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4 tricks for smarter goal setting

Amanda Radke Goal setting

My husband and I sat down for our monthly budgeting planning session where we evaluate upcoming expenses, identify areas of unnecessary spending and determine next steps to achieving our short- and long-term goals for the ranch.

A common piece of advice from business professionals or entrepreneurs is to set SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound). This acronym provides the framework for chasing your dreams in a practical way. It’s sound advice whether it’s for a goal you want to achieve in the next month or in the next decade, and I often reference it when I need to really buckle down and get something done.

Yet, when you’re in the grind of saving money, watching inputs, fixing broken equipment, buying hay during a drought, or other unforeseen challenges that might come up, it can be easy to get sidetracked from the big picture and get bogged down with the nitty gritty details that crop up in your daily life.

Thea Larsen is the blogger behind The Cowgirl Diaries, and she recently wrote a post titled, “July’s the new, New Year for goal setting.” She said that while many goals are set at the start of a new calendar year, the weeks following Independence Day are the perfect time for a mid-year reboot and the chance to get your goals back on track to be achieved by the end of 2017.

Larsen writes, “There is a generally accepted premise (feel free to google if you’d like the specifics) that we drastically OVERestimate what we can accomplish in the short term and UNDERestimate what we can accomplish in the long term. For this reason, in my new approach to goal setting, I recommend creating three time categories for all goals: one month, one quarter and one year.”

In her post, she offers an update to the standard SMART goal setting and suggests four tricks of her own:

1. Feel

She says, “Write a few sentences about the discomfort you currently have with where you are in this area, and the way it will feel when you reach the place you want to be.”

For example, if you’re paying off a land or cow loan and the debt load is stressing you out, acknowledge the financial strain you’ve been feeling and recognize that there are steps you can take to speed up the process of repaying the banker.

2. Define

Larsen writes, “Determine what accomplishments will need to be made in order to stand in that place where you feel like the rock star of your own life and describe them in specific and measurable terms.”

During our budget meetings, Tyler and I discuss upcoming payments that we need to set aside money for, projected income earning on calves and when they will sell and opportunities to save money when buying hay, feed, mineral or other supplies.

3. Schedule

She suggests, “Take each goal as you have defined it and drop it into a reasonable time frame category: one month, one quarter, or one year.”

This month, we’ll purchase hay from the neighbor and creep feed, so we’ll allocate funds for that. In the next quarter, we’ll have our fall female sale, plus sell our bottom end calves and cull cows at the sale barn, so income will be coming in. Within one year, our breeding decisions will be on the ground and we will determine which heifers we’ll retain, which ones we’ll sell and create a plan to market the highly desirable calves based on what our customers are looking for and where and when the demand seems to be best (with information collected in years previous).

4. Big picture

She says, “Write out all of your specific, measurable goals along a timeline of one, three and 12 months to create an outline for action.”

In other words, don’t miss the forest for the trees. Baby steps taken consistently day after day and week after week can create small steps of progress that become large advancements over time. Progress may be hard to see when you’re in the thick of it, but looking back a year from today, you’ll hopefully see improvement on the goals you have set for your ranch, your balance sheet or other achievements you hope to make.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or Penton Agriculture.

Environmental stewardship regional winners named

Since 1991, the Environmental Stewardship Awards Program has been honoring beef producers who exhibit strong stewardship as a part of their beef business.

By John Wallace

UPDATED: The National Environmental Stewardship Award winners are Jim O’Haco Cattle Company at Winslow, Arizona. Jim and Jeanni were honored during a reception at the 2018 Cattle Industry Convention and Trade Show in Phoenix, Ariz.

Six ranching families from across the nation were honored with regional Environmental Stewardship awards during the 2017 Cattle Industry Summer Business Meeting in mid July 13.

The Environmental Stewardship Award Program recognizes the nation’s best cattle and livestock operations and their stewardship and conservation efforts. This year’s regional winners will compete for the national award, which will be announced during the Annual Cattle Industry Convention in Phoenix, Ariz., in February 2018.

Normally there are seven regional winners, but this year there were no nominations from Region 1, which includes the eastern Corn Belt and states from Kentucky and Virginia northward.

Here is a summary of the conservation work by this year's six regional winners.

Region II

Blue Lake Farm at Sharon, South Carolina -- Rusty and Jessie Thomson, Rus and Amy Thomson, Harriet Thomson Farish.

  • Rusty Thomson and his sister Harriet are the fifth generation of Thomsons to farm about 40 miles east of Spartanburg, South Carolina; Rusty’s son Rus is the sixth generation
  • The 2,300-acre farm comprises 550 acres in pasture, 25 acres in annual hay crops and 1,725 acres in timber; about half the timber is improved loblolly pine and the other half is in hardwoods.
  • Enterprises include 200 commercial cows, five turkey brooder houses, timber and leased hunting.
  • The farm includes 4.3 miles of Broad River frontage.
  • The family uses fenced stream buffers to prevent erosion, manage runoff and provide wildlife habitat.
  • No livestock or motorized vehicles have access to stream banks or riparian buffers.
  • The Thomsons built three hardened stream crossings to allow them to move cattle across.
  • Cattle rotationally graze through 30 paddocks watered by 45 concrete troughs.
  • All fences on the farm are high tensile electric fences; 50% are powered by solar chargers.
  • Turkey litter serves as a fertilizer source reducing expenses in pastures, permanent hay fields and no-till annual hay crops.
  • The family plants 20 food plots each year for wildlife

Region III

SFI, Inc., at Nemaha, Iowa -- Lynn and Joy Smith; Seth and Etta Smith.

  • Lynn started farming in 1971; his son, Seth, in 2001.
  • Today they operate 1,900 acres of row crops, 510 acres of pasture and a cow herd of 210 pairs.
  • They also operate a 2,200-head feedlot and 500-head hog finishing barn.
  • The farm has long worked to improve water quality, beginning with Lynn's conversion to conservation tillage in 1977.
  • The farm operates on a “closed loop” of enterprises that overlap.
  • Corn stalks provide feedlot bedding. Composted with manure, the mix provides most of their fertilizer.
  • In-season nitrogen applications, cover crops and use of composted feedlot manure reduce nitrate losses.
  • Cover crops also provide fall and spring grazing worth $40 to $60 per acre.
  • The Smiths converted erodible land to pasture and rotationally graze to optimize efficiency.
  • Monoslope feedlot barns keep rain off cattle and manure to reduce runoff.
  • Feedlot lagoon water is recycled via an irrigation pivot onto row crops and serves as fertilizer.
  • A wash bay with pit captures nutrients from trucks and equipment for recycling.
  • The family built a double containment system for fuel and feedlot manure.
  • The system has kept contaminants from streams, even when a tornado opened a valve.
  • The family planted 4,000 feet of windbreaks around the feedlot to protect cattle, provide wildlife habitat and improve aesthetics.

Region IV

Sterling Cattle Company at Coahoma, Texas -- Jimmy and Theresa Sterling.

  • Sterling Cattle Company is a cow-calf operation started in 1954 by Jimmy’s father, J.M. Sterling.
  • Jimmy took over in 1991 and has grown the operation to cover 215,000 acres in west Texas.
  • The operation includes the 11,550-acre family-owned headquarters ranch plus leased pasture.
  • To restore rangeland on the headquarters ranch, Sterling grubbed mesquite on 4,000 acres, sprayed prickly pear on 570 acres and reseeded 3,300 acres back to native grasses.
  • On leased land, he grubbed and sprayed 21,900 acres of mesquite, sprayed prickly pear on 2,000 acres and seeded 6,900 acres to native grasses.
  • To manage grazing and improve grazing distribution, Sterling built 20 miles of fence, drilled seven new wells, equipped 18 wells with solar pumps and installed nine miles of pipeline to provide water sources.
  • He seeded working pens to bermudagrass to reduce erosion and dust when working cattle.
  • Sterling monitors range condition continuously to determine moves in rotational grazing.

Region V

Flying Diamond Ranch at Kit Carson, Colorado -- Scott Johnson, Jean Johnson, Jen Johnson Livsey, Will Johnson, Myles Johnson, Charles Johnson.

  • Scott Johnson’s great-grandfather started the ranch in 1907, about 110 miles east of Colorado Springs.
  • Today Flying Diamond Ranch operates 50,000 acres in six counties in Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska. About half the acreage is deeded, half leased.
  • All six family members are owners; three are fully employed by the ranch and three are part-time.
  • The ranch offers fee hunting of pronghorn, mule deer, whitetail deer, dove, duck, quail and turkey.
  • Dominated by shortgrass and sandsage prairie, the deeded ranch includes 10 miles of riparian area.
  • Riparian areas are either fenced out or prescription-grazed as part of the rotational grazing system.
  • The ranch has employed a high-density, low-frequency rotational grazing system since the early 1990s.
  • Since the adoption of rotational grazing, the ranch has been profitable every year.
  • For that system, the ranch installed 20 miles of pipeline, seven wells, 23 stock tanks and 100 miles of fence.
  • Ninety-one pastures average 280 acres each and are each grazed less than seven days per year.
  • While the extensive water development makes rotational grazing possible, it also benefits wildlife.
  • Interior fences are single-wire electric wire which is both low-cost and easier for wildlife to cross.
  • The ranch monitors every pasture twice a year to document grass production and trend in range condition.
  • Each year in their monitoring, the family takes 200 photos and 1,500 grass measurements.
  • Depending on pasture condition, the ranch has varied stocking rates from 30 acres per cow to 90.
  • FDR has deferred grazing as much as one-third of ranch to promote habitat for the lesser prairie chicken.
  • In the 2011 drought, the family destocked the ranch entirely to preserve grass health.

Region VI and Overall Environmental Stewardship Award Winner

Jim O’Haco Cattle Company at Winslow, Arizona -- Jim O’Haco

  • Jim O’Haco’s grandfather immigrated to the US and Arizona as a 14-year-old Basque sheepherder.
  • Jim’s father converted the ranching enterprise to cattle and started range improvements.
  • Today, 40 miles southeast of Flagstaff, the ranch comprises 26,000 acres of private land, 8,000 acres of state lease and 27,000 acres of a Forest Service lease, all at an elevation of 6,200 to 7,000 feet.
  • In the 1990s, Jim started work on water development and fencing to improve grazing distribution.
  • A 1,350-foot-deep well fills a 100,000-gallon tank which gravity flows water through 45 miles of pipeline.
  • In the same project, O’Haco cross-fenced a 30-section pasture to implement rotational grazing.
  • The system provides cleaner water to livestock and has improved range condition due to better grazing distribution.
  • When steel troughs begin to leak, O’Haco replaces them with troughs made from implement tires; the black rubber tire tanks thaw quicker in the winter.
  • Even when cattle are removed from a pasture, O’Haco leaves the water flowing to benefit wildlife.
  • Because of the availability of water and other factors, antelope in the area have increased from 350 in 2004, to 600 in 2014. The ranch also hosts an elk herd of 300 to 500.
  • The ranch also is home to Swainson’s hawks, ferruginous hawks, grassland birds and burrowing owls.
  • O’Haco controlled juniper on 15,000 acres to restore native grasslands.
  • The ranch hosts sportsman’s clubs and cooperates with wildlife groups on construction and maintenance projects.
  • O’Haco has served on committees for the state government to resolve issues between the Arizona Game & Fish Department and the agricultural community, include one dealing with losses from wolves.

Region VII

Munson Angus Farms at Junction City, Kansas -- Charles "Chuck" and Deanna Munson.

  • Chuck’s great-grandfather came to the area in 1869 and started farming and ranching.
  • The operation is in the Flint Hills region of the Tallgrass Prairie, about 130 miles west of Kansas City.
  • A Kansas State University graduate, Chuck assumed formal management of the operation in 1989.
  • Munson Angus Farms comprises 5,000 acres, about half rangeland and half row crop.
  • The primary enterprise is the 250-head purebred Angus cow herd.
  • After calving, the cows rotationally graze the native tallgrass rangeland from May through November.
  • Calves are finished on the farm using only Munson-raised crops; 90% of the carcasses grade Prime.
  • Processed and aged by a local butcher, the beef is sold through Munson’s Prime, a restaurant in Junction City; the restaurant features a video screen showing ranch scenes.
  • The Munsons controlled cedar on 420 acres of native rangeland to restore grasses, and implemented a plan to burn each grazing unit once every three years to suppress new brush growth.
  • The brush control also enhanced habitat for the greater prairie chicken.
  • The family uses grazing-exclosure cages to monitor the amount of use of native pastures.
  • Wildlife escape ramps in all water tanks prevent wildlife losses.
  • Munson led efforts to unite 11 landowners and stabilize two miles of Smoky Hill River bank.
  • The stabilization project on the Munsons’ 4,000-feet river bank included 7,000 tons of rock, 18 weirs, 6.6 tons of mulch and three acres seeded to native grasses and planted with trees.
  • The streambank project improved habitat for fish, including the endangered Topeka Shiner, and has attracted wild turkeys for nesting and brooding.

John Wallace operates Wallace Communications and edits the southern edition of Dow Agrosciences' Range and Pasture magazine.


It may not be that easy for Federal Reserve to raise interest rates because inflation rate has been so tame. After raising interest rates three times over last three quarters, they have been talking about one more this year.

The latest numbers on pork exports continue to look very good. Of all the pork produced in U.S., one fourth goes to other countries.

Stunt pilot Vlado Lenoch, 64, who crashed in Kansas this weekend has been flying since he was 17. Killed with Lenoch was Bethany Root, 34 of Atchison, Kansas.


Fed Cattle Recap | Cash market turns around

Seemingly thumbing its nose at the summer slump in fed cattle prices, the cash market made a U-turn the week ending July 15 and finished on a higher note. The weekly weighted average cash steer price for the Five Area region, which includes the major feeding areas of Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and Iowa, was $119.51 per cwt, compared with $117.58 the previous week, for a jump of $1.93.

The Five Area weighted average cash dressed steer price was $190.06, compared with $188.18 the previous week, about $1.88 higher.

The Five Area total cash steer and heifer volume was 98,995 head, compared with about 84,299 the previous week. 

The Five Area average formula price was $191.86, compared with $196.60 the previous week, for a drop back of $4.74. Five Area formula sales totaled 221,202 head, compared with about 178,087 the previous week. 

Nationally reported forward contracted cattle harvest was about 33,000 head, which was 23,000 head less than the previous week. Packers have more than 139,000 head of forward contracts available for July and 225,000 for August.            

The latest average national steer carcass weight for the week ending July 1 was 4 pounds higher at 859 pounds, compared with 868 pounds last year. So, while carcass weights continue to climb, but are still below last year.

The Choice-Select spread was $13.93 on Friday, compared with $16.33 the previous week and $12.33 spread last year. The Daily Choice rib primal hit a $438 per cwt top prior to Father’s Day, but dropped to $312 by Friday, a $126 drop, and the Choice loin followed similar path, so the Choice-Select spread continues to narrow.

Estimated total federally inspected harvest was 637,000 head, compared with 598,000 head the same week last year, which was 39,000 head over last year. The estimated year-to-date total is closing in on a million head over last year, with the current estimated total at 950,000 head over last year.




Kansas City likely hit 96 today, Des Moines 95, some places stay above 90 on through the weekend.

Police in Indiana have artist sketch they are circulating in connection with deaths of two teenage girls months ago.

Weekly crop condition report out yesterday showed corn condition worsened in 9 states, little better in 9 states. 8 had improved soybean conditions, while 10 saw a decline. This is fourth week in a row that soybeans have saw a decline. Fields too dry in North and South Dakota.

Ben Tracy was congressional aid that lasted only a few hours. He was fired for his tweets.

Farm Progress America, July 18, 2017

Max Armstrong offers a look at continuing trouble for the dairy industry. The newest USDA dairy report for July is due. He offered some insight into the May report and how dairy production has been changing even as herds go out of business.

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.

Facebook founder visits South Dakota ranch

Mark Zuckerberg Zuckerberg in South Dakota

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has been on a quest in 2017 to travel across the country visiting the people and places that make America great. It’s been great to follow his journey across the U.S., particularly since he’s making a point to stop in rural communities to learn more about where his food, fiber and fuel comes from.

Most recently, Zuckerberg stopped in my home state where he toured a 2,500 acre cattle ranch near Piedmont, owned by the Norman family. The South Dakotans gracefully hosted one of the most popular men on the planet and explained to him how cattle are raised and beef is produced.

Here is what he had to say about his stop in South Dakota:

“Several years ago at Facebook, our chefs cooked a whole pig. I remember someone saying it would be delicious but she wished she didn't have to see where the meat came from. I've always thought we should be thankful and understand where our food comes from -- so for that year I set a goal to only eat meat that I killed and helped butcher myself.

“A lot of our cattle starts in South Dakota where there are about three times as many cows as people. The Normans raise calves until they're about 600 pounds and then send them to feed lots to get fattened and harvested. A lot of cattle are fertilized through artificial insemination. As we were talking, it became clear ‘AI’ means something very different out here!

“South Dakota is in its third year of a bad drought, and that makes it tough to feed the cattle. One of the ranchers told me it's the worst drought he can remember -- and maybe the worst since the 1930s. The family will probably need to shrink their herd of 500 cattle by 10-15% since that's all the land can support.

“The Normans talked about other challenges -- from regulations limiting the hours trucks can be on the road at a time (increasing the risk that cattle will die in the back), to high-frequency trading that makes cattle prices more volatile and harder to set, to the lack of harvesting plants nearby that means some cattle has to be sent as far as China to be slaughtered.

READ: Of Facebook and critical thinking

“But overall, they seemed optimistic that technology was making their work easier. They talked about how their machinery was now more stable, how the balers that make bales of hay now measure the moisture of the hay to make sure it's ideal, and how they might use drones to monitor the herd in the near future.

“The Normans are proud of the work they do -- not just feeding the country, but helping provide things like insulin, leather and makeup ingredients that also come from cattle. Thanks to the Normans for welcoming me into their home. Families like theirs don't always get a lot of credit, but we depend on the work they do.”

What a beautiful testimony from an outsider looking in and trying to learn more about the beef cattle business! Not surprisingly, there were many anti-agriculture sentiments shared in the comments section on Zuckerberg’s page. Although I imagine by now, he has pretty thick skin!

READ: Mark Zuckerberg cowboys up in Texas

The best part about this stop on his journey is so many cattlemen took the time to thank Zuckerberg for visiting cattle country. These folks also answered some questions or address some misconceptions that were being discussed in the comments section.

Sometimes it feels like victories in impacting consumer perceptions about the industry are few and far between, but this was, without a doubt, a slam dunk for the beef industry! Let’s continue to nurture this positive momentum by keeping the conversation rolling on social media. Take a minute to share a photo from your ranch, offer grilling tips or recipe ideas to friends, or correct misinformation by sharing educational resources for consumers to explore.

Whether we like it or not, our urban consumer is our teammate in this business. Their vote and their dollar ultimately decides how we get to run our operations. It benefits us to have them on our side and for them to be excited about what we do in rural America.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or Penton Agriculture.


A little later this week, we'll get update on milk production across U.S. Some believe growth in milk output may be growing less. Also, watching number of cows. Folks in Qatar may be watching. They are said to be in market for 4,000 cows. Wisconsin has most milk cows in heart of the country. Michigan and Minnesota each have 400,000 cows being milked.

Campaign to fully legalize marijuana in Michigan is gaining speed and outside money is pouring in.

5 Trending Headlines: JBS sells Canadian feedyards; PLUS: Thoughts on a vexing market

DarcyMaulsby/iStock/Thinkstock Cattle in feedlot

JBS to sell Canadian feedyards

In an effort to reduce assets to raise capital to pay the fines levied by the Brazilian government, the company announced that its indirect subsidiary JBS Food Canada Inc. (JBS Canada) has reached an agreement to sell its 75,000 head capacity beef cattle feedyard Lakeside Feeders and adjacent farmland in Brooks, Alberta, Canada, to MCF Holdings Ltd. (MCF), a subsidiary of livestock-base agricultural business Nilsson Bros. Inc., for $50 million CAD (approximately US$40 million).

Under terms of the agreement, MCF will continue to supply cattle to the JBS Food Canada beef processing facility in Brooks. MCF anticipates offering employment to current feedyard and farm employees upon closing. Completion of the transaction is subject to regulatory review and approval, Feedstuffs reports.

JBS S.A., reeling from several scandals, announced last month that it would be selling Five Rivers Cattle Feeding as part of a divestment program to raise approximately 6 billion reals ($1.8 billion) to reduce debt and leverage. Five Rivers, the world's largest cattle feeding company, operates 12 feedyards in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona, Idaho and Alberta and markets more than 1.5 million head of cattle per year.

Click here to read more.

Staying ahead of the curve in value-added management

In response to the decline in cattle prices, the majority of producers have implemented some form of value-added program to their ranching business in order to capture the highest possible premiums for their cattle. In fact, says Oklahoma State University Beef Cattle Specialist Gant Mourer, this strategy has become the new norm.

"Really all it boils down to is quality genetics and quality management. That's all value-added really is," Mourer says. "These well-managed cattle have become the norm and if you're not managing your cattle to this standard, you're actually receiving a discount."

Depending on how you look at it, this premium or discount could cost you up to $10 or $12 a head, he says. More often than not though, Mourer insists most producers are typically managing their cattle with, if nothing else, a VAC45 program. He believes you can add as much or as little value as you want through the various programs that could potentially be implemented on your place, but suggests you start by evaluating your existing management style and decide what programs fit best with your current operation.

Click here to read and hear more as Mourer describes his thoughts on value-added cattle on the Oklahoma Farm Report.

Handling cattle through high heat humidity indexes

Entering the summer months, cattlemen need to understand and deal with heat and humidity. We need to consider some guidelines to help us reduce additional stress on cattle during these events and incorporate some of the following practices into our management practices, says Rob Eirich, Nebraska Extension Educator and Nebraska Director of BQA.

Handling cattle early in the mornings before temperatures get too high is always recommended. Plan to handle cattle before 8:00 a.m. and never after 10:00 a.m. during summer months. Remember that the animal’s core temperature peaks approximately two hours after the environmental temperature peaks and takes four to six hours to lower back to normal temperature. With this in mind, you shouldn’t believe that handling cattle in the evening will reduce the risk of heat stress.

Click here to read more.

Thoughts on a vexing cattle market

"It hasn't been smooth sailing for the beef cattle industry over the past year. For its part, the cattle market has certainly been aggravating,” says Federation of State Beef Councils Chairman Jerry Effertz. “As a beef producer, I know the limitations of what any of us at the ranch level can do individually to fully control profitability and assure that the bottom line has more black ink on it than red,” reports the Oklahoma Farm Report.

"Our industry organizations must not only be aware of those limitations, but be on the lookout for ways that damaging outside influences can be mitigated. Recently, the Federation of State Beef Councils did just that, dipping into its reserve funds to support national and international promotion programs that would help increase demand for beef.

Click here to read more.

Strong momentum continues for red meat exports

May beef exports totaled 105,321 mt, up 6% from a year ago, valued at $582.6 million, up 9%. For January through May, beef exports were up 12% in volume (497,322 mt) and 16% in value ($2.75 billion) compared to the same period last year, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

Exports accounted for 13% of total U.S. beef production in May and 10% for muscle cuts only – each down one percentage point from a year ago. Through May, these ratios were steady with last year’s pace – 12.8% for total production and 10% for muscle cuts. Export value per head of fed slaughter averaged $265.55 in May, matching the average from a year ago.

Click here to read more.