Cattle U 2023 keynoted by Kansan Matt Perrier

Matt Perrier delivers the keynote address during lunch at Cattle U. (Journal photo by Lacey Vilhauer.)

Cattle U 2023 is in the books after its first year in a new location—Manhattan, Kansas—with a new free, one-day format. Nearly 200 people gathered for the event, which included a complimentary breakfast, sponsored by Vitalix and lunch sponsored by Elanco.

Several speakers rounded out the educational agenda, including Jason Warner with Kansas State University; Troy and Bryan Leith with Midwest Meats in Abilene, Kansas; Dr. Kevin Cain, DVM, with Multimin; Scott Brown with the University of Missouri and a diverse line-up of panelists in the opening beef industry panel. Cattle U awards were presented. Tera Barnhardt received the Cattlewoman of the Year award and Shayne and Chance Wiese were awarded the Cattleman of the Year award.

Matt Perrier, part owner and manager of Dalebanks Angus in Eureka, Kansas, served as the keynote luncheon speaker and gave a presentation called “Addressing Antagonism in Ag (without being an antagonist).” Matt is a past president of the Beef Improvement Federation and Kansas Livestock Association. He also hosts a biweekly podcast called Practically Ranching.

Perrier opened his session by defining the word antagonism, which is as a condition of being an opposing principle. Antagonists are people who oppose or contend against another.

“It usually has a pretty negative connotation,” he said. “I’m going to spend some time talking about how to address antagonism in more of a positive form.”

Perrier used the example of birth weight and weaning weight in cattle production as antagonisms cattlemen and women deal with every day.

“If you don’t put selection pressure on both of them in opposite directions, what do they do? They go together. They’re correlated, they’re antagonists. So, as you’re increase weaning weight without suppressing birth weight, you’re going to increase birth weight.”

Perrier spoke about five tactics to help producers deal with antagonisms and illustrated each one with a quote from a famous person.

“I think these five things will help us navigate these antagonisms that we’re faced with from the time we wake up every morning until the time we go to bed every day, whether it’s work, or family, crops or cattle,” he said.

The first quote was from noted cowboy, columnist and actor, Will Rogers who said, “There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.”

This quote represented learning and was the first of his five strategies.

“We can all learn something from each other,” Perrier said. “And we can all learn during these networking sessions. Because that is one of the jobs of agricultural producers, to make sure that we continue to learn.”

Next, Perrier spoke about perspective. He used a quote from Albert Einstein, the famous physicist. “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

For this bullet point, Perrier used the example of price discovery.

“Must we address this issue by going back in time and selling cattle the way we did 40 years ago,” he asked. “My opinion would be no, because we give away what we gained in terms of consumer acceptance and value-based marketing and being paid to produce what it is our customers want.”

For the third word, Perrier chose balance and used a quote from author F. Scott Fitzgerald. “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

A difference of opinion is about as common as cars on a road these days, but Perrier urges everyone to start a dialogue and meet in

the middle, even if you do not agree with others.

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“It’s imperative that we have conversations. If we are going to balance these times, we at least need to listen and try to understand

where they are coming from,” he said.

The fourth word was change and it goes with a quote from philosopher Eric Hoffer. “In times of change learners inherit the earth.”

Perrier impressed upon the audience that he can learn from everyone in the room and we should all be looking for opportunities to gain knowledge from each other and change for the better.

Next, Perrier spoke the word action. He used a quote from musician Jerry Garcia to explain this bullet point. “Somebody has to do something, and it’s just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us.”

“How often do we sit around the coffee shop and we say ‘Can you believe those traders in Chicago?’” Perrier said. “Or ‘Can you believe those congressmen did this?’ Somebody needs to do something, but then we go home and come back the next day to the coffee shop and don’t take action.”

Perrier’s moral is to stop complaining about an issue without being part of the solution.

Next, he quoted scientist, Sir Isaac Newton. “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

“At some point we have to make a decision and take action. Isaac was talking about physics, I’m talking about decision making, but I think they go hand-in-hand.”

Finally, Perrier impressed upon the audience to be grateful for everything in life and have faith.

“Faith in God, or faith in whatever you want to have faith in will put all this together,” he explained. “You can work like crazy for yourself. You can study like crazy for yourself. You can even be nice to other people. But without that faith and belief that deep down He won’t give me anything that I can’t eventually handle, it gets pretty dicey.”

Lacey Vilhauer can be reached at 620-227-1871 or [email protected].