Northern NY Agricultural Development Program 2008-2009 Project Report
Jessica Prosper, CCE Franklin County
Mike Baker, Cornell University
Heather Birdsall, CCE Cortland County
Anita Deming, CCE Essex County
Betsy Hodge, CCE St. Lawrence County
Amy Ivy, CCE Clinton County
Ron Kuck, CCE Jefferson County
Michele Ledoux, CCE Lewis County
Bernadette Logozar, CCE Franklin County
Kaye Webber, Windy Point Angus, Potsdam
Larry Herr, Herrdale Farms, Lowville
Greg Bigelow, Sunset Farm, Willsboro
According to the New York Agricultural Statistics 2007-2008 Annual Bulletin, there are approximately 12,500 Beef Cattle being raised on farms in the six northern NY counties.
There has been an expressed need by the farmers and producers in the region to work toward raising animals of more consistent quality, both for local and conventional markets. In 2008 this issue was addressed by offering a workshop focused on Carcass Evaluation and Grading.
By attending the workshop farmers were introduced to the use of ultrasound as a means of evaluating certain attributes of the beef carcass including back fat thickness, ribeye area, and the percent of intramuscular fat or marbling, all of which are important to producing high quality beef.
Because the use of ultrasound is a relatively new concept to most beef producers in NNY, further education was needed for them to fully understand the technology and how the collected data can be used to select and cull within their herds as well as to select breeding bulls.
Farmers who can make better breeding and culling decisions with the use of ultrasound data will be able to quickly improve the carcass genetics in their herd, thereby improving the consistency and quality of the beef animals they are selling. This will help them to more effectively market their animals in a variety of market channels. Thus, this project addressed the meat animal production and marketing priority identified by the NNYADP livestock producer review panel.
Beef animals at three farms across the region (Essex, St. Lawrence, and Lewis Counties) were analyzed through the use of ultrasound to measure back fat thickness, percent intramuscular fat, the ribeye area, and 12th-13th rib fat thickness. This demonstrated to farmers how ultrasound can provide a reliable estimate of live animal carcass composition, thereby differentiating different breeds, ages, and management practices that may or may not be practical or effective for finishing beef cattle for market.
The ultrasound images that were taken were sent to a Central Ultrasound Processing Lab to be interpreted and cross-referenced by lab employees and returned for review by the participating farms. This allowed the producers to see the entire process, from the actual scanning to the data analysis that took place during the October meeting. The data analysis was an important component of the program due to the fact that producers will not use the technology if they do not know how to interpret the result.
This program was purely for educational purposes, there are no numerical research results.
This program impacted beef producers in the region by exposing them to the ultrasound technology that is available for them to use to improve their beef production practices and profitability. Through the introduction of the technology, farmers were also able to expand their knowledge in regards to carcass composition and carcass quality and why it is important for their businesses to be profitable and successful.
As with any new technology, widespread adoption is often a slow process. This will most likely be the case in NNY. At this point in time we can’t say that twenty farmers are using ultrasound to evaluate their animals as a result of our programs, but hopefully over the next few years more will use it to manage their herds. If nothing else, those who participated in the program have a better knowledge of what kind of animal and carcass is needed to result in high quality beef.
The May 2009 meeting in St. Lawrence County gave us the opportunity to educate several up and coming beef producers who are currently in 4-H. Several youth were present from both Franklin and St. Lawrence Counties and were able to participate in the program.
Beef producers in the region have been exposed to the concept of beef ultrasound three times over the course of the last two years. It is now to individual producers to adopt and use the technology as they see fit. As educators we can continue to encourage the use of ultrasound by continually emphasizing the importance of a top quality, consistent product by harvesting animals when they are ready and by selecting the best replacement animals possible.