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Let’s get specific

Progressive Cattle Editor Cassidy Woolsey Published on 24 December 2019

It’s that time of year when Bowflex and Jenny Craig monopolize our televisions and the parking lot to the gym looks like a corral on shipping day.

Budgets will be made, new languages will be studied, and smokers will quit smoking. New Year’s makes way for a tradition of fresh starts and reflection. But if history repeats itself, 80% of these resolutions will fail by February. Ouch.

Is that saying Americans don’t have enough willpower? Maybe. But some experts believe the biggest reason people fail to keep their New Year’s resolutions is because they are not specific enough. Instead of resolving to “exercise more” or “lose weight,” the goals should be more specific, such as running a 5k or losing 10 pounds by a certain date.

In the beef industry, producers are striving for things such as increased feed efficiency, better carcass quality, improved fertility and, of course, more production. Many resolve to pass on the family’s ranching legacy, to be good stewards of the land and to improve their stockmanship. While these are all notable goals, how can we make sure we aren’t contributing to the statistic?

An example would be that of succession. I don’t know of many ranchers – if any – who wouldn’t want to pass on their cattle operation to their posterity. But according to Iowa State University as well as others, 39% of the cow-calf industry does not have a succession plan in place. That statistic seems a bit low for an industry based on family.

The challenge is: Many of these goals are long-term. The SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely) principle really only applies to short-term goals. Instead, maybe we should view them as “set directions,” where short-term goals and objectives are implemented to move us forward in that desired direction.

Burke Teichert, a speaker and consultant, used this concept when he was the general manager at Rex Ranch several years ago. Their direction at the time was more pounds of beef per acre and less cost per pound produced. Some of their short-term objectives included drilling a solar well in a certain pasture, reducing a set dollar amount of fed feed costs, reducing one pickup on the ranch and so forth, and each included a date as to when it would be accomplished.

Teichert said, “When setting direction for the long run and setting tactical goals for the short run is properly done, people at all levels become excited about their work and produce from their mind and creativity, not just from physical labor.”

We can all attest that the monotony of fixing fence, checking water and putting out metaphorical fires can take much of a producer’s time and, before long, those well-intended goals seem to be more like wishful thinking. So if you haven’t already, I challenge you to set one or two short-term goals that can be completed this year in an effort to move your operation forward in your desired direction.

As for me, I guess I better sign up for that 5k.  end mark

Cassidy Woolsey
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