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9 tips ranchers can do to ward off stress

Courtney Coughlin Managing family stresses

Being involved in the cattle business, for me, is a blessing and a privilege. As a fifth generation rancher, it feels like a birthright to continue this family tradition; however, as the times have changed, so have the challenges. Overcoming the difficulties of this business — unpredictable weather, volatile markets, increased regulatory pressures and huge capital risks, just to name a few — are unfortunately the reasons why so many farmers and ranchers are calling it quits, leaving less than 2% of the American population involved in production agriculture.

With young children to support, cattle loans to pay off, a predicted drought headed our way and prices not where we would love them to be, there is plenty of stress in this business. What’s more, it only takes one disaster, accident or something unexpected to throw the delicate balance upside down, so it’s no wonder producers are often feeling overworked, tired, stressed, frustrated, pressured and depressed.

READ: Eating beef linked to happiness in women

So what can we do to get more accomplished, ward off stress and have more fun when we’re so deeply invested in this business?

I recently read an article on CountryFolks.com titled, “A farmer meltdown,” that talks about the prevalence of depression in farming and ranching families, with producers burning candles at both ends and getting burnt out in the process.

Written by Troy Bishopp, the article acknowledges that today’s farm economy is increasing the stress on farmers and creating vulnerabilities to a financial crisis if things turn for the worse.

Bishopp writes, “Couple an unrealistic work-load with financial stress, no time off, stupid stuff happening, lack of sleep, lousy eating habits and farmer’s pride, and you have a recipe for a personal trickle-down disaster. You trick yourself into thinking that if I just put in more hours, I can catch up and all will work out. It’s a fallacy.

READ: Suicide remains a prevalent issue for farming community

“The melting creeps in subtly, as negativity and the feeling of being under-appreciated eventually transposes into physical fatigue, worry and the debilitating notion that it’s all my fault. It creates a negative work environment, an air of chasing fires and eventually depression.”

Bishopp listed eight ways (I added a ninth) to relieve some stress and drive away the negative feelings folks may be having as they navigate in this sometimes difficult business, including:

1. Reassess your goals and prioritize in importance
2. Schedule time off away from the farm
3. Get some sleep
4. Focus on doing less and doing it well
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your network of friends
6. Delegate duties to others on the team
7. Hug and love your family in the time of need
8. Have a financial advisor you can trust to help in critical thinking
9. Maintain a balance between work and play

READ: Attitude remains a key to cattle business success

I added the ninth tip on maintaining a work and play balance because it seems like so often we get into the daily grind — wake up, chug coffee, do chores, put out fires, pay bills, answer phone calls, do chores again, work outside until dark, scarf down a meal and fall asleep — and this work, work, work mentality can lead to fatigue, mistakes, negative feelings and even the breakdown of a marriage.

Agricultural consultant Elaine Froese addresses this issue in a column titled, “Help us have more fun.” She lists the common excuses why ranchers don’t take the time to enjoy their hobbies or their loved ones.

The excuses are many. There is too much work to do on the farm. My health is failing. I’m too old to have fun. My friends have all moved away. People don’t just visit anymore. I think I might be depressed because I haven’t laughed in months. My wife thinks dancing is fun, and I don’t dance. I’ve forgotten how to be present.

Sound familiar? Froese offers some solutions to find that balance between work and fun.

READ: You can control your own level of happiness

“Why aren’t you having more fun in your life? This question makes you feel uncomfortable, so you might as well just stop reading now. But hang on. ‘Why?’ is the question of intent. Your intention to grow a profitable farm is honorable, but what are you sacrificing on the journey to build your empire? I coached a young couple desperately trying to create new boundaries to protect family time on winter evenings and weekend Sundays. They risk a crumbling marriage and possible divorce if the marriage relationship is not repaired. Answering the ‘why’ is a good step toward solutions. You get to choose how you spend your time and who you want to connect with.”

Perhaps you’re content with all work and no play, but how about your wife or your kids? Schedule some time in your busy schedule to enjoy one another, so when you look back on your life, you haven’t just built up a successful business, but you’ve created lasting memories with the people who matter most.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.

MIDDAY Midwest Digest, May 29, 2018

Drowning deaths were reported in the region over the hot weekend.

Private crop analysts are formulating yield ideas, and plugging them in a little above the trend line.

Yesterday was national burger day. USA Today reported food chains are jazzing up burgers. The world's biggest cheeseburger weighed more than a ton, and was cooked at the Black Bear Casino south of Duluth, Minn. The largest commercially available is available in Detroit, Mich. 

Trump to impose $50 billion in tariffs on Chinese imports

Aude Guerrucci/Pool/Getty Images President Donald Trump speaks at the National Governors Association meeting in the State Dining Room of the White House February 27, 2017 Washington, DC.

by Jenny Leonard and Andrew Mayeda 

President Donald Trump said he’s moving ahead with plans to impose tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese imports and curb investment in sensitive technology, ratcheting up pressure on Beijing days before the next round of trade negotiations. 

In a statement Tuesday, the White House said a final list of targeted imports will be released by June 15 and the tariffs will be imposed “shortly thereafter.” It’s the most specific the administration has been about the timing for the duties to take effect.

The administration also said new restrictions on Chinese investment and enhanced export controls will be announced by June 30 and then implemented shortly after. China’s commerce ministry responded hours later with a statement, saying it was surprised by the U.S. announcement and remains confident the country can protect its interests.

It’s the latest twist in a trade dispute between the U.S. and China that has roiled financial markets for months and prompted the International Monetary Fund to warn of a trade war that could undermine the broadest global upswing in years. The announcement raises the stakes for the third round of talks between the two economies. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is scheduled to meet with officials in Beijing on June 2-4 to continue negotiations.

$50 Billion 

Trump has vacillated in recent weeks on how hard to push Beijing over issues such as tariffs and intellectual property. The dispute began in March, when his administration threatened to slap tariffs on as much as $50 billion in Chinese shipments to punish Beijing for violating American I.P. rights.

After Beijing promised to retaliate in kind to any duties, the president raised the ante to slap tariffs on an additional $100 billion in Chinese goods. However, the U.S. has yet to publish a list of target products for the $100 billion, and the White House statement on Tuesday made no reference to the second potential tranche of duties.

The U.S. tariffs threat has been widely opposed by industry leaders and some members of Congress who warn the duties could end up raising costs for American consumers, devastating farmers and hurting other exporters if China proceeds with retaliatory duties.

“Conflicting messages coming from the administration is causing whiplash for American companies that are focused on growing the economy and creating jobs here at home,” the Virginia-based Retail Industry Leaders Association said in an emailed statement. “We support the administration’s decision to hold China accountable for their bad behavior. But retailers strongly believe igniting a global trade war will cause casualties.”

Congressional Pressure 

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue, in an emailed statement, said: “We continue to believe that the use of tariffs puts all the burden on American companies and consumers.”

Trump is also under pressure from Congress to stay tough on China, especially Chinese telecoms-equipment maker ZTE Corp. Last week, the president said he would allow ZTE to stay in business after it pays a $1.3 billion fine, shakes up its management, and provides "high-level security guarantees.”

China pressed the U.S. to give ZTE a break after the Commerce Department cut off the company from U.S. suppliers to punish it for allegedly lying to American officials in a sanctions case. Republican Senator Marco Rubio and other lawmakers from both parties have criticized Trump’s leniency toward ZTE, arguing that doing business with the company presents a risk to national security.

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer, who has previously praised Trump’s tariffs plan, urged the president to be “strong, tough and consistent” in addressing China’s trade policies.

‘Stick With It’ 

The White House outline for imposing the tariffs announced on Tuesday “represents the kind of actions we have needed to take for a long time,” Schumer said in an emailed statement. “But the president must stick with it and not bargain it away.” 

When Trump announced the initial plan to impose tariffs, he also instructed the Treasury Department to draw up new curbs on investments in the U.S. by Chinese companies. The Treasury has presented its findings to the president, but its conclusions haven’t been made public.

The latest signal from the White House sounds like the more hawkish wing of Trump’s trade team is trying to amplify its hard line, after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said this month that any talk of a trade war was suspended for now.

“Mnuchin’s ‘trade war on hold’ comments look to have been repudiated this morning, and possibly his investment stance, too,” said Derek Scissors, a China analyst at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. “It may be the administration has shifted somewhat to appease the Congress on the lifting of the ZTE sanctions.”

WTO Case

The White House also said on Tuesday the U.S. plans to continue litigation at the World Trade Organization for China’s intellectual-property practices.

In a further indication of the Trump administration striking a tougher tone before the negotiations later this week, the White House issued a separate statement running through its major grievances over China’s trade practices from forced technology transfers to automobile import tariffs.

“President Trump has taken long overdue action to finally address the source of the problem, China’s unfair trade practices that hurt America’s workers and our innovative industries,” according to the statement.

--With assistance from Mark Niquette.

To contact the reporters on this story: Jenny Leonard in Washington at [email protected]; Andrew Mayeda in Washington at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Brendan Murray at [email protected]

Sarah McGregor

© 2018 Bloomberg L.P

Consumers abandon ecommerce sites if too difficult

More than half (54%) of consumers have stopped purchasing products from a brand or retailer website because choosing was too difficult.

In fact, 42% admitted to abandoning a planned purchase altogether because there was too much choice.

To prevent decision paralysis, 68% of shoppers want their favorite brands or retailers to provide them with honest and personal advice, while 44% expect proactive product recommendations and tips when shopping online.

Humanizing Digital 2020, a new consumer survey commissioned by Digital Advice technology provider SMARTASSISTANT, found that online shoppers crave interactive, conversational decision support on digital channels.

Although only 14% of consumers had used digital sales assistants in the last year (intelligence-driven, dialogue-based solutions that guide shoppers to the right products based on their needs), over three-times as many (46%) demanded brands and retailers to integrate them on their online sites after seeing an example.

• 81% said using a digital sales assistant would increase their purchase decision-confidence;

• 88% thought it was beneficial for online stores to have them, and
• 72% of consumers said that digital sales assistants are most helpful for finding and choosing products

Markus Linder, SMARTASSISTANT founder and president, comments: “It’s clear: E-commerce has made shopping more convenient, but the increased amount of choice is confusing consumers to the point that they’re feeling incredibly overwhelmed, leaving websites without buying. Customers want interactive, human-like support from technology that can offer personalized help in real-time.

“The research shows that retailers and brands that make their online offer more 'human' -- by providing intelligent, interactive assistance and guidance - are best placed to fulfil today’s customer expectations and make more sales.”

Download the full report here to view all the findings: https://smartassistant.com/humanizing-digital-2020

MORNING Midwest Digest, May 29, 2018

Boating and motorcycle accidents increased over the Memorial weekend, as well as farm tractor accidents.

Crop bulletins come out today. One analyst says the conditions should be very good for corn and soybeans.

A Chicago actor and director died of cancer. 

This fall the University of Memphis won't charge tuition to children and spouses of fallen service members.

Farm Progress America, May 29, 2018

Max Armstrong shares news of a network that allows farmers to reach out to aerial applicator, also called crop dusters. The AgriFly Network helps farmers and agriculture retailers find applicators; often they can come in from other parts of the country to help cover crops in case of a crop emergency.

Farm Progress America is a daily look at key issues in agriculture. It is produced and presented by Max Armstrong, veteran farm broadcaster and host of This Week in Agribusiness.

Photo: Lightguard/iStock/Getty Images Plus

MIDDAY-MidwestDigest-5-28-18

Max Armstrong looks at changing stats for America's past-time, including the fact that attendance has been falling - apparently, fans like hits more than strikeouts. From This Week in Agribusiness planting progress reports are delayed due to the holiday, but last week's report shows solid progress. Max shares some Memorial Day history - a holiday that's been celebrated for more than 150 years.

Midwest Digest is a twice-daily audio feature produced by Max Armstrong, offering news and commentary from across the Midwest.

Photo: Muratani/iStock/Getty Images Plus

MORNING-Midwest Digest-5-28-18

Max Armstrong talks record hot weather hitting the country with temps in the high 90s. From This Week in Agribusiness, Max shares info about the crop progress report. There's a recall of Spam due to metal pieces in product cans. He shares insight on a prayer vigil for the most recent school shooting - this one in Noblesville, Ind.; in that event, a teacher stopped the attempt. And in sports there's a reduction in baseball attendance; and Danica Patrick says goodbye to racing.

Midwest Digest is a twice-daily audio feature produced by Max Armstrong, offering news and commentary from across the Midwest.

Photo: Tomwang112/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Tell clients about mineral timing and balance

Alan Newport Filling a mineral feeder
Many people fail to understand the interactions between minerals, as well as the complex manner cows share minerals with their calves in prenatal stages.

In discussions about mineral supplementation, it's good to remind your clients that the timing for correcting mineral deficiencies is critical.

Since many of these problems manifest in calves and begin in utero, the fast-growth third trimester is a critical time to be certain cows are full-up on supplements, says Dr. Jeffery Hall, toxicology lab manager for the Utah Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

With copper, selenium and zinc in particular, calves need to be born with ample supplies -- actually higher normal ranges than in adult cattle. There are two reasons they need such large stores at birth: First, they can triple their birth weight in the first 60-90 days, thereby diluting their body stores from birth. Second, concentrations of these minerals in milk are very low, while at the same time a young calf is getting a major portion of its nutrition from milk.

The normal process is the cow moves these and other nutrients to the fetus during gestation. If there is a deficiency in the young calf it is because the cow had a deficiency. That can be caused by actual deficiency of these minerals in the diet, or it can result from interference by high levels of such minerals as iron, sulfur, selenium or molybdenum.

Speaking of that, mineral interference is another thing to warn them about, Dr. Hall says.

He tells a story about a beef producer who heard him speak about mineral deficiencies, tested his cattle, and learned they were severely deficient in copper. The operator decided to save money by just feeding copper sulfate and salt.

Dr. Hall says this operation lost 8-9% of his calf crop the first year, mostly from copper deficiency. The next year he lost about 10% of his calves, but this time because of a selenium deficiency caused by the excessive copper he had been feeding. This is why Dr. Hall strongly recommends a "balanced" mineral product with appropriate mineral to mineral ratios.

Next article: Liver biopsies are the only viable way to measure copper deficiency, but never fear.

Farm Progress America, May 28, 2018

Max Armstrong offers a look at what could be a record-breaking wheat harvest that is ahead Western Canada. The aim is to hit a new record for the number of combines in the same field to harvest a wheat crop. This is a major fund raiser and more than 300 combines will be converging on a Manitoba wheat field.

Farm Progress America is a daily look at key issues in agriculture. It is produced and presented by Max Armstrong, veteran farm broadcaster and host of This Week in Agribusiness.

Photo: AVTG/iStock/Getty Images Plus