The Iowa Beef Industry Council in partnership with New York Beef Council recently livestreamed a virtual farm tour connecting consumers to a New York cow-calf operation and an Iowa feedlot. The 50-minute Facebook livestream introduced attendees to Betsy Hicks of Maple Acres Farm in McGraw, N.Y. before virtually traveling to Nate Graham’s finishing lot in Cherokee County, Iowa.
The virtual tours included an overview of the beef life cycle and an up-close look at cow-calf pairs. The tour also introduced attendees participating in the virtual tour to what cattle eat, and how farmers manage their land through rotational grazing.
Additional topics discussed were cattle identification, record keeping and herd health management. Graham Feedlots is a fourth-generation family farm in northwest Iowa that takes great care in producing high-quality feed for their cattle and works to provide the highest quality care to their cattle, which is highlighted throughout the tour.
Due to COVID-19, the trip was streamed live across Facebook and on the New York Beef Council website, allowing for students learning virtually, as well as any interested consumers to watch. The trip hosted on June 11 reached over 11,000 people and has been viewed 5,000 times with more than 1,000 engagements on social media.
Learning about beef production
This online trip provides attendees, especially consumers, with an opportunity to follow the beef life cycle from birth to finish. New York is a high-population state with over 19.6 million consumers. It is home to over 628,000 dairy cows, and beef production in the state primarily focuses on the cow-calf segment of direct-to-consumer marketing. There are only 7,300 beef farms in New York.
In contrast, Iowa is home to more cattle than people with 3.9 million head of cattle in the state. Beef production in Iowa widely focuses on the finishing phase, feeding out the cattle to market weight using the cropland and corn production.
“Iowa has a unique opportunity with its state-to-state partnerships. Collectively, Iowa consumers are more directly connected to agriculture than consumers of some other states and have a positive perception of the beef industry overall,” Graham says. “Therefore, the ability to offer educational resources and information to areas of the U.S. where consumer populations are higher with a greater disconnect to where their food comes from has become increasingly important in recent years.”