Tennessee’s beef industry generates $600 million dollars for the agricultural economy each year, but to keep our cattle farms thriving — we need the latest knowledge and technology.

That’s the opinion of University of Tennessee Extension experts and county agents who spent a week in October at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Roman L. Hruska Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, Nebraska. Twenty-three UT Extension representatives made the trip. The MARC includes some 6,500 cattle of 18 different breeds under study on a facility that covers 35,000 acres. Sheep and swine are also studied at the center. Agents spent time in laboratory settings, and also toured nearby ranches and feed lots.

“We needed an update on a number of key issues, and it was a really good experience,” says John Bartee, UT Extension director for Montgomery County, who was one of the coordinators for the trip. “We have to stay competitive as a state, and we will take this new information and hold producer meetings in our home counties.”

Bartee says the Tennessee agents heard about the latest technology regarding DNA profiling of purebred bulls. This includes information about carcass tenderness, fertility and genetics. “All bulls in the future will have a DNA profile,” Bartee says. “That’s the kind of information we want, and information we need. I don’t want to see our producers fall behind other states.”

Agents also heard about food safety issues such as the USDA’s latest efforts to combat E. coli. “They’re looking at ways to keep it from entering the food chain,” Bartee says.

The Tennessee group also learned about beef marketing efforts. “The selection of superior bulls, food safety and proper vaccination procedures are all a critical part of the beef industry for Tennessee,” says Richard Powell of UT Extension’s Western Region Office in Jackson.

“Our producers must have the most current research-based information to produce high quality calves, which are requested by the feed yards to produce high quality finished cattle for consumers. The consumers must be satisfied and willing to purchase our product or the cattle industry will not survive.” For further information, go to http://utextension.tennessee.edu/.