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Learning from Loos

Tales from Nebraska radio host and farmer highlight first Tennessee Valley Livestock Conference
Story and photos by Glen Liford 7/31/2017


Jodee Inman, officer in charge with USDA Livestock Marketing, discusses the traits that buyers look for when choosing to invest in cattle at livestock auctions. Understanding these triggers can help producers to manage their expectations when selling cattle through auctions, says Inman. Inman was one of the speakers of the first Tennessee Valley Livestock Conference held June 27 at the Walters State Expo Center in White Pine.
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More than 300 participants showed up for the first ever Tennessee Valley Livestock Conference June 27 at the Walters State Expo Center in White Pine. Organizers believed the day’s pleasant temperatures and bright sunshine after frequent periods of rainy weather may have hampered the crowd somewhat as beef producers were lured to the hayfields to make up for lost time.

The educational event was a joint effort of the Tennessee Cattlemen’s Association (TCA), Virginia Cattlemen’s Association, the North Carolina Cattlemen’s Association, and the Tennessee Dairy Producers’ Association.

“We have been looking to do an event in East Tennessee for quite some time,” said Charles Hord, TCA executive vice president. “The Walters State facility is a good location for us geographically and allows us plenty of room for live cattle demonstrations and equipment. We hope to make it an annual event.”

Registrants had their choice of two different informational tracks — beef or dairy. There was also a trade show, breed displays, and an equipment exhibition.

Co-op was a headline sponsor of the event. AgCentral Farmers Cooperative sponsored the dairy track portion of the conference, displaying feeding mixers and providing cattle-handling equipment for the conference displays and presentations.

The conference kicked off with a rousing presentation by popular radio host Trent Loos. The sixth-generation Nebraska farmer’s radio show, “Loos Tales,” encourages those involved in agriculture to brag about the industry’s successes and spotlights some of the absurd misconceptions of activists, the popular press, and others with little understanding of “real-world agricultural practices.” “Loos Tales” and his related “Rural Route” programming are carried by more than 100 radio stations nationwide.

Loos, who is known for his straightforward candor, is a member of President Trump’s Agricultural Advisory Committee, a position of which he’s understandably proud.

“The role of the committee is to make sure we are a sounding board for what people in rural America, particularly the agricultural world, think is important,” he said. “It’s made of people who don’t just talk about agriculture, but are actively involved in it.”

Loos recounted numerous incidents in his travels where he had encountered people who “lacked a basic understanding” of agriculture.

“We say a lot of things that the non-farm folks just cannot understand,” he said. “So if we are going to communicate, we need to talk in terms that they can understand. Nobody tells your experiences better than you do.”

He then pointed to several successes of modern agriculture that participants could use as talking points.

In 1900, said Loos, it took five acres of land to produce enough food for one person for a year. Today, it only requires one-third of an acre to feed one person for a year.

“How did we accomplish that?” he asked. “Through science and technology, we are producing more with less.”

Loos went on to cite statistics on milk production in the U.S. In 1945, there were 24 million dairy cows in the country. Today, he pointed out, there are only 9 million, yet the country produces three times the amount of milk it did in 1940.

“We talk about over production in the dairy business,” the radio host said. “But our problem is not that we are producing too much milk; our problem is that we are not drinking enough milk. Our bone health is the poorest it has ever been. Fluid milk consumption in 1916 was 61 gallons a person [per year]. And today we may not consume a gallon of milk a year per person. It’s about under consumption, not over production.”

The value of a choice ribeye is five times the value of the whole carcass, and is considered a luxury, he said.

“But at the same time, I have not been on an airplane with someone in the last five years who did not have some level of concern about what they were doing to the planet by eating beef. A friend of mine in Pennsylvania has a child attending culinary school in New York. The school is encouraging students to ‘think beyond beef’ and come up with alternatives for their menus because [they say] ‘beef is too taxing for the environment.’

“We have decreased the consumption of milk, beef, and eggs over the last 40 years and the rates of obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases continue to go up.”

To combat these radical ideas, Loos says those involved in agriculture must brag about their accomplishments, such as the fact that only 76,000 farm families produce 80 percent of the nation’s food.

“What matters most when educating people is what you do different today than you did yesterday,” said Loos. “Start at your own dinner table and tell just one person how much we have accomplished. It’s individuals, not institutions that have made our country great.”

The rest of the day was filled with practical sessions aimed at helping producers manage their operations more efficiently and increase their income. Program highlights included a presentation by Tennessee Farmers Cooperative nutritionist Royce Towns concerning fescue toxicosis. Drs. Andrew Griffith and Gary Bates with University of Tennessee Extension provided strategies for managing grazing during challenging times. Rob Holland with the Center for Profitable Agriculture offered advice for direct marketing meat cuts and live animal sales for custom harvest.

Jodee Inman with USDA Livestock Marketing, conducted a detailed discussion of the intricacies of grading cattle and what buyers consider when choosing whether to invest in cows.

The live cattle-working demonstration by University of Tennessee Extension veterinarian Dr. Lew Strickland and reproductive specialist Dr. Justin Rhinehart centered on how to pregnancy check cattle.

“Conducting pregnancy checks are the second most important thing you can do to properly manage your cattle,” said Rhinehart. “The most important is that we manage as tight of a calving season as possible.”

On the dairy side, attendees heard from Nick Kunkel, an integrated robotics project specialist with DeLaval, who explained how robotic milking technology was helping cows to reach their true genetic potential and boosting bottom-line profits.

“Robots are the next ag revolution,” he said.

A panel consisting of Tennessee Commissiner of Agriculture Jai Templeton; John McClurkin, Tennessee Department of Agriculture Water Resource Division; Shari Meghreblian, deputy commissioner of Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation; and Stefan Maupin, director of public policy with Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation, discussed Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO)s.

Other presenters included Brady Catob, DeLaval; Rick Elling, JOZ Automated Feed Pusher & Scrappers; and Alan Brandmeyer, Trioliet Automated TMR Feeding.

Hawkins Farmers Cooperative member Scott Gillespie said he always learns something new at meetings like this conference.

“I usually find something to take home and put to work on the farm,” said Gillespie, who manages some 80 mama cows and sells registered bulls at his farm in Rogersville.

Tim Hartsfield, who along with wife Anne traveled to White Pine to attend the conference from their farm in Loretto in Lawrence County, was taking careful notes in many of the sessions.

“The strength of the program really appealed to me,” said Hartsfield, who manages a herd of 20 cows.

“These type of gatherings are important for our industry,” said TCA President Steve Anderson, who noted that the program carried information for all levels of experience. “Some folks just use their cattle to clip their pastures and never poke a hole in their hide. But everyone can learn from meetings like this.”

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