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Our best battles are won together

Progressive Cattleman Editor David Cooper Published on 25 March 2013

My great-great-grandfather fought for the Confederacy.

I realize that’s not a popular thing to confess. It’s easy to throw our past into the dustbin of history if it clashes with modern taste and propriety.

But for Durham Hall Smith there’s a legacy reaffirming what unites our country rather than what divided it.

You see, even though my old Tar Heel grandfather fought for the South, he wasn’t very good at it. He was captured by the Union several times, spawning a generation of jokes in our family that he never knew which side he was on.

His luck, however, turned for the worse in 1864 at Cold Harbor, where he took a bullet in the stomach. Wounded, dehydrated and surrounded by fatalities, he lay on a Virginia battlefield as good as gone.

His fate was delivered by a Union soldier assigned to sort out the dead. When he came upon my grandfather, they both noticed the other was wearing a Masonic belt buckle.

That was enough for the Yank to pick up my grandfather and place him in a wagon, where he received water and medical aid.

When the war was over, Durham Hall Smith returned home and had two more sons. To thank that unknown soldier, he named one Union and the other McUnion.

It just goes to show, even when you’re in differing camps, you literally are on the same side.

Since we’ve started Progressive Cattleman magazine, we’ve gathered ongoing feedback from producers in all corners of the U.S. They aren’t shy about telling us what makes them different or similar to what they see in the magazine.

For some regions, the work has always been done on horseback. Others don’t come near a saddle, instead working from a pickup or ATV.

Many readers are fiercely loyal to black-hided cattle, while others are open to genetics from other breeds and phenotypes.

You get another argument going with identification and traceability – while many keep taking their cattle to the fire, others insist on less painful measures.

And then there’s the marketing premium discussion, where some producers are embracing not just Certified Angus Beef targets, but also non-hormone-treated cattle programs, organic, natural or grass-fed programs.

Mention those to other producers, and they’ll say you’re wasting your breath, and that nothing feeds the marketplace like the success of grain-fed programs.

This month, we’ll be distributing our 2013 Progressive Cattleman survey in reader mailboxes. We invite you to fill it out or go online to give your input on issues related to the industry. 

Your answers help us understand the interests and diverse methods that build U.S. beef into the power it is. We hope to share the data with you in upcoming issues.

My guess is that the differences for producers are vast and unique – but their similarities have power to unite the industry.

Like those old soldiers, we just need to leave some battles behind and recognize we work on the same side.  end mark


David Cooper
Progressive Cattleman magazine