Beef Magazine is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Talking the game vs. living it

I've attended some educational meetings where I learned that by instituting some changes in our grazing strategy I was sure we could consistently reduce cow costs by $50/year. Or that by utilizing a herd bull costing $2,000 more, I could generate $50-$100/calf. The list goes on.

Yet, for some inexplicable reason, those ideas have all gone into “the good ideas that I need to implement some day” file. If I'm going to be honest with myself, I have to start asking the question: “Do I really want to improve the financial performance of my business? Or do I just want to make more money doing things the same way I've been doing them?”

That latter question comes pretty close to the definition of insanity we've all heard many times. That is, “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” But I believe it's a fairly common ailment among agricultural managers.

Time, prioritization and a few other things are partially to blame, but one of the biggest impediments to managing for profitability is truly embracing the concept that we are CEOs of our operations and not merely managers executing a strategic plan. The obvious question is: “Whose strategic plan are we implementing if not our own?” While that may sound trivial, it's an important question.

Does your operation truly have a strategic plan designed around the strengths of your management and resources? Does it have a clear vision that embraces what you love, what your strengths are? And does it provide a product your customers truly love? Or have you merely adapted and implemented an industry model of what you “should” do?

Recently it dawned on me that well more than half of all we do aren't really our ideas or in line with our plans, but merely some industry standard. I'm not saying one shouldn't steal every good idea they can from wherever they can. I'm merely saying that, for many of us, we're not running our own businesses, but acting like franchisees whose job is implementing a proven business model.

The problem is, it's pretty difficult to break away from a commodity mindset or financial statement if everyone is using the same playbook.

If you can't answer this next question almost instantaneously, it should raise a red flag: “What was the last radical departure you made from the mainstream management dogma?” If you can answer that question, the only question that remains is: “Was it radical enough?”

Troy Marshall is editor of Seedstock Digest, and a weekly contributor to BEEF Cow-Calf Weekly, a free weekly newsletter delivered by e-mail every Friday afternoon. To subscribe to BEEF Cow-Calf Weekly, which provides timely news, opinion and analysis of events and trends of particular importance to the cow-calf production segment, visit