Animal Science Department


Date of this Version

December 1995


Published for Proceedings, The Range Beef Cow Symposium XIV December 5, 6 and 7, 1995, Gering, Nebraska.


The assigned title of this talk -- "The future of the Beef Industry -- How can we stay competitive?" might imply to you that I have some great insight into the future. Anyone who tells you he can foretell the future is blowing smoke. It was Peter Drucker that nailed it when he said, "Forecasting future trends is a futile exercise. The best we can do is extrapolate trends that are already in place into the future." That is the tact I will take.

I’ve had the unique opportunity to have served on both the Industry Concentration and Integration and Long Range Planning Task Forces. The experience of being present as the best and brightest of all industry segments present their ideas about the problems and opportunities we face, changed my views considerably. Obviously, this effort was not without controversy which continues today.

First, let’s do some hand wringing, look at some of the formidable problems and make some judgments about how they effect the future of the cattle business. As we discuss these issues some of you might say, "This guy is surely a pessimist." Not so. I’m optimistic about our future but a reality check is always in order.

We have had our share of challenges over the last one hundred years. Health problems; including the battles against Ticks, Scabies, IBR, Bangs, Scours and Hoof and Mouth seem to be as the good book says about the poor, "They will be with us always." The macro economic winds of inflation, deflation, debt crisis, the cattle cycle and price controls have bruised us on occasion. More recently, changing life styles, E. coli and diet-health issues have been in the forefront. Our real nemesis over the last century has been drought. Those dry spells of the 1890's, 1930's and 1970's devastated many cattle operations. The bottom line is that we have survived and flourished in spite of these adversities.

We now face, what I believe is by far our greatest challenge, LOSS OF MARKET SHARE. Look at the graph on the following page.

There are some who do not believe the projections out to the Year 2000. It is not necessary to believe them. Just look at what has happened in the 12 years since 1980. The Sheep People had a graph just like this one in the 1950's. The Lamb Feeders said -- "Don’t worry, look how profitable we are." Today they barely have a measurable market niche.