PUTNAM COUNTY — It was a packed house at the Kalida K of C last Wednesday, January 31 as area farmers, dairy farmers, cattlemen, along with their neighbors, friends and family came together for the annual Putnam County Beef Banquet.

The event was sponsored by the Putnam County Cattlemen’s Association, an affiliate of the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association. Started in 1951, the OCA represents all beef industry producers - cow/calf, feeder, stocker, seedstock and dairy. The organization serves a membership of over 2,200 families throughout Ohio and surroundings states with over 60 county affiliate organizations, including Putnam County’s.

According to the USDA, there were approximately 14,000 head of cattle, including calves in Putnam County as of May of 2017; and 4,300 milk cows. Statewide, Ohio boasts 1.3 million head of cattle and 262,000 milk cows for that same time period.

In addition to serving as a yearly celebration, the annual banquet is a fundraiser for the local association and helps to cover the costs of regular educational seminars, such as the upcoming manure regulations meeting to be held on February 22, other events that occur throughout the year, and the annual scholarship given to a local high school student with plans for continuing their studies in an agricultural related field.

Announced during the evening, this year’s scholarship award winner is Emily Niese, daughter of Louis and Carla Niese who plans on attending Ohio State University, pursuing a degree in Animal Sciences on a pre-veterinary track.

When speaking to attendees just prior to dinner being served, Putnam County Cattlemen’s Association President, Dennis Schroeder highlighted the work by the organization’s board of directors. “In truth, it’s been a good working board. I’ve been on [the board] for almost 40 years,” says Schroeder. “I’d like to talk a bit about what we do through the year. The guys help out on the feeder calf weigh-in in April. We also help out at the fairgrounds, to help set up the beef barn…[and] with the weigh-in during the fair.”

“We also help with the heifer projects, our breeding project. A lot of [Putnam County] youth have starter herds. [The association] also sponsors trophies. We [provide] sandwiches during the livestock sale, to keep it moving, so we don’t get anybody leaving during lunch time. We also sponsor the scholarship, which we give away each year.”

Schroeder then called on those present to participate in a contest the association runs during the fair, saying, “We also have a challenge at the fairgrounds. I would like some more people [to get involved], anyone that’s got a beef stew recipe. Wednesday, [June] 27, at 7 p.m. at the fairgrounds. Winner takes $50 home. We have two judges and it’s well worth coming to see. I challenge some of you ladies and gents to compete.”

In addition to the organization’s board members, Schroeder asked Beth Scheckelhoff, the OSU extension coordinator, to stand and thanked her and the extension office staff for their work in promoting area farmers, assisting them with new programs and helping to educate farmers and the public on changing regulations throughout the year.

Although the overall outlook remains optimistic here in Putnam County, the celebration takes place amidst challenging times for the industry as a whole. The 11 other nations in the Trans Pacific Partnership trade negotiations, which President Trump withdrew the U.S. from last year, have reportedly created their own agreement. It is expected to be formalized in early March. “Withdrawing from TPP was a missed opportunity for the United States to gain greater access to some of the world’s most vibrant and growing markets,” said Kent Bacus, the National Cattlemen’s Association’s director of international trade and market access in a statement issued on January 23. “As we now enter a pivotal round of NAFTA negotiations, the last thing we need is to take a step backwards in our relationships with Canada and Mexico.”