Lowry City, Mo.
Could we be walking with contemporary dinosaurs? While the genetics industry ripens with scientific advancements and historically high beef prices remain, some industry sectors are lumbering along like brontosauruses headed for an ice age. Their economic advancement has been hampered by a lethal combination of internal conflicts and obsolete business models that lack efficiency.
Breed associations are an example of businesses dangerously close to economic extinction. The trio of competing cattle breeders they serve—commercial bull suppliers, high-end female breeders and show cattle enthusiasts—have vastly different objectives. The rapidly evolving commercial beef industry has them locked in an unrelenting tug-of-war. Associations need to recognize this change and apply strategic adaptations essential for their survival.
Earlier this year, internal conflicts at the American Angus Association led to the dismissal of several tenured employees. An increasing demand for technological advancement and cutting-edge market strategy in commercial beef genetics played a role in that power struggle. The fallout left the association with a black eye and scrambling to fill the talent void.
All breed associations are facing similar issues regarding the objectives of their members. All three types of breeders have a legitimate need to be serviced by their respective associations. However, as the climate of this industry continues to shift, breed associations will be forced to make tough decisions about which of their three masters they need to serve most. Being forced to choose a side and alienate portions of their membership will be difficult. Leaving a man behind is not in our roots.
Traditionally, cattlemen have worked together to protect and promote fair access to service, technology and intellectual advancement. In a way, we have a “no farmer or rancher left behind” ideal that is creating a man-made barrier against the forces of singular economic dominance. Private industry is now breaking down these barriers in search of an economic edge.
A current lawsuit involving another breed association and an individual breeder over proprietary intellectual properties is the first effort challenging traditional barriers. It will not be the last.
What’s ahead. Privateering and corporate expansion will continue, pushing this new era forward. Intellectual properties and other innovations will cease being tools shared by the collective masses. They will be patented, marketed and capitalized by those with the dog-eat-dog mentality that dominates all other industries.
As the entrepreneurial spirit ignites, the “band of brothers” philosophy will continuously be put to the test by capitalism. As with all natural systems, when the carnivores gain a competitive advantage, the herd must evolve to stay one step ahead.
Was this destined to occur in beef genetics? Although disruptive, events such as these drive innovation and can bring renewed efficiencies. The Angus and Simmental situations have only jump-started the process. Could the rapidly evolving genetics industry lead to the extinction of breed associations? Only one fact is certain: Those that fail to adapt and evolve will be reduced to fossilized relics.
Jared Wareham devotes much of his time to cattle breeding, bull development, marketing and strategic planning. He is part of a three-person team, which includes his wife Jill, that markets 300 bulls annually near Lowry City, Mo. They reside near the bull development facility with their three young daughters Mikah, Rhett and Sawyer. Contact Jared firstname.lastname@example.org