2/23/2013 7:00 AM
By Rebecca Long Chaney Maryland Correspondent
TAMPA, Fla. — More than 6,500 cattlemen and women gathered in the Sunshine State earlier this month for a week of workshops, meetings, youth competitions and enjoyment at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) annual convention.
“This is truly the largest gathering of cattlemen and women in the country and it has been encouraging to feel the optimism about the future of the beef industry,” said J.D. Alexander of Pilger, Neb., president of the 25,000-member NCBA.
Alexander told those in attendance they had an opportunity to voice their opinions on critical issues and shape policy that affects their operations and the industry as a whole.
One of the immediate challenges this coming year is herd size, Alexander said.
“It is in direct correlation with the drought,” he said. “Our numbers are at an all-time record low. Our other concern is profitability — our costs are exceeding our revenue.”
While the beef industry faces serious obstacles in the coming year, Alexander said the future looked bright with the increased number of youth attending the NCBA convention. He said he was encouraged by the number of young people involved in the youth competitions, which further develop their interests in beef industry. Contests included team marketing, quiz bowl, cattle judging and public speaking.
In the public speaking competition, youth ages 7 through 19 spoke on a variety of beef industry subjects, including nutrition, animal rights, cattle breeds, cowboys and ways they promote the beef community.
Rianna and Sheridan Chaney, both 9, of Thurmont, Md., took third and fourth place, respectively, in the 10-and-under category. Both won a plaque and Rianna won a $200 cash award.
One of the groups concentrating on youth development and education was the American National CattleWomen. More than 100 cattlewomen from across the country attended three days of meetings, workshops and banquets focused on education, beef promotion and legislative efforts.
ANCW President Tammi Didlot of Oklahoma shared her E.G.G.S. Challenge:
“Engage our beef story,” Didlot said. “Get creative and make it interesting, a story that shows your enthusiasm and passion. Gain a deep credibility by being educated — then you can truly share the whole story. Share your successes so other state groups can glean from your experiences and more forward.
“There are no better multi-taskers in the world than cattlewomen,” Didlot said. “I want to grow our membership by 10 percent and focus on long-range goals.”
One of Didlot’s goals during her one-year term as president was to increase collegiate involvement and interaction. That goal was accomplished by a number of new or growing collegiate ANCW groups making a difference on their college campuses.
During the ANCW opening session, two Texas A&M agricultural students shared their passion for agriculture and their new mission to educate others. Victoria Pilger, a sophomore majoring in animal science, and Jasmine Dillon, a graduate student in animal breeding and genetics, highlighted their work at Texas A&M and the upcoming functions they have planned, including a Farmers Fight Agvocacy Day April 11 with the theme “Giving the 4-1-1 on Agriculture.”
Pilger and Dillon said they hoped that through educational events and media publicity this advocacy movement works to promote a positive, educated understanding of American agriculture so that people may better understand just how vital it is to our nation, economy and way of life.
ANCW members also welcomed president-elect Barbara Jackson of Arizona and honored their Cattle Woman of the Year, Susie Magnuson of Colorado. Magnuson was praised for her decades of work in beef promotion and education.
The NCBA convention also featured opportunities for cattle producers to learn about new trends and the latest technologies during the 20th anniversary of Cattlemen’s College and the NCBA Trade Show, which featured 230 exhibitor booths. The trade show was packed with new cattle equipment, new and improved cattle products and services and an array of cattle organizations to serve the needs of cattle producers in every state.