Saturday, May 14, 2016


Duane A. Lienemann
Nebraska Extension Educator
      Many of our local schools are experiencing the annual ritual called “High School Commencement” or just plain “Graduation”. As a former ag teacher and FFA advisor and now as an extension educator and 4-H leader, I can tell you that this is a bittersweet day on the calendar, as it means that another group of promising young men and women were leaving the halls of the school for hopefully bigger and brighter things. It is a big deal to organization like FFA and 4-H and the school’s extracurricular programs. It meant that these young people that you spent time and energy with would no longer be a constant in your classroom or in your life. But it also meant that a fresh crop of students would be following and that the cycle would continue. I also know as a parent that this act of severance from the home to college, armed forces or direct to the work force is both an exciting but emotional! I can only imagine what a “Senior Mother” is feeling. That “empty nest syndrome” can create both a high and a low. That being said however, I want to congratulate all of the graduating seniors and their families!
     When you think of this time of year, you think of families. One of the “families” that I enjoy is the beef family. I am proud to be associated with the farmers, ranchers, educators and everyone else that is involved in the beef industry. I think most the readers of this column probably know my passion for agriculture and in particular - animal agriculture. I have been blessed to be a part of the Nebraska tradition, the adults and youth involved in this segment of the entire agriculture picture. So it was good to hear our Governor declare May –“Beef Month!” to recognize the important role the beef community contributes to the state. Nebraska continues to rank first in the nation in cattle on feed and was second in cattle production in 2014 at $7.4 billion.  In 2015, Nebraska broke the $1 billion mark in overall beef exports for the second year in a row.  Every dollar of beef exported from Nebraska generates up to $1.42 in additional business activity in the state.
     He says in his proclamation: “Agriculture is Nebraska’s number one industry and beef is our state’s largest agricultural sector. This is a great time to celebrate beef and recognize the hard-working men, women, and families in Nebraska who continue to grow the industry throughout the beef supply chain.  Through their work, Nebraska is feeding the world.”  
     Speaking of the beef family, this last couple of weeks have been very beef oriented for me, in that I was a part of a couple of outstanding workshops/seminars involving beef. I will cover one of those this week and will then talk about the other conference in next week’s column. I was honored to be invited to the US Meat Animal Research Center for the ARS NP101 Food Animal Production stakeholder meeting. After listening and watching presentations from scientists at the Center, all I could say is wow! It is unbelievable the amount of research that is being done there for the benefit of beef and all meat animals, as well as the consumers who benefit from their work. I was impressed by the fact that they are seeking input from the industry on the grassroots level. This is refreshing to me when so much anymore is top-down directives with the rest of us having no say in so much of what critically effects our number one industry. I applaud the efforts towards that end.
      I think the lead in on the invitation to the meeting speaks volumes about their mission. “Food animal production and product consumption is increasing significantly around the world as consumers gain access to higher quality and more nutrient dense diets. This trend will continue as the world’s population grows and as animal production systems increase in efficiencies across varied environments and production systems. Animal production systems fit a unique and valuable niche in global food production by utilizing feeds and forages not appropriate for human consumption and contribute to an environmentally sustainable food supply. The United States has historically been a leading source of quality animal products and has led the world in technological development and adoption. This has enabled the United States to develop one of the most efficient animal production systems on earth. US MARC has been a vital part of that achievement.” 
     However, we now face many obstacles including the pressure to feed a projected nine billion people by 2050, making the necessity of research critically important. To remain competitive, the United States must continue to focus on increasing production efficiencies through the development and adoption of scientific technologies. Research and application of new tools in genomics, metagenomics, reproductive physiology, nutrition, molecular biology and animal health to name a few, if we are to continue our long tradition of global competitiveness and sustainability. U.S. systems of animal management and production face formidable challenges. The demands placed on the national system of food animal production by a rapidly increasing population, rising obesity, criticism, as well as demands for better nutrition and lower costs, can only be met through research. This work will harness and improve the genetic potential of food animals, increase market competitiveness, sustain small and mid-sized producers, and maintain genetic diversity while maintaining consumer confidence.
     According to the USDA-Economic Research Service, agricultural research has historically produced a remarkable return on investment, with estimates ranging from 20% to 60% annually. In other words, for every $1 invested in agricultural research $5 to as much as $20 is returned in net present value. Basic and applied research, as well as outreach, are critical to deliver the ultimate value of research. I think that this fact is important as we face uncertain times for agricultural research. This important part of our livelihood is constantly receiving undue criticism and faces the budgetary knife. I believe we need to support and fight for our science and research partners. They are critical to the future of this industry and our family!

The preceding information comes from the research and personal observations of the writer, which may or may not reflect the views of UNL or Nebraska Extension. For more further information on these or other topics contact D. A. Lienemann, Nebraska Extension Educator for Webster County in Red Cloud, (402) 746-3417 or email: or on the web at: 

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