Uncertainty seems to be the dominant theme of the day, but there are some things we can be pretty certain of.

Genetics matter. Genetics have become more and more important as our ability to make genetic improvement has increased. Today, DNA and holistic system approaches are refining our ability to make genetic improvement. Genetics play a big role in cost reduction, and in meeting marketing specifications. When it comes to lowering costs, gaining market access and realizing extra value, genetics are key. Numbers have been tight, but market differentiation has been growing; this trend will explode when buyers have sufficient numbers to really differentiate.

Marketing is key. Good marketing is about managing risk and capturing value. Successful producers increasingly are those who can evaluate marketing alternatives, manage risk and capture value. Marketing isn’t rocket science; it’s about execution, having a plan and system in place to take advantage of opportunities, and adapting to changes occurring at a seemingly ever-increasing pace.

God, family, lifestyle and profits. Having your priorities right probably does more to determine ultimate success than anything else. When my wife and I started out, we wanted to produce the most profitable cattle possible for our customers; that goal hasn't changed, but raising three great kids, making a contribution to our community, living our faith and even enjoying the journey as much as the destination, have moved up the priority level.

I'm not sure one can ever get one's priorities totally right; there are inevitable tradeoffs, and we struggle with them every day. Something I read a couple of weeks ago seemed really meaningful to me in this area and might help you as well.

I believe it was in a Rick Warren newsletter (pastor and author of “The Purpose Driven Life”); or perhaps it was in an issue of Focus on the Family. But, it talked about the difference between promises and covenants, and that a marriage was especially unique because it was a promise not just between two people but a covenant that included not only the husband and wife but their families and God. It stressed that one needed to make a covenant of sort in other areas as well, including your career.

When I looked at our operation as a promise to God, my wife, our kids, our customers, and our industry, it made a difference for me in trying to find that balance. I'm still going to end up missing that football game from time to time, or give my wife grief when I'm licking my wounds from a bad futures trade, or a clutch going out of a tractor unexpectedly, but hopefully on average we’ll find that mix.
By providing enough services and enough benefits for our customers, we will have an opportunity to make strides in all areas.