Published on 03/10/99

Evaluation Center Expands, Ensures Quality Beef

Beef Evaluation 
Center sign/buildingAfter 41 years, the University of Georgia Beef Evaluation Program has a new home. The Irwinville Beef Evaluation Center education building, complete with pens, working barn and educational center, was dedicated March 2.

The ceremony was part of the annual beef short course sponsored by the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Georgia decisions matter

"Georgia farmers raise calves that, a year and a half later, will be sold in your local supermarket," said Robert Stewart, an animal scientist with the UGA Extension Service.

"The decisions that affect how beef meets consumer demands are made here," he said. "This center helps producers learn to make sound decisions."

Stewart, coordinator of the UGA Tifton Beef Evaluation Program, said the new building will provide space for livestock and agriculture-related educational events. It will house 4-H and FFA activities, purebred cattle sales, short courses and field days.

Evaluation program tests bulls

Bull in sale ring
EVALUATED BULLS are sold at the end of the 20-week test period. Only the most sound bulls with the best traits are sold. The bull above sold for $6500, the top-seller for this event. Producers know the genetic characteristics of the bulls and so can select one that will complement their cows.

The Irwinville facility, open since 1995, allows 65 percent more participation in the evaluation program. This year, more than 100 producers consigned 200 bulls for evaluation. Only the top-performing two-thirds are sold at the end of the program. This year, 133 bulls were auctioned.

Scientists measure the bulls for growth, soundness, carcass traits and fertility. This data helps farmers make sound decisions when selecting bulls to sire calves that meet consumer demand. This careful selection helps Georgia farmers become more efficient.

Farmers learn efficiency

Nationwide, cattle farmers produce the same amount of beef with 100 million cattle as they did 25 years ago with 130 million cattle.

"It's up to us to find ways to produce beef profitably that will meet consumer demand," said Harvey Lemmon, chair of the Tifton Bull Test Advisory Committee, at the dedication. "This facility and this program will help us do that."

Curly Cook, president of the Georgia Cattlemen's Association, said, "This (building and program) is a heck of an asset to the agricultural community."

It's a business, like any other

As in any other business, Stewart said, cattle producers have to listen and respond to their market to stay in business.

"If our consumers tell us they want lean beef, we'll select bulls that can pass their traits for lean beef to calves," he said. "At the same time, we select for efficient growth and muscular traits. It's part of the business now."

Local support vital

Phil Utley, CAES assistant dean and associate director for the Tifton Campus, said it took many people working together to make the new building a reality.

"Without local and legislative support," he said, "this building would not be here supporting a vital part of the Georgia agricultural industry."