Mud Season Is Just Around The Corner & Opportunities Are Knocking
I don’t know who needs to hear this, but Spring is coming!
After a long, never-ending, relentless winter, I know many of us are looking forward with great anticipation, warmer, sunnier days with the mountains of snow in our lots and yard in the rear view mirror.
Of course, I know that wishing these winter days away means I’m ushering in a new season. It shouldn’t be called Spring at all; it could simply be called, “Mud Season.”
With the spring thaw comes its own fair share of challenges, and contending with the mud while many are in the thick of calving season is no fun at all.
But with the promise of warmer days, green grass, and plenty of hay to be cut, I keep telling myself that all of this moisture is an answer to prayers, with much of the country finding relief from the ongoing drought that has caused many producers to decrease their cow inventory or disperse altogether.
With cattle inventory down 3% and the smallest U.S. beef cow herd numbers since 1962, opportunities abound in this space — if you can find and afford to rent the grass, handle the rising input costs, and find ways to capture true value in a space where it is growing increasingly challenging to sell in the commodity market.
Yet, for those willing to innovate, pivot, and drive their product to meet the demand for wholesome, nutritious, well-marbled beef, the sky is the limit. It’s really a shift in perspective — refusing to be a price taker and focusing on becoming a price maker instead.
With the proposed Product of the U.S. label in place, there are conversations on how to add value in the retail space for every day ranchers; however, with the political tensions in the beef cattle industry regarding this issue, most of us can’t afford for that to be our saving grace in the marketplace.
So what can we do TODAY to change the game for ourselves and our family business? That is the big question of the day, and I think it comes down to finding ways to add value to your own calf crops, to enhance what you are bringing to the table and to attract new buyers to evaluate what you have to offer.
Thanks to so many tools at our disposal, we have the opportunity to do exactly that. Yet, sometimes we get stuck in a rut — that this is the way we have always done things, so we can’t switch it now.
However, if the model is broke, and you’re bleeding red on paper year-after-year, something has to give, and fast.
The fact that as beef cattle producers we so frequently accept that we work 24/7, 365 days a year for little to no pay, no vacation, and no family/work life balance is not going to be sustainable long-term.
If we want our kids and grandkids to be involve din production agriculture, we need to focus on our product, our marketing, and our willingness to innovate, pivot, and move forward in a positive direction, even if the deck seems stacked against us.
Networking, building inventory, putting together larger, more uniform groups of cattle in collaboration with neighbors, backgrounding, marketing, and building your brand are all key things to strive for.
And more than that, seeing what the consumer wants and being willing to answer the call by maintaining ownership of your beef animal from pasture to plate is another great opportunity that very few are willing to step into.
There’s riches in the niches; and the door is knocking for us to cut the middlemen; disregard the fickle politicians who only provide lip service with no real solutions; and take charge of our own futures in production agriculture. There’s no knight on a white horse coming to save us cowboys and cowgirls. It’s up to us.
So as we scoop more snow and wade in the mud and wonder why the heck we do what we do, let’s also take a hard look at our business model, ask the tough questions, and discover new pathways to profitability. It’s there. We just have to seize the day and go after it. Let’s go!
I enjoy reading your posts and comments like the one above. My husband and I raise bison In Michigan and every year we have to keep adjusting how we do business as no two years are alike. Being diversified is key to surviving and thriving in our niche market.
You are a breath of fresh air! Would love to meet you some day.