Working for the Good of the Cause
A lifetime of ranching and educating
Written By Jo Stanko, Cattle producer, Steamboat Springs, CO
Winters can add some interesting challenges for a ranch in a mountain town where snowfall can reach 400 inches in a year, but we’ve discovered firsthand that animals and humans alike adjust to their surroundings.
On our cow-calf ranch in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, for example, we have just 90 days to prepare for feeding cattle, and then we feed them for about 180 days. But cattle are universal animals, and they adapt to their climates. Around here, it’s all about supplying them with grass and water, even when we remove ice from the top of the water every day.
Spring calving is complicated by the deep snow, too, but we’ve come to see that as a certain advantage: We can pull that calf out into some clean snow to process and tag it. It takes the mama cow a while to plow her way to her baby, so that gives us time to do what we need to quickly and without a lot of interference. We also feed our cattle at night when calories are needed most to keep the animals warm.
Our ranch was founded in 1907 by my husband, Jim’s, grandfather, who immigrated to the U.S. from Czechoslovakia in the late 1800s. He found his way to the center of the American continent and began building a new life for himself. After saving money while working in a coal mine, he bought a bar and a few rental houses – then he sold it all to buy a homestead near Steamboat Springs.
Today, we have 640 acres, lease some additional pasture, and have two conservation easements. Our son, Pat, and his family recently returned to run the ranch and is the main partner as of January. Our grandson, Justin, represents the fifth generation on the ranch. He’s in seventh grade and already has his eyes set on running this ranch after his father.
As a rancher and retired school teacher, I am driven by a passion for people and for this industry, and my work with the Beef Checkoff Program has always been very important to me – both for the Colorado Beef Council and now for the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, for which I serve on the Nutrition & Health Committee and as a co-chairman of the Investor Relations Working Group, which oversees the checkoff’s dissemination of information to producers.
Internal communication is just so vital to maintaining a healthy checkoff program and a healthy beef industry that is focused on long-term success. Plus, research has shown us that beef producers want to know how the checkoff works and how their money is being invested. And there is a plethora of misinformation about the checkoff out there, so I think our communication to producers is essential.
One of the checkoff programs that I find just critical to the long-term viability of the beef industry is foreign marketing. With more than 95 percent of the global population living outside of the United States, our opportunities to grow our market share remain primarily outside of our borders. It also allows us to sell those parts of the animal that Americans don’t or won’t eat – like tongue, intestines, kidney, and bung – at premium prices elsewhere in the global marketplace.
This year, we are investing $7.2 million of our Beef Board budget into foreign marketing and education in some 80 countries across the globe. Given long-term importance of the export market to our industry, the percentage of the Beef Board budget that we dedicate to this category has increased steadily during the last decade – at nearly 18 percent in fiscal 2017, up from just 10.7 percent in 2008.
USDA data compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation demonstrates that one of our key markets is Japan, to which we exported more than 523 million pounds of beef valued at $1.4 billion during the first 11 months of 2016! That represented a 16 percent increase in value and a 24 percent increase in volume to Japan during the same period of 2015.
During the first 11 months of 2016, we exported a total of 2.4 billion tons of U.S. beef to other countries, up 10 percent from the same period in 2015. The value of exports was down only 1 percent, while cattle prices in the U.S. dipped nearly 40 percent, so exports were an especially important part of our industry health during the last year, making up about 13.5 percent of U.S. beef production.
From January through November 2016, our export market added an average of nearly $260 to the value of every fed slaughter. Now, that’s a result that I feel proud to help achieve!
To learn more about your beef checkoff investment, visit MyBeefCheckoff.com.
UNDERSTANDING THE BEEF CHECKOFF PROGRAM
The Beef Checkoff Program was established as part of the 1985 Farm Bill. The checkoff assesses $1 per head on the sale of live domestic and imported cattle, in addition to a comparable assessment on imported beef and beef products. States may retain up to 50 cents on the dollar and forward the other 50 cents per head to the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board, which administers the national checkoff program, subject to USDA approval.