2011 Cattle Industry Convention



Another National Cattle Convention is just about over. I’m riding the train back to Iowa as I write this. Riding out to Denver, I was enjoying the ride, talking to strangers, anxious to get there and start reporting.


Tonight, it’s a different me, exhausted, grumpy to the point of hoping my train neighbors don’t even look my way, and nearly out of words (yes, can you believe). It’s not the late nights of the convention that get me, it’s the early mornings. Everyday for 4 days, I was up with the chickens (imagine that, at a cowfest!) for something; a breakfast meeting at 6:15, a couple of stories to finish up, a Cattle College seminar.


Now it’s done, and I’ll try to summarize my highlights and near misses.


Last Man Down: The Guy You Want in Charge When Your Life Depends on Quick Thinking

by gjohn59 on ‎02-03-2011 02:56 PM - last edited on ‎02-04-2011 02:44 PM by

Every year at the Cattle Convention, at the grand opening session, they bring in a “name” motivational or inspirational speaker. I try to attend because, well, I’m inspiration-challenged.


I’ll bet the name Richard Picciotto doesn’t ring any bells with you. Didn’t with me, either, but you probably know his story. He was a fire chief in New York City on September 11, 2001, just coming on duty at 8:45 that morning when THE call came in. I could give you the rest of the story, but then you wouldn’t have to buy his book (Last Man Down), and there isn’t really space here.


Picciotto was the inspirational speaker yesterday, and yes, I was inspired. He isn’t what you would call a “classic” great speaker, but my goodness, does he have a story to tell about being in the north tower that morning, ushering/shoving/carrying thousands of people out of the death trap, then somehow surviving with a few other people when it pancaked down on top of him. How? A miracle, and he knows it.



It’s easy to say that at any particular time an industry is “at a critical point” in determining its future. We hear it, sometimes it’s absolutely true, sometimes it’s just a good way to get someone’s attention.


I think it’s absolutely true of the beef industry, right now. It’s critical because we’ve been in a numbers free-fall for several years, especially since the advent of the ethanol era. We used to have over 40 million beef cows in the U.S., now we have 33 million, maybe still declining. At one time, cattle ate up more of the corn crop than any other user segment. Now, ethanol takes up just about half of the crop, and cattle eat less than 15% of it.


One of my favorite parts of the Cattle Convention is Cattlemen's College, which is underway today, Wednesday, Feb 2. It's an all-day seminar, mostly on cattle production topics, with six concurrent sessions. I try, but your reporter can't be in six places at once, so I choose sessions that hit me as most relevant to mud-on-their-shoes commercial beef producers.


Cattlemen say it’s time to expand

by gjohn59 on ‎02-02-2011 12:00 PM

I stood by the registration desk on Tuesday at the Cattle Industry Convention in Denver and watched a trickle of farmers and ranchers register for this big show. Normally, 6,000 or more cattlemen and cattlewomen attend, but probably not this year. Weather has wrecked many travel plans, and people who made it are just happy to be off the roads. Unfortunately, Denver, too, is in a weather nightmare with record cold. The high on Tuesday was 3 below.


I asked all of these ranchers 4 questions: Why do you come here? What product category are you most interested in at the trade show? What was your best money-making idea in the last year? Is it time to expand your cattle operation?


Stories from the cattle train

by gjohn59 on ‎02-02-2011 11:51 AM

I’m at the annual Cattle Industry Convention this week in Denver, and cattlemen were showing up at the registration desk on Tuesday in a trickle. Getting to Denver has been a fiasco as the worst storm of the winter rages across the Midwest and beyond. I stood by that registration desk and talked to a few of them, which I’ll share here shortly.


I actually started hearing those stories through the night on Monday on the Amtrak train, the California Zephyr, that I caught in Osceola, Iowa, and rode out here to Denver.


In Cowboy Heaven, there is free trade with Korea, and an African safari

by gjohn59 on ‎01-31-2011 04:14 PM - last edited on ‎02-04-2011 12:18 PM by

If there’s a heaven just for cowboys, it’s in Denver, Colorado – this week, anyway. That’s where they’ll all be gathering for the Cattle Industry Convention, February 2-5, 2011 (www.beefusa.org). Agriculture.com will be there to report here on the production seminars, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association policy meetings, and Trade Show gossip.  

Here are some of the policy issues that will be bantered.