Thursday, May 22, 2008


Our attitude determines our response to what life hands us. In many ways, it drives our behavior.

Last week a good friend related to me the story of a two-day trip calling on various beef producers. The trip was designed to include a variety of operations as an educational venture for an executive in his company that had little knowledge of the beef industry. His story illustrates the difference in attitude of each of the producers and how they are responding to the currently trying times in the beef industry. (Disclaimer: Note that either no names are given, or they are changed to protect the innocent and not-so-innocent!)

The first stop on the tour was to an operation that consisted of a small pre-conditioning facility as well as a cow herd and some stocker cattle. This individual had experienced escalating feed costs and had been “burned” by a couple of his pre-conditioning customers. His view was that ethanol was killing the beef industry. To sum it up, he had a “woe is me, the sky is falling” attitude. All he could see was the downside created by escalating feed costs.

The second stop on the tour was to an operation that specialized in buying light weight calves and taking them through a stocker phase before selling them to someone else for finishing. This individual had tried numerous approaches to add value to his cattle but found that “it doesn’t matter what I do, someone else always gets ahead while I just try to survive.” His attitude was one of powerlessness in the face of market realities.

The third stop was to meet with a veterinarian. He felt that although we were currently in a “down” cycle, it would eventually pass. The focus of the conversation with him quickly turned to new technology. He wanted to know what was in development, when would it be available and whether they had considered looking at a list of other possibilities. His attitude was forward-looking and positive.

The fourth stop was to a large cattle feeding operation. The attitude there could be described as “it’s bad but it will be better and this is what we’re doing to make sure we are still in business when it does.” They had a “hunkered-down-in-the-bunker” mentality but saw an improving future. Their attitude was one of “dodging bullets” until it got better.

The fifth stop was to a small pre-conditioning and stocker operation. The owner had experienced a number of setbacks and recently taken a job in town to supplement his income from livestock. He was at the point of feeling “beat up” and not knowing what the future would hold. He realized that much of his predicament was due to decisions that he had made that cost him dearly. It will be a difficult road to recovery, but he was going to give it his best effort. His attitude was one of having been through a fight but not through fighting yet.

The sixth stop was to a small operation that primarily ran stocker cattle. He saw opportunity everywhere. To him, turmoil signaled opportunity. His attitude was one of innovation, forward-thinking and determination to exploit opportunity.

The seventh and final stop was to a large seed stock operation. They felt that things weren’t great right now but were preparing for the future. They were extremely knowledgeable of the global factors affecting their operation and had plans in place to adapt to every conceivable contingency. Their attitude was positive but cautious and designed for what they saw as an uncertain future.

All-in-all, the attitudes were more positive than would be expected given the difficulties the industry faces as it adjusts to the realities of a bio-fuel economy. The operations listed above will be profoundly affected by changes in the beef industry. Their individual attitudes will affect how well they do.

We become what we think – what our minds dwell upon. We react to our surroundings based on our attitude toward the things that we see, feel and experience. Some of the producers in the scenarios enumerated above will survive and thrive. Others will fail. Based on their attitudes, which ones do you think will be the survivors?


i beati said...

boy I needed that injection- job searching at present

Incognito said...

great post, Pan... and so true... the quality of our lives are determined by our attitudes towards it.. whether we see the glass half full or empty so to speak.. i choose to see the positive!