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PRAY, PRUNE, PREPARE & PROSPER

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about external factors that make the beef cattle industry incredibly challenging — volatile markets, packer consolidation, the capital required, unpredictable weather, regulatory burdens, rising input costs, supply chain issues, increased taxes, labor shortages, an antagonistic media, animal rights activists, environmental extremists, slander from fake meat companies, and so much more.

If we start counting the ways the odds are stacked against us, the outlook may look pretty grim. And for many young people, the likelihood of entering into the beef cattle business may seem pretty slim, unless you can step into an already established business.

However, I had coffee with a cattleman the other day, and he excitedly shared with me ways his family is working to capture value and find success during these tumultuous times.

I was inspired by his enthusiasm, his creativity, and his willingness to step outside the “norm” to achieve his vision for business success and familial happiness.

As I drove home that day, it occurred to me that many our problems we perceive to have in the beef cattle business can be solved right at home.

Sure, I can gripe about a lot of things, and I can point fingers to place the blame in different directions that myself. But at the end of the day, my success or failure begins and ends with me. Period.

So, what can we do to change the outlook on our businesses and in our lives? Some personal reflection may be needed, and then it’s time to go out and make the necessary changes to alter the course of your business for the better.

For myself, I’ve been evaluating areas of our ranching business that I could improve upon, and instead of thinking about what my parents, or my husband, or my siblings could do better, I have focused internally on what I can do better to step up my game and create an atmosphere for success in 2022.

I’ve settled on four things that I think have made a world of difference for us in the last couple of years. These are things I’ve done without even really thinking about in since the onset of the pandemic, but now looking back, I can see that they are making a world of difference.

Interestingly, these four action items all start with the letter “P,” so here are the “4 Ps” that could help any farming and ranching family in good times and bad:

1. Prune.

Just like a tree needs pruning and shaping from time-to-time, so do we. I think it’s critical to remind ourselves that we can’t possibly do it all. We are only given 24 hours in the day. How much of what we do is just spinning our wheels? How much of what we do is a distraction to our ultimate goals?

Prune away the fluff, the busy work, and the to-do items that don’t help to improve your business or enhance your family life.

2. Prepare.

Calving season is in full swing here, and my husband made a trip to town to stock up on supplies. The only problem is the farm supply store in town was out of ear tags — the one main item he needed.

Preparing can look like a lot of things — stocking up on supplies, boosting the savings, anticipating market changes, investing wisely, and having discussions with your team of experts (banker, lawyers, accountants, etc.)

Failing to plan is planning to fail, so whether it’s the big to-do item like establishing your succession plan or taking the next step toward achieving a short-term goal, it’s time to prepare and plan for where you want to go.

3. Pivot.

You’ve got to be able to pivot when things aren’t going well. In agriculturem, our practices and traditions are deeply rooted in tradition and what has worked best for generations. Yet, unexpected pitfalls like a global pandemic and supply chain disruptions can leave us in a vulnerable position when we can no longer count on operating under “normal” circumstances.

Having an ability to creatively pivot, innovate, and provide solutions can be the difference between success and losing it all. It’s been inspiring to see so many agricultural entrepreneurs pivot during the last two years and discover new and exciting ways to succeed.

4. Pray.

Finally, I would be remiss not to mention this all-important “P.” Prayer is so powerful and has gotten me through a lot of difficult times. They say farming and ranching takes a lot of faith. Planting a seed into the ground and expecting everything to turn out is an act of faith. A lot can go wrong between planting that seed and harvesting a crop, and yet we do it faithfully each year.

Prayer, to me, is essential, and we do our work here on the land for His Glory, not our own.

I hope these tips help you as you determine your family's best course of action for your agricultural enterprise. I know it's already helped me so much, largely in changing my attitude and forcing me to consider the things I can control instead of placing blame on external challenges beyond my reach.

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