Beef Tips

Category: Management Minute

January 2019 Management Minute

“What’s Your Mission?”

By: Justin Waggoner, Ph.D., Beef Systems Specialist

Have you ever given any thought to what your organization, farm, feedlot or operation is really about? Do you have a mission statement, a set of core values that you believe your organization or operation embodies? Previously, I used to think that mission statements and core value statements were idealistic and a waste of thought. However, my attitude has changed. These statements provide the organization with a foundation, a clear objective that serves to guide the organization as it makes decisions that hopefully move the organization forward into the future. Regardless of the size of the enterprise, putting some thought into what an organization or business is really about has value. These statements do not have to be long or dramatic. I recently visited a family livestock operation in which the sign on the front lawn (along a major highway) simply said “Our Family Feeding Yours.” This simple statement tells everyone that drives by that this is a family operation that is foremost engaged in the process of sustaining not only themselves but other people. So challenge yourself a bit and ask yourself, “Why do you (or your business) do what you do?” What is your mission?

For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at

December 2018 Management Minute

“Reflection with a Purpose”

By: Justin Waggoner, Ph.D., Beef Systems Specialist

Although it does not seem possible, the New Year will soon be upon us. This is a great time for individuals and organizations to reflect back on the events of the past 12 months. However, the value of reflection dramatically increases if it is used as a tool to evaluate not only where you or the organization has been but also where it is headed in the future. A few basic questions can be used to guide the process of “Reflecting with a Purpose”

What did you or the business succeed at?
What were your failures?
What was learned from those successes and failures?
What would you like to do more of or what generated positive outcomes for the organization?
What should you stop doing?

For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at

November 2018 Management Minute

“Winter Safety in the Workplace”

By: Justin Waggoner, Ph.D., Beef Systems Specialist

Winter will be upon us shortly and many agricultural workers work in the elements, which brings a new set of seasonal workplace hazards. Falls, slips and trips are one of the most common causes of workplace injuries (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017). Although falls and slips can occur anytime, extra precautions are required during the winter months. Hypothermia is real, especially for those who work in the elements. Safety experts suggest that clothing should be layered to retain body heat. However, how and what type of layers those clothes are made of is important. At least three layers is recommended; cotton or other breathable synthetic fiber should be the first or base layer. Wool or down is suggested for the middle layer, and the third or outer layer should be comprised of material that will block the wind (nylon outer shell found on many ski-jackets etc). Portable heaters are often used as heat sources in many shops and barns. Portable heaters are one of the most common causes of carbon monoxide poisoning and fires. If heaters are used in confined spaces, keep in mind that ventilation is required to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Additionally, the areas where heaters are used should be checked for combustible materials.

For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at

October 2018 Management Minute

“Preferred Employer”

By: Justin Waggoner, Ph.D., Beef Systems Specialist

If only 70% of our cows settle in a given breeding season, and we need to cull the other 30% for infertility, how much selection pressure can we implement based on other production traits such as weaning weight, marbling, calf feedlot performance, or any number of other valuable traits? Zero. But if you have a 90 or 95% weaned calf crop, you can cull cows based on production traits of interest and make substantial improvements in your genetics.

The same is true for your workplace. If you have the kind of workplace people are looking to leave when the next opportunity arises, good employees with ability, intelligence, and ambition are going to grab the next bus out of town for better pay, better working conditions, or simply a better growth and career opportunity. What you are stuck with are the people who cannot leave because no one will have them.

The goal of any progressive organization should be to be the preferred employer in the region or in the industry. That employer will attract the best and brightest people around who want opportunity and want to work in a positive environment. Word will travel through your satisfied team members who will want to bring in more likeminded individuals to be on their team.

Assess your workplace and your people. Are you consistently attracting high-quality personnel or are you chronically trying to fill empty positions vacated by young, talented people with potential? Do your people give 110% because they love what they do and whom they work with, or is there a mad rush for the door at 5? Self-assessment plus vulnerability creates opportunities for growth. But without one or the other, you will be stuck in a quagmire of your own making.

For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at

September 2018 Management Minute

“Coaching in the Workplace”

By: Justin Waggoner, Ph.D., Beef Systems Specialist

Being a manager and managing people isn’t easy, especially when an employee or group of employees’ performance needs improvement. The goal of coaching is to improve the quality of the work of the employee or group and is not necessarily part of a disciplinary action (although it is often associated with it). Coaching in the workplace can be an effective way to address issues that limit performance. Below are a few tips from on coaching in the workplace.

 State the issue or the problem directly. Keep the focus on the issue or problem and not the person.

 Involve the employee in the process. Asking the employee or group for help in creating a solution is a great way to show you have confidence in them.

 Identify what issues or road blocks exist that limit the employee or group’s performance.

The most common issues are time, additional training or resources.

 Come up with plan that identifies specific actions that need to be taken to address the issue by everyone involved (including the manager).

 Schedule time for a follow-up conversation. Feedback is essential, but should be positive.

For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at

August 2018 Management Minute

“Five generations in Today’s Workplace”

By Justin Waggoner, Ph.D., Beef Systems Specialist

I recently learned that there are approximately five generations currently in the American workforce. I would add that since farmers and ranchers don’t often retire and the kids start doing chores at an early age there could possibly be up to six generations involved in the day-to-day activities of a farm or ranch. These generations are somewhat loosely defined across different sources as 1) WWI and WWII generation (born ~1901-1926); 2) Mature or silent generation (born ~1928-1945; 3) The Baby Boomers (born ~1946-1965); 4) Generation X (born ~1965-1980); 5) Millennials (born ~1980-2000); and 6) Generation Z or Centennials. All of these groups have defining characteristics and ideals that make them unique. There is a tremendous amount of differences between these generations, if we consider that Granddad may have been raised in a world with limited electrical conveniences, and the millennial grandson has never experienced a world without computers or mobile hand-held communication devices. Have you given any consideration to the different age groups or generations that currently make up your workforce? Have you updated your policies, procedures or verbal expectations to include modern means of communication such as texting? For example, if a family member or an employee is going to be late, is it acceptable to send a text? If it is a more formal organization, what about training materials? Millennials and the Generation Z’s (coming soon) likely prefer and are more engaged in something they can watch over printed material.

For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at

July 2018 Management Minute

“The New Hire”

By Justin Waggoner, Ph.D., Beef Systems Specialist

You have decided to bring a new person into your organization. How do you bring them on-board and get them up to speed with how your organization operates? Do you have a formal training process or do you simply put them to work and hope the new team member is a quick learner?

Regardless of the size of your business or operation, training new people is important. The onboarding process sets the new hire up for success from day one and is an essential component of employee retention. Some surveys suggest that approximately 30% of new hires will leave their current position within 6 months. Lack of job training or a poor on-boarding process are some of the most common reasons cited for leaving an organization. Good employees are hard to find. Creating a strategy for training new employees that teaches them how to do their job and how your business operates (including ethics, culture, etc.) is well worth the effort.

For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at

June 2018 Management Minute

“Fatigue and Stress”

By Justin Waggoner, Ph.D., Beef Systems Specialist

Summer is here and along with it comes the long hours that coincide with planting, grain harvest, putting up hay, or shipping cattle. Long hours in the workplace often lead to fatigue and stress, which both have serious consequences. Fatigue in the workplace is one of the leading causes of workplace accidents. Stress is a normal emotional response but it is associated with a number of negative outcomes. Short-term consequences of stress include headaches, trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating and short temper. Chronic stress may result in insomnia, anxiety, hypertension, heart disease, obesity and depression. Therefore, even though we have to “do the work when the work has to be done” it is important to give our employees and ourselves opportunities to de-stress. Those opportunities can take many different forms, short breaks, leaving a few minutes early, or taking everyone to town for lunch. Although, it may take more time to get the work done, or all the work might not get done (it rarely does anyways), it might be time well spent if it prevents an accident.

For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at

May 2018 Management Minute

“How Do You Evaluate New Technology?”

By Justin Waggoner, Ph.D., Beef Systems Specialist

Technology is everywhere, even in agriculture.

I am continually surprised by the number of operations that don’t use established technologies with well-documented, positive economic returns. These are successful operations, and thus I often leave the conversation thinking, “This is a good operation, how good could they be if?” On the other end of the spectrum are operations that have implemented multiple new technologies. Some technologies resulted in positive managerial and economic outcomes and some did not.

As a manager, what is your attitude toward technology? Do you critically evaluate new technology or do you dismiss new technologies with excuses like “that’s probably too expensive” or “that won’t work here” without any further evaluation?

Evaluating new technology is difficult, but technology isn’t going away. Thus, the ability to critically evaluate, implement and assess new technologies will become an increasingly important skill of a successful manager.

For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at

April 2018 Management Minute

“It’s not Always About the Money”

By Chris Reinhardt and Justin Waggoner, Ph.D., Beef Systems Specialist

If you have an employee who seems to continually be bothering you about not being paid enough, there are usually two possibilities: 1) You’re a tightwad and you’re not paying them enough; or 2) the person is disgruntled about their role in the organization. To find out if the answer is No. 1, make a few phone calls to managers you trust in your general geography and find out what your neighbors are paying for similar jobs in your industry. If you’re within 50¢ or so per hour, then move on to answer No. 2. Some people are just better employees than others are. If this person is worth more than the ‘scale’, you had better pay more to keep them.

But “pay” can come in many forms. You can “buy” an employee’s loyalty and general job satisfaction with many perks other than another few cents or bucks per hour. Make sure your insurance, savings investment, and/or profit sharing plans are at least in line with the industry. This is especially important if this person has a family to look after. Non-monetary benefits include things like flexible time off. Those early mornings and long days are a lot easier to take if a person knows they can take Thursday afternoons off for a child’s ball game or whatever.

What about goals? Have you asked your employee what they want out of this position? They may want to move up in the organization or have opportunities for a management role elsewhere. You can be selfish about this or you can take on the role of mentor and teacher. By taking care of your employee and training them for a leadership role they will most certainly be a better employee, and will have a harder time leaving for a different job. And even if they do leave for a different opportunity, they will give such a glowing report on your leadership and team approach, you can be certain to find a good, young person to replace them.

The question you need to ask yourself is “Do you really want this person around for the long haul?” If you DO, take some time to privately evaluate your plans, and then take some more time one-on-one with this employee to find out their long-term needs and goals. If you DON’T want this person to remain in the organization, you still need to get your plans in order because after you inform this person they are not what your organization needs, you’d better have a pretty good plan set up to attract a quality person to replace them.

For more information, contact Justin Waggoner at