Cattle producers have to make difficult decisions all of the time and we get pretty good at it. We know that not every male calf will be the next herd sire, nor will every heifer make a good brood cow. As a matter of fact, we (at the UKREC) don’t put our ownership brand on an animal until it has been developed and meets our standards.

So what’s my point? Well, it seems that we keep relaxing the standards for our young people – our most valuable resource. I mentioned some time ago that a professor that was tough on his students actually did us a favor. We had to study and be prepared in a competitive environment. Just as important as being prepared, was the feeling of confidence that comes with knowing the subject matter. You don’t get that by just coasting through life.

We now have a “microwave” society that wants instant gratification with little effort. You know – everyone’s a winner and blue ribbons for everybody. We’re concerned in public schools about average daily attendance (that’s how schools get state money). Gotta keep their fannies in a seat. We spend a lot of time on unmotivated, disruptive students, perhaps at the expense of good students. A good cowboy will cull a cow that is wild and disrupts the herd. If they don’t produce they’re gone.

College and university professors are under pressure to keep retention rates high. They can apply tough admission standards to increase the chances of success but you can’t always measure that. Hard work can overcome a lot on the road to success. If we are going to put our “brand” on students they should be topnotch and it takes hard work to accomplish that.

I am reminded of a couple of Brangus cows that we had in the herd here – G5 and G6. One (G5) was an outstanding looking individual but G6 – not so much. She was fine-boned and lacking capacity. I was always tempted to cull her but she kept breeding early and having a nice calf. The G5 cow was much better looking and I was proud of her. That was several years ago and now the Brangus herd is made of mostly G6 descendants. Culling her would have been a mistake because output is what you ultimately judge the cows on.

Our children should be judged on their output at all levels because that’s what ultimately determines success. Continuously relaxing standards for our young folks does them no great favor. Ability is worth a lot – but it is worth a lot more when mixed with a little “elbow grease” (effort). Quit trying to make everything so easy for our kids, they need someone to push them sometimes.

We could learn a lot from a cowboy!

Some Tidbits from China

Dr. Jeff Lehmkuhler and I were invited to speak at the first Chinese National Symposium on Beef Cattle Nutrition. We also got to learn a little about the beef industry in China. Here are some interesting points:

• China has a huge appetite for beef. They would like to increase production of beef, sheep and dairy and must rely on low quality inputs. They also don’t want to fully rely on foreign markets and would prefer to use imports as a supplement. They plan to “ramp up” production with the aid of government subsidies.

• China produces 50% of the world’s pork, 20% of the poultry and 10% of the beef. It also imports the largest amount of soybeans in the world (60 million tons). It seems logical that importing beef from the U.S., which is much more efficient in production, could be a beneficial move. We now produce 10,502 million metric tons (carcass weight) and China produces 5.8 million metric tons. We export 11.5% of our beef.

We sometimes forget about the impact of culture on food consumption. The Chinese will advise you “if you want to do business in China, learn to use chopsticks”. It’s intriguing to think that maybe we could do more business in China if we were, perhaps, more culturally aware and developed “chopsticks” friendly beef products. They don’t use steak knives