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Annual Beltie Magazines
The Belted Galloway Society has produced full-color, 36- to 44-page magazines annually since 2004. An extracts from one of the publications is accessible below. Obtain copies of the most recent printed edition by sending a request with your snail mail address to the Executive Director at Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grainfed Grassfed Beef Marketing
During the international meeting at Galloway Getaway (September, 2004, Milwaukee, WI) a panel discussion and Q&A session was held on the topic of Grainfed & Grassfed Beef Marketing. Panelists were Sarah Bowman of Hang 5 Galloways (WY), Tom Wrchota of Cattleana Ranch (WI), Loren Olson of Malabar Farm (IA), Michael Caldwell of Caldwell Farms (WI), and Homer & Diane Mohn of Hide-A-Way Ranch (TX). Short summaries of their presentations appear below.
Sarah Bowman After 6 years of selling Galloway and Galloway crosses to packers based on the quality of the carcass, I can start to draw some conclusions about the Galloway breed.
Galloways produce some of the best meat in the meat industry! They are able to produce Yield Grade 1 Choice carcasses. This is something that happens in the meat industry only 2% of the time. This comes from their rare ability to marble first and then put on backfat.
With this said I would also say that NOT EVERY GALLOWAY is able to perform to this standard. KNOW YOUR GENETICS and what they produce. The worst thing for the breed is for us to make claims to buyers and then sell them animals that cannot live up to these claims.
The best way to take advantage of the superior carcasses the Galloway can produce is through direct selling either to the packer or, even better, to the customer.
Tom Wrchota Cattleana Ranch grazes 50 Galloways on 60 acres. They receive 100% grass and hay. We bend "conventional rules" -- no grain, no shelter, virtually no parasite control, no vaccination of home-raised cattle, prefer late calving. Newborns get rotated with the herd and we do almost no weaning or castration. The whole idea is keeping them in a LOW STRESS environment so they are healthy and contented -- hence, no need for medicines. We can produce great beef with well-adjusted, people-tolerant animals. This aids the rancher's financial bottom line.
To produce grass-fat beef we look for very good grass cattle genetics, specific phenotype & genotype cattle, and cattle docility. Bull calves are weaned in early spring at about 9 months of age. We don't wean female calves because we believe they learn many important life skills by being with their mamas and lifelong female herd members; especially nurturing capabilities and effective grazing talents.
We practice above-average grass management skills, always finishing animals with at least 3 months on top-quality sward, necessary for all beef categories.
RESULTS: Average live weight is 1236 lbs. in 2 years with average 713 lbs. hanging weight, or average daily gain (ADG) of about 1.7 lbs. from start to finish.
CHALLENGES: The time squeeze! Cattle don't start putting on marbled fat until they reach about 65% of their mature weight at about 14 months of age. Even with very good swards it is difficult to match the energy levels of grain, as fat contains double the level of energy than muscle. Grass-fat tender meats sometimes start toughening to an unacceptable level before 30 months of age.
BEEF PROCESSING PROTOCOL: Grass-finished cattle will often have less internal and external fat than grain-finished cattle, so we hang animal carcasses between other carcasses and away from the fans. We "dry age" in cooler for about 12 to 15 days, depending on the condition and age of the animals.
Loren Olson, M.D. Successful breeding of Belted Galloways depends upon having a long range vision. Sooner or later they multiply and you need an outlet for breeding animals, meat, or both. Selling profitably depends upon Product, Price, Placement and Promotion.
Product: A major error is to produce livestock and then try to figure out how to sell them. You should figure that out before you start. Are you interested in producing beef? Will you sell it by the package or by halves and quarters? Through direct sales or farmers' markets? Or will your focus be raising animals for the show ring or producing breeding stock? After these decisions are made you can target your marketing to a specific group.
Pricing: One of the dangers of raising Belted Galloways is falling in love with them and losing objectivity. This can lead to retaining animals which should be culled, and it makes pricing difficult. Developing a superior herd requires identification of economically important traits, measuring them, breeding selectively for them, and measuring again.
Mistakes new breeders often make are believing the newest producer must charge the lowest price or that pricing must be based on historic prices. The price you charge for breeding stock or meat should be based on its value to the customer.
If you can differentiate your product from others, you may be able to sell at higher prices. Can you produce a product which is unique or of higher quality? Can you offer better service? Can you perform such value-added features as transportation? Delivering meat to urban areas? Offering a guarantee of satisfaction?
Promotion: Self-promotion is not sinful! Much of marketing is based upon developing a relationship with your future customers through successfully telling or selling your story. Customers will want to know about you and why you do what you do. Your story should become a part of your marketing tools which include: a logo, business cards, stationery and a brochure. A successful marketing instrument which is free is a press release. Small towns look for news with a local focus.
Placement: How will you distribute your production? To attain profitability with Belted Galloways, the majority of your production should be sold through direct marketing, which may include development of marketing partnerships to assure continuous availability of product. A last resort should be selling through the commodity market such as a sales barn, where returns may disappoint.
Most people who produce meat begin by producing for themselves and their families. Then their marketing extends to friends, then to friends of friends, and finally when confidence and consistency are improved, to the larger community.
If you wish to raise Belted Galloways profitably, management is the key. Three resources must be managed: livestock, grass, and cash. Managing cash includes good marketing.
Michael Caldwell, M.D., Ph.D. Given the culinary ardor afforded Galloway cattle over the last three centuries, their almost mythical ability to successfully forage in any environment, their efficient deposition of intramuscular rather than perimuscular fat, and their substantial domestic characteristics, we chose Belted Galloway as the breed for the development of a certified organic beef operation.
Production of certified organic beef has substantial commercial rewards. At present this type of production strives to meet an ever increasing demand (the overall organic food industry is growing at 20-40% per annum) and the value added per pound of meat is appreciable. It would not be unreasonable to return $4.00 to $5.00 per pound live weight by direct marketing certified organic beef. This substantial margin over commodity beef production is due to the increased cost of production, the diminishingly small supply, and the constantly increasing demand driven primarily by the consumer's perceptions of the safety and increased health benefits of organically raised beef. Some of these latter perceptions appear to be realistic, while others await thorough evaluation.
The increased cost of production of certified organic beef involves: the time investment prior to initial product, continuing time investment in record keeping and tracking the history of the animal from birth to slaughter, the restrictions that modify herd health management, special requirements related to forage production, and additional processing regulations.
For a farm to be certified by the National Organic Program standards there must have been no use of agrichemicals on the farm for the consecutive 3 years prior to certification. In addition, for an animal to be certified as organic for slaughter purposes, it must have received no antibiotics or unapproved substances and have been on a certified organic farm since the last trimester prior to its birth. Therefore, it can reasonably require an investment of up to 5 years before the first organic animal is processed for sale as certified organic beef.
From birth to slaughter, the history of each certified animal must be carefully recorded, including: vaccinations and other treatment of the animal’s mother while the animal is nursing; vaccinations, treatment of any ailments, castration, veterinary visits, etc; location of the animal during grazing; and origin of forage used for the life span of the animal.
Although routine vaccinations are allowed, the use of antibiotics, even in topical form, and of other chemicals such as antihelminths is strictly prohibited. As an example, the treatment of pinkeye with topical antibiotics in a newborn calf disqualifies the animal for organic certification even if the animal receives no other agent for the rest of its life. Since humane treatment of the herd is a mainstay of organic principles, most producers will treat their animals as needed to maintain herd health and those treated animals are carefully recorded and excluded from organic slaughter stock.
Techniques of forage production are regulated and the use of agrichemicals and modified or treated seeds is prohibited. In addition the harvesting and storage of forage is regulated to avoid contamination with non-organic forage.
Finally, the processing of certified organic beef is regulated. The processor must assure the absence of use of prohibited substances. The animals cannot be slaughtered concomitantly with un-certified animals. The animals must be tracked through the process to make certain that the product is not mixed with other product. The processor and his facility are inspected regularly to maintain their organic certification.
So, organic beef production is not unlike most aspects of life – with the promise of great rewards comes the requirement of increased responsibilities.
Homer and Diane Mohn It was both a pleasure and an honor to sit on the panel and share our information. We have developed a small but faithful freezer beef market in the last 10 years, and as a team we each presented our experience. Homer spoke on selection, breeding, feed, slaughter, and profit. Diane spoke on marketing.
We first acquired Belties in 1994. By 1995, it was apparent that our steers did not bring the desired price at the auction barn. We slaughtered a couple for the freezer. One was good and one wasn't. A few calls to Texas A&M set us on our path of determination to raise choice or prime meat. They explained it is not one thing that leads to a prime animal.
First one has to have a northern European breed. It has to have best type and frame, it must be fed properly, have vitamins and minerals, exhibit size, gain, and last, the best slaughter. Only then could one expect the best product. We would like to stress that not all Belties are the same on the inside. Genetics plays an important part. Over time working with your line and careful records will reveal the best candidates. Muscle is meat. Choose well muscled youngsters. We choose to use full blood 10-generation pure Belties to increase our predictability. We furthered the predictability with careful line breeding and heavy culling. We do not let age be the determining factor when they go into the feed lot. Size is the key. Some won't be good beef at any age, but the flavor improves with size. Those individuals that get to the appropriate size the fastest are of course preferred. Basically the steers go into the lot at about 800 lbs. or from 16 months up. They are fed a ration that was prepared especially for our breed by Texas A&M. It consists of soybeans, cottonseed meal, corn, molasses, and vitamins and minerals in very specific proportions. No growth hormones or antibiotics. Natural beef.
We have a custom mill prepare our formulation. The steers are fed for approximately 110 days. They are weighed about every two weeks and the gains calculated for each. They average about 3.5 lbs. per day. Any animals not putting on that gain in the first 30 days will be undesirable, and go to the auction. You can almost count on them being of poorer quality in the freezer. Cut your losses then. If you sell inferior beef, you will not get a premium price and may lose customers. The steers are fed 3% of their body weight twice a day and all the hay they want. We butcher at 1100 to 1300 lbs. Ten years of trying smaller, larger or different feeding programs and animals has proven this method of success.
Hanging time is another area we experimented with. Again, no exact time for hanging. Some say 14 days while others are proponents of 21-day dry aging. You should not decide on days. Each animal is different, the lockers are different, and even weather affects the carcass. The beef should hang according to how long it takes for the moisture to evaporate and the waxing to occur on the fat. 14 days may be way too short for some, while others begin to mold. An expert butcher and locker should be the ONLY determining factor. Many a good beef may have been ruined because a determined owner heard it should hang 21 to 28 days. It depends on the fat and the aforementioned conditions. Mildew tastes bad if some gets left on.
Bottom line on profit is about $1,600 more per beef than could be realized at an auction. We do now get a fair price for our beef at the barn but we are still docked a bit. Raise the best grainfed beef and get added value pricing. Any additional information can be given. Our last 5 steers graded high choice, low prime.
MARKETING -- Marketing is as visual as with any product. Get your cattle exposed. Interest creates desire. Rent pasture for just a few in a well-traveled area. Give away some product you are proud of. Hamburger is a great donation for chamber events and civic opportunities. Keep your cattle in the public eye and curiosity will cause them to buy. Good product will bring them back, as well as friends of the customers. If you don't like it yourself, don't sell it. Negative advertising spreads faster than positive. Invite 4-H kids to your farm, have a hamburger bar-b-que whenever possible. We have an R.V. park and serve Beltie Burgers on Saturday night once a month. We always have customers for that great beef.
Farmers' markets are a good source; again, offer samples. Ads in the paper don't work well. Strangers to your product are not apt to buy. Have a fun farm day, and taste testing. It costs less to share the taste of your product than to purchase ads. Most people practice the 3 P's. Put an ad in the paper. Put up a sign, and third, Pray. We do all. Put your cattle on display, put up a sign with information, and put your product where your mouth is. Prove it.