Harvest Husker Days provides lessons beyond cattle marketing for many.

Doug Ferguson

September 15, 2023

7 Min Read
Watch each Friday for Doug Ferguson's Market Intel blog on Beef Producer and BEEF magazine.VECTORBOMB-THINKSTOCKPHOTOS

It is hard for me to believe that it is the middle of September already. I spent the week at Husker Harvest Days, and it is always interesting to see what is on people’s minds. With fall run upon us, I noticed there is an undertone of optimism.

Harvest Husker Days

My daughter was with me the first two days, and I noticed as she gets older she gets more observant and asks better questions. She noticed the FFA kids, and some of the college students had checklists in their hands and that they were going around asking vendors questions then filling out their papers. Some of these young people asked me questions and my daughter noticed the questions they asked were different than what other people asked me.

My daughter asked me if I ever had to do that at HHD. I told her I did it once and I had a real problem doing it. Back then I was too shy to really ask a question or engage with people. In order to gather any material for the task that was assigned, I had to eavesdrop on other people’s conversations.

The second year I was handed my paperwork as I got off the bus, and I tossed in the first trash can I walked past. This leads me to the point of their questions being different. All the material we were assigned to gather was geared toward directing us to what we needed for an education and what skills we needed to become employable at the companies that were representing at HHD. I tossed my paper because my goal was not to get a W2 job but rather to be self-employed.

As people would stop me to visit, my wife and daughter must patiently wait until the conversation is over before we move on with what we were doing. A couple times as they were waiting, a vendor that wasn’t busy at the moment would approach them and engage in a conversation. I got to give a shout out to the Silencer Chute rep. He approached my daughter and started a conversation and asked her a question. This led to her asking him a question. He eventually pointed this out to her, “This is how you engage customers. You ask them a question, and they ask you a question back”.  

Valuable lessons learned

We pull our daughter out of school to ride along when I speak at events like this. That brief moment she had with the Silencer rep proves we should not let schooling get in the way of a good education. He gave her a valuable lesson and life skill. My daughter was amazed this rep took the time to come visit with her and my wife. She has already noticed that reps won’t engage in a conversation unless I am with them.

The questions I received from students were split in two ways. Some wanted to know what it takes to run a profitable cattle operation, and some were interested in what it took to become the person who writes a market blog and teaches marketing schools.

Get good at marketing

The first point to both of those topics is that I became good at one thing, and that is marketing. I wanted to make a living raising cattle, and in order to do that, I have to make money. That means excelling at marketing. After that was covered, I spent time learning what other people spend time learning. Things like improving my grazing management, improving stockmanship skill, working on my business and things of that nature. That meant going to some schools, seminars and reading books. 

Developing a system

When I put all these things together, I unintentionally developed a system. The great thing about systems is when they work, they do not miss and consistently deliver dependable results. As a young person who made the leap from no longer relying on off farm income to raising cattle full time, I can’t overstate the importance of consistent dependable results. This is the beauty of sell/buy marketing implemented in a certain way.  Once you have proven you are consistent, doors begin to open for you.  It will take years to get to that point.

As far as the schools and the writing this blog, again I became good at one thing and that is marketing. I took the time to study it and understand it. When I first was introduced to sell/buy I made up my mind to be the best at it. I only did that because I thought it would give me an advantage in the market, and it did. Writing and teaching were never on my radar.

Improving skills

One thing I knew I had to do was to take this, make it my own and not try to do it the way others would do it or have done it. This meant putting some of my personality into it and upgrading some material. It also meant improving my communication skills. Fortunately for me, I had a young child at home to practice on. If I could reduce things down enough so that a six-year-old could understand it, I could explain it to anyone.

Leadership

The one question that really caught me off guard was on leadership. The people that asked me about leadership noticed I seem to have more success with the schools than others. They noticed I was first mocked for the things I was doing, but then was copied by those same people. I have been through all those leadership in agriculture programs. I tried doing things the way they taught us to do it. It was not a fit for me; it didn’t feel right. Again, it boiled down to doing things my way and being authentic. When you are authentic and passionate about something, people will respond to that. Sometimes that means they come out to hear me speak, and for others, it means they copy me.

Human nature

In my talk this week at HHD, I mentioned it was human nature to want to copy, and that we should copy people that are truly successful and not those that only project the image of being successful. This will work up to a point, and I use the story of world champion bull rider Gary Leffew.

Gary hit a point in his career where he was struggling. He noticed another bull rider had hit a hot streak. Gary asked him about it and the other guy told him how he had been hypnotized into winning. He gave Gary a book on changing self-image and mindset. 

After reading the book Gary would always pretend he was George Paul when he got on a bull. This improved his results. It wasn’t until he came up with an alter ego, for lack of a better term, that he took it to the next level. Gary won his world title after he branded himself as the Hotman.

If you truly want to be elite, you spend hours working on the small things when no one is watching. You figure out who you are as a person and do things your way, being authentic.  If you do this, your results may astound you. It did me. Years ago, when I was a kid I looked up to the presenters at HHD, and now I am able to be one.

The cattle markets

Since I was at HHD, I didn’t get much of a chance to follow what the markets were doing this week. Taking a quick glance at market reports the numbers show me that this is still at weight gain business up to around 750 pounds. At that point it appears the value of gain drops off below the cost of gain. The market seemed to shift again this week making most number one feeder steers over-valued to fats. Feeder heifers are a great buy back against fats.

Feeder bulls were 25 back, and depending on the market we look at unweaned cattle were 5 over weaned calves to 15 back. This underscores the need to know the market you are selling into.

The opinions of Doug Ferguson are not necessarily those of Farm Progress or beefmagazine.com.

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