My View From The Country

Olympics, Westerns Or Ranching – Just Do It!

Our Olympic athletes and heroes of western novels have some lessons to teach those of us in the cattle business.

Two things I love are the Olympics and western novels. That might seem like an eclectic pairing but both honor men and women of action. I think we all inherently appreciate those who take bold actions.

The decision to become an Olympic athlete doesn’t occur six weeks prior to the games; generally it’s more like six years prior to the games. Olympic competition is a living, breathing testament to the value of setting a lofty goal and working toward it each and every day.

For most of the athletes, it’s a long, arduous journey, with but a few earning a medal. But I’ve never seen anyone express regret for the sacrifices they made to get there.

Similarly, in western novels, the hero or heroine often has a plan; but what distinguishes them is that they take action. They don’t let the universe unfold around them and dictate the results; they put everything they have into the direction they’ve chosen and never sacrifice their core beliefs and values. 

I’m not sure you find any harder-working folks than those involved in livestock production. Like in the western novels, survival is dependent upon daily action. Yet, as I talk to more and more producers and live it on our own operation, there is so much to do that many times we can go from year to year without any major changes to our operating plan.

For example, I recently was putting to together a yearly work calendar. Once you start entering ultrasound dates, preg-checking, calving, breeding, weaning, feeding, data collection, building fence, etc., the calendar becomes pretty darn full. In fact, you start to realize that there is probably not enough time to get everything done on your to-do list. What struck me is that while we’re adjusting nutritional programs, attempting to implement better grazing programs, trying to adapt to the demands of drought, and planning new ads and better communication with customers and the like, we’re essentially planning to do the exact same thing we’ve done in the past, but only better.

Industry Resource Page: Drought management

That may not be all wrong, and having the two worst droughts in the last 118 years in the last decade makes survival the key priority. But we want to take our operation to another level from a profitability and effectiveness standpoint. So we have to ask ourselves, what are we going to do that will radically improve our results?

We can come up with some pretty good ideas – some of which probably will not work – but the key is to do something radically different if we hope to see radically improved results.  The older I get, the more I realize how much of a hazard maintaining the status quo can be.

Closer Look: Our industry needs a prosperity mentality

I recently had to summon the resolve to step away from an organization that I believed was not heading down a sustainable path. It wasn’t easy, but it opened up a host of new opportunities as a result.

As managers, we must analyze and set a goal, but ultimately it means setting out decisively toward something you believe in. If the goal is big enough, if the reward is real enough, then just like the Olympic athletes or the heroes in the western novels, the challenges become manageable and the sacrifices negligible. Just do it!

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What's My View From The Country?

As a fulltime rancher, opinion contributor Troy Marshall brings a unique perspective on how consumer and political trends affect livestock production.


Troy Marshall

Troy Marshall is a multi-generational rancher who grew up in Wheatland, WY, and obtained an Equine Science/Animal Science degree from Colorado State University where he competed on both the livestock...

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