Longhorn Industry Blog -
October 28th 2016
How do you view other Longhorn Breeders? Are they your customers or your competitors?
I ask this question to challenge the industry’s thinking about an issue that I believe, if collectively viewed properly, might just save us a lot of hardships, and help stabilize our longhorn market place.
I managed an extreme value retail company based out of Southern Mississippi for 32 years, and the one thing we always understood above all other principles was that the customer was the boss. It was our job to please our customers. We worked for and served our customers. Customer service was one of the highest values that we embraced as a company, and if our employees were not willing to go above and beyond the call of duty toward serving our customers, then they would be working for someone else very soon.
The customers or clients that provided the largest amount of goods or services to us were treated like royalty. We had many dinners with them, played golf, hunted with them and entertained them, and from this, many great lifetime friendships were developed. Although I may have been the CEO, or the boss, at our company, in reality I worked for the customers. So whatever the customers' perception was, that was in fact the reality I had to work with. This is where the phrase, "The customer is always right," comes from.
Our retail business also had its fair share of competitors and we treated them completely differently, or even the opposite of, our customers. Our competitors were a threat to our profitability and to our survival. A competitor was trying to take food off of my family’s table and off of our employees' tables. Competitors aggressively tried to take the market share that I believed to be ours. I felt it was my calling, duty and responsibility to defend our company by aggressively going after competitors.
I remember one time many years ago that a young man opened a store across the street from one of our stores and he was trying to copy our retail concept. He discovered a few of my contacts and sources for off-price merchandise so he thought he could build a similar retail company as what we wereoperating. The day came that I had the opportunity to meet him face to face and I looked at him straight in the eyes and told him, “Jim, it is nice to meet you, but you need to know that I have made a promise to myself, my family, and my company to get up 2 hours earlier each morning and go to bed 2 hours later each night to give me the time I need to make sure your little retail operation here is not successful. You are trying to take food of off my children’s table and I am not going to allow that to happen." I told him up front that I would sell my product at a loss if needed to insure that the customers came to me instead of him. He looked at me like I was a crazy person, but he closed his doors and was out of business in less than one year.
I am a capitalist, an entrepreneur, and an advocate of the free enterprise system. I believe it is the purpose of a business to gain a monopoly and I understand why, (but don’t like,) that one of the purposes of government is to break up a monopoly. I have always felt that if someone is smart enough to take over the entire market share, then the government should leave him alone and allow him to enjoy the fruit of his labor.
Every day in America, companies are competing with each other, like Coke and Pepsi, Wal-Mart and Target, Ford and Chevrolet, etc… These same companies are also focused heavily on customer service and I guarantee you that they don’t treat their competitors the same as their customers. In American business it is a victorious day when your competitor goes broke. I may feel a bit sorry for him, but he came against me and we won. That is how the game is played.
What about sports? Do the Packer's and the Viking's players treat each other like both organizations treat their fans? No way. On game day, those guys are on a field of battle for 60 minutes trying to hurt each other. It is their job to win at all cost and they each have families to care for. They will do almost anything to win. But when it comes to their customers, the Packers and the Vikings will do everything they can to please and entertain them. They try hard to win, because it makes their customers happy. The Vikings recently spent hundreds of millions of dollars to build a new stadium so their customers' experiences could be enhanced. When visiting Packer fans come into Minnesota’s stadium, the Vikings want their money too, and they welcome them all and entertain them all.
Now let's think about a unique characteristic of the Longhorn industry where we are all breeders and all competing in a very small market place. When you go to a Longhorn event or a sale, how do you view the other breeders? Are they your customers or are they your competitors? If you can honestly answer this question in your own mind, you should be able to begin to understand why you react to things within the industry as you do. Socrates once said, “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom."
If you can view every breeder as a potential customer then it opens up a whole new world of opportunity for you as a breeder, and you will begin to treat everyone with respect and honor. You will want your potential customers to like you so you will try to get to know them and build friendships with them. You will not attack them over Longhorn politics or differences in opinions or ideologies, because they are your customers. From this view, your possibilities are endless and your cattle will bring more money. If we treated all other breeders as potential customers, everything would change for the better.
But if you view all of your fellow breeders as competitors then you will spend your time, energy, and life trying to make them fail so you can succeed. You might even not think twice about putting something on social media that offends other breeders. You will talk about other breeders behind their backs, maybe even slandering them and putting them down to try and lift yourself up. You will talk about their cattle in a negative way, trying to lift your herd above theirs in other people's minds.
This is why three associations are not good for the Longhorn industry. Because not only do many of our breeders view other breeders as competitors, they also form loyalties to the associations and begin to view the other associations as competitors. Now they are a double competitor and have twice the animosity and negative feelings about other breeders in competing associations.
Personally, I view all Longhorn breeders as customers and I will always have hope that, even if someone doesn't like me today, maybe somewhere down the road they will change their opinion of me and want to buy one of my animals. Longhorns are difficult to sell even if you have lots of friends. But to the breeder that makes a lot of enemies in this industry, they will have a very difficult time getting reasonable prices for their cattle.
Most Longhorn breeders develop a few customers that come back to them from year to year buying their cattle private treaty from their ranch. Then they might, from time to time, consign an animal in a sale. They go to the sales where most of their friends are and they view their friends and their small circle of customers as their potential customer base and then view the entire rest of the industry as competitors. This is not the best way to do business. Why not view every breeder as a potential customer, and expand your potential customer base by a gigantic proportion.
If we had 100,000 breeders and 4 million head of registered Longhorn cattle the market would be so large that the dynamics would be completely and altogether different. But we don’t. We have a very small number of breeders and a small number of cattle. And with such a small number of breeders, it is imperative that we treat each other with respect and try to build bridges instead of walls. Bridges connect us together while walls divide us and segregate us.
The main reason this happens in our industry is because there are many breeders that are, or were, successful in the business world. They buy Longhorns usually for something pretty to look at, or like me, they wanted to be a cowboy when they grew up. They got in because they just wanted to own Longhorns for whatever reason. But now that they are inside the industry, and they are smart, they soon realize that things could be done better, so they show some leadership and get involved. They can only bring to the industry what they have been trained to do all of their life and that is to compete and win. I totally get that, but I felt the need to bring this serious dynamic to the forefront of the Longhorn industries' thought process so, just maybe, we could see and understand why all of this division is happening, and once we understand, just maybe, the industry will change its current divisive course of building walls to the unifying course of building bridges.
I can't find one good, valid reason for all three associations not to sit down and come up with a plan to merge all three into one great association. Yes, we will hear plenty of petty reasons why it will not work and plenty of excuses to report to the industry. But at the end of the day, if they don’t merge, it will be because they would rather compete than build a stronger industry. They are more loyal to their particular association than they are to the overall breed. They are simply viewing other breeders as competitors instead of potential customers. They had rather build walls than bridges. Unfortunately there are a few industry leaders that have personal agendas, or old scores to settle, that greatly influence the direction of the industry.
Please allow me to close by addressing a few issues.
* We have gotten phone calls over the past couple of days from several people that are saying that I have made the statement that we are not allowing any cattle from the new registry into a Hudson-Valentine sale. That is simply not true. My partner, Lorinda Valentine, and I have always recognized the TLBAA’s and the ITLA’s papers in the past and we will now recognize the TLMA’s papers as well. We believe that one of the biggest factors of our sale success year after year, is that we welcome any and everybody to our sales, regardless of political affiliation or association membership. At the conclusion of our sales, we transfer the papers to the buyer's association of choice and we will continue that policy. We hope to always continue to move forward with this positive, integrated approach.
* Some people are seemingly offended that the Hudson-Valentine new elite heifer sale, “The Showdown in Cowtown,” to be held March 3, 2017 in Ft. Worth, is too close to the date of the Legacy Sale, and they think we are trying to hurt the Legacy Sale. Again, there is no truth in that statement. If we wanted to hurt the Legacy Sale we would have our sale on the exact same date and we would be selling elite cows and not just heifers. I have always supported the Legacy Sale to the fullest extent of my present capacity to do so. If you want to know why I pulled back a bit from being a sponsor or from buying and selling at a high level at the Legacy Sale like I did in years past, ask some board members about the time they publicly rebuked and chastised me for calling the TLMA out about a serious conflict of interest issue that I considered unethical. Instead of acknowledging it and correcting it, they made it sound like I was out of line in bringing to the forefront of the TLMA members' minds. But even after the fact, I forgave them, moved on, and I still bought cattle at the Legacy, even without ever receiving an apology.
* The deadline for our “Showdown in Cowtown” elite heifer sale is quickly approaching as we need all the consignments turned in by November 15th, 2016. We are seeking 60 to 70 Elite Heifers. We are encouraging you to consign heifers that have a realistic shot at winning their class in the futurity to be held the following day. All of the heifers purchased at the sale will be automatically entered into the futurity the next day to compete with all of the other heifers that are entered. If you consign to the sale a correct, flashy heifer with great horn, then we believe she will bring an extra large amount of money at the sale, if the buyer thinks she might have a good chance to win her class in the futurity.
* The futurity is the following day and this is a special futurity because we are giving away $70,000 in prize money. We will have 7 classes grouped up by age from the youngest to the oldest. $5,000 goes to the winner of each class. At the end, all 7 class winners will compete for a $10,000 prize that goes to the Grand Champion. There is still plenty of time to make the decisions on which heifers you enter into the futurity. It is the heifers that are to be consigned to the sale that we need turned in by mid November. Please submit an animal that could win and be the greatest promotion ever for your brand.
* The Hudson-Valentine sale held in Bowling Green, KY on March 31 & April 1, 2017 will continue just as it has over the past few years. Nothing is changing about this sale, except we will continually try to improve upon it. We will continue to hold it in conjunction with the futurity that is put on by Jimmy Jones, Terry King and Nancy Dunn. This is always a great sale, in a great facility, and all the breeders from the northern states and states east of the Mississippi river enjoy this venue because of the fact that it is not nearly as far to travel as Texas. I also enjoy the fact of the close proximity to my home. The deadline for consignments to this sale is December 15, 2016.
* Lorinda and I do not put on the Hudson-Valentine Sales trying to defeat competition. Instead we put on sales events to help bolster up our Longhorn market. I, personally, would love it if the associations would hold several great sales each year where they integrate the entire industry and do everything possible to make the sale a success. If so, we would not have to put on our own sales. But I have trusted others to sell my cattle before, in times past when they did not do everything they could to make it a successful event, and I watched in horror as my consignments did not bring what they were worth. I am simply not willing to allow industry infighting and bad politics to hurt the prices of my cattle that I sell each year. My prayer is that the industry would learn to view each other as customers instead of as competitors. Then they would merge and work together. If this happened, I could get out of the sales business and just enjoy being a breeder instead of a promoter.
* New Policy: In all future Hudson-Valentine Sales we will no longer accept reserve prices. Unrealistic reserves that can never be met, and sub sequentially having an animal that POs, breaks all of the confidence in the market and sucks the positive momentum out of the auction. We are not willing to allow the sale or our Consignors, suffer negative side effects from unrealistic reserves.
* If the industry infighting continues, and the leadership that is currently in position doesn't do anything to unify us and continues to build walls instead of bridges, then I predict that our market is going to continue to go south. If this problem continues to grow worse, then we will make the decision on November 15th whether or not to cancel our “Showdown in Cowtown” heifer sale and futurity and our Bowling Green KY Sale. We hope we do not have to do this, but we are not willing to allow a few with personal agendas or a few who view other breeders as competitors instead of customers, hurt the chances for a successful sale. We owe it to our consignors to not allow a sale of ours to happen, if all market indicators are pointing downward. If we cancel our upcoming events planned for March and April of 2017, then we will just wait till the industry turns the corner and gets on the road toward unity and stability, before we announce our next event.
* There are two upcoming sales in November, as Debbie Bowman and Ursula Allen are selling down their herds considerably. These are both great ladies who recently had to suffer the pain and sorrow of losing their husbands. Hudson Longhorns plans on buying cattle at both of these sales and I would like to reach out to all breeders and encourage you to do the same. In situations like these we, as an industry, should all come together and participate to make sure these cattle bring what they are worth. We are a small industry, a small family of longhorn breeders, who look out for our own.
* My final thought is to encourage you to vote. I know we are all fed-up with the high level of negative drama of our presidential election, but it is almost over and it is time to vote. It is a great privilege as an American citizen to have the right to vote and even if our two major candidates are somewhat flawed human beings, the choice is still clear as to what their positions on the major issues are. The upcoming selection of Supreme Court Justices alone is a big enough reason in itself for each of us to go to the polls and vote on November 8th.
I hope and pray that our Longhorn family will learn to see other breeders as customers and not competitors. I am in hopes that the leadership will get out of the wall building business and enter into the bridge building business. I believe the overwhelming majority of breeders are crying out for unity, and see the reason and logic behind my point. If you agree with me, please contact the board members of the three associations and encourage them to be open-minded and explore the possibilities of how we could all work together instead of against one another. Get on social media and continue a positive dialog with the entire industry and get involved in the process toward industry consolidation and unity.
The next time you go to a sale or a longhorn event, remember all of the other longhorn breeders there are your potential customers, not competitors.
May God Bless America and May God Bless the Longhorn Industry
October 20th 2016
It’s not the market that is broken, but rather the politics
There is a lot of chatter these days about the Longhorn market being broken. I felt compelled to take a look at the facts and share them in hopes that you can come to a conclusion with me: The market is not broken, but still viable and strong.
Hudson Valentine Auctions recently held a sale at the Fort Worth Stockyards where 89 lots sold with an average of over $14,000. There were 10 P.0.’s, a first for a Hudson Valentine sale, but many of those were a result of unreasonable expectations. Hudson Longhorns sold a cow for $46,000, another for $28,000 and a heifer for $37,500. We were delighted with these results.
We also had the privilege of selling a steer named Bluegrass for a consignor for $48,000. To my knowledge the previous record for a steer sold at public auction was $15,000. It is my opinion that the Longhorn industry should be excited that things are as good as they are.
When looking at the Longhorn market, I think we should divide it into three classes.
• The lower end – this market is somewhat tied to the beef cattle market
• The middle market– this represents approx. 70% of all registered Longhorns
• The upper end – this represents less than approx.1,000 animals
The Lower End of the Longhorn Market
The lower end of our market is always going to rise and fall in conjunction with beef prices. Unfortunately there is little any of us can do to control this market place. I have not gathered the exact facts, but I have been told that the beef industry is down 40 to 50% over the highs of 2015. I do know that the last load of cull bull calves we shipped to the sale barn brought considerably less than the previous time.
The beef market has been subject to mountains and valleys for as long as there has been a supply and demand for beef and it will always be a roller coaster ride. Things like our National policy on beef imports, weather extremes, price of corn and oil, the election and a whole slew of other factors at home and abroad, all go into the equation when analyzing the beef market.
The best thing we as breeders can do in a down beef cattle market is to cull our herds as deeply as possible, because it costs the same to feed a cow whether they are bringing $1,200/ head or $600/head. An industry wide culling is actually good for the entire Longhorn breed as it helps eliminate inferior genetics.
I also suggest selling your culls at the commercial sale barns instead of trying to consign a cow to a Registered Longhorn Sale that will bring less than $1,900. After you pay to consign, pay a commission, pay to market the animal and bring them to town, if your cow brings $1,200 are you really better off. People remember that your cow that didn’t bring $2,000 and I believe it hurts your brand.
We all raise culls, and I think the best thing for our brands, for the Longhorn sales and for the entire industry is for all of us to take our medicine quickly and take the culls to the sale barn instead of parading them through the spot light of a Registered Longhorn Auction, in hopes of a couple more hundred dollars. That is just my opinion and opinions are like noses, everybody has one.
Now, there is another option for the lower end and that is to have a Longhorn Sale exclusively for the lower end of the market. Have a sale with no consignment fees and only a commission. No expensive marketing campaign, no fancy catalog, with no big expectations. In this sale no one is expecting any big horned or expensive cattle. You could feature cows that would make good recips, ropers, even old proven producers that may have one more calf in them. You could sell broken horned heifers and cows. You could sell Longhorn bulls to the commercial guys that want to put one on their first calf heifers. A sale for the lower-end where no one is expecting anything except to get a bit more than you could get at the stockyards. Of course there would be beef buyers there to catch anything that will not bring more than scale price. In fact this type of sale the animal should be weighed so the beef buyers know exactly where the bottom is.
The TLBAA used to hold sales in West, TX for years. This type of sale served this lower end of the market very well. This was the type of sale where $600 cows may bring $1,200 or $1,200 cows may bring $2,000. I would encourage any or all three of our Longhorn Associations to try an event of this nature and test the waters to see what happens.
The Upper End of the Longhorn Market
The upper end of the market is a very small market indeed. It has a very small number of cattle and an even smaller number of buyers. I personally think there are only perhaps 1,000 or so animals alive in what I would call upper-end or elite Longhorns.
In 2003, after much research, I came to the conclusion that there were only 20 Registered Longhorn cows that measured 70” TTT. Today, over 13 years later, I think there are only about 24 Registered Longhorn cows that measure 90” TTT. The core of the upper end market are those young animals that have a reasonable shot at hitting the 90” TTT mark at maturity, along with a great pedigree, conformation and all that goes into a cow being a truly elite Longhorn.
But…just because a cow is 90” TTT does that make her worth $100,000?
In the Hudson Valentine Fort Worth Stockyards Sale, we had a 93” TTT cow that brought $90,000, but we believe that she was the longest horned cow to ever sale at public auction, which makes her a very rare cow. A rare cow will always bring the most money.
Another example is the world record holder for the longest horned steer in the history of the breed. He brought a lot because he was rare. Just like art or antique cars, the more rare the object is, the higher price it will demand. With baseball cards, most are worth only pennies, but if you have a Mickey Mantle rookie card in mint condition, you have a card worth a young fortune. The more rare the cow, the more money she is worth. At that same sale we had two 90” TTT cows who were P.O.’d, but one of them sold the next day for $66,000.
The upper end of the market did lose several of our greatest buyers/collectors that passed away over the past 2 to 3 years, and we miss them dearly and this did weaken the market a bit, but there is still a strong demand for the best of the best and I do not foresee this market falling off anymore than it already has. There are plenty of Longhorn Breeders who are growing in their confidence in the market and some new breeders that only want the best of the best. This creates the consistent demand for the elite Longhorns. I think there will always be enough buyers for these best of the best.
The Middle of the Longhorn Market
It is the mid-market that I want to emphasize in this article because it is the most important market to the majority of Longhorn breeders. We all have cows who we think are worth $4,000 to $9,000 and when we take one to a public auction and they only bring $1,500 to $3,500 it causes us some serious concerns.
In order for these mid-market cattle to do well at public auction, we have to make sure that the dynamics working at the auction are all positive and pointing toward success. Just because someone has a Longhorn Auction, doesn’t mean that it will work the right way. If one thing is overlooked or not managed correctly, it can produce much less than intended results. It’s like making a good stew, if you leave out an important ingredient, it just wont taste as good as it should.
There were two Longhorn Auctions in the Fall of 2016, one just before the Hudson Valentine Fort Worth Stockyards Sale and one just after. The sale prior to was what I call a geographically restricted sale - Some very good people on the West Coast are working hard to build a West Coast Longhorn market. I like and respect these breeders and I wanted to support their sale. They held a sale in a location that was a 2 hour drive from Las Vegas. I sold a cow in this sale for $3,500 that I wanted to get $9,000 for. She was a young, pretty cow with over 100” of total horn. Of course I let the cow sale out of respect for the host of the sale, because I realize how P.O.’s suck all of the motivation out of the room.
Why did this sale struggle? In my opinion it was simply because the location of the sale was way out West, hard to get to, and a 2 hour drive from Vegas. The geographical dynamics hurt the sale. We can’t blame the Longhorn market or say that it is broken when you only have a handful of bidders present at the sale to bid the animals.
Then there was an Association sale held after the Hudson Valentine Sale. It was reported that there were 17 P.O.’s and less than a $3,200 average. (contradictory sources reported a $2,300 average, but we should take out the P.O.’s and produce an average of the animals that sold.) Again, people are afraid that the Longhorn market has busted. But I say, look at this sales market dynamics and understand what happened here. The sale was hosted by an Association who recently went through a failed merger attempt with another Association. They had been working together for a few years and boasting great results in their combined events. When the merger talks failed, hard things were said, peoples feelings got hurt and a bad taste was left in every ones mouth.
This event was very successful in the past with the two Associations working together, but the dynamics of the event changed greatly with their separation. One of them held their event with just their members last week and next week, the other will hold their event with just their members. Whenever you cut something in half, you cannot expect the same results you achieved when you were a whole.
Longhorn Associations are great, needed and much appreciated. Anytime you can get a group of people working collectively together to promote Longhorns and build their market value, then this is a positive thing. But, when the Associations attempt to market their cattle to just their friends, or to just the loyal members of that Association, then you have a great reduction of the overall market place participating and that will result in lower prices every time.
I urge you to stop thinking that the Longhorn market is broken or “way-off”. Just because one Association had a below average sale, especially one that just went through a failed merger attempt, this does not make our market broken.
The Longhorn Market is Strong, Our Longhorn Politics are Broken
I have only been a breeder since 2003, but you can read the old Longhorn magazines and find out that this industry has always been involved in fights, splits, territorial wars, ideological battles, and political wars.
The first Longhorn war I was subject to was the “cloning war”. Sharp and passionate differing views turned friends into enemies. Years later, we look up and cant remember why we were fighting, or we look at someone who we were at odds with and say to ourselves, I have always liked and respected that person and I can hardly remember what we were fighting over. What was the “issue of the day” that we were passionate about, later became a non-issue and we realize now that our friendships were more valuable than our ideas about cloning. But during this season of fighting the Longhorn market suffered greatly. The Legacy I Sale and then the Legacy II Sale were the greatest sales in the history of the breed, but the Legacy III Sale was held during the cloning war, and that hurt the market considerably.
Later we went through a serious leadership vacuum that created all kinds of additional divisions and infightings. The CEO of the largest Association was fired and various board chairs began running the Association instead of hiring a new strong CEO. The Association wanted the small breeders to rule and did not even want the larger breeders business nor did they even want to associate with the larger breeders. I had been their biggest customer in advertising dollars for the previous 3 or 4 years and I was told they did not want my business. So I was forced to move my advertising to a different Association which created more division. This was caused by a socioeconomic factor that was actually undermining the overall objectives of the common good of the Longhorn breed. Issues like this can be discovered in a church, an association, an organization or any Country and it is unfortunate that we have to deal with things of this nature, but to overlook this now is a mistake. We should learn from history as history always repeats itself unless proactive changes are made to prevent it from happening again under a new name or banner.
Where I register my animal is not what is important to me, I don’t really care what Associations name is on my paper, I just want to know that my cow is legally and officially registered. What is important to me is that we have a strong healthy market where we can sell our cattle. It is the broken Longhorn politics that cause our mid-market cattle to perform poorly.
The Hudson Valentine Sale at the Stockyards had close to 500 registered bidders. We welcomed and reached out to everyone regardless of which Association they affiliated with. We spent lots of money to make sure we had everybody that we could possibly get to our sale by using extensive media exposure, commercials on RFD TV, ads in magazines outside the Longhorn Industry, and interviews with Longhorn breeders that ran continuously on YouTube and Facebook. Plus we spent a lot of money with Superior Livestock to broadcast the sale live with the best video quality ever done at a longhorn auction. Stockyards Heritage, Stockyards Station and the Ft Worth Stockyards Longhorn auction Facebook pages combined received 14,050,038 views; 35,824 comments; 60,743 shares; and 239,211 likes.
Superior Livestock was able to provide analytics of our sale that show 90,000 people viewed the sale in progress, and 26.8 million people could have possibly read about the sale online through ads.
- There were 33 individual pieces of news coverage on the sale.
- NBC Channel 5 had 5.9 million visits and the coverage for their interviews was 18,500 people.
- The Ft. Worth Star Telegram had 2.6 million visits to their article about Bluegrass selling in our auction.
- WFAA, a Ft. Worth local channel, had 3.6 million visits and 10,300 coverage views.
- The Dallas Business Journal had 14.4 million monthly visits with 18,700 coverage views.
- The Glasgow Daily Times had monthly visits of 103,000 with coverage views of 1.54K.
- The Marysville Advocate had monthly visits of 7,000 and coverage views of 1.06K.
- Fox News Broadcast on Sept. 30 Morning received 117,000 while it’s Evening broadcast hit 112,000.
- The CBS Broadcast Sept 30 at 6:00 pm had 95.1K and their 4:30 AM broadcast on 9-30, 13.2K.
- ABC Broadcast 10:00 PM Sept 30 had 12.5K and NBC Broadcast 9-30, 10:00 PM, 382K, NBC Broadcast 9-30, 5:00 AM, 141K.
We had a total of 7 news broadcasts about the sale and 6 written articles in publications.
All of this was done to properly market the Hudson Valentine Stockyards Sale and to simultaneously increase exposure and awareness of Longhorns to people outside the Industry. As a result of this kind of marketing effort we added several new buyers to the Industry with this one sale and now have hundreds of potential new buyers thinking about longhorns and considering their first purchase of a longhorn. This kind of marketing helps the entire Longhorn Industry, and it is this kind of effort that makes the sale successful.
My partner Lorinda Valentine is an awesome lady and she is an excellent marketing professional. If you enjoy it when cattle prices are high at our sales, then you owe her a debt of gratitude, because she is the marketing genius behind our sales success. However, this should not fall on the shoulders of individual breeders, but rather this is what the Associations should do with every Longhorn sale and event, promote, promote, and promote.
During our Fort Worth sale we had 40 lots sell for over $10,000. We were happy with that result. Our top 80 lots sold for over $4,000, only 9 lots sold for less than $4,000 and only 1 lot sold for less than $3,300. We were ecstatic about those results. This is proof positive that we still have a strong, viable market for our mid-range cattle. But in order to see these type of prices, you have to do all of the right things at the right time and in the right way. You need a great marketing campaign, you have to have great consignments, you have to have everybody show up for the sale (not just your circle of closest friends), and you have to create an environment where everyone can have fun. I am not boasting of our success, instead I am trying to prove a point that there is nothing wrong with our Longhorn market. It is not broken. It is the Longhorn politics that are broken and are in urgent need of repair.
The problem with a divided industry socially is that it divides the market place and those two things do not have to go together. I realize that many people are in the Longhorn industry because of the social aspects. We love our cows and we love our Longhorn friends, so we love to go to Longhorn events to be able to visit and hang out with them. But just because a few Longhorn breeders want to gather together and socialize doesn’t mean that they have to hold a public auction every time they get together.
As long as the Republicans don’t want to mix with the Democrats, or the white collar doesn’t want to mix with the blue collar, or the ranch owner doesn’t want to mix with the ranch hands, then we will have division socially, but that doesn’t mean we have to have the division economically.
I wish Associations would hold more shows, more futurities, more competitions, more educational seminars and fewer auctions. It is the auctions that offer low and mid-market cattle to a small group of people from their geographical area or where only their closest friends feel welcome, that give the public impression that the Longhorn market is broken. and subsequently only a few buyers present produce the same unpleasant low prices? If you want to have a cattle auction, then invite the entire world and do every thing you can to get them there.
What we Need is Unity and Not More Division
Enjoying a united Longhorn Industry is the only way to have a strong mid-market for our beloved Longhorns. I think I understand why the marketing association is moving forward to create a registry and become a full service Association. I don’t blame them one bit. My hat is off to them. They had a good idea to merge with the other Association who they had been doing events with as strategic partners, why not take the idea up higher and put the two organizations together.
I also think I understand why the merger attempt failed. It is a fact that breeders from all Associations are very concerned with how they will be governed. The very unfortunate thing is that harsh words were spoken by a few people and even distributed through social media. Unfounded accusations were made, and individual’s characters were attacked unjustly. I can’t blame the wounded Association for moving on without their former partner; at least they are taking some risk and trying to make things better. I wish all of the Associations would stop playing it safe, take some risk and lets get on with the business of promoting our Longhorns. If any Longhorn association wants to be in the sales business, then they should roll up their sleeves and go to work and invest the money needed to market every sale properly. Hopefully that is the intention of the newly named Association.
From my perspective, while this may be good for the marketing Association to become a full service Association complete with their own registry, this move will only benefit the few breeders who are highly invested in this new project. In my opinion this will only hurt the overall industry for a period of time and it will most surely hurt the middle of the Longhorn market for an extended period of time.
If they are very successful and put the other two Associations out of business, then they can govern the industry as they please. That would be good for the industry as long as the thousands of small breeders get a voice, and get a vote. If the small breeders are not considered in their plan, then we will wind up with one Association ruled by a few larger breeders and the majority of the smaller breeders feeling they are not represented.
Before any breeders, small or large, shape or voice an opinion I encourage each of you to take a look at the newly named Associations by-laws to see exactly how they will be governed in the future. I have not examined their by-laws in a long time and they may have changed from the original document and therefore I do not know what rules will govern them, so I cannot make a judgment on something that I have limited knowledge of.
Before you criticize them or praise them, find out if they represent all breeders, do all breeders have a voice and a vote? How can a breeder bring his issue to the forefront of the leaders thoughts that it will get proper consideration? How are the board members selected, what are their terms, what are their qualifications and will they have a strict conflict of interest policy? All of these questions should be asked and answered before any of us pass judgment on whether this is good or bad for the industry.
The other scenario that could happen, and perhaps a better or higher thought, is two of the three associations turn what may seem like a crisis into a golden opportunity to finally merge and pool all of their resources together and create one strong healthy Association that will represent all the of the breeders both small and large. One strong registry, one strong magazine, one strong show-circuit, one strong measuring competition, will equate to one strong Longhorn market. One Association representing over 90% of the breeders with a government that will work sounds like a reasonable, logical, practical solution to me.
The problem with one of the present Associations is that the government doesn’t work because the by-laws need to be changed. A merger would be a great opportunity to fix the by-laws by creating a new Association with new by-laws that would govern the industry fairly, honestly, justly and with excellence. Then the new Association should hire a true leader, perhaps someone from another successful cattle breed. This industry needs someone that knows how to build a breed and has run an Association with excellence in the past, has no personal agenda, and no conflict of interest. Even if we have to pay him/her a lot of money, this industry needs a strong leader. What better time to introduce this concept at the same time you do a merger, by forming a new association with new bylaws and a new CEO.
It is my personal humble opinion that the only way for the two older Associations to survive is to join together. If they unite now, they will not only survive but they have the opportunity to thrive.
If they do not join together, the newer Association, with a brand new name and some brand new enthusiasm, with some really great members and with a whole lot of money, will grow stronger and stronger until one Association and then the possibly, the other will vanish away. Under this scenario the entire industry will suffer for a few years as we continue to watch our mid-market cattle under perform at public auctions simply because we are a divided industry that refuses to work together toward a common objective.
This is not rocket science, brain surgery or nuclear physics - it is simply a classic case study in political science. Let’s learn from the past. Let’s not let a socioeconomic virus cause our industry to be weak and sick for a long period of time. Lets set aside our petty differences and for the overall big picture or what is good for the long-term view of the Longhorn industry, lets find a way to work together, build together and grow together, instead of getting mad, choosing sides and keeping the industry segregated, let’s attempt to integrate the industry. Who knows, if the two older Associations could get a merger done, write a new governing document that works, hire a professional to lead, and combine all events, promotions and sales, things may get so prosperous and successful that the newer of the three Associations may want to throw their hat in the ring and join the newfound success of the newly merged two larger Associations. That would truly be the bests case scenario, for all three Associations to become one. This is not about who is right and who is wrong, we are all right some of the times and all wrong at other times. This is about making the Longhorn industry great again. It is about making these beautiful cattle bring what they are really worth consistently.
Compared to other cattle breeds, we are a small breed and a people few in numbers but we are not a people faint of heart. Instead we are all passionately opinionated and courageously willing to fight for what we believe to be right when it comes to our beloved Longhorns. There are very few cowards in this industry and I like it that way, but as we engage in another Longhorn battle, I encourage all breeders to choose your words carefully, attack ideas and not the person, and let’s not let our pride cloud our eyesight of good reason and common sense. We can integrate, we can work together, but we must not allow a few people with personal agendas or old scores to settle with old wounds that never healed set the agenda for the overall industry. I encourage all Longhorn breeders to get involved, find a way to work together for the common good of the industry and cause our mid-market cattle to consistently bring what they are really worth.
Lets fix our broken Longhorn politics and the market will fix itself.