Cattle may not yet be king in Arkansas, but recent trends are giving producers something not always in ready supply in agriculture – optimism.
“As we get around the state talking to producers, optimism is pretty good,” said Marcus Creasy, rancher and secretary-treasurer with the Arkansas Cattlemen’s Association.
“Producers seem to be happy to be in the industry, seem to be happy with what they’re doing with cattle production. We’re getting some good feelings.”
In 2012, there were 1.6 million total head of cattle in Arkansas, per the USDA. As of Jan. 1 of this year, that number had grown to 1.8 million head. While that’s still a distant third to chickens and turkeys, it’s forward momentum that’s also reflected in the rising number of producers statewide.
“We’re seeing growth in the industry on two fronts,” Creasy said. “We see it from those who currently have cattle wanting to do more with their operation in some form or fashion. And then we’re also seeing growth in the next generation.”
“A couple weeks ago I went to a program up in Carroll County for young producers. These guys were from 20 to 25 and were very interested in hearing the program topics, everything from marketing to feeding to banking and finance and things like that.”
Creasy, 45, said legislative activity is also contributing to industry growth. He said at the highest level, the promise of improved trade relations with China represent a long-term positive for producers for the next two generations.
“On a national level, we’ve got regulation issues – waterways of the U.S. is a good example – that were going to harm producers in a very bad way,” he said. “The administration and new administrators in EPA, are backing off of those regulations. They’re not going to be so onerous on producers who weren’t doing anything to harm those waterways anyway.”
Creasy called the Arkansas legislature “very friendly” to ag interests, citing one example related to producers’ federal disaster relief payments related to the 2012 and 2014 droughts.
“The Cattlemen’s Association went to task and starting educating legislators about the fact that we were being taxed on monies that were coming in due to disasters. We were able to roll back that tax,” he said. “From a state level, we’re seeing good things come out of the administration as well as the legislature.”
Creasy operates Creasy Farms a 150-head commercial “mama cow” operation in Cleburne County. Considered medium-sized by Arkansas standards, it produces calves that are preconditioned and sold at auction.
Like a lot of old-school producers, he’s been working cattle as long as he can remember, certainly long enough to recognize the radical changes that have come to the farm. As he conducts an interview on his smartphone, for instance, he’s simultaneously checking the futures market on his laptop while a webinar on risk management plays on a desktop in the background.
“If I want to know the latest DNA technology on determining docility or feed efficiency in my cattle, I go straight to someone at a pharmaceutical company that’s providing that type of technology. And I can do that sitting behind this laptop or with that smartphone while I’m out checking my cows,” he said. “There’s a bunch of different opportunities these days that 25 years ago we just didn’t have.”
“There are some aspects of the way Grandpa did it and Dad did it that we will continue to do because they were good things, good management practices. But there are some that we are changing almost yearly because the technology is driving the advancement.”