Dr. Max Thornsberry, a Pulaski County veterinarian and Region VI director for R-CALF spoke to a Richland, Mo., area gathering of beef producers, on Sept. 23, 2009. Bill Bullard, R-CALF’s CEO and Laurel Masterson, the organization’s Membership Services Coordinator also made presentations about R-CALF and what they offer to the independent cattleman. R-CALF, a nonprofit grass roots organization of independent cattle producers, represents its members on a variety of issues, including country-of-origin labeling (COOL), trade and market matters, animal health, private property rights, and the National Animal Identification System. Before the meeting opened, Dr. Max Thornsberry shared basic information about R-CALF, what it does, and how it is different from other cattle industry organizations.
“Missouri has lost 400,000 stock cattle since 2006. We’ve dropped from being the No. 2 cow-calf producing state to No. 3. We now rank third behind Texas and Oklahoma. R-CALF represents only cattle producers, unlike other cattlemen’s groups which represent producers, packers and processors. Our voting members are strictly cattle producers. When you join R-CALF you sign an affidavit stating you own cattle. We have associate members, those supportive of our industry but who are not cattle owners, but only our producers are voting members. When we make decisions, we send the information, the items we’re voting on, out to the membership for their approval and we are a one member, one vote organization. We do not conduct our business or decide policies at an annual convention.”
  Dr. Thornsberry continued, “R-CALF represents producers in 48 of the 50 states and after 10 years we have 10-12,000 members nationwide. We have about 400 members here in Missouri, which is in Region VI and includes Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. We had a meeting earlier this week in Springfield, and about 65 people came to hear Bill and I speak and that was really encouraging.”
Once the meeting began, Dr. Max Thornsberry concentrated on exactly what NAIS is and is not, why it does not work on a technological basis and why it will not work on the average small Midwestern beef operation.
He further explained to the group that he was not against the technology that is involved in NAIS, and that each of his cows currently sports one of the high tech ear tags that is the basis for the system.  “It takes about $3,000 worth of equipment plus a certain level of computer literacy to begin with,” he further explained. “But that’s not the real problem. We are against the Federal government mandating it. I’ve yet to work with a group of cattle with these tags in which there were not problems, tags that come off or malfunction. I put them on 126 heifers a couple of weeks ago and 8-10 of the tags were messed up. That’s pretty typical.”
Dr. Thornsberry, a busy large animal vet in this area, also shared with the entire group that he is the last of his family, the 6th generation on his family’s century farm, to raise cattle on his land. “My son and my grandson have no interest in continuing in this family tradition, so it ends with me.”  He stated that many in the last couple of generations are running into this same dilemma, as families make the decision to leave their land, which also adds significantly to the cattle production losses in this area.
 Bill Bullard, CEO of R-CALF gave a historical run down of the organization. “The whole purpose of R-CALF is to try to save our industry. We are here to put the needed tools in the hands of the producers, taking them from the meat packers who have gained an unfair advantage over the small producer. Four large firms currently control 88 percent of the market. Our markets are fundamentally broken and it is that market failure in the livestock industry that we at R-CALF are working hard to address. Literally, we are the last livestock frontier,” he concluded.


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