Sort & Cull

Is Mentorship Missing in Today's Agricultural Community?

ShayLe Stewart
By  ShayLe Stewart , DTN Livestock Analyst
So often, we hear about the differences that one generation has with the next. This past week I was reminded it doesn't have to be that way. (Photo by ShayLe Stewart)

This past week I had the opportunity to do some traveling and it's amazing what a trip can do for your mind. From speaking at the University of Nebraska's Women in Agriculture "Herd That" event, to going through several different feedlots in southern Wyoming with my good friends Ken Betschart and Brodie Mackey with Consolidated Beef Producers -- my cup couldn't be any fuller.

I was given the opportunity at "Herd That" to be the opening speaker and give the audience a market update before everyone broke into groups and dove into various topics. But before I jumped into the complex nature of the markets, I spent the first few minutes highlighting the important principles of Proverbs 27:17, which reads, "As iron sharpens iron, so does one person sharpen another."

Mentorship is something I think we need to spend more time focusing on in the agriculture community. There is so much to be learned from generational knowledge and, as we face a harsh economic state as a country, you can never have too many mentors to run various ideas or concerns by.

After my initial market outlook presentation, I gave an hour-long presentation titled "Managing Drought Amid a Changing Cattle Cycle," which focused on knowing where the cattle market sits in its cyclical pattern when making drought-related decisions. The audience was especially lively in this group as every single producer in the room had faced drought hardship from one degree to another in the past two years. At the end of my presentation, I opened the discussion to questions, but then also encouraged participants to ask one another questions or share strategies that had worked for them in past drought scenarios.

Some phenomenal questions were asked and a younger gal raised her hand. I signaled for her to ask her question and within seconds of speaking her first words, tears started to run down her cheeks. She shared that her and her husband were presented with an opportunity to buy more cows and given where the market is projected to head in the next couple of years, she was elated at the opportunity. But being wise and discerning, she was also blunt about the fact that if the market didn't perform like it's projected to, they could be forced to sell everything as the combination of higher interest rates, sky-rocketing input costs and various other drought pressures have already pressured their bottom line. And by the time she finished addressing the room, asking advice from her peers and from the women who had obviously lived through more life and market turmoil than she had, compassionate and real tangible advice was flowing from every corner of the room.

I was blown away by her bravery and willingness to share her vulnerability to hopefully gain some much-needed advice; but I also valued the older generations who were willing to meet her where she was and speak light into not only her, but also her business.

So often we hear about the differences that one generation has with the next, but this past week I was reminded that it doesn't have to be that way.

ShayLe Stewart can be reached at


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