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Opinion: Creating positive influences in our corner of the world

Warren Symens
South Dakota Cattlemen's Association Vice President

“Because I’m tired, and I don’t wanna.” That was my 11-year-old boy’s response when I asked him why he wouldn’t write this piece for me. I can relate, buddy.

It got me to thinking about how many things I leave undone simply because I’m tired and I don’t wanna. Even with the things I attempt to make a priority, I run out of steam at the end of the day, week, month, and eventually, grudgingly accomplish. But the result isn’t nearly as successful as if I’d put the effort in and captured the full potential of what could have been. We all have a lot on our plates, and there doesn’t seem to be a chance to breathe sometimes. I find it hard to fulfill all of my obligations to family, farm, and volunteer work. But I put them in that order for a reason, and am surrounded by people who help me pull that off. In each of these, I find the energy to continue if I just allow myself to look for it.

On New Year’s day, my oldest boy and I loaded some bulls up, picked up some extra help, and headed for the inaugural Cattlemen’s Congress in Oklahoma City, OK. It was a well-participated event, with top quality bulls and heifers of every breed being exhibited and judged. Our bulls did well, but it was only because someone (not me) put in the amount of time to get them broke, washed and blown, and clipped several times in the months leading up to the trip. The crowd in Oklahoma City was positive and optimistic when it came to the cattle market. I’ve decided that cattle folk are all just naturally optimistic, or we wouldn’t be in the business we’re in.



Later on, in January, I attended the Clark/Hamlin affiliate meeting in Bryant, SD. That, also, was well attended by lots of folks with a stake in our business. They, too, were optimistic and from the conversations, I had there, there’s plenty of positive energy surrounding the cattle business. I made a few remarks about what the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association has been up to, and Todd Wilkinson followed with the same remarks about the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. It was immediately clear I had not made preparing for that meeting enough of a priority and could have communicated a few things better. Regardless, those types of opportunities are important for all of us to take advantage of.

The following week provided the opportunity for a South Dakota Cattle Feeder’s Council meeting, as well as an SDCA meeting, both over zoom. Tucked in between those I also attended a regional co-op board meeting. All of the folks on those zooms and in those board rooms made it a priority to not only attend but prepare for and follow up after those meetings. It was great to hear where we are going, what we’ve learned from the successes we’ve had, and what we needed to make a priority for the future. The positive attitude in all of those instances was contagious and will no doubt lead to future success as well.



In early February, I had the chance to join a committee with the North American Limousin Foundation to discuss future research opportunities. The experience was the same: positive, forward-thinking cattlemen and women, putting in the time and effort to move forward. It’s exciting to listen to new ideas and help come up with a plan, instead of listening to the fear and pessimism that seems so widespread these days.

The following morning, I listened in on my first NCBA committee call as I drove to The Black Hills Stock Show. When I first saw I would be on the tax and credit committee, I almost immediately went to sleep just thinking about how exciting that would be. But I couldn’t have been more wrong, or happier that I’d made it a priority to be on that call. A representative from the USDA presented some financial opportunities through their beginning farmer and rancher programs, as well as other opportunities. An NCBA staff person gave an overview of the climate in Washington, DC, regarding policy and the new administration. I was pleased to hear that things are going quite well, and folks there are optimistic after initial discussions with the new/old Secretary of Agriculture. The best part of the call was a presentation by Alliant Group about research and development tax credits that many of us don’t even know we qualify for.

Once in Rapid City, I found myself surrounded once again by positive, energetic cattlemen and women who were just happy to be there, doing what they love. After hearing a good report at our breed’s banquet and having quite a good time at the benefit auction and fundraiser, the week’s show activity continued the next morning with a couple of great shows with a lot of great cattle. The afternoon that followed yielded a strong sale, with bleachers full of excited ranchers. The conversations I had with lots of people in the exhibit hall were nearly all positive, with nearly everyone looking to the future with optimism.

None of these events happened by chance. A lot of people came together, each with different personal priorities, to pull off a variety of activities for the cattle community. They saw these jobs not just as obligations, but as a chance to make a positive influence on their corner of the world, and to propel this business we’re all in forward with improvements in every sector. They chose not to sit, wringing their hands with worry about what has or could happen, or allow pessimism to keep them from being active. We all are provided these opportunities every day, and it’s up to us to decide if we’re gonna be too tired and don’t wanna.


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