Beef cattle (copy)

Oregon State University and the state's cattle industry have worked together to produce a new cattle plan.

PENDLETON, Ore. — Oregon State University has completed a comprehensive needs assessment for the beef and dairy industries that identifies research opportunities and funding sources for producers to stay competitive in the marketplace.

The OSU Cattle Plan was published in October following months of virtual meetings between college officials and producers. It was created to help prioritize investments in Oregon’s ranches and dairies over the next five to 10 years.

Staci Simonich, executive associate dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences at OSU, and Carol Lorenzen, director of the Department of Animal and Rangeland Sciences, discussed the plan with ranchers Nov. 22 at the annual Oregon Cattlemen’s Association convention in Pendleton, Ore.

“This has been a really great process, collecting a lot of information and meeting across the state talking to folks,” Simonich said.

Cattle and calves were the second-most valuable agricultural commodity in Oregon last year, according to the state Department of Agriculture, with more than $587 million in sales. Hay was the third-most valuable commodity at $569.1 million, and milk was the fourth-most valuable at $557.3 million.

The cattle plan was developed in part with industry groups like OCA, as well as the Oregon Beef Council, Oregon Dairy Farmers Association and Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council.

Meetings began in November 2020 and were originally intended to be held in person in rural communities, though Simonich said they were forced to adopt a virtual format instead due to coronavirus pandemic restrictions.

“You guys still found ways to get your information to us, even though we had to meet over Zoom for a while,” she said.

Research needs were separated into five categories: animal reproduction, health, nutrition and welfare; grazing management; environmental issues; technology; and economics, marketing and processing.

Climate change was identified as a major threat for producers in both the short- and long-term, with intensifying drought leading to water shortages and wildfires, and potentially altering ecological conditions on the ground including new diseases and parasites.

Part of the university’s research could focus on new feedstuffs and supplements to reduce methane emissions from cows, lowering water consumption and grazing in environmentally sustainable ways to improve landscape and climate health.

Producers also identified a need for researching innovative new products and markets — both domestic and export — to boost their bottom lines, especially now competing against lab-grown and alternative meats.

Other sections of the plan delve into education programs, adding faculty and improving facilities at OSU.

Some of that work is already being done, Lorenzen said. She pointed to several newly created positions, including an assistant director and range scientist at the Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center’s Union Station, and a rangeland extension specialist for Baker and Union counties in northeast Oregon.

“We are aligning faculty expertise and programs, identifying gaps for the future, hiring and replacing foreseeable vacancies,” Lorenzen said.

In all, OSU currently has 25 faculty in beef and dairy statewide.

Some infrastructure and building improvements are taking place on campus in Corvallis, Lorenzen added. That includes $300,000 in state funding to upgrade the Clark Meat Lab. Renovations are also slated for Withycombe Hall, home of the university’s animal and dairy husbandry departments, and a new $20 million dairy processing plant.

Ranchers and dairy producers can continue to help implement parts the OSU Cattle Plan by advocating for more state and federal funding, Simonich said.

“We need your help. And we know we can count on you,” she said. “Let’s do this cattle plan together.”

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