COLUMBIA, Mo. -- The primary developer of the MFA Health Track program was recognized at the recent Cattle Industry Annual Convention in Denver as a 2006 Beef Industry Vision Award regional winner.

As regional winner, Kent Haden was a finalist for the national award, which recognizes outstanding beef innovations that have been incorporated into cattle operations and helped to enhanced the individual business as well as the cattle industry overall.

"I was the one to accept the award. They had to put a name to it, somebody had to walk forward," Haden said. "But, it's really the 550-600 producers who will participate in Health Track this year who are the true innovators."

Haden is vice president of Livestock Operations with MFA Inc., a regional agricultural farm supply and marketing cooperative with annual sales approaching $1 billion. Based in Columbia, MFA serves 45,000 farmer-owners in Missouri and adjacent states.

MFA Health Track was developed eight years ago to help producers add value to their calves by weaning the calves and feeding them for 45 more days. Haden said they have been able to help producers realize an average added premium of between $45 and $50 per animal.

"We've done over 200,000 calves in the period of time we've been doing it. And if we are talking about $50 a calf, that's about a $10 million return to Missouri cattlemen by this program."

Haden says more than 60,000 calves will be involved in the MFA Health Track this year, which also qualifies them under Missouri's Quality Systems Assessment (QSA) program.

"All of our cattle are QSA approved, which means they are age and source verified though the Missouri Department of Agriculture QSA program. That means they qualify for Japanese export which requires cattle to be age-verified and under 20 months of age."

According to Haden, an added benefit to Health Track producers is being prepared for a national animal identification program.

"In essence, the people that are in Health Track already have been doing national ID and getting paid 40 or 50 dollars a head for it for the last six or seven years. For some people, national ID would be a true cost. For our producers, national ID will not really create any problems for them because they're already doing it."

MFA HealthTrack is the leading beef marketing program that identifies and properly conditions calves so that they meet the demands of cattle buyers. This program combines standardized nutrition, Wean Vac 45 processing and Beef Quality Assurance certification. For information, call 888-514-BEEF, email or visit .

SOURCE: MFA HealthTrack news release via AgNewsWire and MFA Inc. Web site.