More than 1,000 young beef cattle took a special trip to Kansas last fall as a part of the GeorgiaBeef Challenge. Those cattle and their predecessors provided information that helped the Georgia beef industryearn $10 million more in 1994 than in years past. The state’s cattle are still sold at a discount, but the rate has dropped to 4 percent, dramaticallyincreasing Georgia beef farmers’ income. “The ideal would be a combination of heavy muscling with the minimum acceptable marbling fortenderness,” Stewart said. The Challenge continues into the 1995-96 calf season. With the next group of calves to beshipped out this month, Stewart expects producers to consign about a thousand animals to theprogram. Over the past decade, consumers have demanded leaner, tenderer beef at the grocery store. Butfarmers can’t find out how lean their animals are unless they follow them through the feedlot andpacking house. The program is providing benefits all around: the feedlots are getting better-quality calves fromGeorgia, beef lovers are getting better steaks and roasts, and (the benefit that makes it all work)Georgia farmers are getting more money for their cattle. Randolph County beef farmer Bobby Lovett found the Challenge enlightening. “It should be veryevident to people whose calves don’t perform well that they need to make some changes — mostlikely, genetic changes,” he said. After finding out why Georgia farmers receive less money for similar animals, Stewart worked toset up the Challenge with the Georgia Cattlemen’s Association, the U.S. Department ofAgriculture Market News, and Hitch Feeders II, a Garden City, Kan., feedlot. Producers usually base the value of their bull selections on how much money they take homefrom the buying point. Stewart said those numbers don’t always tell the whole story. The Challenge does just that. “Because of that reputation, Southeastern farmers’ beef prices were discounted by 7 percent,”Stewart said. Over the years, that discount has cost the Georgia beef industry millions of dollars. Then, after slaughter, each animal’s fat percentage, rib eye area score and other facts are added toits record. “I think it’s making better cattlemen out of all of us,” Lovett said. “The Georgia Beef Challenge is a method for these cattlemen to see where their genetics are atthis point in time,” said Robert Stewart, an animal scientist with the University of GeorgiaExtension Service. Stewart began the program just four years ago to eliminate the reputation Southeastern calves hadfor being inferior to beef produced in other parts of the country. Some cattle are more heavily muscled with very little fat. Others lay extra fat within the muscle– this marbling makes meat tenderer, but higher in fat. Stewart said most industry trends start at the feedlot and packing houses, “and we’re far removedfrom there, so we may miss some of that information.” “It’s the only reasonable way that they can get feedback on what their genetics are producing andcontributing to the industry,” he said. The news is not always good for the farmer. “It’s going to point out his strengths and weaknesses,and we have to emphasize them both,” Stewart said. Consumers want beef that’s lean and tender. Armed with information from the Georgia BeefChallenge, a farmer can adjust his genetic program to aim for that perfect combination. Cattle in the program travel to the Kansas feedlot, where assistants record the daily weight gainof each animal as the cattle mature. The county Extension office has information about producing beef and including beef in ahealthy, well-balanced diet.
So what keeps the Lakers motivated? “Nearly everybody has a one-year deal and they don’t know what’s going to happen next year,” Lakers forward Wesley Johnson said. “So everyone wants to go out and prove they can play for that stint.”Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak constructed the roster this way to maximize financial flexibility this offseason. But he conceded before the 2014-15 campaign started that the cost-benefit analysis on fielding a team mostly with players on one-year deals “cuts both ways.” With only Kobe Bryant, Nick Young, Julius Randle and Ryan Kelly with guaranteed contracts for the 2015-16 season, the Lakers will need to fill up to 11 roster spots. The Lakers have four unrestricted free agents with 18 games left to maximize their next contracts (Carlos Boozer, Jeremy Lin, Wayne Ellington and Johnson). They have one free agent who hopes his season-ending right elbow surgery will not derail his NBA future (Ronnie Price). And Jordan Clarkson, Jordan Hill, Robert Sacre and Tarik Black represent the four players whose futures hinge on whether the Lakers exercise their team options on them. “Guys are motivated to play,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said. “The one thing I haven’t seen is the selfishness that comes with guys having only one year on their contract and wanting to get paid.” Player accounts generally agree with Scott’s assessment that the Lakers’ players have not used games to pad their box scores. But some players concede their uncertain future still affects them mentally. “You’re talking about people’s careers. Everybody is aware of what’s going on,” Ellington said. “But at the same time, you don’t want to do anything detrimental. You want to play the right way and not force things. You don’t want to be selfish. It seems like guys have done that well.”Maybe so. But the Lakers have still experienced rough patches in the past two years, both with the losing and fostering chemistry on a team featuring plenty of players on one-year deals. Young admitted he felt inclined to return earlier from a left knee injury last season that sidelined him for six games. With Young following through on opting out of his $1.2 million player option, Young feared the Lakers’ acquisitions of Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks could diminish his value.This season, Young feels more secure sitting out with a swollen left knee considering he has a four-year, $21.5 million deal. “It’s always going to be tough when you have a whole team going into free agency,” Young said. “Everyone is trying to stay in this league and get some money. I don’t blame anybody. But it’s tough.”That explains why Young openly suspected that Lin’s struggles before the All-Star break partly stemmed from trying to maximize value for his next contract. Lin is in the final year of a deal that pays him $14.9 million, something Houston granted him amid the height of “Linsanity” three years ago in New York. Yet, Lin’s 10.9 points and 4.7 assists per game average may not yield the same kind of lucractive deal. “I can say with 100 percent confidence, I have not worried about my contract situation one bit,” Lin said. “I haven’t changed my game one bit because of it. I’m never going to do that.”Ellington and Davis sounded just as certain that their futures have not affected their approach. Ellington, who entered training camp on a non-guaranteed contract worth $1.1 million, painted himself as a versatile player who thrives off ball movement, cutting and only taking open shots. Davis will opt out of his $1 million player option in hopes of a more expensive long-term deal with the Lakers. But he pointed out his value stems from various qualities teams cherish, including defending, rebounding and energy. Player accounts credited one imposing figure for minimizing this potential problem. “Coach Scott is a tough guy and has a mentality that I’m not with the (BS),” Davis said. “There’s a feeling that he’s one of those coaches where if you try to fight him, he’d win.”Scott chuckled when informed about how the locker room views him. “If I feel that you’re not playing hard or not playing defense the way we need you to play or you’re not moving the ball on the offensive end, I have no qualms of sitting guys down,” Scott said. “That’s probably why we hadn’t had the issues of guys being selfish, I won’t allow it.” How does this dynamic compare last season under former Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni? Then, the Lakers featured nine players who would become unrestricted free agents.“Mike was out there and said, ‘Go out and shoot it up.’ So everybody had a laid-back attitude,” Johnson said. “Byron holds you accountable. Mike didn’t hold us accountable.”Bazemore, who signed last summer with the Atlanta Hawks, admitted fighting trying to pad his resume during his short time with the Lakers. Former Lakers forward Pau Gasol, who often criticized D’Antoni’s faster-paced offense, once indirectly accused D’Antoni of not implementing enough discipline to ensure team play.But not everyone on last year’s Lakers team agrees with that criticism. Some argued D’Antoni’s offense promoted team play since it contributed to numerous players recording career performances, including Young, Johnson, Hill, Jodie Meeks, Jordan Farmar and Kendall Marshall.“Coach D’Antoni’s system is free and his personality is laid back. But at the same time, he has a sharing personality,” said Meeks, who plays for the Pistons. “We had good character guys who worried about playing hard.” The current Lakers view themselves the same way.“I’ll do what’s best for the team, not necessarily what’s best for the player,” Scott said. “Most players have individual goals. I understand that. I had them as well. But those individual goals cannot come at the expense of the team goals.” Through demanding practices, exhausting travel and tough losses, the Lakers of old could always envision a few possibilities that pushed them forward.Tasting sweet champagne. Soaking in the sights and sounds surrounding a championship parade in downtown Los Angeles. Wearing an NBA ring on one of their fingers.The Lakers of 2015 can only live those moments in their dreams. Or when they watch video of the franchise’s teams that have won 16 NBA championships.The Lakers (17-46) enter today’s game against the New York Knicks (12-51) at Staples Center a little over a month away from missing the NBA playoffs for the second consecutive year and seventh time in franchise history. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error