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Traits of a Great Farm Spouse

I was planning on blogging again after school started, which was last week. I have all kinds of topics that I’d like to cover. This post was not on that list. This is going to be my rebuttal piece to “The Top Above and Beyond traits of a Farm Wife” that I read on Farmtalk Newspaper, written by Mark Parker. I feel very strongly moved to write this and hope the words that come through the keyboard mirror the thoughts in my mind. The strong feeling of emotion is because I cherish and value my wife so much more than washing a ball cap, which is my job by the way. You see I feel Mr. Parker took a swipe at my wife, my mom, my grand mother, and my great grandma

Before I begin lets clear the air on a few things. Mr. Parker’s piece could very well be a very poorly written attempt at humor. Anyone that has ever written an article or a blog has written one that they thought would be great, only to have it tank. It happens to all of us. Looking at the canned response from the publisher to some of the comments on that piece that’s how they are trying to spin it off.

Secondly, I have read a few of the rebuttal blogs written by ranchHers and FarmHers. You missed the mark too! Follow me on this for a second. When I go to some guys place and I am looking at purchasing some hay or cattle, or some other big purchase he always has a price in mind. He is always overpriced and I have to haggle with him to get the price down to fair market value. In the farmHer blogs I read the rebuttal still undervalued the farm wife.

Here is my list of outstanding traits of a farm wife

1A) Supportive I have blogged before about how necessary this trait is. I used to use the story of Andre Agassi in some of my public speaking, when talking to young people. I can never express enough how who you marry will impact your success.
Let’s take a look at the movie Rocky for a minute. In Rocky 1 he was trying to impress Adrian. In Rocky 2 he did not dedicate himself to training because Adrian didn’t support him. There is even a scene when Paulie, Adrian’s brother, confronts her about not supporting her husband. When Adrian woke up from her coma she said one word, “win”. Rocky rededicated himself to training harder than ever before and became world champ.

In Rocky 3 it played out again when Rocky was afraid and wanting to quit.

In Rocky 4 Adrian did it again when she traveled to Russia to be by Rocky’s side while he trained.

So ladies, there it is. Some of the things we do as guys, we are doing to impress you. Even after 20+ years of marriage. When the wife is supportive, of a determined and persistent husband great things will happen.

This might also be the place to point out that the book of Proverbs warns us multiple times about a nagging wife.

1B) Optimistic /Positive Attitude. I know one farmer personally who has a wife with a negative attitude. For years she has never had any interest in what he does. When times get a bit rough and she has to go sign some papers at the bank, for a loan, or at tax time, and she sees Mr. farmer didn’t make any money that year, he hears about it. I have no doubt her bad attitude has helped drag him in a downward spiral.

When one spouse is feeling down, it helps tremendously when the other half lifts them up.

Do not mistake this for the ole saying “next year will be better” That is betting on the come, and is gambling.

2) Flexible I think this is pretty self explanatory. For those who may not be very familiar with farming things happen occasionally that ruin family plans. For example the family may have plans to go somewhere that day. They are also expecting a load of cattle to arrive that morning. The truck driver may have over slept and the load will not arrive until after the family had planned to leave.

On my farm I have a saying, Whenever you are going to bring people, livestock and machinery together just expect that something is going to go a little off track. I feel Mr. Farmer should have a plan in place for most things, so that way he does not miss out on the important stuff in life if something would go wrong. The family needs to understand that sometimes that Mr. Farmer may miss some things if something goes a little off.

3) Initiative This one comes when the Farm Wife has an awareness of how things usually run. Now I am assuming here that she isn’t involved in day to day activities. She may call Mr. Farmer and offer to help if he’d give her some instructions.

4) Focus Things in agriculture take time. Sometimes those 1, 5 and 10 year plans just seem to take forever. This often times means delaying gratification, or giving up something to achieve a desired goal.

5) Faith Asking a farm wife to focus on the 10 year plan is hard to do when she can not physically see it. It requires her to have faith to believe in it, and be supportive of it.

6) Communication it takes a great deal of communication skill to send your wife on a parts run, or to the vet when she has no idea what she is supposed to get or what she’s getting it for. Yet they still manage to get it right!

Or how about those B.S. hand signals we give them sometimes when they are driving a tractor.

7) Tolerance When you send her on that parts run and the parts guy treats her like she’s an idiot. Not to mention the less than tasteful remarks she’ll over hear at some cattle auctions. We can’t change the behavior of others, so she just has to put up with it.

8) Humor having that special someone that can laugh at them self, and can also make you laugh is such a big stress reliever, and there can be an over whelming amount of stress with farming at times. This past weekend my wife was at a horse auction with me. A result of it was an inside joke that will have us both busting up for weeks

9) Will Draw a Line in the Sand Recall the clip above from Rocky 3. Adrian asks “What’s the truth dammit?” and “You have no right to blame yourself for what happened” That is a perfect example of drawing a line in the sand.

Usually drawing a line in the sand is keeping our egos in check, and preventing us from doing something stupid. For example, I was thinking of buying a horse to break. I used to do that when I was younger. My wife politely reminded me I was not in my 20’s anymore, and that maybe I should get something our daughter could ride too. My first thought was I’ll buy two. But, after thinking about it for a bit I realized she is right. I have too many responsibilities to risk getting hurt. Just as a point of reference I used to really pride myself on breaking the bad ones.

10) Smoking hot Ha. I can get away with this one. Look at some of the other rebuttal blogs written by women and some of them pointed out they can do all the things us guys can and look better doing it. No argument here

We all know the west would have never been settled if it were not for women. A strong woman is the glue that often times holds things together.

I still would like to give Mr. Parker the benefit of the doubt and assume his post was an attempt at humor that came across wrong. If it wasn’t I suggest that he may need to take some time and reexamine his values. I think if you look over this list I put together, that it’s not just a list of traits for women.

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Shoo Fly

Every year there are numerous articles about fly control. All of them revolve around using some kind of gimmick for control. Now it’s no mystery why these freebee publications will only write about gimmicks that siphon money out of the pockets of cattle producers. It helps them sell advertising space. They probably also don’t realize there is another way: well managed grazing

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I know there are people that read this and want me to provide research to back my claims. I don’t care for scientific research, no matter who conducted it. Here is why, science only tells us how we should act if we want to attain definite ends. So for that research to worth a hoot my cattle, the flies, the weather, and other factors in nature must all act a certain way. Ha! Good luck with that.

Here is what happened for me with better managed grazing. I started putting my cattle into groups of 200 head or more. I use poly wire to split the pasture into smaller grazing cells, and rotate daily to every third day. Cell size will vary based on terrain and water. I rent several different pastures, that are only a few miles apart. I will rotate around one then load the cattle up and haul them to the next pasture, then rotate around that one. (I haul them because I have to cross two major highways, and am surrounded by irrigated corn with no fences around it and I have no help)

One day when I was hauling cattle from one pasture to the next, I had an extension researcher riding along with me. He did the typical routine of rolling up the window every time I loaded and unloaded. He finally noticed that I was not doing the same, and he remarked that there were not any flies getting into the truck. We then looked at the cattle and there were little to no flies on them!

At first we were only interested in how my new grazing system would affect my grass, now we were both interested in following up on how it would affect my cattle and flies. For the next month I had the same results, until I rotated up against the perimeter fence and the neighbor’s cattle bunched up next to mine. Then I had flies, a lot of them. I also ended up with their bull too, I was running stocker heifers.

After loading the cattle up and then moving to the next pasture I still had the flies for a while. This pasture has no neighboring cattle. I rotated as I needed to and eventually the fly load lessened. I think this is because my grazing system breaks the fly cycle. In the short amount of time it takes for a fly to lay an egg and for that egg to become a fly my cattle are gone away from that area.

I have only done this for two years, and have noticed a big difference in fly control. I mentioned the neighbor’s bull for a reason. Long story short they ended up paying for a preg check on my cattle. That got expensive for them in a hurry. The following year, they didn’t turn their cattle out into that pasture until I rotated away from the perimeter fence. That year I didn’t end up with their flies or their bull. To me that one variable right there is why science doesn’t mean much out here. It proves how other people’s sloppiness can affect your plan.

We all know that parasites can affect cattle performance and their behavior, so I don’t feel I need to get into that, to keep this short as possible. I do feel that I should do some cost comparisons.

For my grazing system I had to invest in a fence charger, rolls of poly wire, pigtail posts, a water tank, valve, and portable water line. I bought extra poly wires and posts so I could build fence several cells ahead when I have time, so all I have to do is move the cattle which only takes a little while. My total cost for all this was around $5000. That is a lot of money. Thing is I started this program to help improve the pastures, and it has. This is a small investment when compared to that. Also at the end of the year I still have all that equipment.

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If I were to spray my cattle for flies it would cost me $400 for a concentrated solution, that they recommend I mix with water and diesel fuel. The fuel would cost an additional $36. Its by far the cheapest solution. There is labor involved to gather all your cattle in, unless you use a rubber. Here’s the rub for me. Why do you want soak your cattle in a little bit of poison over and over? Second, these products will also kill the good bugs that are essential for a healthy pasture. Not to mention the pests you are trying to get rid of will come back before the beneficial bugs do. How do you assign a cost to that? I am not sure but I can assure you it would be high.

Fly tags would cost me almost $2000. I have used fly tags in the past and they are just crap. In fact when I buy my grass calves, if they already have fly tags in their ears (which is the wrong time to even have them in, leading to the flies building a resistance to them) I cut them out, even though they are brand new.

Then there is using flow through control in your mineral. I’ve tried this and it didn’t make a whole lot of difference. Also I have never gotten a straight answer on how it affects dung beetles. That literally could be a million dollar question that I have not yet got an answer to. If I were to add Altosid IGR to my mineral it would cost me an additional $1600. If I used it in tubs for 60 days it would cost me and additional $1900. (cost difference in tubs with compared to without, so you would also need to add in the cost of the tub/mineral itself) Then begs the question of what do you do with the empty tubs. Around here no one takes them if they are plastic. I can’t help but notice that people around here just leave their empty tubs accumulate in their pastures. Nice uh?

Now for Vet Gun. If I were to purchase this thing it would cost me $1250. That includes CO2 cartridges, gun, and the balls. If I were to go out and start shooting a couple hundred head with this how do you suppose it’s gunna end? If I were to walk into a crowd of people and start shooting them with a paintball gun is the crowd just going to stand there? Heck no! Plus what if I miss and hit one in the eye? To me this just looks like it don’t end well.

Then there are predator wasps. I have a little experience with these guys. I have noticed a little affect with them and the cattle seem to hang around the area where the wasps were. I plan to experiment with them more in the future

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Now I didn’t start my grazing system to control flies. I did it so I could look at all my cattle in just a couple hours (I couldn’t do that when I had 50 here 200 there 20 in another pasture and so on. There was too much travel time between pastures). I did it to improve soil and grass, and cut down on less desirable species, while lightening my work load. Using my system I grow more grass. Assuming I only grow a mere 150# an acre more grass, and it’s valued at $60 a ton, there is my $5000 initial investment for water line, tank, posts and poly wire in just the first year! And just a reminder, I still own these things. With the other fly controls, you spend money, use the product and it’s gone. You also are not improving rangeland, or wildlife habitat.

All of these controls take time/labor except the mineral. All of these have a negative impact except the controlled grazing and the wasps. To me it comes down to what kind of person you are. Are you really a steward of the land or not. Are you really a stockman or not. It comes down to your work ethic, and managerial skills.

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Agproud Q5 F.E.A.R

Question 5 on the Agproud list

What allowed you to move beyond fear and diversify a perspective of your farm/ranch/business?

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This is a great question! Much has been written on the subject of fear over the last century, and strangely enough, all this time later it is still a huge problem. That is probably because fear is one of the strongest human emotions there is.

First off I’d like to share my favorite definition of fear. It is an acronym F.E.A.R. standing for False Evidence Appearing Real. Now that may need an explanation for some people. Most of the things we fear demand that we believe in something that we can’t see, or that may not actually happen. Fear is an emotion, and as such it tells you nothing about reality other than something makes you feel something.

Since most of my blogging and expertise is in cattle I will continue to focus there for an example. Many people would like to be in the cattle biz. Thing is they conjure up all kinds of “reasons”, more like excuses, why they can’t be. For example I have seen fear freeze people solid when they go to an auction to buy cattle. The most popular excuses are they are afraid, there’s that word again, that the market will go down. They are afraid the cattle may get sick or die. They are afraid the weather may deal them a bad hand this year. They are afraid that if any of these happen they will lose money. They are then afraid that if they lose money the bank will take things away from them. They are afraid of being a laughing stock.

That is quite a list of things to be afraid of, and emotion. We are all human and have all stared these fears squarely in the face. It will suck the energy right out of you.

Some of you may be thinking that I made a list of things that are very real, yet called fear false evidence appearing real. Thing is, all the things in that list are not real, because they have not happened. If you let them stop you from bidding on cattle or starting a business, you just let images in your mind that are not real stop you. Do not create troubles in your mind that have nothing to do with reality and waste precious time. You can’t stop the bad stuff from happening, but you don’t have to let the fear of bad stuff happening stop you from the good things that are happening now. That would be recognizing opportunity. You see everything on that list is manageable, and will provide an opportunity.

Every successful person begins with two beliefs: 1) the future can be better than the present, 2) they have the power to make it so. Every morning when you wake up you have the ability to choose your attitude. You choose what ideas to become emotionally involved in. Whatever you focus on will expand. If you create scenarios in your mind that create fear, you will be given things to be afraid of. The universe has a funny way of doing that. Whatever you think about comes about. You see your beliefs cause your thoughts, actions, and emotions, which when added up will equal your results.

So here’s the trick. Both fear and faith demand you believe in something that you can’t see. Faith is putting your trust in the good. Fear is putting your trust in the bad. You can easily change your future by changing your attitude. Have faith in your best outcome, instead of fear in your worst outcome.

So how do we build faith in such a volatile business? In one word: skill. Yup, here I go harping on skill again. Go back and look at the list of common fears in the cattle biz again. Market crash, natural disaster, death loss, poverty, and humiliation. With the right skills, and the right attitude you will find opportunities in all of these.

I have spent my time, and money traveling around the United States, and even Canada to learn from people that were/are the best. I learned valuable skills from them.

At first I was skeptical that the things I had learned would actually work. I placed some trust in them, and they did work. Overcoming fear and having success builds self-confidence. When you let fear control you, you lose self-respect, and that is a downward spiral. The only requirement is the ability to act, and action is the real measurement of intelligence.

At the end of the day just make sure that your own worst enemy is not living between your own two ears.

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Q4 Agproud Lessons Learned

Question 4: How did your business get started? And lessons learned.

I started my stocker/feeding operation from scratch, when I was 21. I started with $6,000, and bought 15 head of fly weight heifers. They were mostly the junk no one else wanted. Over the years it grew from there, and in less than ten years became big enough I no longer had time for an off the farm job.

That previous paragraph just busted a huge myth, and destroyed many excuses.

I had to learn a great many things along the way to be successful. I am grateful every day for the people that came into my life and taught me the things I needed to know. Contrary to popular belief we do not inherently know the correct things.

I wanted to be the best, and one thing I learned from Rodeo was that if you want to be the best you had to study the best. That’s what I did. I have traveled around the country to learn the cattle biz from the best. I’ll give you a hint on how to find them, they are not in the universities.
It is always important to earn money. When you start young and broke there seems to be more of an urgency to succeed. I went to a marketing school, and it all just made sense. The skills I learned there changed my life, and the future for my family.

I learned stockmanship skills from the master. This helped eliminate problems, and the need for extra labor.

I had to learn to structure and manage a business. This topic right here is why most production agriculture operations fail, or are run as failures. I feel it is extremely important to point out, that most of the ag bloggers I have read are clueless on this topic and it is evident in their writing. The only reason I bring this up is so people may learn to recognize it and not accept any of their points as truth. I fear their writing sets a very dangerous precedent for young people getting into agriculture.

One of the hardest things I’ve faced in my business was making the leap to being a full time cattleman. My operation had to pay my salary, groceries, all the different kinds of insurance I buy, equipment purchases, feed, rents, and the list goes on. This is why marketing skill and business structure are so important. Doing this properly eliminates much stress. It also eliminates the desire to assign blame and come up with creative excuses for when you fail, and don’t want to take responsibility for it.

You have heard knowledge pays the best interest. Thing is very few actually heed that advice. More and more people rely on technology, that in reality is letting them down without them knowing it. I am talking about learning old school skills. By learning these I have been able to eliminate problems, and drastically cut overheads. What is old is new again

Another big lesson I’ve learned is to understand ecology. The more I learn about nature the more I’ve change my operation to work with it. Sounds simple, I know, but so many in production ag spend most of their time and money trying to dominate nature. You can read about our quest to dominate nature every day. It’s in the research papers, blogs, and magazines. It is so engrained in us we do not even realize it.

Who you marry will have a huge impact on your success. So will how you behave in that marriage.

Critical thinking, decision making, and problem solving skills are a must. I should’ve tied this in better with business management. Sometimes the most important thing is not knowing what to do, but knowing what not to do.

I also want to point out the reason most generational operations fail is because the old man held onto all the power, and never included the kid in the decision making process. This is why you see so many people who finally get to take over the farm, when in their 40’s or 50’s and they can’t do it. They just lock up.

Last points, communication and listening skills are important, but most people do not have them so you will constantly have to double check. Also people like to play dumb, and are dishonest, so trust no one, again double check.

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Daddy’s Day of All Stars

When my daughter was four she went through a phase where she was afraid of bugs. It didn’t matter what we said to her about bugs, she was terrified. At the time we also had what we called “Daddy’s Day”. On this day she’d spend most of the day with me, and all of it if the weather would allow. (feeding cattle in the rain or freezing cold is a bit much to ask a little one)

On one of those daddy days I had it with her freaking out about bugs. I came up with a plan on the spot. I asked her if she wanted to go for a four wheeler ride, which I knew she’d be more than eager to. I always have a spade on my wheeler, so I grabbed a fishing pole and we were off. I took her to an outdoor class room, a pasture I rent.

When we got there I got off the wheeler and tried to show her all the different bugs, and tried my best to explain to her how not all of them are bad. I didn’t seem to be getting anywhere with her. If I caught one and tried to show it to her close up she’d freak.

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Then we found an All Star team. Dung beetles. I didn’t know much about the other bugs I found, but I know these guys. I simply explained to her the beneficial role these guys play in supporting a healthy pasture, pasture feeds calvies, calvies feed dung beetles, the beetles feed the soil, and soil feeds the grass. We were trying to teach her to recognize patterns, and explaining that cycle like I did helped make sense for her. There also was the element that whatever is good for the calvies is good as a whole.

The beetles we found were rollers. These guys can easily entertain a little one. She became very excited, because she thought they were playing ball, just like she does.

dungbeetle

I then took out my spade and turned over some soil. Boom! There was the other All Star team. Earth worms. I again gave her a simple over view of the benefits of earth worms. She seemed to really be catching on.

After finding a way to get through to her and help her realize not all bugs are bad, we took a few worms and headed over to a farm pond that is always good for bull heads, which is just perfect for a kid her age, since they usually bite fast.

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I feel it is important to include this last bit. There was a lot going on in the first 400 words, that I’m afraid most may have missed, since the focus was on bugs. First, by setting up a “Daddy’s Day” we have provided a structure where our little girl really has a strong presence of me in her life. She gets exposed to many life lessons that farm life, and commerce provide. As you can tell from this story, I slow down a bit on daddy’s day. I take the time to use our large class room to teach her things, and we also use it for play time. Like four wheeler rides and fishing. The surprising thing is how much I have learned. It is difficult some times to explain things about agriculture to a four year old. But when I hear her explain what she learned to someone else I get to relearn about what I do through her eyes. This has opened my eyes to more things, helping me to learn more, by giving me a fresh perspective. It has also helped me communicate better.

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Agproud 2

The second question on Ryan Goodman’s list:

Write about the basics of farming and ranching.

We can have all the discussions possible about the different practices in production agriculture. As I stated in my response to question one, we are in the business of growth and promotion of life. Thing is, it all hinges on one thing: Profit.

To some farming is a hobby, and therefore profit does not matter. For most of us farming is a business, and profit is to a business as breathing is to life. If there is not a profit the likely hood of losing the farm is high.

I spend time everyday looking over market reports. I have them bookmarked on the computer, and on my phone. I just scroll, click, and boom, I have access to weighted averages from cattle auctions all over the United States. Marketing skill is the number one contributing factor to profitability, so it is essential to always be up on this. Since I sell and buy, pot loads every month I must know what is going on with the cash markets.
One thing I do every month is what I call an autopsy. I go over every aspect of my business. Today my business is whittled down to my “hedgehog concept”, the one thing I’m best at. I used to have many more different enterprises. I believed I needed them for diversity, and at the time I did need them. My hedgehog concept became evident to me, through these autopsies. It was clear that I should devote more resources to it and disperse of the other enterprises, making the best use I could of my resources. I look at things like my return on assets and return on investment, and even the time/labor I committed to them

As a result of these monthly sit downs, I know exactly what my break profit cost of gain is, on the cattle I own. Notice I said break profit, and not break even. You can go broke breaking even, so I always include profit as an expense. My salary is figured as an overhead expense to the business, and I figure profit as a direct cost.

Every month I do a budget for the upcoming months. I gauge the accuracy of my budget during the autopsy. I have been doing this for years so I have a good feel for what each month will be like. While doing this I also do a projected cash flow for the upcoming months. This is useful for long term and short term planning.

After completing these tasks I find it much easier to go out and do the day to day tasks. I am not worried about my account balance, or what the market may do, I do not fear having to talk to the banker, and the demons of fear do not come into the bedroom at 2 am, waking me up. Knowing everything is in check allows me to focus with a greater intensity on the wellbeing of my animals, and any other tasks that I need to complete.
Looking after my business is the foundation of what I do. When that is stable I can build from there. One thing I do to reinforce the foundation is to read several business books every year.

Another basic is how you see yourself. If you see yourself as a broke farmer, then that is what you will be. If you see yourself as having a growing, thriving operation that is making a profit then that is what you will have. It is not quite that easy though. The people that see themselves as being a success and firmly believe it, without doubt, are the ones who are willing to go out and learn the things that they need to, in order to make it happen.

I understand this may be a different direction than most would think when responding to this topic. Feeding the livestock, or putting seed in the ground are basic necessities too. You can do those for someone else as an employee, but if the employer doesn’t do the basic task of looking after his business, that employee may be out of a job sooner than later. As capital intense as agriculture is you simply just can’t out earn stupid.

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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My Sustainable Competitive Advantage

Six or seven years ago I was asked to be part of an interview that included several other producers from around the country. The topic was focused on young producers and what our competitive advantage was due the region we each lived in.

It was mostly they typical stuff you’d expect. One guy mentioned he had a longer growing season and could easily double crop. The gal from the Flint Hills had access to some of the best grass on the planet. Pasture rent is cheap in Kentucky. One lived where urban sprawl was taking over but she was using that to sell direct to the consumer, giving her a huge profit margin.

When it came my turn I think the interviewer expected me to mention things like, Nebraska having a lot of crop ground and raising mountains of corn for feed. The ethanol industry was really gaining momentum here, and at the time they had some difficulty getting rid of distillers grain, making it a bargain. We have strong cash markets here, and we have packers.

I skipped over all of these and said my competitive advantage is my ability to learn faster and adapt faster than my neighbor. She did not like this response. I guess it didn’t fit her theme. She tried pointing out to me all the things mentioned in the previous paragraph. I dismissed them, and stuck with what I had said.

The interview was in both print media and online. My part was left out.

Today I was sorting some cattle and for some strange reason I recalled a quote I read in the Pharo Cattle Co. weekly newsletter. “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” ~ W. Edwards Deming. While I was thinking of that, for some reason I remembered the interview from years ago.

While I continued sorting cattle these things were rolling around in the back of my mind. All the reasons she listed off are definitely advantageous to those of us in Nebraska. While these things have certainly helped grow the cattle biz here, they do not make us immune from failure though. Some people still go broke. Change is not necessary, survival is not mandatory

I spoke wrong during that interview. Most people that I know that went broke have 4 year degrees. Some got good really good grades. I did not. I have enjoyed success in the cattle biz. They did not. It’s going to be difficult to argue who is smarter. What I should have said my sustainable competitive advantage is, is my willingness to learn and adapt faster than my neighbor. We all have the ability, few have the willingness.

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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