Commentary; By Markie Hageman
Building up the next generation of cattle industry members is crucial to the continued success of the industry. Cattle associations make it a point to strengthen their educational programs to create a better-informed consumer base and to improve the skillset of future leaders and producers.
Of the many programs I have participated in, including the Beef Quality Assurance and Masters of Beef Advocacy programs, I had the privilege of being selected for an educational program in my state; the Young Cattlemen’s Leadership Program with the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association.
This 12-month Beef Checkoff-sponsored program resembles many that occur every year in multiple states and caters to the 25-40-year-old emerging leaders within the beef industry. Throughout the 12-month period, our group went on five industry tours and attended as many cattlemen events and meetings as we could.
Previous to this program, the only exposure I had to the industry was my family’s small commercial cow-calf operation; it’s not an overstatement to say this program is the reason I fell in love with the beef industry.
Our first meeting was held during the Alabama Cattlemen’s annual convention. We met other participants in the group as well as the leading members from each county, most of whom I didn’t know, being a California transplant.
During this and the rest of each of our five meetings, our leader, Don Mulvaney, created leadership workshops to hone in on our abilities as a group to effectively advocate in the community. It was during this first meeting I realized how lucky I was to be surrounded by other influential members in the industry.
The first weekend was full of activities, like sitting in on legislative discussion, watching TED talks about influencers, attending a baseball game and building up the camaraderie between myself and my classmates. Learning the legislative process and the importance it has in the industry led me to where I am today—focusing on policy and its influence in the agricultural industry. We left with a new energy to become involved in our communities and advocate about beef.
During the rest of the year, we visited various operations, from a diverse cow-calf operation that also farmed catfish to a state-of the-art F1 Tigerstripe cow-calf operation in Opelika, Ala., called DCJ Ranch. This tour opened our eyes to the commitment it takes to run a successful operation and how important it is to keep gates closed at all times—we had an incident where an entire herd of cows almost escaped a pasture.
We also participated in the Auburn University Beef Cattle Conference, where industry leaders spoke to us about management practices and industry updates. Following the conference, we received hands-on opportunities in different workshops. I participated in the meats lab workshop to learn about different cuts of beef and the art of cutting a carcass.
Perhaps my favorite tour stop was the Uniontown Stockyards during their annual bull sale. Learning more about EPDs and to keep up with the auctioneer’s pace in order to record prices in my book was just as amazing as sitting in the sale barn listening to the Sealy family discuss the importance of this sector in the industry. I walked away feeling empowered to continue my journey with the industry.
One year later I graduated from the class during our state cattlemen’s convention. From this class, I gained many connections in the industry. As a result of the connections I made, I have been asked to speak to multiple groups of junior cattlemen regarding beef by-products, how to effectively use social media to advocate and have helped prepare fellow classmates’ FFA students for officer positions.
I also gained the ability to become a leader in my community by being nominated as my county cattlewomen’s secretary and as a past reporter. I have also worked with NCBA as a Marketing Ambassador and the Idaho Cattle Association as a feature writer for their Line-Rider magazine.
From that one step into the industry stemmed all these opportunities and friendships. Without the Young Cattlemen’s Leadership Program, I wouldn’t be the beef advocate I am today.
Programs such as these truly enhance the leadership skills of the members in a community. Creating strong leadership and a bond between influential leaders increases the power and success of the beef industry.
Hageman is a senior agribusiness student at Fort Hays State University with a special interest in the beef industry.