Editor's Note: DTN Livestock Analyst ShayLe Stewart joined the DTN team recently and will head up our coverage of the livestock and meat industries. You'll see her analysis in a variety of daily market commentary, on video and other venues to come.
Growing up, I watched my parents and grandparents spend painstaking, sweaty hours building a ranch legacy that eventually embodied the very essence of success. Their sacrifice, determination and their "no quit" attitude motivated me to become a cattleman myself. Having grown up in south-central Montana, the heart of cow-calf country, my passion for agriculture and the cattle industry only grew more and more. Whether it was helping newborn calves suck in the spring, kicking out pairs onto fresh, green rolling hills or running up to the scale in the fall to see just how much those steer calves weighed, I was hooked from an early age.
I knew I was meant to carry on this livestock legacy and eventually add my own dreams to that.
Those dreams didn't lead me astray. First, they took me to Northwest College in Powell, Wyoming, where I participated on their livestock judging team. We traveled countless miles, looked at thousands of classes and I even got to walk across the stage in Houston, Texas, for the intercollegiate livestock judging contest.
My adventures at Northwest led me to Colorado State University for my bachelor's degree in ag business. Today, my husband and I raise SimAngus cattle in the Bighorn Basin, near Cody, Wyoming, and we work tirelessly to protect this way of life. We both understand that there are easier professions, but it's the life that we crave. Together, we work side by side to hand select the best genetics for our cowherd, thoroughly examine and reexamine our operation's economics, and, at last, feed each other's desire for tomorrow.
It's far from an easy life.
Understanding the cattle market, as with any livestock market, is an intricate and ever-changing walk. You start to walk down one path and the stars align -- there's a narrow basis and seasonal trends are in place, and, bada bing, bada boom, everyone makes a little money in the end. Then comes the "modern day" cattle market we've become accustomed to today. Production costs have risen nearly 200%, steer calves in the fall are barely worth $1,000 and the banker that you thought you were good friends with seems to be cutting to the chase more often than not.
How can an industry that's been the core of agriculture be so complex, daunting and often intimidating to those who make up the industry itself? Striking up a conversation about the cattle market with everyday cattlemen can often be taboo and is a quick way to make someone sweat right through their long johns! Having been around the industry my entire life, and understanding its intimidating persona, I decided that I wanted to dig more into the critical aspect of the marketplace and bring thoughtful insight and clarity to the brave individuals that encompass its power. From growing up on the commercial cattle side of things, to later understanding the registered cattle facet, it doesn't matter where you fancy yourself; regardless of the livestock you raise or market -- or where you're located -- the market affects you. If you're not diligent about understanding its behavior, it will cost you.
Regardless of how far we have come from the era of four-framed Herefords, or pioneering cattle from the plains of Texas to the railheads of Kansas, most cattlemen are still uncomfortable with the market and how to mitigate risk. The phrase, "understanding the market's behavior," sounds like some advice a grandmother would give her oldest child before she reprimands her 3-year-old son for playing in a mud puddle. Three-year-old son, mud puddle and market clarity ... most would say, "Sounds about right!"
I understand the frustrations that today's markets can impose, and my goal for DTN customers is to share timely market information that's trusted and reliable, so that cattlemen can learn the complex market side of the industry themselves and ultimately make sound financial decisions for their own operation. Markets work best with active and informed participants, and my role is always to convey an accurate representation of the markets, whether good or bad times arise.
I'm excited to join the highly knowledgeable and unparalleled DTN analyst team! Not only do I see this as a great opportunity to help others gain understanding, but also as an essential development in my own understanding. As the proverb so beautifully notes, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." Joining the DTN platform is just that, and I look forward to working with some of the sharpest and most distinguished analysts today.
Those who had the honor and privilege of knowing longtime DTN Livestock Analyst John Harrington, or those who followed his work, know that his passion for the industry wasn't just a hat he wore from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday -- it was what defined him. His absence will forever leave a hole in the industry and his work will forever be treasured. I come to you both honored and humbled to be serving such a vast audience and working with one of the industry's most elite teams.
ShayLe Stewart can be reached at ShayLe.Stewart@dtn.com
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