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Running a feedyard is stressful. But stress can be managed, even in the toughest of times.
Controlling the controllable
If your stress is coming from things you or your supervisors can control, perhaps it’s time to huddle and call a different play.
“I’m a firm believer in collaborative problem solving,” Rodenberg says. “You literally have to have the people involved around a table, talking about things. Just talking about it is the best stress reducer there is.”
She has found that often just being able to vent in a safe environment will bring the stress level down considerably. “It’s when it’s inside, when we keep pushing it down, that’s when the frustration builds and all this stress starts really taking over our persona.”
Remember that old saying, “I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant?” Often, Rodenberg says, the root of much of the stress in daily feedyard management is simply a breakdown in communication. One way to overcome that situation is to train employees to restate what they just heard.
For example, the cattle manager tells the cowboys to empty several pens. The cowboys respond, “What we hear you saying is you want lots 21 and 25, but leave 24 alone.” Then the cattle manager can clarify the communication. “No, I want lots 21 through 25.”
Controlling the uncontrollable
Much of a manager’s stress comes from things he can’t control – markets, weather, etc. That’s when you have to compartmentalize, Rodenberg says.
“Visually think about it as you drive up to your workplace – ‘Okay, I’m going to put this away in a box and not think about it until I finish my day’s work.’” And vice versa. “When you walk out the door at work, you say, ‘I’m going to put this in a box until tomorrow morning and leave it at the workplace.’”
Easy enough. But what if it won’t go into the box, or the lid won’t stay on? The corn market took a big jump. Live cattle futures took a dive. Your spouse was upset this morning and you left for work with the problem unresolved. What if one of the kids is sick or a family member is going through a divorce?
“We just have to learn and practice,” she says. “Do a lot of self talk. I really believe in self talk because I think we can persuade ourselves better than anyone else can persuade us. So you practice mentally putting that stuff in a box.”
Then you practice it every day. “And if you mess up, and we all do, then you have to say ‘Yesterday I blew it. But I’m starting fresh today.’”