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Day 2 @ CIC12: Cattlemen’s College

Cattlemen’s College, first day of school. Actually, only day of school. I think universities should take note.

Having just attended UFA’s Cattlemen’s College in Lethbridge the week before, I was super curious to see what the flashy American version was going to be like. I was expecting my boots to be blown off.

But to be honest, my boots stayed on the whole day. Don’t get me wrong, there was a lot of interesting information and good quotes. It just seemed to lack energy and practicality.

My first session was on profitability for cow-calf places in volatile times. A volatile subject itself. There was a lot of chat about the historical value of cattle relative to other meat animals and how feeder cattle revenue growth has outpaced the rest of the economy. The take-home messages were: manage your margins (with the suggestion of locking in prices with contracts), increase working capital reserve, pay down debt, leverage expansion, manage costs and don’t let your emotions always rule over your money decisions.     No duh.

I get the point of not wanting to be too specific. I mean they did say that “what’s good for any business is not good for every business”. That totally makes sense, you have to do what’s right for you. There is no silver bullet (well, there is Coors). This leaves a challenge for a speaker to give a message to a whole room packed full of people from different situations. I do, however, think it would have been valuable to have more concrete examples of dealing with volatility within functional businesses. Drive the general take homes with concrete, tangible methods. Might make it easier to envision how it could work on the farm.

There were two points that I found interesting in the presentation:

1) When adjusting for carcass weight (I’m assuming of fed-cattle, not the cows themselves), the current cow herd is still as profitable as previous years despite shrinking numbers. Go mama cows go!

2) Resiliency is a very important characteristic of successful cow-calf producers. Especially when it comes to managing costs (i.e. being able to adapt to changes and be resilient, not resistant, to variability and novelty). I found this neat because I just read a review of a study on how resiliency in young children was found to be a characteristic that was indicative of success later in life. Is it possible that the manifestation within the industry as a characteristic of businesses that will later be successful is just another manifestation of the same behavioural relationships in a different context?

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