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Fast Pace of Change

Written by Dennis Sun
       Raising livestock these days, compared to 10 to 15 years ago, is pretty complicated given all the rapid change. Every time you pick up a livestock publication someone is telling you what you need to do to stay profitable. The good part is that most of those people are right and we all need to pay attention in order to stay in business.
    But, don’t you wish we all had a couple of months to catch our breath? It’s been a tough winter for a lot of people here in Wyoming, some say the worst since the early 80s. We may find out why we have all of those ditches around the place that haven’t run water for some time. For some it is almost calving and lambing time, which is renewing enthusiasm across the countryside.
    For some, the numerous options in raising livestock are a pain in the rear. Most of us, myself included, see them as opportunity. A lamb used to be white-faced or black-faced, a calf was black, red or whatever color and a colt was sound or crippled. Today color doesn’t matter as much as labels like “natural,” “organic” or the “plain Jane.” Some want us to write down around when it was born and put a numbered tag in its ear or attach a computer chip that will be its name as long as it lives.
    Some marketers like Wal-Mart and McDonalds want their products raised on environmentally friendly and non-abusive farms and ranches. We have to prove we operate that way. I’m thinking about changing my ranch name to The Happy Ranch or Hand-in-Hand Land and Cattle Company. That ought to make my products worth more, hadn’t it?
    I need to change the name of Muddy Creek to Clear Creek and Stinking Creek to Rose Creek while I’m at it. It’s hard to market with draws and ridges that carry abusive names. Who would want to buy a calf that was raised on Stinking Creek?
    We can all joke about it, but as long as the decisions regarding our lands and livestock are ours to make, it is an opportunity. The changes of the last years have provided us more options for more dollars even though it’s costing a lot more to raise livestock. Who would have thought we could sell the wind we all cuss and that selling something with a “natural” label would make you feel good.
    I’m not sure someone in New York City eating a natural steak from a black or red cow knows what it is all about, but they believe the advertisement that tells them it is good. Advertising and telling our story is as important as it ever has been and the public wants to hear what we have to say.
    This high corn and feed issue has really got us scratching our heads, but be thankful our livestock eat grass, too. If we were raising chickens or fish, where grain is the single feed source, we’d be in a real pickle. Corn prices are hurting us, but they shouldn’t put us out of business if we keep our eyes on opportunity.
Dennis