Learning is a lifelong process

black angus beef cattle

By Morgan Boecker

I was always a good student. Maintaining a high grade-point average in school was the only activity that nurtured my competitive side. But when I pursued a master’s degree in communications, I quickly discovered graduate school called for a different kind of learning, and I didn’t much care for it.

I am a doer by nature. Crossing items off my to-do list motivates me. But graduate school? There was too much planning how to do the work, rather than just getting it done. I burned out on classroom learning.

Do you ever feel the same way in the cattle business? The pace of change, from the cow-calf to feeding sectors, forces us to learn new techniques or adopt technologies that promise to make the job easier and more profitable. It’s easy to get stuck in the rut of what works and what we have time to get done. So how do you find the drive and inspiration for evolving improvement?


A Southwest rancher told me, “I learned to be a student as a grown-up.”

In his 50s, with zero years of ranching experience, he purchased land and a “Ranching 101” textbook. Though not enrolled in courses, he asked the right people lots of questions, and, over 20 years, has shipped loads of cattle that improved from 20% to 80% prime. He changed one thing at a time, applying the lessons learned. The results keep coming.


Perhaps the hardest lesson I’ve learned is this: learning is a daily chore. The university may have taught me how to acquire knowledge and study, but the true tests aren’t taken in a classroom. New knowledge requires good teachers.

Now, my best learning comes from experts who can answer questions and provide mentorship. It’s the sharing of knowledge that helps me navigate this ever-changing business. Who is helping you grow your business? Have you considered retained ownership after developing carcass traits in your herd, but been held back by the risk of the unknown?

Odds are, there’s someone ready to share the knowledge you need to make the cattle and management even better, if you only ask.


Maybe, the teacher someone needs is you. Good thing you were paying attention, all those years, to the obscure hand gestures, disgruntled directions and after-dinner table talk between family, friends and colleagues.

No matter how much I don’t want to repeat the time spent in grad school, I wouldn’t be writing this column if I hadn’t. After all, learning is a lifetime process. It’s easier when motivated, but sometimes it takes discipline and a little conversation.

(Morgan Boecker is a producer communications manager for the Certified Angus Beef Program.)


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