“Our past shapes us, but it does not have to define us. Trust the timing of your life while focusing your thoughts and energy on what is in your control.”
To venture deeper into your inner spirit, you have to humble yourself and acknowledge what you do not know. The more questions you have about life, the more you will improve and grow. When focusing on a change I break down the goal into the most manageable action and then I build a strategy from there.
Focusing on evolving each day becomes a unique opportunity to remove the walls in our life while liberating our minds. Educate yourself every day until your last breath. To excel, you must have the courage and discipline to show up at my very best. You compete with one person and one person only, yourself. You compete to be the greatest you can be.
On our self-discovery journey, we must free ourselves from automatic judgments that arise with every experience we have. Attempt to understand other people’s perspectives. The world unveils its secrets to us very slowly. We never know anything for sure. So roll with the discoveries while being patient and open to connecting with new people who might not look and think like you.
The road towards self-mastery is a marathon, not a sprint. As we begin to acknowledge and dismantle the self-limiting and disempowering barriers in our lives, we allow for a more authentic version of who we are to emerge. Our past shapes us, but it does not have to define us. Trust the timing of your life while focusing your thoughts and energy on what is in your control. While you may not control everything life presents, you can refuse to be reduced by it.
Our Education system today is not able to produce the type of worker that is needed for today’s jobs. This is a manifesto written by Seth Godin about where our education system needs to be headed. Sit back and take in what he has to say.
Robert Wells, Noble Research Institute livestock consultant Jan 24, 2020 Updated Jan 27, 2020
To be successful, any business person must develop a plan and then devise a strategy on how to work the plan to accomplish desired goals. That’s especially important in the cattle business, where most cow-calf producers would agree that the return on investment on an annual cash basis is typically low.
In order to become and remain profitable, producers must effectively manage the operation by paying close attention to all aspects of the ranch. If this is done correctly, revenue and expenses also will be accounted for. An intentional beef producer is one who takes the business seriously and is willing to go through the process of developing and working a plan for his or her operation. The following is a list of characteristics that successful, intentional producers share. Intentional beef producers:
• Understand the importance of record keeping.
Find a record-keeping system that works for your individual style, whether a paper ledger or on a computer. The key is to keep records that are meaningful and that you will use to make management decisions. Do not collect data on metrics you will never use, as this creates extra work that will have no measurable outcome you will implement.
Keep detailed enough records that you can understand what occurred “once the ink dries” later in time. Identify key production and economic metrics you can use to monitor your operation. Examples of this would be length of calving season and calving distribution, amount of feed/hay/mineral fed, pounds of weaned calf per exposed cow, body condition scores (BCS), pregnancy and calving percentages, weight and prices of all animals sold, and grazing days in each pasture.
With the help of the aforementioned parameters, you should monitor inventories of cattle, feed, hay and available pasture forage, as well as production costs and revenue generated.
• Know animal nutrition management can make or break an operation.
There is an old saying in the industry that “you can’t starve a profit out of a cow.” This statement is true and has been reaffirmed many times over. The feeding program can account for 40-60 percent of the total annual cost of maintaining a cow in most operations. This typically equates to several hundreds of dollars per cow annually.
Work with a nutritionist to develop a strategic feeding program where the supplemental feed is designed to complement the quality of the forage base the cow is consuming. For spring-calving cows that are fed hay during winter, feeding the lowest quality hay earlier in the winter makes the most sense. Keep the best quality hay for later in the winter, and incidentally, later in the cow’s gestation cycle or early lactation.
• Try never to buy hay based strictly on a cost-per-bale basis or to feed on a cost-per-bag or ton basis. Better quality hay may cost more, but it can dramatically reduce or eliminate the need for supplemental feed. The break-even price of hay is the cost at which you would purchase feed to supplement the low-quality feed. If you are in a situation where hay must be provided, feed the best hay possible to reduce the need for additional supplementation. The cheapest option is rarely the right feed for the circumstances.
Many times of the year, the cow is more deficient of energy than protein. Remember, a cow is not as concerned with nutrient percentage or concentration of the feed as much as she is with how many actual ounces or pounds of a nutrient she receives daily to meet her needs.
Finally, match the cow’s time of highest nutrient requirements—early lactation or around 2 months of calf age—to the time of year when the pastures supply the highest quality and quantity forage of the year. During preconditioning of the calf, balance the cost of gain with the value of gain. In many years, more profit can be made in a 60-day preconditioning program than is realized on the calf coming off the cow.
• Know when and how to market calves.
Determine the type of animal you will sell and when you will sell it. Will you sell the calf right off the cow or after a preconditioning program? Will you retain further ownership into the feedlot but sell live, or sell on a grid? Do you want to market quality replacement heifers rather than terminal calves? The answers to these questions will provide focus to your program.
Regardless of when or where you market calves, remember that uniformity of calf type, age and weight is typically rewarded by the buyers, as it helps them meet their marketing goals as well. Identify value-based marketing programs such as the Integrity Beef Alliance to help you collectively market cattle like a much larger entity. No matter how large your outfit is, it can still benefit from selling in a market that has more cattle that are similar to yours.
The goal of feedlots is to fill entire pens which could hold as many as 200-300 head, with very similar cattle. One uniform truckload will only fill a portion of a pen. Remember to give consideration to how you market cull cows and bulls, as they typically can account for up to 15-20 percent of the annual ranch revenue.
• Have a defined outcome for the ranch breeding program.
What type of cattle will you produce? This goes beyond the concept of uniformity previously discussed. Make sure the calving season is as tight as possible, ideally 60 days or less. If you are a commercial producer, consider the value of heterosis and the advantages built into a well-defined and thought-out crossbreeding program.
Identify the breeds you will use, and then work to find the right individuals within each breed to reach your goals. Consider breed complementarity, where the characteristics of the two breeds will be synergized in the resulting progeny. A good example of this is Angus x Charolais or Angus x Hereford.
• Have a comprehensive herd health program.
As the cow-calf owner, you have a moral obligation to the animal to set them up for a healthy life. Work with your veterinarian to develop a comprehensive vaccination and herd health program. Remember to consider that the calves will not live their entire lives on your ranch; therefore, they must be vaccinated against the typical diseases they could be exposed to once they leave the ranch. Become Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) trained and certified.
By adhering to BQA standards, you are honoring the commitment to develop and market a quality calf. BQA certification also helps develop consumer confidence in beef. Part of BQA is proper nutrition and health of the calf as well as keeping records. If you do not have documentation, you cannot prove how your cattle were immunized.
• Optimize stocking rate and pasture management
Set a realistic stocking rate for your operation. Make sure that the forages in each pasture are provided rest at different times of the year, across years. Monitor rainfall events and understand the concept of effective rainfall. Not all precipitation that falls will lead to increased forage growth. An intentional grazier will record when cattle are moved into and out of each pasture.
He or she will consider setting up exclosures to help monitor forage disappearance and growth, will use soil tests before fertilizing introduced pastures, and will use prescribed weed and brush control to reduce invasive species encroachment. A cost-effective grazing principle is to use standing dormant forages instead of hay during the dormant season. Cover crops can add a new dynamic to the grazing operation, as well.
• Develop a ranch management calendar.
Begin with the end in mind. Determine when you want to sell your calves and what your end-product will be for most years, and work backward from there to develop the management calendar. The management calendar should include the following dates: bull turn-in and pickup (hence subsequent calving dates); weaning and marketing dates; when to BCS the cows; when to work calves for the initial and booster vaccinations; when to conduct a breeding soundness exam; when to scout for weeds; and when to apply fertilizer and/or lime.
Additionally, an intentional producer will develop a plan for when to consider grazing each pasture, all the while recognizing that the exact date will vary based on weather and other uncontrollable factors.
• Remain flexible.
Above all else, an intentional producer will learn to be flexible, since so many variables are out of one’s control. However, just because intentional producers have developed and are working a plan it does not mean they cannot adjust as the need arises. Conversely, they will be more strategically positioned to make correct and meaningful adjustments to their plan without wrecking their system, largely because of the knowledge gained from well-kept records. — Robert Wells, Noble Research Institute livestock consultant
What is intentional management? It might be easier to describe what it is not than to describe what it is. In an attempt at “tongue-in-cheek” humor, let me describe what intentional management is not.
You might not be managing intentionally if:
Your record-keeping system is a shoe box or a file folder in which you keep receipts until tax time;
Your marketing plan is to sell the largest calves each time you pen the herd, weaning the calves en route to the sale barn;
Your winter-feeding program is to provide cubes a couple of times a week to the herd without knowing the quality of the hay or standing forage on offer;
Your stocking rate was set by what the neighbor, your granddad or your real estate agent suggested, and you don’t adjust it until drought forces you to; or
You don’t routinely test and analyze your pasture soils, yet you routinely apply fertilizer.
I’m sure you can think of other ways of how we as producers too often go about “running” cattle with little forethought and planning. In favorable years, we can get by easily enough, but in unfavorable years (due to weather, markets or other issues), difficulties arise.
These unanticipated surprises can be costly and often difficult to overcome. Hopefully, most of us learn from our mistakes and failures and, if we survive, can laugh at them in hindsight. The secret is to fail early, fail often, but fail cheaply—and adapt our management so that we do not repeat our mistakes.
Manage with intent
Intentional management is the active management of the collective components of an operation toward the achievement of realistic, well-defined goals. It is a holistic and forward-focused management approach in which an operational management plan is created and used as a template to plan and prioritize activities, then to monitor and measure progress toward defined production and economic objectives.
Management plans need to be built to complement the resources of the operation—the land, facilities, personnel and production system(s) being operated. Even though there is always some uncertainty within an agricultural operation, with a management plan in place, a producer has a road map to guide him or her toward a predetermined outcome.
When variations in climate or markets or other surprises occur and force a change of course, having the plan in place helps guide a producer to either continue to navigate toward the original outcome or alter the course toward a new, more realistic or attainable goal, given the circumstances.
Planning brings clarity of purpose
For intentional management to be more than a concept, it takes forethought, planning and action. The biggest challenge for most producers is getting started. It is much too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day activities of running a cattle ranch or agricultural operation. It is in the intentionality of developing a management plan where clarity of purpose is achieved.
This is where a manager establishes a vision of a desired future for the ranch, identifies the key management objectives to be accomplished, devises an action plan that addresses the critical aspects of each management component, and integrates these components into the management plan for the ranch that the entire staff will implement.
The management plan for the current year becomes the template for the following year, with continual fine-tuning and adjustments over time while adapting to the changing industry, market conditions and climate variations that will occur.
Through intentional management and use of a management plan, managers are more likely to attain their desired goals, will experience fewer surprises, and are better prepared for the unexpected when it occurs. Then, instead of just laughing at mistakes of the past, we can laugh ourselves all the way to the bank.
Components of intentional management
First is the management plan itself, which is the compilation and integration of the other six components.
Second is the pasture management plan, which includes the soils, forages and water resources. The management plan is grounded by the pasture management plan, which forms the foundation upon which the other components rest. The pasture management plan is the first component to address in intentional management.
Stocking rate management
Third is the stocking rate management plan, which entails the matching of grazing livestock numbers to forage production as well as managing and adapting livestock numbers as forage production changes within and throughout years.
Fourth is the cattle management plan. The cattle management plan includes the breeding, nutrition, health and husbandry aspects of a cattle program, which ideally complements the land resources of the operation.
Fifth is the marketing plan, which leverages the attributes of the cattle and management for optimum economic results. Typically, this means managing the ranch resources so there is an element of flexibility within the stocking rate for retained ownership of calves or other stocker cattle enterprises as well as timing sales with favorable cattle markets and market cycles.
The sixth component is a good record-keeping system for ranch operations. This is a record-keeping system that allows easy tracking and monitoring of critical production and economic information. It also provides managers the ability to conduct enterprise analyses, prepare financial statements, and develop monthly and annual operational reports.
Personnel management plan
Seventh is a personnel management plan, which allows a manager to intentionally develop the skills and knowledge of ranch staff to build competencies and enhance their value to the operation. A personnel management plan addresses the needs of the operation, from onboarding a new employee to rewarding valued and tenured employees. It also includes performance evaluations, goal-setting sessions, training and professional improvement. — Hugh Aljoe,
Noble Research Institute director of producer relations
Ladies and gentlemen, the Greenlash has begun. All along the urban/rural interface the peasants are revolting.
Those who used to cuss the farmer now flock to farmers’ markets. They cursed cows until the cow pastures were filled with grapes sucking up all the water, so now they want the cows back. They hated fossil fuels, so they bought into the hybrid and electric car craze only to discover that the electricity that powered their car came from coal, natural gas or oil. They wanted all the dams torn down until they realized they were what lit their homes and powered their Prius.
Those who destroyed the ranching, mining, fishing and timber industries now bemoan the shortage of affordable housing and the dearth of gold and silver that make their iPhones work. They complained about the high cost of beef and salmon steaks until they realized they were the ones who over-regulated the cowboys and fishermen to death.
The urbanites want the bobcats, coyotes and mountain lions protected until one eats their kitty cat. Then they want them all annihilated. They believe in man-made climate change until they realize “the cure” will raise their state taxes. Then they seek refuge in Florida, Texas, Nevada, Wyoming, Washington, South Dakota or Alaska where there is no state tax. They love trees until they are fined $100 because their kid got caught climbing one. They want to save water for fairy shrimp, suckers and salmon but not if it means tearing out their lawns or taking shorter showers. If they’re told they can’t cut firewood on public land oh, hear them rave!
The more intelligent urbanites got suspicious when “global warming” got changed to “climate change.” They got mad when they found out that The Inconvenient Truth was that their hero, Al Gore, was a capitalist getting filthy rich off carbon credit trading and solar energy. They didn’t want any forests logged or thinned until the raging fires burned their house down. They grudgingly admit that even those clear cuts acted as fire breaks and the cows and sheep did reduce the fire load. And when the nightly news showed the charred remains of endangered crispy critters killed by raging infernos it made them think that maybe, just maybe, they didn’t know as much as they thought they did.
What really got their goat was when they found that all those recyclables they’d been sorting for the past year got buried in the same dump as the rest of their garbage because China no longer wanted their melted water bottles. When they heard about the floating mass of plastic floating out in the ocean they realized that some of it was theirs.
When Edison and PG & E started turning off people’s electricity during wildfire season the urbanites got a real taste of “living off the grid” and they didn’t like it all that much. When they saw the sprawling mansions of New York Sierra Club eco-lawyers and Nature Conservancy lobbyists in Architectural Digest and on HGTV it seemed just a tad bit hypocritical.
They believed in globalism until they lost their manufacturing job to China or Mexico and now they have to work two jobs waiting tables to make ends meet. When China and India refused to rein in their contribution to “man made climate change” they realized that the big sucker in the room was the American staring back at them in the mirror.
They loved being able to rent out an extra room in their house through Airbnb until the city started making them pay hotel and motel fees. Some of the shine came off Uber when the drivers had to pay for a business license. Silicon Valley nerds bought bare ground for $500,000 per plot on which to build their dream homes someday only to learn they couldn’t build because there was an endangered snail on their land. But they still had to pay property taxes on their lots that were now rendered worthless. The snails could live there but they couldn’t! And, boy oh boy, did they love wolves … until they moved into their neighborhood.
They worshipped Hollywood eco-celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio until they read that his personal jet was spewing more greenhouse gas in one takeoff than they would in their entire life. ❖