Valued partners in the beef business

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beef cattle

My sister and I had a name, a self-created logo, an inkjet printer and a handful of steers we fed and sold as freezer beef. We had a business that kept us occupied most of the year and eventually earned enough money to buy our first vehicles. Over the long haul, we had something that inspired both of us to take a keen interest in animal science. We also had our first partnership.

There were easy advantages to doing it as a team. We’d often trade-off morning and afternoon chores. Yet if the automatic waterer froze — as it often did in the dead of a Minnesota winter — then it was all hands on deck to get it taken care of before the school bus came.

Perhaps your first partnership was also with family. Maybe it was a business arrangement. Maybe it was a little of both, like ours. (Signing our names next to each other on the operating note made it extra official.)

If you’ve ever wanted to dip your toe into feeding an undivided share of your calves after weaning without assuming all the risk, you might have partnered with a cattle feeder. Maybe you were once the younger generation, getting a start by keeping some cows in a herd with an established producer. Maybe you’re currently giving somebody a foray into the business yourself.

There are partnerships all across the beef business, but they’re not always as clean as who will bale the hay and who is going to feed it. Some are less direct but equally as important.

It’s the person who helps you decide on a grazing strategy or the vet who gets that weaning program tweaked just right. It’s the video rep who gives you pointers or the bull customer who comes back year after year. They’re partners. They’re wholly interested in your success, just as you are in theirs. You have shared goals.

And in the end, it’s the consumer who buys beef by the grade or brand, knowing they’ll get exactly what they expect every single time. It’s a trust. A partnership.

Do you focus what you can do to make life better for those at the next link in the beef chain? Are your cattle profitable for you and your buyer and your buyer’s buyer, too? What are you doing to hold up your end of the bargain? Next time in Black Ink, I’ll write about the next step.

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