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The Cattle Connection

Planning your cattle journey

A person standing to think while staring at a far off herd of cattle in a pasture.

I have been traveling recently. I hop in the truck, load the navigation app, and off I go. Within seconds, I know exactly how to get to my destination and how long it will take. If I get off course, the app tells me how to get back on track.

Finding your way in the cattle business would be easier if you could simply turn on navigation and follow the arrow. This isn’t the case. Mapping out your farm and ranch plan is an extensive task.

This isn’t a deep dive into ranch planning. Instead, I want to highlight the need to plan for your future. In the current cattle market, almost everything works. But, what about when the cycle turns? Will you know where you are going?

The destination is important to the plan. After all, it is hard to plan a trip if you don’t know where you are headed. Your destination should be your market and future market opportunities. Determine the market that you have developed or plan to develop. Investigate what could make your cattle more valuable in that market or if there is potentially another market that would better fit your cattle, the production environment, and the management level. One of the most encouraging characteristics of cattle production is the numerous different marketing opportunities and potential end destinations.

After identifying the destination, plan the route. Different routes can be taken to achieve the same destination. No two farms are exactly alike. People approach production differently. What works well for you may not work well for your neighbor. 

Besides controlling costs in this inflationary period, two topics that are of growing interest in ranch planning are genetics and consumer-focused markets.  

Genetics: Must not only fit your market, but also your production environment. It appears that genetic providers have entered an era of consolidation. With many DNA and reproductive technologies, cattle genetic change is at a rapid pace. Make sure you are keenly focusing on genetics that align with your goals, or you may find yourself far off the path.

Consumer-focused markets: the beef industry has largely produced a take-it or leave-it product. The unmatched taste of beef has allowed for this. However, to continue receiving a premium price in the marketplace, consumer preferences within the beef meatcase will be crucial to obtaining premiums. Will that be lower-carbon beef, regenerative farming practices, locally raised, etc.? Differentiation in beef labels to obtain a premium will continue to evolve.

Overall, start with the end in mind. Continually evaluate your market. Can you plan to better fit your market while incorporating flexibility to accommodate coming changes in the beef cattle industry? Will your market stay strong, or do you need to align yourself to participate in other markets?

*Originally published in Progressive Cattle*