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Dan Loy, Iowa Beef Center director's monthly column featured in Cattleman Magazine. Archives

Dan Loy in The Cattleman Magazine


December 2019

Wrapping up the decade of the 2010’s

Looking back at this decade there were a host of changes. Technology continued its rapid advance and most of us traded in our flip phones or BlackBerrys for smart phones. What was called global warming became known as climate change as the drought of 2012 was followed by floods later in the decade along with cooler wet conditions here in Iowa. Renewable energy gained momentum as wind turbines began to dot the landscape.

However, the rapid expansion of the ethanol industry early in the decade slowed, then leveled, late in the decade. Beef producers learned to be flexible with the inclusions of corn coproducts in their rations. The beef industry experienced the greatest profits ever in 2014, and general profitability for cow-calf producers was favorable for the decade. Cattle feeders also had record profits in 2014 but for the decade the average cattle feeder broke even financially. Carcass weights continued their climb between 2010 and 2020. Quality grades have also been on a steady upswing. While 10 years does not seem like such a long time, the change has been remarkable. It is a reminder that change is normal and those who change with it are the ones who will succeed.

So, what does the next decade hold? Will smart technologies and cloud data revolutionize agriculture? Will this cattle cycle look like the last one? Will carcass weights moderate or continue their increase? Will Prime become the new Choice? No one knows what the future holds except that there will be change. And where there is change there is always opportunity.

Speaking of quality grades, I hope you will read our literature review that was written for Certified Angus Beef on the relationship between marbling and reproduction in cattle. This featured and analysis of data from the ISU McNay Beef Breeding Project. This herd has been selected for marbling or intramuscular fat for the last 20 years. You can find the paper and the presentation that was given last month at the American Angus Association Convention at the CAB Cattle website.

We have some major beef educational events coming up in January. The Northwest Iowa Feedlot Forum is Jan. 14 in Sioux Center, focusing on marketing. The Three State Beef Conference Iowa site will be held on Jan. 14 in Greenfield. The Cornbelt Cow Calf Conference is Jan. 25 in Ottumwa and the Driftless Region Beef Conference will be Jan. 30-31 in Dubuque. Nationally recognized speakers will be featured at each of these events. Look for more information in our monthly newsletter and on our website.

Our beef team also will offer a Cow-calf webinar series this winter. The first of four sessions is set for Dec. 11 focusing on feeding and nutrition of cows in gestation. With the challenging weather conditions this summer, feed quality will be highly variable. The team will share tools and pointers for dealing with this variability.

I hope that you will take some time this winter to not only reflect on the decade past but do some forward planning on what changes could happen in the next 10 years. The educational events that are planned across the state this winter will hopefully bring some thought-provoking speakers to help with this process. See you there!

The IBC at Iowa State University serves as the university’s extension program to cattle producers. Our center comprises a team of faculty and staff from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the College of Veterinary Medicine and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. We work together to develop and deliver the latest in research-based information to improve the profitability and vitality of Iowa’s beef industry. If you’d like to be notified of updates on progress of research projects or programs that might be coming to your area, please subscribe to our "Growing Beef" newsletter by following the link on our website, If you have a question, use the "Ask our Experts" link on the website. Also, feel free to call us at 515-294-BEEF or email us at You can also follow @iowabeefcenter on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.