May 23, 2008
Contact: Jessica Prosper, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Franklin County, 518-483-7403

Improving Beef Production Focus of NNY Ag Development Project

Beef producers in Northern New York want to raise animals of more consistent quality. To help them do just that, the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program is funding a beef quality improvement project in 2008. The project includes the use of ultrasound and on-farm skill development workshops.

Project leader Jessica Prosper, a farm business management educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Franklin County, says, �Knowing how to grade cattle and evaluate carcass composition are critical skills for beef producers and essential for the efficient production of lean, consistent beef that consumers demand in today�s market.�

Prosper says, �Farmers who can accurately evaluate their animals on the farm will be able to more effectively market their animals to a variety of buyers in both local and conventional marketplaces.�

The National Agricultural Statistics Services reported 18,400 beef cattle and calves were on farms in the six northern NY counties (Clinton: 1,700, Essex: 6,000; Franklin: 1,900; Jefferson: 3,800, Lewis: 800, St. Lawrence: 4,200) in 2007.

Cornell Cooperative Extension educators will work with University Beef Cattle Extension Specialist Mike Baker and Ultrasound Specialist Heather Birdsall of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cortland County on beef farms across the Northern New York region. Ultrasound will be used to measure the percentage of fat and the amount of marbling � the mix of fat and muscle � in live beef animals.

Baker says, �Ultrasounding is a production tool that can provide a reliable estimate of live animal composition. It can help demonstrate differences in breeds and may provide evidence of management practices that may or may not be practical or effective for finishing beef cattle for market.�

Improved grading skills can help farmers maximize profit potential.

Jefferson County beef producer Don Holman of Holmdale Farms in Adams, NY, says, �Knowing when to send an animal to the market or the butcher brings us a greater return on our investment in that animal.�

Knowing the amount of marbling assists farmers in gauging when an animal has reached its optimal sale weight. Ultrasound is also a means of determining if an animal has been overfed, which results in an undesirable carcass and needless cost of production.

On-farm workshops in the fall of 2008 will explain the grading system used to group cattle for sale at auctions. Producers will be able to practice their grading skills, see how ultrasounding impacts grading evaluation per the amount of fat and muscle shown by the ultrasound results, and will view a �Hoof to Rail� video that compares live animal grading with actual hanging carcass results.

For more information on beef production and livestock marketing in Northern New York, go online to www.nnyagdev.org. The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program is a farmer-driven research, outreach and education program for Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. # # #