Increasing beef consumption keeps cattle industry relevant

US - For about 40 years, Alquin Heinnickel has been feeding and selling cattle
calendar icon 26 February 2007
clock icon 3 minute read
He has about 600 head on his Crabtree farm, located on Route 119 just four miles outside of Greensburg. "You just go at it every day," Heinnickel said. Beef farming remains a relevant business in Pennsylvania. Paul Slayton, executive director of the Pennsylvania Beef Council, said there are 28,000 people in the state who raise cattle.

Slayton said the number of farms raising cattle has increased in recent years. The latest census taken by the United States Department of Agriculture in 2002 listed 20,571 farms that sold cattle and calves and 14,743 farms for beef cows.

"People love beef," Slayton said. "They're always going to eat beef." They also love veal, hamburger, hot dogs and any other product that comes from cattle.

"Consumption is increasing every year," said Ed Graham, secretary for the Westmoreland County Cattleman's Association. "The quality of beef is really improving in the supermarket."

Graham was born on a cattle ranch in North Dakota and has been involved in the farming business for about 62 of his 72 years. He has about 35 cows for commercial use on his farm three miles from Greensburg.

Dustin Heeter, livestock educator for the Penn State Extension, said beef farms in Western Pennsylvania, for the most part, are small, averaging about 12-15 head. "That's not all that different from the national average of 22 cows per herd," he said. "We're a little bit smaller than that."

Some of those in the beef and bull farming business raise calves, taking care of them until they reach the age of 7-10 months. Then the calves are sold to the cattle feeders, who put them on feed for a period of time to get them ready for slaughter.

"We usually buy calves in the fall at about 500 pounds," Heinnickel said. "We'll feed them throughout the year, take them to about 1,250 pounds, then sell them to the packing plants."

Others farmers -- such as Ed Rinkoff, who's been in the business for 44 years -- promote cattle for breeding. Rinkoff usually runs about 100 head on his farm in Smock, Fayette County.

"We raise them from day one," Rinkoff said. "The overall picture of the beef industry is to produce a highly acceptable product for the consumer. It starts with premium breeding stock, but it still has to (please) the consumer, who's the final judge."

Beef farming takes dedication and passion, but Graham has a simple formula for enjoying its benefits. "Breeding, feeding and management," he said. "You do those three correctly, and you should be successful."

Mark Feiling, of New Alexandria, Westmoreland County, has been finishing beef cattle for slaughter for 15 to 20 years. He owns about 115 acres and rents about 600 more for 1,200 head of cattle. To him, large numbers are important.

"The profit margin is so slim, to make a profit, you have to be able to handle large numbers," Feiling said.

Naomi Costello, of Friendship Farms, in Mt. Pleasant, Westmoreland County, has found success in selling her product directly to the consumer

Source: Pittsburgh Tribune Review
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