5/28/2015 12 Comments
Last night I realized I’ve been had. The deadline, the arbitrary third deadline, had come and gone and you suddenly quit answering your phone. The bank informed us that no wire had come through.
A friend told me last week, “As long as he is talking to you don’t get nervous. But when he quits answering the phone you’re screwed.”
On April 18 you decided to be somebody. You decided to play the big shot. You said you were a cattle guy, claimed you just sold a $53,000 heifer, and needed to put that money somewhere.
Lucky me – you were putting it at sheep. And you bid. You bid and bid and bid. You were loud and proud – you cussed out my customers who outbid you (ones who would later actually pay). You laughed when you outbid other customers (one’s who would have actually paid).
After the sale wrapped up, and you had purchased nearly $20,000 in sheep, you wanted to talk about how everyone would be asking who you were. You thought everyone would be calling to get your business. Everyone is definitely asking who you are now – and they definitely will not be calling for your business.
You were going to mail a check. But then you ended up in the hospital. You were going to overnight it, but then you mom died (according to a Google search she actually died back in the winter). You were headed down to get them, money in hand but you were waiting on your brand new trailer to come in. Then you were back in the hospital.
Then a few weeks ago my phone rang. It was a fellow sheep breeder who asked if you had bought sheep from me. My heart sank. I knew it was bad news. You had told me you’d never had sheep before.
Turns out you have quite the history in this business. Several lawsuits, thousands of dollars of unpaid sheep, judgements totaling nearly $100,000. Looks like I was last in line on a long, long list.
Now I know, after some quick research and a trip to the lawyer, that you have nothing. You have no way to pay for the animals; it doesn’t even appear you actually have anywhere to keep the animals.
I can take you to court for the difference, and they will grant me a judgement pretty easily. And I think, for the principle of it, I will. I realize there is nothing to collect, but I also don’t think you should just walk away.
For a few days I sulked. I was embarrassed I let you participate. I was even more embarrassed I had bought your story. I said a prayer for you when you were “in the hospital”.
I was scared to notify the other buyers and bidders. The entire sale that we had celebrated so openly, that was such a monumental success for us, was now going to be defined by you.
Instead of talking about the success, the story line would be about the guy who didn’t pay.
Matt told me I had to notify everyone, because we had to sell the sheep. I refused to ship them. You had “bought” some of the best, including my yearling ram that was the animal I hoped would pass on our legacy.
So I sent out an email and I prayed.
My heart is OK with what happened now. I have mixed emotions towards you. One minute I feel a rush of anger, the next I feel deep sorrow. Matt thinks something is terribly wrong with you, to need that kind of attention or amusement.
Either way, I have decided I will not let you define my sale. I will not let you define the industry. The fact that we have sold sheep for so many years, to so many people and never had this occur on this level speaks more about the industry than you do.
The fact that the buyers and bidders instantly reached out to tell us how sorry they were this happened (instead of the anger I had feared), speaks more about the industry.
So on June 14 I will once again sell some Tunis. And I will have faith that each of our bidders is acting with honest intentions. Because I will not allow you to define the way I do business or to define the faith I have in humanity.
I will also not shy away from being public about what has happened. You have done this entirely too many times and my attorney has assured me I have no concerns when sticking to the facts.
Full sale report available here.
List of animals selling June 14 can be seen here.
A friend asked me to respond to this article, written by a PETA volunteer.
At first, I wanted to paint a picture of my boys playing with a newborn baby lamb, or a girl sleeping in the pen with her steer after a hard day in the show ring in an attempt to prove her wrong.
But the problem is, on her main point, she is not wrong.
She claims FFA and 4H are not teaching the romanticized version of raising animals to our kids.
Organizations like PETA love for us to tell the romantic stories of livestock. Because the more we do, the more they can profit from spinning our stories.
But the reality is, raising animals isn't romantic. She talks about a mother pig singing to her piglets while she nurses them. I wonder, has she ever witnessed the same mother pig eat one of her piglets for reasons unknown to us? Has she ever watched that 500 pound sow roll over on half her litter, killing them instantly and then push their little dead bodies out of the way to get to her food?
Has she ever watched a ewe relentlessly paw a newborn lamb until she kills him?
Has she ever dried off, warmed and comforted a baby calf whose mother delivered him on the back side of the pasture and then left, not looking back once?
No. She hasn’t, because she doesn’t raise livestock. In fact, her organization doesn’t even run a single animal shelter.
Kids in 4H and FFA have seen this. And they develop compassion for their animals in spite of the reality of animal nature (which often is very cruel). Raising animals is beautiful most days. But sometimes it's the exact opposite and our kids know that.
She is also right that most animals will end up in the food chain. And as she laid out so well, there is nothing kind about eating animals.
There is nothing mean about it either. The bear is not considered mean when he invades a rabbit den and consumes an entire litter of week old rabbits. A tiger is not considered cruel when he starts eating his prey before she has even died.
I take pride in the fact that humans show more compassion in our protein consumption than animals do (another thing that serves to remind us animals and humans are not equal, not the same).
We work very hard to raise animals in a clean, healthy and safe environment. We bond with them while they are here, we provide everything they need. And when the time comes, we kill them in as humane a way possible and consume them (after they are dead of course).
Is that kind? No, not really. Is it cruel? No. It's a fact of life.
As long as God keeps giving us two rows of teeth, I will take that as a sign we are supposed to consume our protein as a steak (or preferably a lamb chop).
So yes. Our kids are probably hardened from raising livestock. When my boy has to say goodbye to the lamb he showed all summer, his heart will toughen a bit. In the same way it will when he has to bury his first dog, when he suffers through his first breakup, and when he gets his first paycheck and realizes how many dollars are taken for taxes.
Life isn't romantic and neither is raising livestock. Which is exactly why kids leaving 4H and FFA are more prepared to succeed on the road ahead of them than their counterparts, who are often spoon fed a fairy tale version of reality.
How many times have you been asked to donate to a junior show this year? How did you respond?
People respond to these requests in a few different ways.
1. The Avoider – the person who goes out of their way to avoid being asked, deletes any emails that are sent out, and hits ignore on the phone when they see someone like me is calling. If you corner one of these people they will pledge money and then never actually pay.
2. The Minimalist – the person who begrudgingly says they will donate, and then sends $10 in two days after the deadline. These people will likely become avoiders in the future.
3. The Supporter – the person who thanks you for requesting and sends in a nice donation, in a timely manner and assures you they will donate again next year. These people are reliable year after year if you contact them and remind them.
4. The Opportunist – the person who recognizes the benefit these events give to their program and takes full advantage. These people actually contact us about donating, get their money in almost immediately and promote the heck out of the event to their customers. You don’t have to keep a list of these people because they will hunt you down to give you money again next year.
The number of opportunists is minimal – but these breeders are easily recognizable. They have built highly successful programs with high volume sales, high per head averages, and have loyal customers across the county who seek out their stock online, at sales, and off the farm.
What do the opportunists see in these events the rest of the breeders are missing? Below are a few key things about national junior shows that may make you rethink your support strategy.
1. We create a lifelong customer for you. 4-H and FFA bring in the clients. The typical customer will raise animals for a few years and then move on. Your customers that regularly attend national level events are significantly more likely to stay in the business long term.
Why? Because they create the relationships with other people that keep them coming back year after year. With the increase in online sales these events are more important than ever for creating the friendships that make people want to keep doing this well past their junior years.
“Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” – Jeff Bezos (Founder and CEO of Amazon)
2. We help you develop your brand. If you want to sell stock, and be successful at it, you have to develop a brand. Brands create loyalty (think Ford versus Chevy) and loyal customers are willing to pay a premium for your product year after year. They need to SEE your name and HEAR your name repeatedly and nothing puts your name in front of your TARGET AUDIENCE more effectively than supporting these events.
“If your business is not a brand, it is a commodity.” – Donald Trump
3. We align your values with your customer’s values. When your customers see that you value the event their entire family looks forward to each year, this puts your values in line with their own. This helps to further develop your brand (see number 2 above) and customer loyalty.
“If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.” --Howard Schultz (CEO of Starbucks)
4. We put money back into your customers’ pockets. Do a little research on where your money goes when you donate to these events. Many events now are structured with a high payout. (Ask what percentage of your donation is paid back out or given as awards instead of used for overhead to make your donation the most effective).
At the Midwest Junior Preview Show, we pay back 100% of donated funds! Nearly 80% of the kids indicate they use this money to fund more stock purchases!
5. We expose kids to a higher quality of animal. Often, junior exhibitors simply are not exposed to a higher quality of animal. Once we get them in the door to these national events, they can see the differences in high quality animals. By motivating them with better competition (see below) and exposing them to better animals, we are creating a better demand for your product. Additionally, we are sending them out the door with some additional resources (see number 4 above) to purchase those better quality animals. And the first breeder they will go to is the breeder who has the best developed brand!
6. We motivate kids by surrounding them with a higher level of competition. Local events are vital for getting kids started. To further push their motivation to succeed, we need to get them excited about the national level shows.
Their competitive drive kicks in, the desire to compete and do better goes into overdrive when they surrounded by other exhibitors who excel at showing stock. And once the kids get serious about it – the parents are much more willing to support the projects. And a serious show family is your best customer!
“Be grateful for your competitors for they force you to become the person you are capable of being.” – Stacey Alcorn
It is probably time to re-think your support strategy to national junior shows. Instead of avoiding us, look at the opportunity that we are providing for your program, your customers and your industry.
Across the country these shows are struggling each year to continue operating. They all need more volunteers and more funding. So whatever you have been doing – rethink it – and do double!
Note - Several of you are now thinking, “This doesn't apply to me because I don’t sell animals to kids. I sell animals to other breeders.” If you are at a level of breeding and price point that your main customers consists of other breeders you should double down on your support to the junior shows. Why? Because YOUR CUSTOMERS are selling their animals to juniors and the better funded your customers are the better funded you will be.
Kate Lambert grew up in northern Illinois, not on a farm but active in FFA and showing livestock.
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