Opportunity comes with intensity
Many opportunities exist within agriculture. Most are driven by the
opportunity to make more money, but some are driven by the opportunity
to do something different.
In either case, the successful completion of the endeavor is not always
Frank Kutka, sustainable agricultural specialist at the North Dakota
State University Dickinson Research Extension Center, attended a
conference on goat production. Given my background in small ruminants,
primarily sheep, it didn’t take long to engage in a good discussion
about the conference and the world of smaller ruminants.
Having taught the key management principles involved in small-ruminant
production, the learning curve often was steep and producer success was
not always achieved. In the end, neither the sheep nor the goat
industries have successfully engaged mainstream production levels
capable of sustaining viable production scenarios of scale.
As a force within ruminant production, the vast majority of
grassland-related agriculture still centers on the beef cow. The dairy
cow is obviously present, but many producers have set aside the milk
bucket and, with time, beef cows are grazing on the pastures.
Why beef cows? Well, the answer is not simple. One does have to be
careful not to offend anyone. However, in our discussion, the phrase
“opportunity comes with intensity” seemed to surface more than once.
We both concurred that, in many cases, the intensity of management
needed to successfully engage a small-ruminant operation is not
achieved. That statement is not meant to offend, but having conducted
many three-day, intensive schools on sheep production, it is true.
While I am quickly reminded this is a beef column, I could not help
making the connection to the many issues that beef producers face.
Generally, most would agree that today’s beef business, if one sets
aside the comfort that comes with higher prices and simply looks at the
industry and then sets about engaging that industry head on, is very
Not unlike the sheep and goat business, the changes that need to be made
are intense. Additional opportunity is dependent on our willingness to
engage change with intensity. Often times in the sheep business,
producers complain that their sheep simply died.
No, you simply allowed the sheep to die, was my response. As a producer,
you were unwilling to take the necessary managerial steps needed to
ensure the survival of the sheep.
Accepting that the primary reason for failure was your own managerial
decisions and general overall resistance to change is difficult to
accept. The need to increase management intensity to meet the expected
opportunity must be met.
In the beef industry, producers simply lack the desire to explore new
opportunities. As producers look backward and forward, the need to
access new opportunities needs to happen. However, often times, even
when one does take on a new challenge, the intensity of the change is
The current age and source verification effort is a good example. There
are new vaccinations, reproductive techniques, breeding programs,
supplementation programs, marketing exposure, business planning or
simply new associates entering the business.
A new level of intensity is necessary. Refusing to increase intensity,
however, means forgoing complaining about the future.
I had the great opportunity to have supper with several veterinarians
from around the world. When asked what was the greatest restraint they
encountered while working with producers, they commented that many do
not want to change and they simply restrict their own opportunities by
never allowing them to become reality.
Opportunity comes with intensity and that intensity needs to be engaged.