By Dodd Carmichael, WildNGrazy Farm, BBAA President
F all has finally begun here in central Texas and it was a long time coming. We have been in a drought and heat situa- tion here for the last three months. Last year was rough, too. Hay is very expensive, but thankfully, we finally had some relief and had 3 inches of rain last Thursday. This is a good reminder that we exist in an industry where we lack control over many of the variables affecting our success. Not only do we have to consider weather risks, but competition for the consumer dollar for non-meat substitutes such as Beyond Meats and Impossible Burger are things we have to consider. The limited number of buyers in the cattle market and the market power wielded by the four big packers in the beef markets are also a constant concern. In addition, we are dealing with a trade war that has reduced our customers’ abroad. There are 1.3 billion potential customers withinChina alonewho are affected by this. All things considered I’m surprised the cattle market has held up as well as it has as we approach winter. What can we do to sustain or improve profitability in this environment? Here is what some of our members do to improve their profitability: • The Havens and Heinz families in Iowa have been feeding their calves with the corn they raised on their farm, providing quality, source-verified beef to their local customers. This allows them to recapture the margins that the big packers and retailers have taken. • For many years, Raymond Boykin has been sending his calves from Alabama to Weichman Feedyard in Kansas to finish them. That feedyard knows the Barzona breed and how they perform. This allows Raymond to capture premiums on his calf crop because the Barzonas grade out Choice and have nice yields.
• We have been rotationally grazing our herd atWildNGrazy Farm for more than a decade. This provides more even grazing, eliminates parasite pressure and improves pastures in the process. We also sell grass-fed beef, providing higher margins for some of the cattle we raise. Sometimes it’s just wise to learn from the environmental conditions. I’ve learned that the heat has a purifying effect on your operation. Although painful at the time, drought exposes weakness in your operation, which you can address.You discover you have some cattle that can handle tough conditions better than others. You are forced to make tough culling decisions because it’s too expensive to ignore the facts. You also discover that even money can’t force you to sell a 19-year-old cow that has never missed, even though she was a little slow breeding back last year. You discover you have friends and family who show up to help when times are tough. And, you learn that you will survive and be better than you were before. So, the moral of the story is: 1. Learn from your associates and continuously strive to improve margins and profitability. 2. Take a cue from the Barzona. Let the tough environment make you better. 3. Even when you’re under intense pressure, let your heart and humanity survive. I want to add a postscript to this message - Two weeks after I let that 19-year-old cow out of the lot, she got down and couldn’t get up. I said goodbye, but I had to have my son come to put her out of her misery. Ol’ Floppy Horns will never leave this place and letting her skip that trip to the sale barn was the best $300 I ever lost. BB
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Matt & Alecia Heinz 2432 250th St Greenfield, IA 50849 email@example.com (641) 745-9170
Mike & Pat Fitzgerald 130 Fitzgerald Lane, Mosquero, NM 87733 (575) 673-2346 firstname.lastname@example.org
Alvin & Karen Havens 2429 Orange Ave. Greenfield, IA 50849