27 CALF News • April | May 2022 • CAPITOL LAND & LIVESTOCK The Schwertner Select program is a health based program aimed at weaning a calf in its healthiest, natural environment. 254.527.3342 In business since 1946, we are committed to delivering quality, country fresh calves and yearlings on time at a guaranteed price. Schwertner Select But the need for documentation is essential, he believes. “Producers throughout the production chain, as well as processors, need to connect to pass on information. The answer that is most frequently suggested is blockchain technology, although cheaper options may also be available.” Transportation Close looked at the three ways cattle and beef are transported – trucks, rail and ocean freighters. Looking first at trucking, Close said the American Trucking Association estimates that the nation is short 68,000 truck drivers today, and within five years that shortage could be a million to a million-and-a-half drivers. So that leads us to the conversation of the self-driving, automated truck. Close says experiments are underway that involves a lead truck with a driver and two or three drone trucks behind. “We know that’s going on. That technology is there.” However, giving consideration to the amount of truck traffic on the highways today, “If we try to find additional truck drivers or if we look at self-driving trucks, it’s a band-aid,” he said. “I think there are limitations on how much additional truck traffic our interstate highway system can bear. “That leads me to the conclusion that our real long-term solution is to update and enhance our rail system and get some of that traffic off the road.” Close admitted that he has little input on how to reinvent the rail system,“but somebody’s got to be the first one to talk about it. “I think it will be a massively expensive proposition that will require a private-public combination,” he said. “But I think if you take the efficiency of rail, the environmental benefits of rail, it’s an area that logically makes sense.” All four of those points adds cost to the system. “I don’t know that any one of them are necessarily prohibitive, but if you look at a culmination of the add-on cost of all these interventions, that cost will be at a level that is going to have a substantial impact on the liveto-cutout ratio. And there are only two places where that added cost can surface, and that’s lower cost to the producer or higher cost to the consumer.” Where From Here? “The first thing I’m going to argue is that as cattle supplies tighten, packer margins will normalize,” he predicted. As the world adjusts to living with COVID, those restrictions will ease as well. But “normal” will never be normal again, and it’s reasonable to think that another bomb on the market like COVID could happen again. “So if there are interventions we can place in the system to extend the shelf life of product post-harvest – when we have any kind of problem that shuts the harvest process down – we can go an extended period of days with a product that is inventory and ready to go to the supermarket counter,” he said. The beef business has spent the past 25 to 30 years creating and refining an efficient just-in-time supply chain. Changing to a just-in-case model will BLACK SWAN Continued from page 24 Continued on page 42 