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Animal Health Notebook

Normal Is Not Always Right

These days I find few "normal" practices that are fun, stress-free and profitable.


It never ceases to amaze me how often I hear people make reference to the importance of common sense and its use in making very important as well as everyday decisions.

But it's my observation that what is now considered "normal" in agriculture and most of our society prove that true normal and common sense are both actually uncommon.

Thirty plus years ago I read a book promoted by a big sales company. The title was Uncommon Freedom and it was basically a series of chapters about 12 or 15 husband/wife teams who possessed or learned the needed gifts and work ethics to become very successful in building a sales organization producing a six-figure-plus income in five years or less.

One thing that really struck me about this book was it failed to mention that less than one-half of 1% of the people entering business ever approached these levels of success, or the fact that their "freedom" required a constant re-building of the sales organization due to high turnover of personnel. Still, I recall many of the basic principles were sound.

In several ways much of agriculture today reminds me that what most people consider and preach as normal is far from correct or wise. I am sure some experts are now teaching that many disease processes and diseases are normal. This is not true. Health is normal.

I know of university agriculture professors and instructors who are convinced that the cattle business is not economically sound. With the normal model they are teaching, I totally agree. Normal or what works or does not work changes. Tenure slows progress into those newer, more profitable normals.

That reminds me that most of us believe in term limits all across the board of elected and appointed government positions with no exceptions. And, yet, there has been very little accomplished to stop the long-term camping of people on the government payroll.

Economic success in the cattle business should be normal. All we do is provide lots of fresh grass, an increasing soil health, the right kind of cattle, clean water, and shade. Daily control of the cattle is now considered normal by a few of us, but the adoption rate has been less than 1%.

Big-, medium- and small-money investments and expenditures are normal in the cattle business. Some say that spending money brings on happiness and adds sexiness.

I hope to never forget an old client of mine telling me more than 30 years ago about a lending agency showing up at his place back in the 1950s. He had several acres of high-quality bottom land, and they wanted to loan him money for an upright silo so he could grow corn silage and double his cattle enterprise.

He told them, "Shucks, boys, I don’t own or need a tractor. I buy my hay from my neighbor. Do y’all really think you are gonna to sell me a silo?"

What was a normal practice all over the county did not seem normal to him. Insanity was the word I remember him using. He said it made about as much sense as trimming cows’ feet. (Ouch! I was in the foot trimming business at the time.)

I now find few normal practices that are fun, stress-free and profitable. I have replaced my foot trimming equipment with a visit to the sale barn and, in addition, have drawn a line through lots of other normal management practices. The best part of the cattle business is money we do not spend.

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