Hit by droughts in 2002 and 2006, some ranchers are looking to lease their cows to operators with feed resources. Meanwhile, others who depopulated earlier are finding it's a better deal to repopulate with outside investor-owned, leased cows than purchase expensive replacement females. In “The perfect beef-cow lease,” on page 11, economist Harlan Hughes lays out his advice.

There's something quite comforting about commodity-level marketing, writes Troy Marshall in “Commodity Comfort” on page 14. It absolves us of responsibility, he says, as one is only at the mercy of the laws of supply and demand. But while that system is great for the folks who produce the cattle in the bottom 30% of the quality spectrum, it shortchanges those producing cattle in the top 30%.

When BEEF editors launched their annual Trailblazer Award in 1992, we wanted to honor producer volunteers. We wanted to detail the amazing men and women who not only get the job done in the pasture and/or feedlot but venture ahead of the pack to show their industry a potentially better way. In “Beef Boosters,” on page 30, Joe Roybal tells how a South Dakota husband-wife duo made their mark.

In the scope of world affairs, it's one of the smaller countries, but Uruguay is “Looming Large” in the global beef business. On page 39, Senior Editor Clint Peck tells how this tiny South American nation is parlaying technologically modern cattle-production and beef-processing systems, enhanced through the development of a sophisticated meat-supply chain, into a marketing powerhouse.

Competing for labor is about much more than offering high wages. It's often about communication — in providing a rewarding experience to employees and making them aware of their value and the value of the often-overlooked benefits of their employment. Wes Ishmael presents the details in “…And All the Beef You Can Eat” on page 48.