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Angus Journal

Copyright © 2016
Angus Media.
All Rights Reserved

A Bright Future

That’s what cattle industry pros say the industry looks forward to as young producers break onto the scene.

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (Jan. 26, 2016) — “What advice would you give young producers looking to get started in the cattle business?”

That was the final question posed to four panelists by Tom Field, Paul Engler Chair of Agribusiness Entrepreneurship at the University of Nebraska, at the Cattlemen’s College: Whole-herd Makeover, Cowboy Style panel discussion. The four panelists included David Daley, interim dean for the College of Agriculture at California State University in Chico; Patsy Houghton of Heartland Cattle Co.,Tipton, Kan.; Tom Brink, founder and owner of Top Dollar Angus Inc. and CEO of the Red Angus Association of American; and Don Schiefelbein of Schiefelbein Farms, Kimball, Minn. The panelists spoke as part of the 118th annual Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show in San Diego, Calif.

As outstanding leaders in the industry, the four had some strong parting words for today’s young producers.

“Know your costs and make sure you’re at or below average costs for your geography,” Brink said, stressing the importance of knowing figures like average weaning weights.

Brink noted that he doesn’t think the cattle industry’s producers have been effective businesspeople to this point, and that the next generation of beef producers should learn from that.

“Create a value-added product,” he stressed, “and sell above the market.”

Brink also highlighted the importance of partnerships to today’s young producers. He suggested forming relationships and partnering with older ranchers who can offer wisdom and resources to help young producers get on their feet. It’s not easy, he warned, but there are opportunities out there.

“I see a number of young people starting out that way,” Brink said.

Schiefelbein said it’s an exciting time for young people to break into the beef business.

“I think I’ve seen more insurgence of young people who come to our sale who are getting into the business than I’ve seen in a long time,” he observed. Thirty years ago, he said, it was just the opposite. Cattle producers were urging young people to stay away from production agriculture. “Today, we’ve flipped this thing upside down.”

Houghton, the lone female of the group, stressed that passion for the job is key.

“Have a passion for what you do, and take a ‘failure is not an option’ attitude,” she said. “Get up and be excited about what you do. There’s a lot of opportunity as less people are involved, and the responsibility falls on us to feed a hungry world.

“It’s not an easy life, but it’s a great life,” she added.

Daley observed that it’s up to today’s experienced industry professionals to provide new positions for up-and-coming producers.

Colleges of agriculture across the country are growing and expanding options for students and young professionals to be involved in the beef industry. Many young people want to be a part of this industry, he said, but “can we provide those positions?”

“It’s tough,” he said, “but we can do it.”

If anything is certain in the beef industry, it is that failure is inevitable, Daley observed. “You will be a risk taker and you will fail along the way, but it will be a great opportunity,” Daley said.

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