Angus breeders from 11 states gained greater perspective into all segments of the beef industry during the first-ever Beef Leaders Institute, June 1-4, 2008. Nineteen American Angus Association® members were given the opportunity to learn more about the Association, its programs and entities and toured packing plants, feedlots and retail and wholesale distributors.
The Beef Leaders Institute (BLI) was designed to identify young, progressive Association members, ages 25-45, and expose them to the entire beef production system while giving them greater insight to the Association.
“The Beef Leaders Institute was designed with our younger adult members in mind so they could take a few days away from the farm or ranch to learn, network and gain a greater understanding of every aspect of the beef production chain,” says Shelia Stannard, director of communications & events for the Association.
“BLI was a true once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn about Angus operations across the country, but more importantly, BLI provided insight into segments outside of the cow-calf production end of our industry,” said Cheramie Viator, Franklin, Texas.
Tours of the Association and Angus Productions Inc. (API) in Saint Joseph, Mo., kicked off the event. It afforded the opportunity for the BLI participants to visit one on one with Association employees and learn more about the Association and its entities—API, Certified Angus Beef LLC and the Angus Foundation. Tom Field, Colorado State University, challenged the group of young leaders before they loaded a bus and traveled across Kansas.
Stops in Southwest Kansas included an early morning tour of National Beef, Liberal, Kan. The group stopped at two diverse feeding operations—Grant County Feeders, Ulysses, Kan., and Triangle H Grain & Cattle Co, Garden City, Kan. Tom Brink, Five River Ranches Cattle Feeding, explained a typical breakeven and showed how limited factors can affect a feeder's bottom line.
T.J. Curtin, Blue Mound, Ill., appreciated hearing what feeders expect. “Listening to what kind and type of cattle the feed yard managers liked to feed and what factors they considered when buying and selling cattle was beneficial to me,” he said.
After a bus ride back to the Kansas City area, the group toured various wholesale and retail outlets including the Kansas City Steak Company, Sysco Food Services of Kansas City and Whole Foods Market. Tracy Thomas, U.S. Premium Beef, presented information to the group and stressed the importance of building relationships to succeed in the beef industry.
“I believe BLI will be the start of a unique network for each of the participants. Perhaps the strongest impact for each of us was the recognition of how many people contribute to and affect our end product—beef. From the production line workers at National Beef, to the managers at a foodservice distributor such as SYSCO to the marketing director at a Whole Foods, we gained a greater insight as to how their inputs directly impact our product,” Viator adds.
In addition to the tours and speakers, the group came together from diverse backgrounds and operations and had the opportunity to learn from one another during the bus ride, at the stops and during social opportunities.
“BLI can affect leaders in the future by networking,” Curtin says. “I met many new people in the three days we were there, and anytime you can get away from home for a while and see different styles of management I think is always a good thing.”
Viator agrees, “All too often, we look at our industry as having three segments—the producer, the feeder and the packer. The BLI trip really created an opportunity to see how much broader our industry really is. I believe every beef producer should travel the production system as we did!”
This is the inaugural year for the Beef Leaders Institute, hosted by the American Angus Association, with headquarters in Saint Joseph. Mo. The young leaders who participated in this year's BLI include: John Dickinson, Sacramento, Calif.; Ben Lohmann, Eaton, Colo.; Tom Judy, Fremont, Iowa; Doug Steele, Anita, Iowa; T.J. Curtin, Blue Mound, Ill.; Jeff Dameron, Normal, Ill.; Harry Fisher, Aledo, Ill.; Alan Miller, Gridley, Ill.; Neal Haverkamp, Bern, Kansas; John McCurry, Burrton, Kansas; Dave Neely, Franklin, Ky.; Kenny Hinkle, Nevada, Mo.; Brad Arntzen, Hilger, Mont.; Chad Denowh, Sidney, Mont.; David Felumlee, Newark, Ohio; Alford Echols III, Cooper, Texas; Cheramie Viator, Franklin, Texas; Kevin Fleenor, Aldie, Va.; Tom McCall, Greenville, Va.