Troy Marshall, BEEF columnist from Colorado, recently wrote about how fiercely competitive the cattle business is and the challenges and opportunity available for young people today that didn’t exist a generation ago.
Marshall was cautiously optimistic about his stance on the cattle business, admitting that while it’s extremely tough, he’s encouraged that there are ways to add value to your business by following new avenues the previous generation never dreamed to pursue.
In his column, Marshall writes, “The differences between today and 20-30 years ago are stark. There are more opportunities to control or manage land without owning it than ever before. There are investors looking to invest in ag land. There are tremendous opportunities to divorce yourself from the commodity marketplace where capital and economies of scale rule, and to differentiate yourself and create value for your products at premiums to the commodity business. Access to capital used to be a primary competitive advantage and barrier to entry; today it is access to information and the ability to apply it that provides the most pronounced advantages.”
As a young producer, I’ve been mulling over Marshall’s points, and I agree with him that while the cattle business can be terribly unforgiving, there are also ways to set yourself apart and make it in this industry by diversifying in value-added markets.
Marshall adds, “I think there are tremendous opportunities for young people who have the patience, the persistence and the passion for this business.”
Keeping the 3 “P’s” — patience, persistence and passion — in mind, here are three business tips for young producers from a millennial cattle rancher:
My generation is guilty of wanting instant gratification and quick success. It’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to our parents and grandparents and/or trying to keep up with our peers. Remember when setting goals for your operation, set realistic timelines, being mindful of the expenses, cash flow, life events like building a family or buying a ranch, and respecting the beef cattle cycle and aiming to make important purchases on the lows and not at the peaks.
As an online beef blogger, we’ve tried many things over the years to keep our readers interested and engaged. From online contests, to webinars, to podcasts, some things have worked and some things have been a flop, but one thing I’ve learned in the agricultural journalism business is the importance of “failing fast forward.”
Likewise, in the cattle business, it’s important to take the time to learn from past failings, but it’s even more important to keep moving forward. Find a mentor, ask for advice and aim to avoid mistakes in the first place. We can learn from previous generations who have graduated from the school of hard knocks. Some mistakes don’t need to be repeated, so read a lot, attend cattle meetings, build your network, and lean on professionals who can assist you and support you along the way.
Boy, the cattle business would be a tough one if you didn’t love it. The midnight calving checks, late nights in the hay field, long days of fixing fence, working cattle, chopping thistles, hauling manure, and other laborious tasks would get old really fast if not for the passion we have for the beef cattle we raise. If you love this industry and have a passion for raising beef cattle, your spirit and drive should keep you going during even the most volatile times in this business. Remember, even in a nine-to-five job, you’re still going to have bad days. The same goes for the cattle business — some days will be a blessing and others you’ll be glad the day is over and you can hit the hay. But if you love what you do and are passionate about cattle, the old cliché, “you’ll never work a day in your life,” will never be more true.
What other advice would you offer young beef producers? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.
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