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Are You Optimistic, Weary, Or Both?

beef producers are optimists

A very astute, longtime cattleman commented to me this week that he was growing weary of being teased. The feeder cattle and fed markets have disappointed this spring. Of course, many factors contributed to this – from drought, to carcass weights, to lackluster demand. But he expressed a sentiment that I’m hearing more and more; that is that producers feel like the last decade could be summed up as great expectations dashed by unexpected outside forces. 

By their very nature, cattlemen are optimists, and they’re standing on a solid foundation upon which to base that optimism. This is a truly great life and special profession!

Another good cattleman asked me yesterday what I was going to do when I retired? I stumbled to think of an answer, and he just laughed. He said cattlemen don’t retire; they just want to have fewer cows so they don’t work as hard, and not to have to rely on those cows to make money.


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He may be onto something there. Feedlot losses of $100/head, BSE, or even fundamental shifts like the subsidization of ethanol, are either temporal in nature or one can adjust to them and move on. The current drought is one of those few things that have been able to damper the optimistic nature of producers. And only because at some point, drought becomes no longer temporal or that can be managed around; it’s totally in control, and unaffected by our efforts.

One astute cattleman summed it up this way. “Loving a good woman is like being in the cattle business; it is fun, rewarding, and the strength of your love is determined by how hard you work at it and your attitude. Drought, on the other hand, is like trying to convince a good woman to love you. It simply isn’t your decision to make; you do your best, you make the effort, and you pray. If the outcome isn’t what you’d hoped, you have to find a way to pick up and move on.”

I like his analogy. 


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