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It Doesn’t Take Much To Make A Cattleman Hopeful

cattle industry outlook

For those who don’t understand farmers and ranchers, we might sound like a pessimistic bunch. After all, we spend a lot of time talking about how dry it is, or how the market is underperforming, or complaining about how much corn, diesel, and other inputs are costing.

The truth is we have a tendency to talk that way, but our actions usually lean heavily on the optimistic side. The guy who is complaining about input costs, for instance, might have just taken delivery of three semi-loads of that expensive corn, or just put diesel into his overpriced tractor. The guy who is complaining about the lack of rain might have just met with his banker to buy new cows or purchase hay. And the guy who is talking about the underperforming market might have just placed a couple hundred head of cattle on feed.

I walked into the feed store yesterday, and heard the weather prediction for some snow. It made the group almost giddy. The forecast wasn’t for a big snow, mind you, and it certainly won’t cure the drought. Plus, it might not even snow, but we all were starting to envision belly-deep green grass, even though we’ve never had belly-deep grass in this short-grass country.

You have to be an optimist to be a cow-calf producer or a farmer. Mother Nature and the markets can be pretty fickle, and most major decisions are made 1-5 years in front of the result. A decision where you see the results in six months is pretty darn short term. We have to believe in the future.

Another Perspective: Are You A Beef Optimist Or Pessimist?

I know there is that subset of the agricultural population that does find comfort in laying the blame elsewhere, whether it be the evil packers, the corporate feeders, the gigantic corporations like Walmart or Monsanto, land-grant universities, mainstream ag media, or even the big producer organizations. Their mantra seems to be to blame someone else.

While the demagogues tend to fit nicely into the conspiracy theorist realm, most who fall into this camp are actually take-action type of people; unfortunately, they spend time fighting straw men rather than real issues. Still, if they truly believed all the rhetoric in that regard, they would pack up and do something else. After all, only a fool continues to play in a game where they know the cards are stacked against them. So that must mean they actually think they have hope.

I have quit watching the news, or following politics, after the election. As a fiscal conservative with real concerns about the debt and deficit, I can get pretty pessimistic about the macro-economic prospects for the economy. Still, I have to admit that despite numbers that seem to indicate our ship is taking on water at an alarming rate, I’m pretty darned optimistic about our future.

I still believe that most Americans identify, at least in part, with the principles that made our country great. I’m a proud dad; I look at my kids, my wife, and the people involved in this business, and there is no way I can see anything but a bright future. They are smart, hardworking, have integrity, and they love what they do. It may never be easy, and it will always be ultra-competitive, keeping margins low, but in the end, we have a great industry. Whether the snow comes this weekend or not, I know that eventually it will rain.

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