High Plains Journal welcomed a few hundred cattlemen and women to its first Cattle U and Trade Show, July 31 and Aug. 1 in Dodge City, at United Wireless Arena.

Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Mike Beam kicked off the event July 31 during the general session and drew upon his experiences with the Kansas Livestock Association to give attendees some insight on how the Kansas Department of Agriculture is working for them.

"It looks to me like the animal industry and beef industry included, have some challenges from new areas with imitation products," Beam said. "We seem to have more and more consumer beliefs on how you should do your business."

Beam said cattlemen have faced "input" from different sides as to how they’re treating the environment and caring for their cattle.

"But it seems to have slowly escalated," he said. "And there's a lot of opinions on how you do business."

He’s also concerned with what happens in international trade and how it’s paramount for the long-term economic viability of the beef industry in the state.

Ninety-five percent of the world population is outside of the United States, and as those consumers become more affluent in other countries, they start spending money on protein.

"They like beef," Beam said. "So we can't we can't overlook that that's probably what our biggest growth opportunity is. So we need to be positioned to take care of that."

Beam said during his tenure with KLA he witnessed all the things the industry has faced, and he believes beef producers always find a way.

"Just when things seem to be its darkest, cowboys and cowgirls tend to rally together, and they get back to focusing on what we need to need to do to meet consumers’ demands," Beam said.

Cattlemen most often base their decisions on science, collaborate with other producers and work together.

"If you think about other industries here, a lot of industries don't get together in events like this setting right next to really competitors," Beam said. "But this industry has always been very independent, but very collaborative, and I think because of that we’ll be able to thrive in the future as long as we continue to keep those principles and have hope."

Keynote speaker, Lee Leachman of Leachman Cattle of Colorado, said cattlemen are poised to provide the product consumers want and need.

"We're going to have traceability to allow the consumers to see what's going on, because the technology allows that," Leachman said. "We should be willing to stand up to that."

He said cattlemen should put their brands and tag their cattle for identification because, "You need to be proud of what you do."

"It needs to stand the test of the consumer," Leachman said. "But we have a great story to tell, and we need to tell it. We need to do a good job telling that story."

As an industry over the next 20 years, Leachman believes there’s going to be hundreds of dollars per head added to the value of cattle.

"This country will lead that charge globally, and it'll be a good news, good business to be in," he said. "I think the sun is rising. I don't think it's setting our industry. I think it's an exciting time to be in the industry."

For more information on Cattle U visit www.cattleu.net.

Kylene Scott can be reached at 620-227-1804 or kscott@hpj.com.