Cornbelt Cow/Calf Conference

January - March 2003

Byron M. Leu , livestock field specialist

The Cornbelt Cow/Calf Conference recently hosted its 32nd annual event in Ottumwa , Iowa . Since the conference's first program in 1971, the event has been recognized as a strong and vibrant educational program that featured nationally known speakers. Industry support has also been a major contributor to the success of this long running conference, with numerous exhibitors supporting the event financially, by serving on various committees and contributing to the educational segment. Through the effort of the volunteers and exhibitors, the Cornbelt Cow/Calf Conference has developed programs that have addressed a wide variety of management topics, including new technological advances as well as useful cow/calf services that could be valuable for producers throughout Iowa and surrounding states.

The beef industry has made dramatic changes over the past thirty years. These changes have impacted all areas of the cattle infrastructure, including selection practices, nutrition programs, pasture/forage management and financial decisions. These monumental changes create the need for producers and related agribusiness people to be aware of industry changes, short- and long-term trends and the availability of technology and services to individual operations. This type of information is necessary if industry players intend to remain competitive as the cattle production system continues to evolve.

Over 30 years ago, a group of futuristic volunteers and beef producers from southeast Iowa worked closely with extension personnel to develop the framework of the Cornbelt Cow/Calf Conference. These leaders, guided by Cliff Iverson, incorporated an educational program with agribusiness exhibits to create the format of the conference. Typically, the educational program of the one-day event is split between a morning segment and an afternoon session. Between the two programs, attendees have the opportunity to view the numerous exhibits and discuss current topics, needs and issues. The current format of the conference is essentially the same today as it was in 1971.

Each program is developed through the efforts of two volunteer committee groups. One group, the Cornbelt Cow/Calf Conference (CCCC) Steering Committee, selects the topics to be discussed at the conference educational program. This group is comprised of cow/calf producers and agribusiness people from 15 counties in southeast Iowa and northern Missouri . The second group, the CCCC General Committee, is made up of 18-20 volunteers that coordinate the event. Committee responsibilities include promotion, specific conference arrangements, exhibit coordination and meal arrangements of the event.

The Cornbelt Cow/Calf Conference remains a viable educational entity for the cattle industry. The program recently completed its 32nd consecutive year, reflecting the educational importance of the event. For a volunteer-driven event to remain effective and flexible for this length of time is amazing. This success is definitely a credit to the vision and dedication of the numerous volunteers that have contributed to this event's success. These leaders have recruited outstanding presenters, selected topics that reflect industry changes challenging cow/calf producers and have adapted to the needs of the producer, agribusiness representative and commercial exhibitor.

Surveys and questionnaires have been used by the CCCC Committee to evaluate the effectiveness of the conference. The results of these conference evaluation tools (questionnaires and surveys from1999-2003) reflect that the CCCC remains a useful approach to present information to Iowa beef producers. Annual evaluations and periodic surveys indicate that producers have implemented management changes in their beef operations due to information presented at both the educational program as well as the exhibits portion of the conference. These changes have increased returns (8-13 percent) and production efficiency (11 percent) and decreased labor inputs (16-19 percent).

At the 2003 conference, approximately 525 producers and agribusiness people attended the program. These attendees were from 38 Iowa counties and four other states. Over 75 exhibitors shared their products and services at the one-day program. Articles and interviews generated by media sources have been used in Iowa Farmer Today, Iowa Cattlemen's Magazine, Wallace's Farmer, local/regional newspapers and by radio and TV stations. The Cornbelt Cow/Calf Conference looks forward to future conferences, with a goal to continue presenting topics that reflect today's industry opportunities, challenges and technological updates.

Page last updated: July 9, 2006
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