Honoring Tradition, Creating Change
Baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie are traditionally loved by most Americans but in my family, it would sound more like cattle shows, steak and raising Angus cattle because I mean, who has time to eat dessert anyway?
Being a fourth-generation member of a ranching family has a long list of traditions and ways that have brought me to this point in life. Every year, I enjoyed working side by side family members to AI, vaccinate or feed cattle, pick out the new show string and survive halter breaking as well as the long discussions as to what our family could do differently to enhance the natural resources, our cattle and create a better bottom line. In Kansas it is also the spring burning of pastures to help control brush and boost the growth of grass before we turn cattle out for grazing. To me there is no better sight than black cattle on the bright green grass in May. These traditions built a foundation of life skills in me that include a strong work ethic, faith and the knowledge to find solutions when faced with a challenge.
For the Angus breed, changes created traditions. We can go back to 1873 with George Grant bringing the first Angus bulls to the plains of Kansas and putting them on his traditional Longhorn cows. Grant created change by producing a polled animal with hybrid vigor. It continued into 1883 with the formation of the first Angus breed association, followed in 1952 with establishment of the American Angus Auxiliary and then in 1978 with the development of the Certified Angus Beef Program. All of these entities continue growing today with over 332,000 registrations of Angus cattle and a future focused on customer service, education and business expansion.
Mick Colvin and his progressive colleagues honored tradition by utilizing the Angus bull to create Certified Angus Beef. In 1978, the specifications were outlined for the CAB program with the main goal to increase the demand for Angus bulls. This has morphed into the greatest branding opportunity for what was once considered a commodity product.
Traditionally, most producers turn out a bull to service their cows and hope for a good calf crop. Creating change through technology can be applied in our cow herds beyond matching pedigrees between bulls and females. As cattle producers, we are able to utilize genomics as genetic predictors within our herds. The utilization of sexed semen can dictate whether a bull or heifer is born, allowing producers to capitalize on what they prefer to market. Taking a biopsy of an embryo determines the genetic value before it is even implanted into a cow. These are examples of creating change in the way we propagate superior genetic progress.
Outside of cattle, I strive to increase progress in those around me. Personally, I had the opportunity to create change for my own peer group. During my senior year of high school, I became the Northeast District FFA President. My officer team and I organized the district Greenhand Conference, which is a series of workshops for all first-year FFA members. There were over 350 students present at the Conference. For my workshop, I encouraged the Greenhands to step out of their comfort zone and get involved within their FFA chapters. During the workshop, I had the participants explain what they were passionate about in agriculture. I explained all the wonderful opportunities FFA has to offer through Career Development Events, or CDE's. In addition, I matched their interests with a specific CDE and encouraged them to attend that event.
Afterwards, one of the advisors called to say the Greenhands could not stop talking about my presentation and how much I impacted them to find their passion and connect it to a CDE. He said they expressed an interest to attend several CDE's as well as to listen to me speak again. I agreed to design a leadership and team building workshop for this group. I facilitated several group activities, expressing the importance of being good role models and serving others as well as the agriculture industry. Furthermore, they learned to work as a group to serve the mission of the FFA. Being requested by the group reaffirmed my goals of motivating others to embrace their passions and make changes to see a greater result.
Sometimes thinking differently can be scary and exciting at the same time. It should not stop us from taking a chance to create an opportunity to improve the situation we are in. So go attend that cattle show, eat all the apple pie you want and take the chance to create something more, Most importantly, when we understand past traditions, are aware of the present, then we can look forward to creating change for the future.