There is all this talk about how farmers and ranchers squeeze as much production out of our land and livestock as possible. Well, of course we do, and I'm proud of that fact.
There is nothing wrong with making cattle, in my case, perform better. To get more out of your available resources without sacrificing health and well being is called being progressive, not mean or awful or cruel.
There is this misconception that ranchers are heart-less, cruel factory producers of beef today who care about nothing but the buck. That's not true. We care about our livestock more than most people understand. However, raising beef is also our job, and it has to be economical.
It's impossible for me to explain the combination that is involved in making ranching profitable and loving what you do. People tend to not understand how you can love something that has to make you money. How you can love an animal you will send to slaughter to feed the world. Well, you can, and maybe you can't understand it if you don't live it, but it's the truth. We care beyond measurable means for our livestock, and we also understand and accept what their purpose is.
It's like the concept of loving your job, finding it fulfilling, and feeling like you make a difference in your day to day tasks. That's something a lot of people are looking for, or are grateful they've found. Now, what if you make money at this fulfilling job, is that okay? It's your job, so if you work hard and make money at your work, is that ethically acceptable to you?
If you think it is, then good. We have a job of feeding people, and we love our job. We realize it isn't for everyone, and we're fine with that. But, if we also work to make it economically viable (which it isn't always), what makes that so wrong?
We're all about the health, and continued improvement of our animals. If we don't take care of our land and animals, it will result in our demise. Not only are we responsible for this, we enjoy this aspect of our jobs. It's a rewarding challenge to make cattle gain more, to improve grass quality, or implement a better water system, without any negative impacts on any aspect of the ranch.
It's like having one boss who takes care of his employees, and provides them with what they need to succeed at their job. If he expects a great online presence, he provides up to date computers and software. He moves good employees up in his business, has initiatives to keep people with him and is an honest and good person to work for. He expects his people to work hard, but he takes care of them too. Then there's the boss who expects you to outperform all your competitors with decade-old computers, without enough help, and who never gives raises. Who has a mediocre at best, benefit plan, and who really doesn't know or care about individual employees. He doesn't know people's names, and his employee turnover rate is high.
Both are in the same area of business, and both want their companies to be the best in their given area, and enjoy what they do. Who would you rather work for? Who do you think will have the more successful company in the long run?
It's like this in ranching too. Our cows are like our employees, and our resources (grass, feed, health plans, water) are like the computers, raises, and benefits in this scenario. If we don't take care of our employees, and provide them with the resources they need to succeed, we will ultimately be our own demise. It's not that our cows would choose to not work for us as people can, it's that they physically wouldn't be able to do their job without the necessary things for success.
So, I'm like the boss who gives his employees everything they need to succeed, then expects them to perform. I want my cattle to be the best, and I expect it. But, I also care, and make sure they have all the tools. I have a health plan for them to keep them healthy, I provide grass and hay and cake and fresh water at all times, every day of the year, and I use genetics that will result in cattle that thrive in my environment. I'm available on nights, weekends and holidays, and I know almost every individual animal at a glance.
I'm tough, but fair. I move the good animals up in my company, and they become cows or bulls that are used to produce calves. Animals that don't meet the requirements for this line of work are used in other other ways. We feed these animals, or sell them to someone who has a need for them within their operation (business). Just like in any business, different companies have different needs, and some cattle may work great for one rancher, and not at all for another.
So, this increased performance in cattle you hear about is the economics side. We want to produce the most with what we have, just as any business owner wants to. But, also as with good business owners, we aren't willing to sacrifice the integrity of our quality employees to accomplish this. We realize our cattle are the key to our success. We care and provide for them in every way possible. Just as the good boss expects great things and continued performance out of his employees, but also genuinely cares about their individual needs and takes care of them.
It is possible to do both, and I am certainly not the only rancher like this. Almost all are - they love their animals, lifestyle and job, and make it an economical business too. If they don't they run the certain risk of losing everything they love, just like the boss who doesn't care for his business and employees does.
You have to care to be successful at ranching.