A Few Thoughts by John Nalivka – Refraining from turning a good discussion into laws

The beef industry continues to evolve and change is the watchword. Many or perhaps most of the changes are good for the industry including ranchers. Of course, it is important for cattlemen to not only be aware of critical changes that are impacting the market but to also understand how they impact your production practices.

Making key decisions that incorporate structural and market changes into how you manage your cattle and ranching operation can be positive to the bottom line on your financial statement. And, those decisions can also have a positive impact on your ranch resources. These decisions may involve retained ownership, cattle market weights, market timing, and grazing. In addition, there is increasing demand for source verification, and records to support production practices. But, ultimately, the word that keeps coming to the forefront of all the discussion is sustainability.

The U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (USRSB) in early November released a report talking about guidelines and metrics for all aspects of beef production including land resources, animal health and well-being, and employee safety and well-being. These are all things that cattlemen and ranch owners should think about and improve upon. However, I continue to struggle with where this all leads and more important, how do you get there. This is an important question because at the end of the day, it becomes the difference between you or someone else making decisions for your ranch. To this point, these “sustainability” initiatives have been voluntary. Incorporating recommendations into your beef production operation is your decision with regard to why, when, and how.

The impending problem may be how sustainability is perceived. Animal welfare and the environment can be pretty hefty issues with the general population. That may not necessarily create a problem until those groups with a radical view want to help you make decisions.

I may have a tendency to dwell on sustainability. But, I strongly believe in private property rights. Your decisions must be aligned with the goal of best practices regarding your livestock, your land, and long term profitability. I am in favor of the discussion. I am not in favor of turning the discussion into laws and regulations.