Cody Schooten always wanted to know what makes packing plants tick. Taking part in the Cattlemen’s Young Leaders (CYL) pilot program gave him the opportunity to do just that by spending some one-on-one time with two experienced men: Scott Entz, general manager of Cargill Meat Solutions at High River, and Derek Hill, facilities manager of Cargill Value-Added Meats at Spruce Grove.
Schooten feels he was chosen to participate in the program because he exemplifies what young people face when making a start in the beef industry. He is already a partner with his dad and two brothers in the family’s 10,000-head feedlot, John Schooten &Sons Custom Feedyard, near Diamond City, Alta. He and his brother Shane also started their own business, S&Schooten Farming, to earn money while buying into the feedlot so as not to jeopardize their parents’ retirement. S&Schooten Farming offers custom silage chopping, manure hauling, fieldwork and cattle feeding services.
Schooten’s CYL objectives focused on learning more about cattle markets, marketing strategies for various types of cattle and what would make his animals more attractive to packing plants, along with exploring alternatives for value-adding and expanding their operation in the future.
Considering his mentors’ busy schedules, he feels fortunate to have been able to meet personally with each of them for an afternoon and connect by email and phone whenever questions arose. Entz also put him in touch with one of Cargill’s head buyers.
“Cargill is a big company, but now I can put faces to it,” he says. “It helped me understand the beef business better by learning more about how they grade and market the beef and, in turn, what type of animal the plant desires and what our cattle need to be to top the market. The buyer explained some of the company’s programs, such as the grid and the certified Angus programs, and the type of cattle they look for to fit into those programs.”
Schooten also had an opportunity to tour both facilities and was impressed with the efficiency at both locations. It was something he probably never would have had a chance to see otherwise.
The idea of expanding his operation with an organic or hormone-free sideline has crossed his mind, so one of his objectives was to learn more about the potential for those sectors. Entz provided contacts for a couple of large feedlot operations that have been involved in finishing organic and hormone-free beef. Schooten found out that the time needed to manage a specialized production stream is the greatest challenge for this type of operation and the main reason people don’t stick with it.
His final objective was to research and create a PowerPoint presentation about the feeding industry, which he says was a great way to gain a broader perspective on his sector and where it’s headed.
Schooten managed to arrange time to attend the CYL Fall Forum to meet other CYL participants and industry representatives. Cindy Delaloye, general manager of the Canadian Beef Grading Agency explained how cattle are graded and where camera grading fits in. Canfax manager/senior analyst Brian Perillat gave him a true picture of where cattle inventories are located, and Mauricio Arcilia with the Canadian Beef Export Federation gave him a new perspective on Canada’s export markets and the products demanded in those markets.
“Knowing that kind of information can benefit our company,” he says. “If we know what new markets will be around the corner we can be ready to sell that certain kind of beef and have a competitive edge when the market does open,” he adds. “It’s easy to get stuck here and not really see the outside world. We put our checkoff money in but don’t really know where it’s going, so it’s good to get out and get a refresher. I want to know more about my industry because I hope to be here for a long time.”
His dad has been active with industry organizations and though it’s a path Schooten may follow, he realizes it’s a big commitment and says now just isn’t his time. However, his dad gets his and his brother’s full support when he has to be away because they know it’s important for producers to be involved in the industry.
Not many careers offer the opportunity to work with family every day and that’s one of the best things about the beef industry as far as he is concerned.
“There has been a negative atmosphere and our industry has had its challenges, but I think we have such a vibrant industry,” Schooten says. “I meet a lot of young people who are still involved and they are hard workers and ambitious. I think our industry is in good hands going into the future.”
Schooten was looking forward to attending the Northlands Farm and Ranch Show in Edmonton at the beginning of April, when the grads of the CYL pilot program would be recognized at a banquet and he would have a chance to meet the 16 candidates who will be taking part in the nationwide CYL program this year.
Thisisoneofaseriesofstoriesonthefiveyoungleadersfrom Albertawhoparticipatedinthe2010pilotfortheCattlemen’s YoungLeaders(CYL)developmentprogram,aninitiativeof theCanadianCattlemen’sAssociationwithsupportfromCYL foundationpartners,AlbertaLivestockandMeatAgencyand Cargill,andsponsorshipfromCanadianCattlemen.TheCYL programprovidesindustry-specifictrainingandmentorship opportunitiesforyouths,ages18-35,togaintheexpertiseand businessskillsneededtoleadthecattleindustryintothefuture. Fordetailsonthe2011nationwideprogram,visit www.cattlemensyoungleaders.com.