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Animal Health Notebook

For Beef Producers, Pride May Be The Deadliest Sin Of All

It might be pride that keeps us breeding the biggest calf and buying the newest truck.


The English cleric Charles Colton once wrote, "There is a paradox in pride: it makes some men ridiculous, but prevents others from becoming so."

That profound statement gives pause for us to consider the delicate balancing act of our actions, both personally and professionally.

Veterinarians could be rightly accused of being paid critics. In many other respects we might differ greatly, but our commonality is we have been taught to investigate and find the root of a problem or problems. So here's my criticism.

The major problem with animal agriculture stems around money: "It ain't as much fun as it used to be 'cause it don't pay good enough," is a common phrase I hear locally and across the country. The excitement and romance leave shortly after the money runs out.

Dr. Hugh McCampbell of Sweetwater, Tennessee, is a retired veterinarian, former boss, and friend of mine. He says quite frequently that the "key to prognosis is diagnosis."

So here's my diagnosis: The truth is that most of what we producers purchase on a regular basis has increased in price 400% to 4,000% in the past 40 years, while the price of cattle has only doubled.

Famous Mississippi grazier Gordon Hazard told me over 15 years ago that we would have to do a lot better job in our cattle operations and pasture management in the future in order to stay viable in business.

We must examine what tools we need to succeed verses being pretty and wasteful. I have yet to prove Hazard wrong. Those voices of successful trailblazers should be heeded.

King Solomon, who was believed to be the wisest and wealthiest person on earth at the time, said in the book of Proverbs, "Pride comes before destruction." In the cattle business, we need to constantly dwell on what Solomon said. We need to adhere to his lesson, which is actually repeated many times in the Scriptures.

It's been my observation over the years and miles that pride leads to expenditures on frivolous and unprofitable things such as pretty trucks, tractors, inefficient cattle, fences, gates, buildings and too many other ranch expenses.

For the past 30 years, the number three topic at the sale barn has been the boast of the biggest weaning weights. (The cattle market and weather are No. 1 and 2.) The universities and the A.I. companies have jumped on board, along with most everyone else. The idea is that big cows which give large quantities of milk wean big calves. The problem is they don’t make big money and they don’t live long enough. The shine on this idea is fading, but it still creates a problem in success ratios.

In our business, we need some fence, shade, good water, bountiful grass, and highly efficient cattle that fit our environment. Beyond those things, we need little else.

I suggest we all consider working to replace pride with planning.

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