Baxter Black: On the Edge of Common Sense 1-24-11
January 24, 2011
An interviewer asked me how one can make a living in the cow business. Actually he said, “As we’re heading into the next couple years with declining cattle numbers and steady prices, how do you think you should position yourself to take advantage of the market?”
I assume he’d mistaken me as an authority in the cattle business. Maybe he thought I was a Wall Street speculator who heard rumors of another run on ethanol. Or maybe he mistook me for a dairyman, who works harder than an Egyptian hod carrier, and lives between dairy buyouts and the price of cheese in Laos.
Or I might have looked to him like a jaded packing house buyer who spends his day drawing blood from renegade cattle feeders and learning to speak Portuguese! Or an economist who practices economic monetary catability which allows him to spring back from the embarrassment and disrepute of making wrong market predictions over and over, like a ragged Phoenix with his tail feathers scorched.
Or maybe a cattle feeding addict who can’t quit risking everything he has, on the belief that he can outsmart the rancher on his left and the packer on his right. He’s like the fellow who keeps rewinding the video movie “The Alamo” and replaying it thinking, “Surely, Davy Crockett’s bound to win sooner or later!”
Or he might have thought I was a stocker-grower who haunts the sale barns gambling on each bid that the calf in the ring just looks rough because there was mud in the alley, and the rat-tail and pot-belly are genetic defects. You’ve got to admire someone who brags he only has a 10 percent death loss!
Or the lonely cow-calf operator who is the only part of the industry wherein “life style” is counted on the financial statement under asset, and his banker’s cell phone number is listed under “One More Year!”
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You would think that I might have come up with some constructive answer to the interviewer, being as how I have been a keen observer and participant in this great thing we call, “The Cattle Bidness.”
Last week I bought two solid-mouth, bred cows both marked third trimester pregnant. The first one weighted 1,390. My reasoning was even if I only kept her for one calf, I could sell ’em both back in the fall and make money! Oughta work! The second cow weighed 930, I paid $785. Got’er home. She’s got popcorn teeth, is 4 months along and has a bad temperament! Turns out I bought the one that came in after the one I thought I bid on! Gonna be hard to make her pay.
So, when he asked “… How should we position ourselves …” I aligned myself with the PGA, the NBA and the NRA, “Shoot for the center!” I said.