Everyone’s an expert

A few months ago when I decided to get active in social media and start sharing my views, I kept coming across a buzzword that was on the tip of everyone’s tongue :agvocacy. Initially, I thought this was spectacular. Farmers and ranchers advocating for agriculture seemed like a concept that will change our industry. After a few months of reading blogs and spending entire evenings trolling through twitter, I’ve come to the conclusion that the majority of “agvocates” are full of shit. 

I honestly can’t remember the last time I read an original thought on a blog. I read an article from Reuters or Drovers, and then my twitter feed blows up with links to blogs about these subjects. I click these links and I find wannabe journalists regurgitating the same crap from that article.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve read several blogs about Zilmax. Most of these are written by cow calf producers and students with no experience to back up what they’re writing about.  They just write down somebody else’s thoughts and present it as fact. It would be nice to see some original thoughts on Zilmax and what the real problems are. 
When we have thousands of farmers presenting themselves as experts, we are going to do more harm than good. Someone with limited feedlot experience being referred to as an expert on the industry is worse than me telling people why gestation crates are a good thing. It’s important to remember that just because somebody has thousands of people following them, doesn’t mean they’re always going to be the best source of information. 



7 thoughts on “Everyone’s an expert

  1. Ryan Goodman

    Everyone has their own perspective. How they choose to share it is their own right. Online blogs and social media allows them (you and I included) to share that and with it comes the good and the bad.

    I’ll give you the fact that their are many folks who embrace sharing information on a broad scope of topics when they might not have the most experience with them. IF you don’t like what they are sharing, don’t put them down for it. It’s much more than what most of agriculture is sharing. Keep writing your own perspective to add to the conversation.

    1. Ryan Goodman

      I should also add, keep sharing your perspective from the feedlots. That’s the voice agriculture doesn’t have enough of. But don’t do it just because you want to tell the “experts” (as you refer to them) how they should have told it.

      1. Amy (@KyFarmersMatter)

        Unfortunately, many don’t show or tell their own perspective. It turns into white noise when the masses talk about things they know little about and in turn use talking points/industry approved tidbits to just fill up space. Not to mention, boring..

  2. Derrel White

    Here are my thoughts on Zilmax from the perspective of both a cattle feeder and a consultant to the industry. We have two issues really. The first is one that we should take seriously. There is not a lot of understanding by our consumers about how beta agonists work. Their conclusions have been formed largely by what they read, and I will agree that most of what they read is wrong. But a large portion of our customers don’t want beta agonists right now. We can try and educate them but at the end of the day, if we disregard them because they have been influenced by others who may not know what we are talking about, all we do in the end is to eat into our own demand and long term reduce profitability in the industry.

    But the larger issue to me is one that is not often discussed and that is the economics for the feedlot industry in particular with products like Zilmax. We know that beta agonists reduce feed days and increase cutout. From a sustainability perspective and an effective use of resources perspective, that is a good thing. We could, probably should do a better job as an industry of pointing out how this not only decreases the footprint of beef production, but is probably a good step towards feeding a growing population while keeping costs affordable.

    But from an industry perspective, the feedlot industry segment, not necessarily the industry as a whole, Zilmax is a horrid idea. Here is why. First, our industry is in trouble. If we don’t start having some positive returns, there may not be much of a feedlot industry anymore except for the vertically integrated producers/packers. We are in trouble because we have overcapacity and that overcapacity is directly related in part to our ability to produce more with less. Zilmax is part of that equation.

    But perhaps more troubling to me is the impact that feeding Zilmax has on captive supply for the packers. Because there is a narrow window of time where you can feed Zilmax to get the benefits and an even narrower time of when those cattle must be slaughtered, you have effectively given the packers additional captive supply. Those cattle have to be slaughtered in that week, no pushing forward, no holding back. It is hard to say if this has an impact on actual cash bids, but it sure doesn’t help.

    Every segment of the industry needs a strong feedlot industry. Feeder cattle producers need as many options to market their product as possible. Stocker operators and cow/calf producers need a market for their product. The packing industry needs a source of cattle that they don’t own to at least keep them somewhat honest in their bids. The key to a profitable feedlot industry long term is to eventually get our capacity matched up better to the available number of animals and to make sure that we do everything we can to keep consumer demand for beef high. Using Zilmax at least at this time is contradictory to both of those.

    1. Derrel White

      Clarification. Poor word choice on my part. Zilmax does not decrease feed days on an individual animal, we just produce more retail product with that animal in the same number of days. That is the problem with economists like me, sometimes we are looking at things from a different angle. My assertion is that because we can produce the same amount of pounds of retail product with fewer animals, we have effectively reduced the total head days of the entire industry if production is stable. Stable production equals stable price. The better way to look at this is that we have increased production using Zilmax, which decreases the price in every industry segment. But the customer feedlot industry (which is what we really need to save) is never really going to make their money from the cattle. They are a hotel. They need to fill up all of the rooms every single night. With Zilmax, over time we need less cattle to satisfy demand, which in turn reduces total industry head days or occupancy of the industry.

  3. AndrewEatsCows Post author

    Thanks for your reply Derrel. Nice to see somebody critically thinking about the whole Zilmax debacle. When we are talking about using resources, I think the cattle need to be viewed as a resource. In my experience, Zilmax kills cattle, and throwing 1000 lbs of usable beef in the dead pit isn’t exactly a great use of that resource. Hopefully people will realize the impact on the cattle and understand the economics you discussed and we can see this crap out of the feed bunks.

  4. Derrel White

    Thanks for the comments Andrew. I think you are exactly right that the live animal is one of the highest value resources in the entire process and a pre-maturely dead animal is a huge waste of resources. On the welfare and death loss issue, a friend of mine, feedlot manager for a very large feedlot told me that everything that had been described in all of the stories about Zilmax was also their experience in the short time they had used the product. He had no use for the product and like you thought the sooner it is out of the entire system, the better.

    The feedlot industry is a huge part of the cattle industry and I agree with Ryan that it is underrepresented in social media, blogs and even the popular press. As a result, the feedlot industry sometimes gets a bad rap even when it doesn’t deserve it. Adding additional controversy to the equation with products like Zilmax just adds fuel to the fire.


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