by Katie Navarra

Rain and colder temperatures didn’t keep beef producers from attending the second annual Spring Turnout Grazier Meeting on May 1. Hosted by St. Croix Farm, a third-generation conserved farm in Schaghticoke, NY, new and experienced beef producers were eager to learn marketing and management tips for developing a sustainable beef business. The event is organized by Cornell Cooperative Extension’s (CCE) Capital Area Agriculture and Horticulture Program.

Regardless of farm size or end market, producers share the same goal—to make a profit raising beef. When it comes to selling meat through community supported agriculture (CSA) or farmers markets, consumers are better informed and are looking for the story behind the product.

“Customers are going to look at certifications. Consumers today are better educated and informed than ever before,” said Steve Hadcock, an agricultural entrepreneur and market development educator for CCE.

Some of the more common certifications beef producers may want to consider include Certified Grassfed by AGW, USDA Organic, New York State Grown & Certified, Certified Humane and Animal Welfare Approved.

Customers also value knowing a farm’s mission and history. Developing a website that describes the farm’s mission supports long-term relationships with buyers.

“Black Willow Pond Farm has created a website that states why they raise meat and shares that she farms the way she does because she wants to feed her customers the same way she feeds her family,” Hadcock said. “Marketing around customer service and values takes time and has to stay current.”

Investing the time and resources into maintaining a website and social media provides the highest return on investment, according to Jason Detzel, a livestock Educator for Ulster county and owner of Diamond Hills Ranch in Columbia County.

“In Ulster County a survey found that on farm sales/on site stores had the highest return on investment,” he said. “A CSA was second and farmer’s market third.”

Maintaining multiple social media accounts takes time. Knowing the customer is and which platform that demographic enables producers to pick one or two sites that work best for their goals. Using hashtags like #ranchlife, #beef, #grassfedbeef and others can increase visibility.

Cattle sold in New York auctions bring less money than in other beef producing states. Detzel paid to ship his cattle out of state in hopes of bringing in more money per pound.

“The New York beef average is $0.38 per pound less than other beef states,” said Kevin Jablonksi, a regional director for the New York State Beef Producers Association and owner of Macbrook Farm in Washington County. “Ununiform cattle, not preconditioning and trucking contribute to that.”

Knowing what auctions pay more for or take discounts can help producers maximize their product. The 2011-2017 study Factors affecting the auction price of New York feeder cattle, by Minhao Yan, Michael J. Baker and Miguel Gomez, evaluated the price per pound of 30,000 head of cattle. The results give farmers an idea for the ways people are getting paid at auction. Ashley Pierce, a commercial livestock educator highlighted the bonuses and discounts.

Producers are getting paid more for black cattle, cattle that have been preconditioned (vaccinated, weaned, sent with a record) and muscular cattle. Auctions discount Herefords and exotics, cattle with horns, heifers, bulls and stags, excessively large or small size, light muscling and unthrifty (rough hair coat, wormy, dirty, etc.) cows.

“Herefords are discounted between $10 and $18 per hundred weight at auction, even more than exotics. That’s because it’s hard to see under their hide and what’s there is not always what people expect,” Pierce said.

The afternoon-long conference also included discussions about baleage production, the prevention and control of internal parasites in cattle and small ruminants and a pasture walk highlighting fly control strategies for all livestock.

“By rotating intensively one to two times per day, I’m able to raise 50 cattle on 150 acres of grass alone. They reach 700 to 800 pounds and don’t get feed,” Detzel said.

With diligent pasture management, it’s also possible to custom graze cattle for other producers. The pastures at St. Croix Farm are able to sustain about 50 stockers, some farm-owned, others that are boarded for another producer.

“We offered another a guy a chance to use up the extra grass we have,” said John Moore, owner of St. Croix Farm. “His cows will be here May through December. We don’t charge him as much in the winter and he buys the feed he needs.”

Producers unable to attend the Second Annual Grazier Conference can take advantage of a summer long beef production and marketing series hosted by CAAHP, which will be held at farms across the capital region.

  • June 13 – Backgrounding Beef Cattle
  • July 11 – All About Stockers
  • Aug. 9 – A Seedstock Beef Production
  • Sept. 12 – Cow Calf Production and the Freezer Trade

For more details and to register visit: