South American cattlemen pay visit to US feedlots

  Last Updated: Tuesday 23rd of November 2010 05:24:00 AM +0800HKT

The Midwest had some exciting visitors last week, as South American cattle producers made a trip to the U.S. to explore the beef cattle industry we are so proud of here. Alfredo DiConstanzo, professor of beef cattle nutrition and management at the University of Minnesota (UM), hosted a tour of the Midwest for 33 visitors from Argentina and Uruguay on Nov. 14-19. The the group made around 10 Midwest stops to agriculture facilities including the Mitchell Livestock Auction, located in my hometown.

“The feedlot and grain-feeding industries in these countries are starting to take shape and grow, and our guests were exposed to our approach to cattle handling, facility designs, equipment options and processing of corn and grains, as well as our cattle and environment,” says DiConstanzo. “Our focus was showing the group our feedlots and giving them samples of the different ways to do things.”

The group visited several feedlots where they were shown examples of equipment, mixers, manure spreaders, mono-slope barns, lagoons and various nutrition management tools. DiConstanzo says the group was full of questions and comments in comparing the U.S. cattle feeding industry to their own. A big misconception the South American producers have about the U.S. cattle industry is that beef producers are heavily subsidized, giving an artificial competitive edge globally.

“They come here thinking beef producers are heavily subsidized, and they quickly find out that we are not,” says DiConstanzo. “They are surprised with how efficient producers can be in order to keep input costs down and stay competitive in the marketplace.”

Knowing that Argentina will one day be a bigger player in the global beef market, many U.S. cattle producers are hesitant about sharing so much information about the Midwest feedlot industry; however, DiConstanzo believes this is a short-sighted attitude.

“Although Argentina will one day be our next big competitor, they also have some real challenges to face, especially with their extremely regulatory government,” notes DiConstanzo. “Beef production is thriving in places like the U.S., Canada and Australia, but it’s still challenging in many countries we would view as competition. This worries me about the future of the global beef industry, if those who want to produce beef are unable to do it because of infrastructure issues.”

How do you think the South American cattle industry will play a role in the global beef market? Will Argentina be a direct competitor with the U.S. one day? Were you surprised to learn that the U.S. beef business is thought to be heavily subsidized for foreigners? Share your thoughts today.

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