Joe Kovanda, 35, vice president for Bartlett Cattle Company, Kansas City, has earned a reputation for his market expertise.

“I’ve been blessed with wonderful teachers and opportunities,” Kovanda said.

Those opportunities began on the southern Montana family farm where he learned the joys of working with family, and continued through his education at Colorado State University and Kansas State University. He began his career at Bartlett in cattle procurement/risk management, then spent time with JBS Five Rivers Cattle Feeding LLC, before returning to Bartlett in his current position. “I have a great team at work and at home,” he said, crediting his wife, daughters, and work team with his success and positive outlook.

His understanding of markets has garnered him industry acclaim as he serves as the beef industry advisor to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and vice-chairman of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Live Cattle Marketing and International Markets Committee.

As chairman of the NCBA committee working through the volatility of the live cattle market, Ed Greiman of Garner, Iowa, said he depends heavily on Kovanda. “If I’m going into a meeting, I want to take the smart guy with me. He’s innovative, and methodical in his analytics, and never passes up the chance to consider a new idea.”

Prepared, observant, with an innate ability to assess the situation before chiming in, Greiman said Kovanda is the one guy everybody in the room wants to hear from.

But Kovanda is quick to downplay his role. “Cattle producers have to sell on the open market and that means they must understand risk,” said Kovanda. “But most times, we put too much emphasis on market prediction. Instead, we need to focus on the things we can control – how do we produce the most beef as efficiently and profitably as possible. And how do we do it better than we did yesterday. It’s the little things we do day in and day out to put one more pound on each animal that will feed the world.”

Greiman said it is just that worldwide, big-picture view that makes Kovanda so valuable to the future of agriculture. “He gets the whole food chain. He understands it’s not just about profit. That’s what makes his assessment of the business end of things even more important going forward.”

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