 1955 purchased the farm where Vetter produces cattle and crops today. Vetter started farming on his own in 1980.
It wasn't a foregone conclusion that Vetter would raise cattle. But after attending
"I enjoy the freedom and working outside," Vetter explained. He also faces each day's challenges head-on, and today it seems as though more challenges are created off the farm than on.
A recent off-the-farm challenge was the social media smear campaign against lean finely textured beef (LFTB), derisively called "pink slime." LFTB is produced by using high-technology food processing equipment to separate lean meat from fat, according to information from the American Meat Institute (AMI). The AMI said use of technology to process LFTB prevents the waste of valuable, lean, nutritious, safe beef.
"The LFTB scare impacted the market," Vetter commented. "Somebody came out with misinformation, others jumped on the bandwagon and they didn't look at the facts."
Soon after the LFTB smear campaign, the presence of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was confirmed in a dairy cow in central
"The media handled that better and stuck with the facts, and the Iowa Cattlemen's Association did a good job of getting the facts out to the public," said Vetter. Like all cattle producers, Vetter adjusts to the challenges presented by raising cattle and those off-the-farm challenges, like the LFTB smear campaign, by finding ways to increase production efficiency.
Every year the margin of profit for cattle production gets a little smaller, he commented. As he has been feeding cattle on his own for more than 30 years, Vetter has witnessed the roller-coaster cycle of the markets many times. "My tax returns show the cattle cycle really well," he quipped.
Another challenge cattle producers are facing is the competition to purchase feeder cattle. "Way too much capacity exists for beef cattle in the
He continued, though, that cattle producers are doing a better job of producing more beef with fewer animals. "We're balancing the rations better and keeping the same amount of feed in front of the cattle every day," Vetter stated, explaining that varying the amount of feed a cattle consumes will lower efficiency. Vetter continued that feeding dry distiller's grain and gluten helps reduce the cost of gain because these feed products cost less.
"Gluten and corn create a synergy for a better rate of gain," Vetter stated. Adding another edge to his profit margin are three buildings Vetter constructed on his farm within the past three years. He built a mono-slope building and a hoop building three years ago, and on January 2 completed a traditional sloped-roof building.
"These buildings work well. They get the cattle out of the mud and help me comply with Department of Natural Resource regulations for manure," Vetter commented. He continued that having his cattle under a roof has increased their rate of gain and improved feed efficiency simply because the livestock is out of the mud. The buildings actually work better in the summer than in the winter because of the shade they provide, keeping the cattle cool and allowing them to gain weight more efficiently.
Vetter is able to raise the same amount of cattle that he had in an outside pen in the smaller area of his buildings because of the bedding. He continued that while he might have to haul a little more manure from the buildings than he did from an open pen, but he doesn't have to haul dirt back into the yard. Vetter explained that in an open yard, cattle churn the ground and mix manure with the soil; the soil that is hauled away with the manure has to be replaced.
Recently Vetter purchased 160 feeder calves from southern
For the short- and long-term, Vetter hopes the cattle market remains strong.
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