Some thoughts about thinking ahead

Nov 30, 2017


ANNOUNCER:    Welcome to the latest “Block Talk” podcast, brought to you by CRYSTALYX Brand supplements. When you think about it, do we think about it enough? Dan Dhuyvetter is the Director of Research and Nutrition for CRYSTALYX. And he’s been thinking about the way we process information and make decisions and how that can impact cow/calf producers. He says it’s a matter of sorting out the snap decisions from the ones that should require thinking multiple steps ahead.

DAN:                 You know, as we think about how we make decisions, or arrive at decisions, I think most of us can relate back to our childhood days, about how we came through the learning process. As I was thinking about this particular blog, I was relating back to my children and how they were coming about making decisions on a day-to-day basis. As I was evaluating and working with them in terms of how they make their decisions, it became apparent that a lot of decisions are made, and can be made fairly quickly without some of the regards to longer term affects or ramifications on the outcome of that decision. An example I think about with my own kids is when I first asked them to clean up their rooms they reluctantly went in and said they would do it, and within a few minutes they’d come out and say, ‘yup, they were all done’. But, when you went in there and inspected, they, basically, had taken everything that was out and put it out of sight. In order for them to satisfy when you said clean up their room, they just, basically, thought they just had to get everything out of eyeshot so that it had the appearance of being clean.

Related article: Thinking multiple steps ahead for cow-calf producers

                        Unfortunately, when you make some of those decisions and what it will do is it will cause longer-term affects, where they have to go back in and rethink what they did and actually put things away and take more time to actually go back and do this again. I started thinking about how that really works within agriculture, livestock production and how sometimes we make decisions that in the short-term can appear to be beneficial, and they seem to be more timely, but in the long-term they make actually cause us more harm than good.”

ANNOUNCER:    Are there any dangers in not thinking multiple steps ahead?

DAN:                 Usually, when you think about those decisions, a lot of times they’re going to be decisions that are made under an urgency of time. They need to be made fairly quickly. In those situations, when there is a time element that has to be done, those are things that are high priority at the moment. But when you take a look at other decisions that a probably integrated within the ranch or farming enterprise, it’s not that immediate action is required, but there’s going to be a little bit of time before you really need to have that outcome. As you kinda take a look at those types of decisions, if you make them too hastily, often times you’re going to start looking at not taking into account what happens if I go this way, and then long-term I’m either going to have to come back in and I’m going to have to repair what may not have happened, or may have happened, and instead I’m going to have to spend more time to do it the right way, or I’m going to spend more resources to get it done properly or the direction of where I’m looking at, whether it be my calf crop or whatever the out come is that you’re looking at from your farming enterprise, it might have missed the market altogether. From the standpoint of the dangers are that you may actually spend time doing certain things that actually cause you more time, more resources to fix later on.

ANNOUNCER:    Can you get too over-analytical? How do you prevent so-called paralysis by analysis?

DAN:                 When you take a look at making decisions, as I mentioned before, we know that there’s ones that have to be made very timely and very quickly. But then there’s also ones that are a little further out on the horizon. And those, there’s a little bit of danger that if you take a lot of time, you can start bringing in so many elements that that picture gets pretty cloudy, it gets pretty confusing. To try and help prevent that, I think the easiest thing in my mind is that as you’re making those types of decisions you need to first set a timeline. First set a time out in the future when that decision really has to be made. And then work backwards a little bit. From that timeline, spend the time, and devote the time to think through what are some of the possible scenarios. Prioritize what you really need from that decision and then realize that you do have some compromises that are more than likely going to need to be made. And I think if you kinda set those three things up: Setting a timeline that’s out there, prioritize what you really want from that decision, and then figure out what are some of the compromises that you can live with, I think you can stay on track in terms of coming to those decisions with the right amount of information, rather than getting too bogged down in all the details that can simply overwhelm it.

ANNOUNCER:    So, how does this impact the cow/calf producer?

DAN:                 Thinking multiple steps ahead, the genetic program, to me, is one that comes to mind right away because decisions that you’re making today are going to impact that herd, and especially when you’re going to select bulls that are going to be within that mating program for years come. And then, their offspring, if you’re saving replacement heifers, could be in there even more years than that. There’s a lot of events that tie together. So, really kind of making sure that you are in tune to this thinking a little bit down the road can be very beneficial, especially when you start looking at the genetics program. Most times, we’re just getting those bull calves weaned and they’ll be having bull sales this spring. A lot of producers will end up saying, hey it’s time to jump in, let’s go to a bull sale. Really a lot of that homework and decisions that should be made, probably a lot of those activities should be done well ahead of the sales, in terms of evaluating what types of matings and what types of genetics you want to bring into your program. Some of this is probably a little intuitive. You know that if you’re bringing bulls in that are going to be terminal sires, or are you going to be bringing bulls in that are also going to be used for replacement heifers, or bulls that are going to be used for specific marketing programs, those decisions all need to be thought out ahead of time. And, that probably, even though it’s multiple stages ahead, or multiple steps ahead, those probably could be full-blown plans that you have written down to make sure that you’re staying on track. So that’s a very detailed decision-making process. A lot more involved than maybe even some of the other ones that you come across during the day.

ANNOUNCER:    Okay, so how, specifically, can you put this line of thinking into action with a nutrition program?

DAN:                 When you really think about the nutrition program, it probably starts during the spring and summer months, based on the grazing programs that you have and your grazing management, the climate that you’ve dealt with throughout the grazing or the growing season, and how much of that forage base has provided some of that forage are you going to be able to use as you go through your winter program. Most operations will deal with some sort of stored winter forage systems that they need to get them through to next spring. As a result of that, often times you’re dealing with quality of forages that are lower in terms of quality, that need a little bit of additional supplementation. When you take a look at that, there’s a lot of decisions that are really hinged on the type of decisions that you make. You can choose to make decisions in supplementing earlier in the fall, which often times help hold cows in better condition so they can make it through the winter a little bit more easily. Or you can choose to defer and supplement later on, where you’re basically taking a little bit more risk, depending on the climate conditions during the winter, as to whether or not they’re going to enter the spring calving period in good condition. So there’s a lot of decisions that need to be made to be sure that you’re taking into account as the season goes on. What are the conditions that are given to me that I can then tie in a good, sound nutritional program to make sure that I can get the cowherd through soundly into the spring so that they calve, they have the best nutritional environment that they have to having healthy calves and get them off to a good start.

ANNOUNCER:    How can you get in the habit of thinking multiple steps ahead?

DAN:                 You know, if I can think about it in a process, in terms of decisions that I can make, and I’m thinking about a nutrition program, I basically would want to take a look at what are the situations that are presented to me right now, and then, when is it that I really need to make sure that I’ve kinda got that decision made. So, again, making sure I give myself a deadline. There’s nothing that makes us stay focused more than when we know that there’s a deadline out there. So, if we put our date in mind of when we need to have that deadline, then we can say okay when can I set aside some time to make sure, whether or not I’m driving out to pastures two or three times a week, or whether I’m driving in to town and I can have some of that windshield time to think through some of the different options or scenarios. Then realize that as I do this there’s going to be some compromises that I’m going to have to make. And then, prioritize. Prioritize what is it I need to do? When we take a look right now at the conditions that we have from the fall, what I would say is that we more than likely have a lot of our forages already set for the year, and what we’ve got available for us as we go into the winter. We should be trying to inventory those right now, and make sure we know what types of forages, the quality that we have in each of those different sources of forages. And then, what amounts can we start devoting to that cow herd as they come off fall grazing. What is we can do then with our stored forages to make sure that we’re caring for those cattle through mid-gestation up to late gestation, and then through calving to green grass. So, we start compartmentalizing when those nutrition programs need to be put together, and we start putting that together, thinking multiple steps ahead so we don’t ever get caught short.

ANNOUNCER:    I think it’s important for producers to realize is that they’re not in this alone. It’s always a good idea to not only think about these things on your own, but also to bounce ideas off trusted advisors who can help you sift through all of this.

DAN:                 Thinking out loud with some good, sound individuals, I know all of has folks that we respect in the industry, that we’ve known from their habits and their operations, their success, what they’ve had. We can see from their experiences the success that they have had with their particular operation. Make sure that we are looking at visiting with those folks and getting that as much good information as we can to make sound decisions is very important.

                        It’s interesting, whenever I think about thinking multiple steps ahead, probably the first example that I think of when I was growing up was when I was swathing hay. When I was done for the day, or getting done for the day, that I’d done a nice job getting that hay cut, ready for someone to bail it. And, when my Uncle George came and drove up, and his comment was, ‘You know whoever swaths the hay, needs to bail the hay. I just looked at him a little puzzled and didn’t think much of it until I then, in a few days, had to go back in and bail it. And I got the picture of what he meant. That if you really don’t have any skin in the game, a lot of times individuals make decisions differently than if they know they’re going to be involved every step of the way. And I think that’s really important as we make decisions, either if that’s personally or within our business. That, as long as we’re involved, we know that we’re going to be there through every step. And we need to make those decisions based on how we’d like to make sure that we’re involved.

Brian:    That’s it for this Block Talk Podcast brought to you by CRYSTALYX Brand Supplements an easy way to provide self-fed protein, vitamins and trace minerals in a low moisture supplement formulated for all types of feeding situations from low quality forages to fly control and everything in between. Learn more about all that CRYSTALYX has to offer by going to It all adds up to Results by the Barrel.


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