Dawson County cattleman leads beef industry during a year of victories
After years on defense, cattlemen go on offense. The quarterback who has been leading the industry to big wins is a local cattle feeder, honored as NTV’s Grow farm family of the month.
From his pickup, Craig Uden can see the world. Or at least the beef destined for foreign markets.
“These are for China, these are natural cattle,” he said.
One of Uden’s priorities is opening new opportunities through trade, something he says is especially important in the Beef State.
“We are the epicenter of the beef production in the state of Nebraska,” he said.
Five generations of Udens have worked with cattle. Both Craig and his wife Terri come from cattle backgrounds.
And while the ‘80s were a tough time in agriculture, Craig got a call at 4:30 in the morning to join a small feedlot, near the even smaller community of Darr.
(I don’t know what the population of Darr would be).
“About three,” Uden said with a smile, answering our question.
It started with an internship, as the Thayer County native headed west to Dawson County.
He said, “We started this thing with about 1,500 head of cattle back in 1982 and I came along in spring of 83 and we've grown it to this point today.”
They now run about 47,000 head of cattle through two lots.
And with day-to-day operations handed off, Uden gives back, as president of the largest industry group for American cattlemen.
“We’ve had a lot of wins. It’s fun to be on offense,” he said.
The biggest Uden witnessed firsthand.
“It was June when I was in China,” he said, trying to remember the dates. “Been a hectic year.”
Forgive Uden if he can’t keep the timeline straight, he’s been around the world and when China opened its borders to U.S. beef, Nebraska was first.
There was no ribbon cutting, but a ceremonial slice of prime rib that could have come from his lot.
“It was fun to know some of this beef that came out of this facility as you look behind me,” he said.
As his term leading the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association comes to a close, he says rising incomes around the world mean people want safe, affordable, and nutritious beef.
Uden said, “Once people get a taste of our product, our grain-fed product, that's a huge victory.”
The Udens also have a cow-calf operation. Both their son and daughter are in the industry too, doing what they love, and feeding the cattle that feed the world.
“Not many jobs are more rewarding than feeding the people. And feeding them a wholesome, healthy, quality, high tasting product. What more can you ask for,” he said.
And just as an internship helped Craig Uden get his start, he now brings in interns, many of whom are working around the region.