As cattle ranchers, we are adept at anticipating volatility and making things work despite unexpected factors outside of our control.
All it takes is one freak weather event, one political chess move, one shift in global affairs, one break in the food supply change, or one mistake made on the ranch to change the outcome from wonderful to disastrous, or vice versa.
For us to be successful, sustainable, profitable, and able to continue our multi-generational operations, we must plan for and strategize how we’ll respond to these roadblocks, lest our businesses will suffer because of it.
I thought about this recently seeing the highlight reels from the highly-talked about UFC boxing match between Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor. Notably, after boasting in a media interview that not even Jesus Christ could beat him in the ring, McGregor broke his leg in a freak accident (or divine message depending on your perspective) and lost the fight to Poirier.
A fight like that perhaps offers us a metaphor for life back on the ranch and in our family businesses.
When things are going well, we may become prideful and arrogant, thinking we are untouchable and assuming that our perfect punches in our business strategies will always land just right.
But then when we receive a humbling, unexpected knockout blow to the chin, we land on our butts and wonder what the heck happened.
In the cattle business, we cannot just be on offense; we have to be on defense, too. So we can look at opportunities and take calculated risks to grow, expand, improve, further diversify, or try something new.
But along with doling out confident punches in the direction we want to go, we also must keep a glove up and protect our assets, our businesses, our finances, and our families for the decisive blows that might derail our best efforts.
COVID-19 was a perfect example of being strategic with our offensive and defensive business strategies.
We saw vulnerabilities in our food system play out that directly impacted both consumers and producers. When packing plant employees contracted the virus forcing companies to shut down or slow down their lines, this resulted in tough decisions being made. Sadly, many of our friends in the pork industry were forced to euthanize animals when there was nowhere to go.
We also saw retailers and restaurants shutter their doors, many of them for good. With this being our greatest outlet for our high-value retail cuts like ribeyes and T-bones, the beef industry felt the pinch before recovering and finding new avenues for moving product.
And when truckers were delayed due to COVID-19 or from protests in urban cities, consumers realized that our just-in-time food system wasn’t as reliable as they had assumed. This created empty meat and dairy shelves, toilet paper buying frenzies, hoarding, panic buying, and for some, having to go without. Yet, as this was happening, we also saw ranchers, with labeled beef programs in place, earn premiums for their products while also making personal connections with their customers during uncertain times.
All this to say, we need to lean into the hard and better anticipate the challenges that may come our way in 2021 and beyond. After a crazy 18 months, I think for a lot of us, our eyes are wide open, and we can play out different scenarios and make predictions how these things might impact our financial security and our cattle businesses.
So to be a true contender in the ring of ranching and life, we must think like a heavyweight champion and fight with confident punches while also keeping one glove up to protect ourselves from the hits we might take along the way.
Are you ready to be a contender in your ranch? Anticipate what could go wrong. Seek to provide solutions to problems as they arise. Prepare. Plan. Make calculated risks. And operate with the conviction that failing is not an option.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.