Cattle certifications are on the rise and the industry is better for it, said Tom Brink, founder and CEO of Top Dollar Angus.
Brink has been in the cattle industry for more than 40 years and has dipped his feet in every aspect of the industry. Now he leads a cattle certification business – Top Dollar Angus.
Top Dollar’s goal is to make sure each head of cattle that comes through its doors is in the top 25 percent in both genetics and health on the Angus market.
“I’m more excited about what we are getting done today in this industry than ever before,” Brink said.
During his talk at Iowa State University’s Feedlot Forum in Sioux Center, Iowa, Jan. 10, Brink detailed how the industry has evolved from buying cattle based on color and word-of-mouth, to verified certifications that can help improve a herd immediately.
Ideally, Brink said, Top Dollar Angus and other feeder cattle certification systems could help ranchers get out of the commodity business and get leverage back on their side. He said having the extra genetic information and detailed herd information from third party companies can help producers be sure that their cattle are out of the commodity business.
“We are allowing you as cattle feeders or buyers to be much more discriminatory to know exactly how your cattle preforms,” Brink said. “If they came out not being a commodity, they’ll be the same cattle going to harvest.”
Brink thinks the cattle industry is actually farther into the standard cycle than previously believed. His team’s analysis concluded that steer slaughter was down 1 percent in 2018, which indicates that even now the herd count is going up, the market is leaning back toward their side.
“We are probably a year or maybe two years into the turn into the cattle cycle than most people believe,” he said. “We may be getting quicker to getting some leverage back on our side.”
These third party sites, like Top Dollar Angus, are all modeled after Certified Angus Beef, Brink said. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s grading system helped identify top cattle while providing a marketing scheme behind the grades, which is what Brink is striving to do with Top Dollar Angus.
When the market changes to make certifications standard, Brink believes those who don’t provide detailed information on their cattle will be forced out by a more detailed cattle industry. He said this helps move the industry into the age of precision agriculture.
“They’re making an attempt to communicate to you that their cattle are better,” he said.
Unfortunately for producers, Brink said, the initial cost for these graded cattle will be higher than average, but the payback will be 10 fold. He said knowing that your cattle will have fewer health problems and better feeding performance will make up the cost alone.
“Really, you’ll get far fewer headaches at the top of the market,” Brink said. “If you’re buying a pickup, you’ll buy the better one that costs a bit more but there is more value overtime.”
Brink spent 14 years in the cattle feeding business and was the president of J & F Oklahoma Holdings Inc., which helped him eventually procure and market more than 1.6 million head of cattle per year.