In all of my travels, I am fortunate to see a wide variety of cattle operations, management styles and environments. There is one common thread that is woven amongst all of them; often I can say, "I met a great cowman or cattlewoman today!"
The differences among operations are large, and typically weather, geography, market availability and feed resources dictate the production system. But there are a few common things that exist in those cattle operations that are standouts to me.
Passion. Those individuals who are truly passionate about the beef industry seem to have a drive that is unmatched. Their enthusiasm is contagious! They want to succeed in breeding better cattle, but more importantly, they understand that their ultimate customer is the consumer. All the production practices they follow are to meet their ultimate goal of a satisfied consumer.
Discipline. This is what separates great cattlemen and women from the rest of the herd. Those who commit to their production goals for generations often have some of the most consistent, fertile and profit-oriented cowherds. It doesn’t matter what the benchmark is. Holding their cowherd accountable is where discipline makes a difference.
For example, if cow 507 is the dam of last year’s high-selling bull and she turns up open this year, she doesn’t roll into their donor program or move to the next calving season—she is culled. She didn’t pay her way this year, and her daughters probably won’t either.
They expect each and every cow to be accountable every year, or she isn’t invited to stay.
They know cows. Often, I am amazed at the talent and ability some cattlemen and women have to know their cows in terms of production and pedigree. This isn’t impressive because of their memory—it’s about knowing what those dams and sires have accomplished.
This past fall at the World Series of Brangus Sale at 101 Ranch, I listened in amazement as Ken Hughes, former Camp Cooley Ranch cowherd manager, and Carolyn Beldon-Carson, manager at Wyman Creek Ranch, talked about grand dams and great-grand dams of calves they had on the ground. It was as if the two of them were speaking their own language of cows and pedigrees. It was intriguing to listen to, but I also learned a lot!
Integrity. This is the most important trait woven amongst the great cattlemen and women. They live by the mantra of, "do the right thing" in all aspects. This extends beyond customer service at the ranch—it’s their way of life. It’s about conservation, stewardship and trying to manage their operation in sync with nature. It’s about being involved in their community and industry to give back. It defines who they are and what we will remember them for.
I met a great cowman today. Was it you?
Cheramie Viator, Consultant and Beef Today columnist
Specializing in genetics and marketing, Cheramie takes a big-picture approach to herd management. A native of Louisiana, she has worked all across the country to help ranchers maximize opportunities.