Before a sellout crowd at the Ramada Grand Dakota Hotel Dickinson, which was recently honored in the 2018 Best of the Western Edge as the Best Hotel and Best Banquet Facility, area ranchers and farmers gathered for the Agriculture Livestock Forum hosted by The Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce.
The educational event featured special guest speakers Tim Petry, North Dakota State University Extension livestock marketing economist, who spoke on the current cattle market; and world renown animal science professor, Temple Grandin, of Colorado State University, who is an autism spokesperson and an advocate for animal welfare in harvesting.
"Working on coordinating events, setting up venue space and coordinating details and registration for events like this take a lot of work," Christina Jorgensen, event and member relations manager with the Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce, said. "Our agriculture committee did a lot of work securing the venue and working with Dr. Grandin and Petry to bring them in tonight."
The first guest speaker of the night was Petry, who spoke on the positive market forecasts for the beef markets, and specifically addressed how China will play a role in the coming year.
"There's a lot of issues going on right now that are affecting the market, but we also have a lot to be thankful for in the cattle business," Petry said. "Last year, we finally got approval to get beef into China after being out since the mad cow disease in the early 2000s. We were expecting to get some in there since then, but with the tariff situation we haven't been able to get anything in there yet."
While beef markets in China stuttered out of the gates, Petry said that one of the biggest impacts coming out of the China agreement has been the way that the pork market has impacted the beef industry.
"The really big thing is that we have been sending a lot of pork over there, and our pork exports have dried up as well, so that caused hog prices to go down significantly," Petry said. "That actually affects beef prices, since it's a competing meat. Beef is going to be a slower process because it has to be aged and source verified back to the farm with no antibiotics or growth hormones and all that, and so at this time we have a limited amount to go over there but in the future we'll have a lot heading that way."
Speaking to worried area ranchers on the topic of volatility within the beef market, Petry said that forecasted changes in the coming weeks and months should stabilize the markets and said he hoped to see the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement pass the Congress.
"There's so many factors that are affecting the market now and it's so volatile that I know that it's frustrating the producers to have such a volatile market, but that's just the situation we're in with trade and we're going to see a lot of things in the next several weeks in negotiation with China," Petry said. "We're also negotiating with Japan and the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement has not passed Congress yet, so we have a lot of issues."
Grandin was the second and final speaker of the night, and spoke on the importance of improving stockmanship at every opportunity.
"A good stock person is really observant and there's a lot of little distractions at the coral that can be eliminated in order to help with cattle handling," she said. "Get the coat off the fence and get rid of the vehicles parked along the facility because the reflection from the vehicles can make animals balk."
Grandin spoke on what she considered "very basic principles" of stockmanship with pointers on topics like point of balance and walking past a group of cattle to get them to move forward. She ended her discussion on genetic differences in animal behavior and temperament selection, which she warned ranchers of overselecting traits.
"We have be careful not to overselect cattle for traits," she warned. "Right now we've been selecting cattle for more and more meat, but as a result high altitude disease is coming down to lower altitudes. There's a point where we need to be selecting so that there's enough engine there to run the animal."
Speaking to The Press about her future, the renown autism spokesperson said that she plans to continue her journey of promoting animal sciences and hopes that along the way she can foster the same love for animals that she has in children she meets.
"I like what I do and I think at this stage in my career, because I'm past retirement age, I want to get to into more interaction with students and getting students really interested in animal science."