From seedstock to cow-calf to backgrounders and feeders, the Iowa Cattle Industry Convention December 8-10 at the Holiday Inn Des Moines-Airport Conference Center has something to offer for Iowa cattle producers of all kinds.
This year's theme is "ICA: Hands On – Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow," a reference to the organization's continuing efforts to provide Iowa's cattle producers with the information they need as they need it.
The first two days of the event will feature keynote speakers and educational sessions on a range of topics, from estate planning to measuring feedlot performance to cover crop grazing to managing fescue toxicosis. The Iowa Beef Industry Council and Iowa Cattlemen's Association will hold their annual meetings on the final day on December 10.
Keynote discussions on hot topics
Monday's keynote at lunch will feature Brett Stuart, a founding partner of Global AgriTrends, a Denver-based firm which provides global agricultural analysis and market intelligence. Stuart will give insight on the impact tight U.S. cattle and beef supplies will have on the global market in the next year, and how that may affect producer decisions on increasing cow herds or feedyard numbers.
"People are really looking at increasing cow herd numbers. Clearly we know beef cow numbers are down, and there's a lot of demand," says Dal Grooms, Iowa Cattlemen's Association Director of Communications. "Cow-calf producers are looking for options, and feeders are the very same way. They want to make sure there is going to be some demand."
Tuesday's keynote at the 8:30 a.m. general session will feature a sustainability roundtable, including representatives of producers, packers, retailers and environmental groups. Each will talk about how consumer sustainability demands are impacting their sectors, and how beef cattle producers are making improvements and whether those improvements are enough to satisfy consumers.
Roundtable participants are Cameron Bruett, Chief Sustainability Officer, JBS USA; Susan Forsell, Vice President-Sustainability, McDonald's USA; Maggie Monast, Senior Policy Analyst for the Environmental Defense Fund; and Sara Place, Assistant Professor of Sustainable Beef Cattle Systems, Oklahoma State University. Nevada, Iowa cattle feeder Bill Couser will emcee the event.
OSU Professor Sara Place has made beef sustainability her life's work, and over the last four years, has been involved in an NCBA-funded study on sustainability in every sector of the beef industry, from the pasture to processing, and will address key findings at the discussion.
A key part of the discussion will involve defining sustainability, says Justine Stevenson, ICA Director of Government Relations and Public Policy. "Cameron Bruett of JBS and Susan Forsell with McDonald's both serve on the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, which recently came out with their definition of sustainable beef," Stevenson says. "McDonald's is among a group of restaurants that have committed to buying sustainable beef by 2016. We're hoping it sheds light on how they're hoping to reach that proposal to supply sustainable beef to their customers."
Wide range of educational events
Educational sessions over the course of two days cover a wide range of topics. Three concurrent sessions will be held in three time slots throughout Monday. This includes Paige Wallace of Ranch House Designs, who will discuss planning, advertising, and using social media to market seedstock; Warren Weibert, a feedyard consultant from Oberlin, Kansas, who will address selecting feeders and measuring feedlot performance; and Albion, Iowa farmer Wade Dooley, who brings years of cover cropping experience and will talk about managing cover crops in a cattle operation.
Monday's afternoon sessions include Alfredo DiCostanzo and Nicole Kenney of the University of Minnesota talking about valuing manure and feedlot facility design; Scott Flynn of Dow AgroSciences, and Joe Sellers of Iowa State University, who will talk about fescue toxicosis; Gerald Stokka, of North Dakota State University, who will discuss livestock stewardship; Derrell Peel, of Oklahoma State University, talking about production and marketing risk for cow-calf producers; as well as two roundtables of Iowa cattle producers. One roundtable will focus on 'Speaking Up for Agriculture,' and the other will talk about 'Selecting the Cattle Building Best for You.'
Tuesday's sessions will cover farm management and trade. ISU Extension farm management specialist Kelvin Liebold will address intergenerational transfer and estate planning; Colorado State University's Stephen Koontz will discuss the thinning cash fed cattle trade; and a panel discussion will cover international trade issues relating to beef.
"We looked at the needs we saw in every sector of the cattle industry. Seedstock producers have been looking at ways to improve marketing and we wanted to show feeders different options for filling capacity," Grooms says. "There is a lot of interest in putting up buildings right now, so we wanted to help producers understand different options to get the most value of the buildings."
Policy discussions and meetings
Three ICA policy committees will meet on Tuesday to discuss issues regarding beef products, cattle production, and business issues. Grooms says some of the topics expected to be discussed include national issues like checkoff efforts being pursued by both USDA and the Beef Checkoff Enhancement Working Group, as well as statewide issues like fuel tax policy, livestock efforts for water quality improvement, and the licensing for embryo transfer and ultrasound technicians.
"It gives producers an opportunity to have input on where the ICA stands on policy issues," Grooms says. "A couple issues that will be hot are the fuel tax – producers will get some education on how the fuel tax works – but more importantly, if there is an additional fuel tax, what are some things that need to be included so rural Iowa can benefit?"
Those discussions will lead to the ICA annual meeting on Wednesday, where the policy positions will be presented to ICA membership for discussion and final adoption. Kristina Butts, executive director of legislative affairs for NCBA, will also speak at the annual meeting.
Registration for all three days is $75 if registering by December 1, which includes convention meals and entertainment. After December 1, registration is $125. For those who can only attend either the Monday or Tuesday events, the cost is $50 for registration by December 1, which allows for all sessions, convention meals, and entertainment on that day. After that, the one-day registration cost is $75.
The Convention program and registration are available at the ICA website, or by calling the ICA offices at 515-296-2266.