New Year, new resolutions. January is a time for new beginnings – new baby calves being born, getting ready for the first round of 2017 stock shows, trade shows like NCBA convention, and getting ready for spring sale season where there are so many new opportunities available.
While we have lots of new ideas to implement in the new year, here are eight I suggest we all start doing right away. As I look forward to 2017, I’m so excited for what’s in store and look forward to working with many great producers to make it our best year yet.
1. Be proud of where you are right now
In agriculture, and especially the livestock industry, so much of our business is built on competition. What farmer had the biggest crop? What rancher had the highest averaging bull sale? What sire produced the most classes at Denver? While competition is good, and fuels our fire, it’s also important to focus on your own goals, without constantly comparing to others.
I like to use my dad as a great example of this. My dad first started showing when he was in high school. He showed a red Brahman heifer. He had his exhibitor number tied around his neck on a string. He forgot his registration papers at home and had to use a pay phone from the show to try to get someone to get the papers to him. He didn’t know that when you show, you stand with your legs together. Everything one could do “wrong” he did. Without a doubt, someone more seasoned would have seen him and would have called him something ugly, probably a “freddy”. In his own words… “he didn’t know ‘come here’ from ‘sic ’em’.”
However, at that time in his life, he was proud. He was happy. My grandma and grandpa were so proud. Their son was showing his first calf at the Houston Livestock Show. Today, he can be proud that he has shown and judged at every major livestock show in the USA. It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.
Celebrate small victories. Take small steps. Be proud of what you’ve done.
2. Look beyond your current horizons
Sometimes it’s hard to take that next step that is needed to propel your operation to new heights. Maybe you have typically bought herd bulls locally, but you’d like to try some genetics from a seedstock operation in another state. Maybe it’s moving your budget from a $3500 herd bull to a $5000 herd bull price point. Maybe you’ve only showed at your county show and you want to show at a major this year. Or, maybe it’s the decision to step out there and hold your first online sale. Whatever it is, make 2017 your year to try it! There are tons of people in the business that would love to help you make it happen. Ask questions of fellow producers, find a great sale manager, enlist the help of your county agent or ag teacher to help you move your project level one step higher. Whatever it is, go for it! Chart your course for success.
3. Break the stereotypes
Every industry and every breed has stereotypes and perceptions. In the Brahman breed, most people would agree, it’s easy to sell your heifers but the bulls are a lot harder. We realized this stereotype about 4 years ago and began working to change it. And finally, in 2016, our Brahman bulls averaged $200/head higher than our heifers. We were suprised / shocked / elated. Whatever stereotypes may be holding your operation back – work to change them. It’s possible. Think outside the box. Don’t be afraid to be different. Especially if it’s something you believe in.
4. Be completely supportive of others in the industry
I found an old quote by my great-great grandfather, when he was teaching my grandma about rodeo, and he said “If you can’t respect the people you are competing against, you have no business competing.” That statement has really hit me recently. Sadly, a quick walk through any stock show barn and you’ll hear all kinds of juicy info. I’d venture to say 99% of it is completely false. Let’s all try to take the high road and avoid participating in gossip. If you hear something about a fellow producer, let it stop with you. Don’t pass it along to others. I firmly believe every single person in this industry has something good to offer, if you take the time to get to know them. If you’re sold out of calves, how about referring them to your neighbor who might be your biggest competition, but admittedly does have some nice cattle. Let’s embrace others success and failure and try to help each other more in 2017.
5. Realize that shows are just shows
I think anyone who shows, at any level, is guilty at some point of getting utterly wrapped up in showing. It’s easy to do, especially if you are fortunate enough to have good luck or have a winning streak going. A show is just a show. It’s just one person’s opinion, on that given day.
Any of my friends know that Brandon (my husband) & I own a heifer that we absolutely adore: Boom Shaka Laka / Miss V8 21/8. We were fortunate enough for her to win the 2015 National Grand Champion Female and the 2016 Houston Grand Champion Female. It was a dream come true for us. This fall, she showed as a cow/calf at the national show. A lot of people said we shouldn’t show her anymore. But we did. We knew going into it she had just calved, and wasn’t looking 12 o’clock. She didn’t make the trip well, her calf got sick and she placed 4th in class. I knew that there were people in the stands saying things like “The Houston Champion just got 4th in class!” I told Brandon, I would rather have run through the show ring naked than have my beloved 21 standing there in 4th! But you know what….that’s where she deserved to be on that particular day. Sure, in my opinion, she is the best Brahman heifer I have ever raised. But on that day, she didn’t look the part. Am I still proud to own her? Heck yes! Am I still planning to build the next generation of our champions around her? Of course! Are we going to show her at Houston. YES! The show ring is fun, and a great tool for marketing and comparing your animals…but it’s not the end all, be all of everything. As my husband says, “The show ring is a great way to help us to remember to be humble!”
6. Thank those who help in your success
At our ranch, I am 100% convinced that it’s the team that makes it a success. From my grandfather who’s in his 80s down to my daughters Mollie and Ann Catherine who’s one. How can a 1-year old make a contribution to a ranch you ask? Well, she helps us identify the most gentle calves! At Ranch House, we have had the best year in our 17 year history, and again, I’m 100% convinced it is because of the amazing team that works together every day for our clients. My old high school biology teacher, Coach Ray Beall, has a saying where he holds up an open hand, then a clenched fist. Separate we are weak, together we are strong. As we begin 2017, don’t forget to acknowledge and thank those that help you in your day to day life, and those who make your business a success. From your feed salesman, to your banker, to your breed association rep, to your spouse and children…many people contribute to an ag business success.
7. Step up your marketing game
The new year is a great time to take on a new project. Maybe you’ve been using Facebook as your primary marketing method, but you want to get a full-fledged website in 2017. Start now and you’ll have it ready by spring sale season. Or, maybe you’ve wanted to hire that awesome sale manager to help you with your production sale in 2017. Call him! Seize the moment and get the wheels turning.
8. Don’t be afraid to share your faith
I am so thankful that there are many faith-based Christian outlets in the agriculture community that are showing people it’s “cool” to be a Christian. I applaud The Showtimes Magazine for always including faith-based articles. Hope for the Rancher is a Christian community designed for encouraging ranchers. I also recently saw a new Facebook page called “Stock Show Christians” and saw great young role models in the business sharing their testimony. This is wonderful. I grew up in a church youth group, but admittedly there was a time where I was not walking the ideal Christian walk. I found my biggest struggle at shows and the peer pressure of fitting in the certain expectations of a fast-paced crowd. If there are any young women out there struggling with this same challenge that I once faced, you have a friend in me. In 2017, let’s make it a point to show others Christ in our life.
As we ring in the new year, It is my sincere wish that this is your best year ever. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year.”
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