The Nebraska Cattlemen Midyear took place last week in Fremont. The interns and I were able to make it down there for the full day of committee meetings, Nebraska Cattlemen Foundation luncheon and speakers. There are so many things going on in the cattle industry right now, and every single one of them is a concern – whether it be markets, weather, regulations or politics, the list goes on and on.
I’ve been a member of associations as long as I can remember. I’ve also worked my way up the volunteer chain on the state and national level. I have learned a lot over the years, and every lesson has made me better in how not only I share with others, but in how I can help others in the industry.
There was a great speech at Midyear from Al and Sallie Atkins as they were inducted into the Nebraska Cattlemen 2020 Hall of Fame. With all of the drama that was last year, they were able to receive their award this year. Sallie said something in her speech that I have told many over the last year time after time, and it just reiterated how important it is: “Do not ever come with a problem unless you are prepared to offer a solution.”
Let’s start off the list of “things I’ve learned in the last 20 years of volunteering” with that one.
1. “Do not ever come with a problem unless you are prepared to offer a solution.” I should add a side note on this one that it needs to be a reasonable solution that is attainable.
It is no shock to anyone if I mention markets right now. I’ve seen some really interesting comments on how to solve the challenging market situation: everything from closing down all of the processors to taking away the beef checkoff.
Let me ask you to think about something. If you close down the processors, how will that help the markets when you have no place to harvest cattle. Maybe I’m being blonde and all of you know how to cut a flatiron in your backyard, but I sure the heck don’t.
The second part of the question is, why would you take away the marketing arm of our product when beef consumption is on the rise – which is what the checkoff is supposed to do?
2. “Think outside the box.” I love the U.S. beef industry, don’t get me wrong, but something really stuck out for me this last week. As I mentioned, we surgically implanted a group of feedlot steers with Bluetooth sensors June 7. The sensors are from Australia. I had a Zoom call last week with a data collection cattle program. It was founded in Australia. I sat through a presentation in the animal health committee at Midyear listening to a presentation about methane reduction that was done in Australia.
With the traceability stuff that is going on at the ranch right now, my e-mail box has been full of Zoom requests or in person meetings, most of which came from companies that were founded in a country that was not the United States.
Don’t get so preoccupied with trying to tear down the industry and associations in our own country that before you know it we are having to play years of catch up to our foreign competitors.
3. “We don’t have to agree.” One of the biggest lessons I learned was when I was serving on a state board fresh out of college. Every vote that was taken was unanimous. At one meeting there was a gentleman, the late Trevor Lienemann, that did not vote with the rest. I went up to him in the hallway after the meeting and asked why he didn’t vote in favor? His response was “you are the only person that has asked me that, thank you.” It changed my outlook on every meeting I sat in from there on out.
We don’t have to agree, but you can disagree respectfully, and maybe learn something in the process.
4. “Ride for the brand.” Yes, there are people or groups that do stupid things. I have been among them a time or two, or in all honesty probably more than that. The saddest thing that I see is when people, especially younger generations, tear apart groups that have years of wisdom and knowledge. It’s petty, it’s sad, and it’s not being a role model for others.
Instead, focus on finding solutions to problems. Teach others how to get into the industry. Share ideas and thoughts, and maybe our industry will survive the challenging times.
We don’t constantly need to tear each other apart, because we will be able to destroy ourselves and the industry faster than any regulation or market will.
Jaclyn Wilson is more than a rancher, raising Red Angus cattle at Wilson Ranch near Lakeside, Nebraska. She’s an artist with a welder’s torch. She holds leadership positions with several agriculture organizations. She can be reached at email@example.com. This column represents the views of one person and are not necessarily the opinion of the Midwest Messenger.