Current Progressive Cattle digital edition


Read online content from popular Progressive Cattle columnists including Paul Marchant (Irons in the fire), Lee Pitts (It's the Pitts), Baxter Black (On the edge of common sense) and Yevet Tenney (Just dropping by), plus comments from Progressive Cattle editors.


I once heard that “the only thing that is constant is change itself.” The bare tree limbs of winter turn to blossoms of spring and the emerald glory of summer, and then give way to the brilliant dappled orange, red and yellow of autumn.

The sun comes up in a different sky every morning. Nothing stays the same. Our once-golden hair turns silver and our athletic, conditioned bodies start to sag here and there.

The laughter of our children turns from tears back to laughter again. The tiny infants we cuddled in our arms are suddenly toddlers, then kindergartners, then teens. Suddenly they are wearing tuxes and wedding gowns.

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The beef industry may be stricken with its occasional three-alarm crises, be they in the form of pink slime, animal rights activists or the return of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, but the bones of every cattleman are steeled with fiery survival.

Few other professions handle natural or fabricated challenges quite like the men and women in the beef industry, where “taking the bull by the horns” is more than a descriptive idiom, but a practical routine in ranch life.

But as well equipped as today’s rancher may be for the daily grind, it’s more apparent each year that the industry’s future is at risk.

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Normally when I get a letter or email from someone who has “seen themselves” in my column, I write back, apologize, swear I’ll try to do better and promise, as a penance, to bathe their Pekingese.

This does not include animal rights loonies, the Association for Political Correctness or the ACLU drum bangers.

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I am an irregular American – only sort of human, a black sheep, you could say. My detractors would lump me in with the loafers, deadbeats, drunks, gamblers, hoboes and tramps.

Yes, it’s true, I have to admit that I have always belonged to that lower class of people known as “fall calvers.” There, I said it. Do those of you who calve your cows in the springtime think less of me now? I thought so.

Because the vast majority of cattlemen in this country calve their cows in the spring, those of us who calve in the fall are discriminated against, victimized and looked down upon by those smug ranchers who think they are superior just because they calve in blizzards and don’t have to watch calvy heifers during the holidays.

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The beef industry’s aggressive push to defend finely textured lean beef in the aftermath of “pink slime” reporting is completely warranted, even if it comes a day late and a dollar short.

We could certainly blame social media, slipshod reporting or an uninformed consumer base. But that would ignore a fundamental modern-day reality.

The uproar over lean trimmings in ground beef shows, yet again, that a seismic shift has hit the marketplace.

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Several years ago, I helped coach the local high school basketball team for a few seasons. As anyone in rural America knows, hitching one’s hopes and reason for living to the success of a small town high school athletic program can sometimes be like a spring spent doctoring scouring calves. Your efforts and heart may be fully invested, but you’re most likely going to lose some.

One particular season, as high school sports are supposedly intended to do, served up a good share of life lessons.

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