BOWLING GREEN - Farmers gathering in Wood County this weekend for the annual Ohio Cattlemen's Association Summer Roundup are enjoying the best of times in the beef industry.
Prices are up for the cattle that they sell and down for the corn used as feed. Demand is strong for beef and high protein diets have replaced cholesterol concerns as a health craze. And some farmers have high hopes for bigger profits through an effort to sell the meat they produce under a brand name called Great Lakes Family Farm.
Such topics will be the talk of the statewide meeting today and tomorrow that is expected to draw 300 people to the Wood County Fairgrounds in Bowling Green. The last time the group met in northwest Ohio was in 1994, when a record 1,100 people attended a steak fry in Williams County, said Elizabeth Harsh, executive director of the state association.
The attendance swell that year was due in part to entertainment. But much has changed in Ohio's beef industry in the past decade.
The number of farms with beef cows fell 25 percent from 23,000 in 1991 to 17,200 in 2001, according to the Ohio Agricultural Statistics Service. Many of the state's beef cows are in southern Ohio, but numerous local farmers buy calves and raise them to slaughter weight.
In Wood County about 100 farms have cattle, although only 10 to 15 earn a significant portion of their family income from the animals, said Ivan Belleville, president of the Wood County Beef Producers, which is hosting the meeting.
On the group's tour this year are six Wood County farms. They range in size from the Bill J. Bowling Farm owned by Bowling Transportation, Inc., which feeds 1,500 head of cattle, to Arlyn and Judy Snyder's J Bar A Herefords, which has 15 beef cows and their calves which are sold for breeding and livestock shows.
At Tom Dierksheide's farm, the focus will be on the design of a barn built to feed cattle and at Calvin Gerwin & Sons' farm the feature is manure storage constructed with the help of the Soil & Water Conservation District. At Nancy Nichols' farm, the cattlemen will hear about its 400 acres of pasture, which is considered large locally.
Larry Warns, who along with Mr. Dierksheide is a founding member of the Great Lakes Family Farm group, will tell about its efforts to find a niche market for local cattlemen.
U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) who is to speak to the farmers tomorrow, helped get $1.3 million from federal taxpayers for the Great Lakes group. Its goal is to find consumers in a 100-mile radius of Bowling Green who are willing to pay a 10 to 30 percent premium for beef that is produced by local farmers and is guaranteed to be of a consistent quality.