My children call me a Drill Sergeant, although a swimming recruiting trip to West Point as a senior in high school is as close as I have ever come to being in the military. Since I cannot fathom that my 5’3” and 110 pound frame is physically imposing, I suppose it is my confident and no nonsense manner that inspires the nickname.
I tell my children that “you have to stand for something or you will fall for anything”.
I had an experience last week at the feed yard that brought this saying (as well as my nick name) to the forefront of my mind…
When my cattle are ready for harvest, I sell them to a packing plant. While the vast majority of my cattle are marketed through U.S. Premium Beef on a value added and carcass merit (value) basis, I do have a small number of animals that are unable to be Age and Source Verified that I sell as commodity cattle to a different packing plant. Commodity cattle are animals that do not have anything that makes them unique—they are not value added, and will be marketed as generic cattle/beef. I sold a pen of commodity cattle last week, and I sold them on a Live Basis. Those of you that followed my long series of posts tracing Calf #718 from birth to harvest are aware of the way that I market my value added and Age and Source Verified cattle (https://feedyardfoodie.wordpress.com/2011/09/14/calf-718-becomes-beef/).
When I sell a pen of commodity cattle on a live basis, I get paid simply on the pounds of live animal weight at the time of shipment. In other words, the cattle are weighed when they are loaded onto the semi-trucks and that weight is multiplied by a negotiated price and that is the payment that I receive for the cattle. When you sell a pen of cattle on a live basis, the packing plant both sets the shipment schedule and arranges the semi-trucks to carry the cattle to harvest. Although these animals are not sold on a carcass value basis, they still produce safe and healthy beef and their care is of the up-most importance to me.
I began my day last Thursday morning by reading bunks and establishing a feeding schedule for the cattle in the feed yard. I then exercised a pen of newly arrived cattle just as the sun came up. After this, my cowboy and I prepared to ship the pen of commodity cattle to harvest. Unfortunately, what should have been an easy transition of animals onto the semi-truck became a challenging experience for this Boss Lady turned Drill Sergeant.
One of the three truck drivers hired by the packing plant to carry my cattle to harvest did not share my philosophy that animal handlers should be calm and level headed. He was upset about the circumstances and timing of the shipment and lost his temper… So what did a 5’3” and 110 pound female drill sergeant do with a 6’1” and 250+ pound angry male truck driver when it became obvious that he was not in control of himself?
I told him to leave my property and did not load my animals on his truck.
Something in my steady and steal-like gaze must have penetrated his anger because he left without further argument.
He returned to my feed yard an hour later in a much calmer frame of mind. His boss arrived shortly there after to ensure that professional behavior would prevail, and we loaded the truck.
I believe that calm and rational people make good cattle handlers. I believe that it is my job as Boss Lady and Humane Caregiver to ensure that my crew and I work with people that share a rational frame of mind. This was a very challenging situation to deal with, and I was glad for both my drill sergeant nature and my commitment to “stand for what I believe in”. My safety, the safety of my cowboy, and the safety of my animals relied on my ability to effectively handle the situation.
So, what is the moral of the story? Be true to your core values, and stand firmly for what you believe in. Good leadership is marked by confident, rational, and steadfast commitment…No matter what your physical stature is!