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Cattle marketing can be related to the laws of nature, and when you're against it, different vacuums appear.

Doug Ferguson

January 19, 2024

7 Min Read
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The statement “Nature abhors a vacuum” has been on my mind lately.  For those who may not know that is the idea that unfilled spaces go against the laws of nature and physics and that every space needs to be filled with something. When I was younger, I had a difficult time grasping this, today it makes perfect sense to me. Today I see it as making room for what you want in your life. 

This week some people have a vacuum on their time. The snow and sub-zero temperatures cancelled everything locally. School was cancelled for the first half of the week, and five of my daughter’s basketball games were cancelled. She used the time to watch TV and clean out her room. She ended up with half a dozen garbage bags full of stuff for me to burn. This is probably setting the stage for another vacuum because now she has room to store new stuff.

Forming habits in our life

Some of you reached out to me when I wrote on here that I quit tobacco asking how I did it. I invoked this law.  Something had to take its place, so I started chewing gum and sucking on flavored toothpicks. It was still hard, yet it was just enough to help. Replace the bad habit with a better one.

People ask the question “how do I find a mentor?” My experience has been you don’t. They find you, and they will show up when you are ready.  That means we must get ready and make ourselves available. The best mentor I ever had told me all he had to do was look at someone’s day planner and their checkbook and he could tell what was important to them. 

In today’s society, we are all so “busy”, which is the socially acceptable word for I don’t want to do that or I’m not going to commit in case I get a better offer.  There are some ranchers who are nearing retirement and do not have children to take over their ranches. They got together with the aid of some agricultural groups to arrange a get together with young people who would be interested in the opportunity of possibly working something out to pass the ranch on to these young people somehow. 

The young people didn’t bother to show up that night, I’m sure they were all too busy. Yet they complain it’s impossible to get into ranching unless you’re born into it.  They were not ready to commit.  Imagine if you were the only 30-year-old to show up. You would’ve been the most popular person in the room. 

We hear this all the time that there is going to be a huge transfer of land coming up due to the average age of ranchers today. If it’s true, that is a huge vacuum.

Grazing vs. vacuums

I recently wrote about letting go of a grazing method that didn’t serve me any longer and when I changed it the weeds eventually went away. The reason the weeds existed was because there was a vacuum.  Nature needed to fill it and produced the weeds to begin the healing process. This is why intelligent grass farmers view weeds a symptom and not a problem.  In my marketing schools I show a slide of an over grazed pasture during the dry spell of 2012. I tell the class that weeds come on strong after that and continue to get worse. That pasture is still in the dry spell of 2012, the management never allowed it to recover.

The weeds got so bad they gave up spot spraying and started spot mowing, never bothering to shut the mower off between spots. Now trees are starting to take over where they mowed. My theory is the birds are attracted to the clippings and their droppings are concentrated in those areas.  There is a management vacuum in that pasture that is creating all these other natural occurring vacuums. They just go from one problem to the next, never addressing the root of the problem.

People vs. vacuums

Vacuums exist with people as well.  I wrote recently about friends jumping over a bridge and pulling us over with them. There was one person in my life that was toxic and after seeing how he was treating other people I decided he had to go, and I cut off all communication with him. Then one afternoon after a speaking engagement I was confronted by a person who was upset with something I wrote, in a confidential email that was forwarded to her, and she wanted to discuss it. The short amount of time I gave her caused me to be late to my daughter’s cross country meet.

This was the first time ever that I told my daughter I would do something and failed to do it. I got to the meet just after she crossed the finish line. I realized then that it was people that were all connected to this one person that were taking from me.  Now I am convinced that it is not just enough to watch the company I keep but the company others keep as well.

After that incident I left the email discussion group I was a part of.  I had been wanting out of it for some time, but the moderator kept me in it. After leaving that group I thought I would see a drastic reduction in the amount of email I receive. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I started getting even more emails. Some from people that are in that group.  We have had awesome conversations. After noticing the trend, I asked a few why they never shared their knowledge in the group and it came down to the one rotten apple spoils the barrel theory.  Leaving that group opened up a vacuum.

Best mentor and vacuum law

The best mentor I had passed away two years ago.  He was the one that taught me how to use the vacuum law. When he passed, I remember thinking there was going to be a huge vacuum in the world because he touched so many lives. Being a human, I selfishly wondered how this vacuum would affect me. It was filled with people who follow this blog, those who come to my schools, and those from the email group who reached out to me. They would ask me questions and sometimes I have to figure out why they asked the question they did in order to understand it. 

Therefore, I ask them questions. I have learned a lot from those exchanges and then I implement that back into the curriculum of my marketing schools.

I realize my thoughts of letting go may seem harsh to some. The thing is setting high standards and expectations and not accepting anything less opens up the vacuum to attract higher quality individuals.  That is what I was desiring, and I made room for them, and that is what I got.

The markets

The markets are experiencing a vacuum right now.  Sales were shut down over the holidays and now sales have been cancelled or postponed due to the weather.  This will cause buyers to become thirsty and demand will likely be strong when we get to going again. I feel confident in writing that because the few sales that were held the last two days were mixed with most classes being higher.  Some weights and classes (feeders and slaughter animals) were as much as 20 higher. This shook up Value of Gain again.  Some weights saw their VOG shoot up while other weights had their VOG sink like a rock.  When we get to a full week of sales, I am confident this will stabilize.

I am curious to see what female sales do next week.  Is the moisture we received enough to light a fire under the bred female market? The Ogallala, Nebraska marked shared last week that steer calves were worth more than cows, and one buyer made the comment that we can not all be yearling guys. The guys wearing the seed corn caps out bid guys wearing cowboy hats so we will soon find out if this snow was enough. The problem is earlier in the week the highest bid I could find for corn in the county where I live was $4.35. Corn farmers don’t feel too cocky when the price gets that close to $3.

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

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