It’s been an interesting last couple of weeks if you are in the cattle business. I finally got to the point that I wasn’t listening to the news, opening emails from cattle industry publications, or spending very much time on social media. Everyone wanted to blame everyone for the demise of the market, and there were individuals out there who were getting downright nasty.
This article may not make any friends, but hopefully it will make you think.
When the fire happened in Holcomb at the Tyson plant, we saw some unique things happen. My question is, what would have happened if those involved in the industry wouldn’t have got so worked up over it?
My social media was overwhelmed with doom and gloom over how the market was going to dive, how futures were going to crash, how everything was going to be horrible. When you are raised in an environment that is all negativity and don’t have the sound reasoning of someone like the Boss Man to help keep one’s head on straight, it’s pretty easy to start thinking that way.
So, what did we see happen? Well, the plants kept working like they were supposed to. The USDA inspectors had no loll in their responsibilities. Somehow the harvest numbers remained consistent, and packers saw an increase in revenue.
Do I think the packers are a bunch of criminals? I really don’t. I think they just made some smart business moves this last week. I would have done the same in their situation if I would have seen that feeders suddenly had the opportunity to make an impressive margin. I would have filled every shackle space I had with feeder cattle, even if it meant pulling whatever mature livestock I had lined up to harvest.
Do I think the packers have become so large that they don’t care about the producer? I do. Think about it — they can give whatever price they want for a product, then pass that product onto someone else, and in no place in that chain are they required to advertise their product or convince consumers to eat it. Instead, we seem to find ourselves being the ones to do that.
When really analyzing the markets last week, were the packers the only ones to blame? Every feedlot or stocker person I was talking to was making moves on the market. I wish there was someone who could break it down for me on the board — how much was packer influence, how much was large firm movement, and how much was our own industry that caused the drops. It might be shocking to some if we really knew the answer.
So, what do we do? Well, the bickering sure the heck isn’t helping.
I almost laugh every time something like this happens, because there’s that one group that will go so far overboard and think that they know all the answers. By group, I’m not calling out an association or affiliation, I’m just referring to individuals with a certain mindset.
I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to continue to implement more and more technology within our operations to continue to get them even more efficient. I’m going to look at different marketing opportunities, because wake up, people — cattle don’t have to be harvested at a large packing plant. I’m going to learn more about the markets, which, even though I was an economics and business major, I’ve pretty much forgot everything I learned. I’m going to find those venues where I can and am incentivized for the extra work and analytics that I can offer. Most importantly, at the end of the day, I’m going to understand that there are those out there who have more knowledge in bureaucratic red tape and industry goings-on than I do, and I’m going to let them do their job.
It’s been a tough year for all of us. There is no doubt about that. The old adage of making lemonade out of lemons holds true, as does making fertilizer out of manure. But I’m not going to spend all my time bickering and being too concerned about it. Times like this excite me, in a way, as it pushes me to think more outside the box and not become so complacent. We don’t have to depend on everyone else to make our decisions for us — last I knew we were a free country and could control our own destiny.
Jaclyn Wilson is more than a rancher, raising Red Angus cattle at Wilson Ranch near Lakeside, Neb. She’s an artist with a welder’s torch. She holds leadership positions with several agriculture organizations. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.