Just Cause You Start With ‘Em, Doesn’t Mean You’ll Finish With ‘Em

rhdRHD Blog

Guest blog by Colby Cummings

“For every moment of triumph, for every instance of beauty, many souls must be trampled.” -Hunter S. Thompson

This is one of the cruelest yet eye opening things I think people need to understand. The show livestock industry is based on growth, projection, popularity, and politics.

Just because you buy one calf from someone, doesn’t mean you have to buy every. single. future. calf. from them.

It doesn’t mean you automatically have to like their friends and dislike their enemies.
It doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to talk to anyone else at the show.

Where you start is not usually where you finish.

The Goal is Growth

One of the greatest things is to sit back and watch a family starting out, and watch them grow to what they are capable of. To watch them persevere, endure, fail, succeed and everything in between. This isn’t just for families showing, it’s for those up-and-comers selling, breeding and trading as well. You guys have a bigger fan club than you think. 

I think one thing this industry forgets is growth. That’s the goal. If you’re a seller, there are some families that will outgrow your operation and their expectations of what someone can provide or service them with. That’s okay. Be happy for your clients growth and let them move to an operation that can better serve them.

I see a lot of traders that are extremely territorial with their clients. It’s to the point of saying “you can’t talk to them! They are my family!”


Your ego is so scared and sacred you think someone else can come through and give people more than what you’ve lied, overcharged, and taken them through the ringer for, just because they came to you first? Oh wait. That’s maybe the truth you don’t want them to find out.

To those sellers who think they “control” their clients: I simply have this statement to say: Get the heck over yourself, and go get a job…because your business model is on the edge of a sharp downfall. In our business when you go down, we don’t buy the dip.

I think communication between families and operations truly isn’t there. I think there’s a lot of times a calf is sold, and both parties move on. There is no talk of expectations from both sides, goals, projected wins, etc. The ability to read people and understand when you are truly dealing with a genuine operation, or  a snake oil salesman; and on the flipside, dealing with the family that promises the world and can’t run a shit fork. 

Just like life, our industry is about growth.

Time Usually Tells…

If you’re a exhibitor, and you want more than what your operation is giving, then you need to expand and grow to find those that can help you achieve that. If the person you originally bought your calves from throws a fit, gets mad, threatens to blackball you…then you know you chose the wrong team in the first place.

“More” can be different for everyone. It could mean a better calf, better support, better morals, better integrity, more service.

Or, better yet, if you’re a seller, allow your customers to grow with you. Your current customers will usually want the best for you. Work together. Grow together. Instead of telling people they won’t win without you in their corner (they weren’t winning a damn thing to begin with), why don’t you try to grow together.

I read a quote the other day that said no matter what, when I walk in a room I’m gonna be me.

That spoke volumes, because let’s face it, some of you parents are so fake you look like a hoover vacuum in a room with people because you think it’s going to help you.

Quite frankly everyone sees it and it’s sick. Fake it ‘til you make it doesn’t work in this industry, as you can see from the guys who can’t stay anywhere longer than a few months because what they promised and what they delivered isn’t the same bill of goods. 

More people need to see when their limitations end.

When a seller knows they can’t do anything more for a family, or when a family realizes they have outgrown the current operation where they buy calves from….this is usually the flipping point.

It doesn’t have to be a divorce, or get the lawyers involved.

Everything we do in this business is done from a relationship standpoint.

So don’t be shocked if a customer breaks it off when a ranch/trader/seller can’t fulfill their needs.

Moreover, kiddos, don’t be shocked when you don’t hold up your end of care and nutrition, showmanship. People may not want to you anymore, either. Or, they’ll put their better ones in a better home because they know it’s the best for their operation.

When Sellers Stick It To People, They Usually Find Out.

A lot people in the industry get blinded by a checkbook or how far they can take advantage of someone (usually a new person) who’s willing to write a big check.

Eventually, when people start asking around about costs of calves, and start comparing calf to calf vs price, that’s when you see the downfall of the snake oil salesman operations.

Greed will put someone out of business faster than anything.

If you are consulting for someone, quit worrying about how much they have to spend. Worry about getting the customer the most for their purchase. That mindset is what will keep you in business. I think a lot of young guys fail to see the big picture. 

Let’s face it, show families talk. Everyone knows what people paid for calves. And everyone laughs at certain families who grossly overpaid for an average calf.

This is why a lot of sellers guard their high-paying customers like they’re in the secret service. Because they DON’T want the families to know how badly they got screwed. When a family who paid $50,000 for a heifer keeps getting beat by one that sold for $7500….questions will get asked.

So, if you’re a seller, you better be able to keep your stuff straight. Don’t price the same calf to 5 families in a 50 mile radius for 5 different prices. 

Or, if you do, don’t be surprised when you are hung with that calf because…. for one it sucks…. and two you look like a complete idiot. That type of reputation stays with you, iIn the words of squints from Sandlot “FOREVERRRRR”

Then, when customers do finally break off from their snake oil salesman, the customers look stupid, and they’ll start singing like a canary about all their past troubles with you. Everyone knows you are and your business model is that of a short lived Ponzi scheme.

Also, from the salt and pepper chronicles of me giving you guys advice… just cause you can half ass clip one doesn’t mean you got the world by the horns. You can still learn and know what can and won’t feed. What grow and what won’t. 

The Rise and Fall Of Operations

To quote Hawthorne, “Families are always rising and falling in America”, there is not a better quote for the show cattle business.

Pull a Showtimes August issue from five years ago and look through it. Then look at the upcoming issue. You will definitely see change in the ads, but you will also see some of the same guys still doing it and making it. There is a reason they are still in business.

Yet there’s also others that make you shake your head. Trust me I still wonder about some of these guys myself. How some of today’s cattle sellers aren’t in jail is mind-blowing. It makes me also believe some people in the cattle business are CIA/FBI informants. That’s a discussion for a later date. 

I’ve been hard enough on the steer jocks, I’ll yell at the families for a minute. As the customer, you ultimate decide who you buy cattle from.

“Well he’s a nice guy so that’s why we bought from him…”

Well sis, he can’t win a two head county fair and you get upset when you get beat up like a Metallica drum kit.

I understand the nice guy, who puts up a wholesome white picket fence routine. But if you want to win, you need to hang out with winners.

It’s as simple as that.

When you start having conversations and experiences you’ll understand it’s a different environment when you get to the big time. The best sellers / ranches / steer jocks are going to push you, possibly to the limit, but it’s because they want the best.

Adjust your expectations and goals with the operation you choose to dance with.

You wouldn’t enter the dance contest in Urban Cowboy with the one who can’t two step would you? Hell no. You’re going to go find Bud or Pam… definitely not Sissy… let her go be with her convict. 

This industry has a lot of gray areas, loopholes, unspoken things, but it can also be really simple.

Get your goal, set it, and find the person that can make it happen.

If you’re at a crossroads of ‘are you buying from the right place or not,” thankfully you live in a country where you can spend your money where you want to.

Please don’t be the definition of insanity and continue to go back to the same lackluster operation, get the hell beat out of you and then be upset.

Quite frankly, I’m over it and you deserve it if you aren’t willing to stand up and make a change.

It took me a long time to find the group of people that makes our operation click, and those people who support us.

We’ve left people behind, people have left us, and that’s part of it. Success is all in how you view it.

Some folks will think the county intergalactic is their Denver… and that’s fine. Find the place that can sell you the best possible calf and go out and win that county show.

For others every Texas major, KC, and the ‘ville (depends on how you pronounce Louis), Congress aren’t enough.

Just get in where you fit in, but don’t think everyone in that first backdrop will be in the last backdrop. And, that’s okay.