Mother Nature, predators, and customers

As we move along in the world we are told we are going to be hard pressed to feed everyone in the future and our planet is going to suffer from it.  Many are against the production of livestock claiming it is a big contributor to climate change, bad for the environment, and is cruel to animals.

I am not sure any of these are true. Many things in the past have happened that changed the course of history, so it is hard to predict the future with 100% accuracy.

I do know Mother Nature has had grazing animals and predators working in unison to create balance in the ecosystem for thousands of years.  I just don’t understand what has changed that makes that such a bad thing.

Most of the people that are against the production of livestock are not bad people.  They are simply believing what they believe because of what they have been told. Some do it because of political motivation, some for profit.

It is our job to change these folks’ minds if we can. I like to look at things from a cattle handling perspective, so the first thing we will do is sort ’em up three ways.

Pen number one is the folks that are already enjoying beef.

We must keep this pen full and happy. We must give them what they pay for and make sure we do things at least as well as they expect and better if we can. Just like cattle in a pen, they may not all be the same, but they all deserve the best care possible.  If the folks in this sort want all natural, organic, grass-fed, grain-fed choice, grain-fed select, or hamburger let’s give it to them and keep them happy and well fed. This is a big pen of easy keepers, but we can’t get complacent.  We must keep our eye on them and always be aware of problems that may show up.  In cattle we practice good BQA (Beef Quality Assurance). In this pen we need to practice PQA (People Quality Assurance).

Pen number two are the folks that are a little hard to get to sorted off, are on the edge of jumping the fence, and real nervous when they get in the pen.

We must work with this sort to get them in the pen and once in the pen they will need to be handled properly.  This pen takes a lot of work, but it is very important “to do the right thing” because at some point we may be able to upgrade them and re-sort some to pen number one.  We must be careful this pen does not take all our time and resources and cause us to have issues in pen one.

Pen number three is the smallest pen, are on the fight, want to hurt you, and should be handled with great respect and care.

If you get in the wrong spot and they get the opportunity they will hurt you.  They should only be handled by an experienced professional.  This pen is dangerous.  If you miss a sort on one and they get into pen one or two they can stir the whole pen up and cause problems you could not imagine.

Pen three are the folks that are against animal agriculture or certain segments of it – PETA, HSUS, many environmental groups,  extreme vegetarian and vegans to name a few.  It is hard or impossible to handle pen three type cattle, they bring out strange reactions by folks that are trying to handle them.  Because they are almost impossible to handle in a normal manner we get frustrated and many times do exactly the wrong thing.  If you put pressure on an animal that’s on the fight, crazy, or has lost it’s ability to reason, it can really cause problems.

We in the livestock business must give pen one and two what they need, understand what they want, and understand that the customers are not always right, but they do make the decision to come to the bunk or not.  If we don’t give them what they want pen three is always trying to get them to jump into their pen.

I would like to give you my thoughts on pen three.

We are not going to change the minds of the majority of these folks through reason or force, so it is a waste of time to do so.  The only thing we can do is not make mistakes to give them an opportunity to change the minds of pen one and two.

Allow the best trained professionals to deal with the results of the actions of this group.  This is why I feel it’s important to support organizations that do a good job of handling these situations.

The Beef Check-off seems more important now than ever, and that money must be used properly.  The anti-animal groups have much more money in the bank and the main stream media seems to favor some of their ideas.  We can’t fight them on a dollar to dollar basis, but with a true message that focuses on positive reasons for livestock, the miracle of social media and the great work that our young people are doing with it, we can make more of a difference than ever before.

If you try to find the positive in each situation, it is often helpful.  I look at the folks in pen three as predators to the livestock industry.

In nature predators serve a purpose.  They keep animals bunched, creating a herd that keeps moving together. While in the herd individuals must get along, do the right thing, or they get pushed out and increase the chance of predator attack.

Just like the herd, we in this business need to move together, get along and help each other to keep from being attacked.

Predators not only keep the herd bunched, but also keep them moving to fresh feed, which for animals is moving in the right direction.  This is what makes predators so valuable to our ecosystem.  Because of predators, grazing animals have been improving our environment for thousands of years.

Understand the predators are moving us in the direction that the customer wants us to go. We are much better at animal care and managing our resources because of the pressure put on by the livestock industry predators.

Predators eliminated the weak, overly brave, lazy, and not smart animals. We also must remember that some animals became extinct, and many are struggling to keep from becoming extinct.

As we look at the consumption of beef losing ground to other proteins,  we should take an honest look at what we need to do to improve our place in the environment (industry).  It may require some changes from the way we have survived in the past and it may require going against the wishes or interests that have created success in the past, but is the only way to secure and improve the future of the beef industry.  Remember, people don’t have to eat beef, but want to.  Lets do what it takes increase the desire.

Some in our business have not changed to fit the times. We must be very careful about protecting these folks or the entire industry may suffer.  As in nature, not everyone can survive in this business.

Mother Nature is harsh.  The predators kill in a way that is very disturbing and just looks wrong.

If you look at it from the big picture what they are doing is keeping things in balance and headed in the right direction.  When a prey animal is weak or makes a mistake they are taken out, making the herd stronger and more adapted to the environment at the moment.

It seems to me that if you look at the big picture of the situation, pen number three is very hard to handle, dangerous, and flat out makes you so mad you can hardly stand not to do something.  The trouble is the only thing you can do is to get smarter and try to keep from dealing with the pen three’s.

The big picture is that the predators of the livestock industry are making us much more aware and creating better management of our resources, better care and handling of our livestock and that is keeping pen number one on the gain and real content, hopefully pen number two is realizing that we are getting better at the things they want in our product.

In nature it seems as everything should go along in harmony, with no natural disasters, no suffering, no starvation or any thing negative.  That’s not the way it works.

The livestock business is the same way.  We are going to have great times and we are going to have some challenges.  How we react and what we learn from each challenge is going to determine the direction of the future of the industry.

Listen to the customer, work with Mother Nature, and be careful of predators.

~ Curt Pate

8 thoughts on “Mother Nature, predators, and customers

  1. Tim

    Outstanding, well thought out article. Gives a great perspective on our industry and the challenges we face. Thanks much.

  2. Kevin Devine

    This may be the simplest and best explanation I’ve heard about where we stand as an industry and where we need to go. Good job and thanks, Curt.

  3. T. Coe

    Just two quick notes – it’s worth pointing out that you consider absolutely none of the arguments (moral, nutritional, or otherwise) that are presented by those in “Pen #3” / the Predators. Casting them as simply just mindless dangers to the livestock industry isn’t exactly the best way to convince someone like me (in Pen #2) that your way is the best way.

    Also, Mother Nature is not Business. As much as we like to envision our marketplace as one contained within a Darwinist fantasy, it is clearly not that. It might be besides the point to note that the domestication of animals is hardly natural either…

    However, I do love your approach and willingness to hear the consumers’ voices. That’s how the industry will ultimately survive and thrive for sure!

    1. Curt Pate

      T. Coe,

      Thanks for the comment. I do consider pen 3 point of view every day, and try to understand them and learn from them. I have met and been in conversation with many vegetarians and some vegans. I find them very caring, and very much wanting to do the right thing. The real predator I am talking about are the extreme cases, like the ones that throw blood, display obscene things in public, or say extreme things that are not true.

      I think you are correct in saying Mother Nature is not a business.
      In my way of thinking, we must manage our business and lifestyles to protect and improve Mother Nature. Not just in science based, or feel good based, but things that truly work. If you read my thoughts on the home page you will see what I think of the “big picture”.

      Thank you again and it sure is nice you care enough to take the time to make a comment.


    2. George Gates

      Enjoyed your comments very much. I have had many dealings with those in Pen #3 and I can say without question your description is correct. You can waste a lot of time and effort attempting to change their way of thinking. If those in Pen#2 don’t understand the reality they may soon be in Pen #3

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