We have thousands of Herd Quitter caps and bumper stickers scattered around the world. We sponsor the Herd Quitter Podcast and the Herd Quitter Minute every week. It’s no wonder we are often asked, “What is a Herd Quitter?” With that in mind, I thought I should share the story behind our Herd Quitter concept for our new subscribers. This story also provides a concise history of Pharo Cattle Company (PCC).
From the inception of Pharo Cattle Company 38 years ago, we have always been very different from the mainstream beef industry. In the mid-1980s, we realized the beef industry was headed in the wrong direction at a high rate of speed. While everyone else was focused on increasing the size of their cattle, we said, “It doesn’t matter how big your cattle are if they’re not profitable.” We decided to provide an alternative to the “bigger is better” way of thinking.
You can’t get something for nothing. It wasn’t difficult for cow-calf producers to increase the size of their cattle – but most producers failed to realize that as animal size increases, production and profit per acre will decrease (think cattle, sheep and chickens). At that time, the land grant universities and seedstock producers (bull producers) were leading the way in promoting bigger cattle. Unfortunately, most of them continue to lead the industry in that direction. As the saying goes, “It’s very difficult to teach an old dog new tricks.”
Within 10 years, nearly all cow-calf producers had substantially bigger cows – and their cows have continued to get bigger and bigger ever since. Because bigger cows eat more than smaller cows, producers were forced to reduce their stocking rates (number of cows per acre) and increase supplemental feeding to keep their so-called “new and improved” high-input, bigger cows in production.
With the cost of inputs rising at unprecedented rates, most of today’s “new and improved” high-input, big cows are struggling to produce enough income to cover their expenses – even with today’s record-high calf prices. Consequently, most of today’s cow-calf producers are slowly but surely going broke. I’m afraid things will get ugly in a hurry for most cow-calf producers when calf prices go back down!
Being different is never easy – but we knew we were different for all the right reasons. Therefore, we persevered. Gradually, as time went on, more and more commercial cow-calf producers understood our philosophies – and broke away from the status quo “bigger is better” way of thinking. We went from selling six bulls at our very first bull sale 33 years ago to selling over 1000 bulls every year.
We have cowherds from the winter wonderland of Minnesota all the way to the sweltering gulf-coast states of Alabama and Mississippi. We have cowherds from fescue country in Missouri to the high-plains desert of Western Kansas and Eastern Colorado. We have cowherds from the southern plains of Texas to the northern plains of Nebraska, Wyoming, North Dakota and Montana. We also have cowherds on high-elevation ranches in Colorado and Wyoming.
We develop bulls in five different states – and sell them in six different states. We currently have annual bull sales in Colorado, Texas, Missouri, Alabama, Nebraska and Montana. We have sold bulls to customers in all but four of the 50 states, including Alaska and Hawaii. We have also sold bulls to customers in Australia, Canada and Mexico. We have proven that our philosophies and our genetics will increase pounds and profit per acre in all environments.
Since our program is substantially different from the status quo model of beef production, I started looking for a term that would describe our program. In June of 2008, I woke up in the middle of the night thinking, “Herd Quitter.” I thought this perfectly described our program. From the very beginning, PCC had quit the status quo herd and taken a totally different approach to beef production. While everyone else remains focused on increasing pounds per cow (bragging rights), we have always been focused on increasing pounds per acre (profit).
When I first shared my Herd Quitter idea, it was not well received by a few individuals within the PCC organization. Although everyone understood the message I was trying to convey, some were reluctant to be called a Herd Quitter. I wondered why. I soon realized most ranchers have experienced the frustrations of dealing with a herd-quitter cow. If you have owned cows, you probably know what I’m talking about.
Whenever you are gathering the herd, the herd-quitter cow is always looking for an opportunity to escape – usually at a high rate of speed. She will wear out a good saddle horse. I have dealt with several herd-quitter cows in my lifetime. If a herd-quitter cow suspects something is up, she will do everything she can to get away.
I want you to consider this… In the entire herd of cows, the herd-quitter cow is the ONLY COW THINKING FOR HERSELF! For that reason, I have developed a tremendous amount of respect for those herd-quitter cows. When the cowherd follows the leaders over the edge of a cliff, the herd-quitter cow will be watching from a safe distance.
We use the term Herd Quitter to refer to people who have enough courage to break away from the status quo, herd-mentality way of thinking. It is more about thinking for yourself than anything else.
The Herd Quitter concept applies to other aspects of our lives. Most of the people in all businesses and occupations belong to a status quo herd. They are all thinking alike. Very little individual thinking is taking place. Sadly, politics and religion are dominated by the status quo majority. It takes courage to break away from the status quo herd – but it’s worth it! Nothing of lasting value will ever be accomplished within the status quo herd.
The most successful people throughout history have been those who dared to be different. They were not afraid to break away from the status quo herd. In contrast, those who follow the herd and do what everyone else is doing, will never be above average. Dare to be different! Dare to think for yourself! Dare to be a Herd Quitter!
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