We often spend our time talking about different marketing strategies, various topics affecting the industry or what's happening in the "here and now." But given the current whirlwind that the market has endured, even the simplest decisions make the most seasoned cattlemen think twice about their plan.
As my folks do most years, they contract their calves midsummer to a country buyer who agrees to pay a set price for their steer and heifer calves later in October. It just so happened that my folks had more heifer calves last year than steers, so they kept back a load of calves to market sometime later in the spring of 2020. This strategy usually works beautifully in their favor as they can unload some green calves into the spring market and capture some of the strong early bird grass sales.
As you can imagine, they wish they would have sold those calves last fall as they've got another six months into them, are maxed out on available summer grass and the calves are only worth now what they were last fall.
We all jumped on a call a couple of weeks ago to chat about various options they may have and my grandpa's wisdom of, "your first loss is usually your cheapest loss," ended up summarizing their thoughts. They decided to sit the second gamble out and sell their calves now while there's still some grass cattle interest rather than sitting on them throughout the summer and seeing what next fall pans out to be.
In times like these, you can beat yourself up and play the "I should-have" game a million different ways. But mindset and perspective are far more powerful than we realize. This past week I tuned into a round table discussion hosted by Rio Nutrition, which was their way of circling the wagons and coping with COVID-19, but still getting powerful information out to cattlemen.
There was one rancher on the call who joined the Zoom meeting of more than 100 participants and silenced every screen. The meeting host knew that this rancher, whom I'll call Tucker, had been diagnosed with cancer within the last year. He asked Tucker to share his outlook on the market with the entire group. Tucker wasted no time clicking the unmute button and said, "This is nothing but a bump in the road. If I'm blessed to see tomorrow, you're damn right I'm going to work hard and I'm going to have a good attitude. I have a passion for what I do and I won't let this virus, or cancer for that matter, steal my passion and fire for this industry."
The hair on the back of my neck stood up as I realized that no matter how bad I think things are, there are always people whose struggles are far greater than mine, and that a good attitude can carry a person a long way.
The latter part of the call focused on something that we as cattlemen, women, ranchers and farmers sometimes try to avoid discussing -- our mental health.
The organization has framed the acronym, "HAH" meaning, "Heads Up and Healthy." Something simple, but oh so powerful. In these times, where it's easy to get weighed down by the negative news and feel anxious over the current state of the market and the financial burden of fat cattle that are selling for less than a dollar, we need to realize that our mental health cannot be overlooked.
It not only affects us as individuals, but it also affects our families, households and friendships.
As ranchers, we take care of things. We take care of business, our family, our livestock and our communities. Through all those responsibilities and now the impact of COVID-19, we must take care of ourselves so that we can continue to love those around us.
I don't know when and I don't know how much lower the markets may dip, but I know that better days will come. Like Tucker, you and I still have that passion, fire and belief in what we do every day. It's vital that, until the market turns around, we take care of ourselves; we love and protect our family and we help them remember the good things amid this season.
ShayLe Stewart can be reached at shayLe.firstname.lastname@example.org