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Agproud Q. 6 Charity

Question 6. What cause do you care about and how have you supported your favorite charity?

My wife and I strongly feel it is important to help kids. Roughly one in seven kids in our area does not have enough food to eat. Over the years we have helped with several fund drives to help children in our area.

Currently we support our local Back Pack Program. The way this works is children in need are given a back pack full of food and vouchers to take home over the weekend, when they otherwise may not get anything to eat.

I do the easy part, I just donate money. The money is used to purchase the food, and volunteers then fill the back packs. I know the money I give is important, but I do want to say that I feel it is the volunteers who organize this program every year, and the people that take time out from their schedule to help fill the back packs are who really makes this program come to form.

One evening when my wife and I were grocery shopping a little girl who knows my wife came up to her to say hello. This girl was so excited that night because she was going to have pancakes for supper. She received a back pack with pancake mix, fresh fruits, and vouchers for some milk and eggs. She told us that there was enough that she was also going to have pancakes for breakfast the next morning! She even informed us how the back pack program works “these nice people, I never met give money so I can have food to eat”. That comment got both my wife and I choked up. Even though that happened a couple years ago I got a bit teary eyed just typing it.

I want to mention the Back Pack Program got started here by a leadership class through our local Chamber of Commerce. They started this several years ago and it has had a residual lasting effect.

One of my wife’s high school classmates had a little girl with a brain tumor. Another woman in our community wanted to put together a fundraiser to help with medical expenses. She wanted to do an auction and a free will donation lunch. She was asking for help on Facebook. I told my wife to message her and tell her that we would donate enough ground beef to serve at least 600 people, and also a beef bundle as an auction item.

Going back even further we started a fun program at our church. We donated the beef from a calf to our church, and some of it was sold off in a silent auction. The money and the remaining beef were used to serve needy people in our area. The parish really had fun with this. One thing they did was hold a name the steer raffle, to earn some extra money.

We would not be able to do any of these things if we had not been so blessed to be in the cattle biz, and I had not learned the right things from the right people.

 
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Posted by on April 22, 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

stormcattle

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.

hose

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

wasp

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?

screwfear

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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Agproud Q3 Passion

Question 3 of the Goodman 88

What are you passionate about?

That would be so easy for anyone to figure out if they followed me for a day. The words that follow will not do justice to how I feel, but anyone who is passionate about something understands that. My top two, are my girls (wife and daughter), and cattle.

I have done many blogs on the cattle biz, and have mentioned my girls in a few also. So I think my writing reflects the two things I’m passionate about.

I’m going to shift gears here for the time being. This question, gives me an opportunity to respond to another question I’ve been asked lately, and tie them both together. Some people have been wondering why I decided to start writing again.

Here’s the reason. My wife is in Rotary, and every week they have a speaker come address the group. Around the first of the year, one member of Rotary who works at the local hospital had one of the docs come give a speech. This doc is more of an activist, that’s what she most recognized for in the community, and she abuses her title as doc to give herself credibility.

The speech was centered around, how animal proteins are bad for human health. She had many baseless points bashing animal agriculture, which my wife shared with me. I won’t list them all here, but one is worth a mention. She pointed to other countries and how agriculture there is shifting away from livestock production. She had a catchy phrase “Dairies for berries”, which she used as she was telling the group how Finland got rid of its dairy farms and converted them to berry farms. I used Google to look for ag jobs in Finland, and what do you know, dairy was at the top of the list for hiring workers. I did another search on dairy numbers. It turns out they do have fewer dairies, but they have just as many cows. Just like here in the US, the farms have gotten bigger. This activist twisted the facts.

This kind of B.S. is nothing new, and really doesn’t rattle my cage much. Here is what did. One of the people in the group (not my wife) reminded her that there is a lot of animal ag in our county, and asked her what she thinks all the area farmers should do instead of raising livestock. The response was, that we will just have to adapt. Times are changing and we’ll just have to change with them or get out. Leaving the impression that she just doesn’t care, and that it’s not her problem

As bad as I’d like to give my two cents on that response, I won’t do it at this time. That would take this post down another rabbit hole and make it too long.

I’m used to seeing things on the internet from groups that want to put an end to our industry, but this was a first for having it happen right here at home in real life. That did it. That was all it took to get my fingers back on the key board. Raising cattle is all I’ve ever wanted to do since I was a little kid. There are many generations of farmers in my family tree, dating all the way back to the 1400’s! I want my daughter to be able to make the choice to farm or do something else. That activist took a big swipe at two things I’m passionate about.

As part of pursuing my passion I am going to write about it. I am going to do blogs that will shake things up a bit. For example, I think the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program needs an upgrade. I am going to do more posts on how I use agriculture as a, hands on classroom for my daughter. I’m going to do posts that will educate the general public about the cattle biz, like the one I did on “slaughter trucks”. And I’m going to talk to the media, for the last several years I have refused to do any interviews.

 
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Posted by on February 26, 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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Where’s the Benefit? (bread & milk)

Last summer I was in a room of about 40 cattle producers from all over the US, with all kinds of different back grounds and strengths.  I don’t think I’ve ever been part of a more diverse group.  One question that was presented to us was “How does your ranch benefit others?”

Right away the first answer was BEEF.  I will say this, that person went home realizing they are a cattle producer not a beef producer.  There were some ramblings about conserving the environment, and taxes.  Then it was just quiet.

This was something I had thought about before, so I spoke up.  I sell and buy cattle all the time.  I need truckers to move them critters down the road.  That driver uses the money he earned from me to pay his taxes, fuel that he bought somewhere, food from a food service establishment that provides jobs to people, tires and other maintenance, insurance, and so on.  What is left over he keeps the lights on in his house and bread and milk on the table for his family.

I buy feed from family and neighbors.  They must make machinery payments, farm payments, maintenance on the equipment, pay for fertilizer, fuel, seed, and so on.  One guy I buy feed from has three kids, all under the age of three.  He forks out a lot of cash for bread and milk.

Don’t forget the mom and pops feed store I do business with.  They got to pay their suppliers, and employees, along with utilities, and equipment, insurance, taxes, and so on.

I buy cattle in sale barns, who obviously have employees, and other expenses.

You’re getting the idea.   A little bit of money gets spread pretty thin and everyone is trying to pay for bread and milk.

A sale barn needs buyers there to establish a market through open price discovery.  As a cattle buyer I have aided in that process many, many times.

One day I was buying cattle and need to recycle my coffee.  I stood at the top the steps for a moment to see what was behind the gate coming into the ring.  In came a small group of three or four heavy four weight heifers, black.  They would fit a deal I had going, and I needed some weight and some average makers. (average makers are the cattle that get bought cheap, to add weight to a load and lower the average dollars/hundred).  I stood there and watched until the bidding stalled, then jumped in.  I hit them three times, and owned them, improving my average.

Now that scene is no big deal to me.  I do that all the time.  Here is why I remember that day so well.  After I left the head, I went to the office and got a recap (recap is a printout telling me how many cattle I have on each of my numbers, what the average weight and average price per hundred is.  Also tells me total dollars spent and total pounds on each number).  This guy comes up to me and thanked me for buying those heifers I just told you about.  I kinda tried to blow it off, and said “you’re welcome”.  He said “No. You don’t get it.  Every little bit helps.”  I  then stepped outside to call a guy I had just finished putting a load together for.  I watched the guy who just thanked me get into a car with a young woman who was feeding a baby.  He showed her the check and gave her a kiss on the cheek before starting the car and leaving.  I bumped them calves about $25/head.  He got about an extra $100 because me and another buyer pushed them.  Having a little one of my own, I know $100 is barely a dent when it comes to bread, milk and diapers.

I’d like to share another example with you all.  I’m totally bragging here, it’s a good one and I had fun doing it.

The last week before all the kids went back to school last fall, one young teenager was sitting in a local sale barn trying to buy a few calves.  One group of calves came in the ring.  This kid started bidding on them.  They were way too low to just sit there so I hit them a few times.  I pushed them to where they were a good buy and a somewhat decent sale price.  Then I pointed at the kid as a sign for the auctioneer to knock them off on him.

Now to set this up a little better there is always some old asshole that never leaves well enough alone.  Back when I was younger and fiercely needed a few breaks, (good buys) this old grumpy fucker would always jump in and run me.  Well he did the same thing to this kid.  He ran the youngster right up to about what the market was bringing for those calves.

The poor kid shook his head “no”  He was out.  Now, I have NEVER jumped back in on bidding on some cattle after I decided I was out.  I had the money to run this old man, and my anger at him for doing that to me when I was younger came out.  I ran him.   I hung those high dollar calves on him.

This exact same scenario was repeated on the next group of calves that came in the ring.  Everyone in the place got the hint.  We were all going to let this kid have a few calves at a good price, or I was going to fuck with you.  The auctioneer is also the owner at that barn and boy was he having fun with the situation.  That kid got all the calves he wanted (about eight) and he swelled up with so much pride I thought the buttons were gonna pop off his shirt!  Next week he was back in school and I was back at the same barn buying cattle.  I made a win/win situation

Gang, I could list tons more examples of how our operations benefit others.  We often times don’t think they do because we rarely take the time to reflect on it.  This is just everyday stuff to most of us, thing is, it matters to somebody.

 
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Posted by on June 3, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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