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Spirited View – for May. 16, 2011

Well it’s finally upon us — spring! Although it took until April to get a reprieve from winter, the fields and pastures around our place now look more like the Everglades. It’s a welcome sight after the drought we had last summer. April reminds me of the calm before the storm. There is always so much to do and every year I make a resolution that I will make summer slow down. So this year I will do my damnedest to make that happen.

Not only do we have the ranch to run, and four kids to keep us hopping, our branded beef program has also grown steadily, with more cattle to organize on feed and for slaughter. It means dealing with more customers and instead of a two-hour time difference when dealing with buyers in Ontario or Quebec or one hour in B.C., it becomes upwards of 12 hours difference when calling customers in Europe, Dubai or Hong Kong.

The rise in cattle prices over the last six months has many people retreating from their efforts to build independent branded beef programs. I guess that’s the nature of the beast. Building a branded beef program takes dedication and commitment to see it through. In our case it means learning how to sell everything from the cheeks to the oxtails.

You can’t quit when you are 100 metres from the finish line. Although I have come to realize that there never really is a finish line when selling beef. Looking after customers and balancing the sale of everything that comes off a carcass is a never-ending job. But with time it becomes second nature and does not seem as tough as it once did.

You’re not just selling beef but selling the story — better known as marketing. My attitude is I am not just selling beef raised without hormones or antibiotics. I am selling integrity, eating quality, taste and a product that will differentiate a chef’s restaurant or a retailer’s counter.

To create a value chain I have to make sure that all the players from the ranch to the feedlot, to the packer, distributor and end user make a fair return and make sure that end user is willing to come back and buy the product again.

I have always been open to technology however I was somewhat apprehensive about all the social media that the world is going gaga over. It seems it’s all about Facebook friends, Twitter this and YouTube that. If this keeps up people are going to forget how to use their mouths, which have served as a very good communication tool for the past two million years. Needless to say these new technologies have also become a huge cost saver in marketing and branding products. Instead of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce and buy commercials a good BlackBerry, an Internet link and website will get you just as much impact. The Internet has levelled the playing field between the multinationals and small upstarts. It is an unbelievable medium in terms of reaching out to the masses that buy the products that our ranchers work so hard at producing. However making it work takes time.

Erika and I get a lot of people asking how we find time for everything that we do. My answer is that we all have 24 hours in a day and we all have choices in how we fill them. The first no-brainer was to give up television. The second was discovering Pareto’s Rule of the 80:20 which states 80 per cent of your time is spent doing things that contribute only 20 per cent to your bottom line, while there are things that take only 20 per cent of your time and contribute a whopping 80 per cent to your bottom line. Once you discover this it’s about eliminating, delegating, co-operating and procrastinating on the activities that don’t make sense. A good example is when you calve 400 cows in the winter and it’s a full-time job for a family and a hired hand. Calve in May and it’s still a job but there is lots of time to get other things done.

I have either been writing for CANADIAN CATTLEMEN or GRAINEWS for close to seven years since my early retirement from government. It’s been fun and it was always great to get the feedback from readers and to hear that some of my whacked out ideas got them thinking differently.

Over the winter I always seem to have a bit more time and so I told Erika last fall that this would be my last season of writing my column and once the first goose lands that would be it. Well the geese arrived 10 days ago and so this is it.

My writing focus will now be directed towards our beef customers, the urban populace who suffer from nature-deficit disorder and are fascinated about knowing the story about where their food comes from and the people behind it.

At month’s end we will relaunch our new Heritage Angus website and with it will come my blog, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube entries to make it work as a marketing medium. This will take time so I have to give up one thing in order to make up for the other.

It’s been great writing for you all and I hope that my ideas have made you think a little differently. If you feel you want to read some crazy thoughts I invite you to our new website www.heritageangus.com and as always all the writings can be found on our own website.

All the best and enjoy the spring and the new found prosperity in the beef business. Dr.ChristophWeder

Dr.ChristophE.WederisapurebredAngusbreederinthe PeaceregionofAlbertaandalsorunsSVRRanchConsulting. HeisalsoafoundingmemberofPrairieHeritageBeefProducers. Foradditionalinfocheckout www.spiritviewranch.com.

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