Time for the Next Generation to Lead
By Ellen H. Brisendine
In the August issue of The Cattleman magazine, we traditionally highlight Hereford cattle. This year, we’re also talking about transferring businesses and assets from the older generation to the younger.
Transferring leadership to the next generation is just as important. At Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA), our Young Leadership Series (YLS) program helps members age 40 and younger learn about the association and develop the skills they need to thrive in their ranching businesses and take a leadership role in the association. In fact, more than half of the directors elected to the TSCRA board in 2017 are active in YLS, so the program is clearly working.
Terri Barber, Corrales, N.M., is a good example of a young rancher and ag professional stepping up to accept the leadership of a significant entity in the beef cattle community, the American Hereford Association (AHA).
Barber is finishing her term as president of AHA. She’s a member of the Barber Hereford ranching family from Channing and is a professional with Elanco Animal Health. She is also a past staff member of a beef cattle breed association and served a stint with the Texas Department of Agriculture.
We know it is hard for young members of TSCRA to fit association involvement into job and life demands. So we decided to ask Barber how she juggles the demands of being president of AHA with the demands of her work at Elanco, while still being a part of the Barber Ranch operation.
Out of curiosity, we also asked how being on the volunteer side of an association compares with being on the staff side.
She says, “It’s been enlightening; it’s been challenging. It’s been very revealing and sometimes eye-opening. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Being a member of the 12-member AHA board is a 4-year commitment, Barber explains. “I ran for the board in 2013. Three directors go off each year and 3 new ones come on. The directors represent 4 regions. I represent the Southwest region, which extends to California.”
Having worked for a beef breed association early in her career, Barber says “I have a little more empathy for the AHA staff members. I think we have hands-down one of the most talented staffs of any breed association, I would say worldwide.”
Fitting a significant volunteer obligation into a full-time job required her to increase the efficiency of how she uses her time. “I’ve changed jobs within Elanco,” she explains. “I was on the food animal side of our animal health company and now I’m on the companion animal side. I pioneered a territory out here in New Mexico as a result of Elanco acquiring Novartis a few years ago. It gave me an opportunity to learn a completely different business side of our animal health world. The busier I’ve gotten, the more efficient I have become. Like anything else, you prioritize what you have to get done in your day-to-day goals and then you work around schedules.”
And you delegate, she says. “Other people fill in where you can’t,” she says, referring to the support the AHA staff provides its volunteer leaders. “It’s amazing how much you can get done when you’ve got a lot of balls in the air.”
The conversation about Barber running for the AHA board started in 2011 when the AHA president at the time approached her parents about serving on the board. Barber says her parents directed the attention to her, saying it was time for the next generation to lead.
“My advice to young cattle raisers is to not procrastinate and think too long about doing something. The earlier and the faster you jump in, the more you’re going to learn. You’ll be more well-rounded and sought-after for anything that comes along later in life. You can’t sit back and expect doors to open automatically because that’s not the way of the world,” she says.
When it comes to the business of ranching, Barber suggests something she wishes she could do more of herself — personally connect with the client.
“Ranchers absolutely need to get to know their customer and what drives those customers to make a decision. We need to educate ourselves on how best to help that customer. I don’t think you can make too many personal connections with your customers,” she says.
“If you want to keep a customer in this competitive environment, you have to be able to show him or her just what your cattle are going to do to help their bottom line.
“Create opportunities for your clients like cooperative buy-back programs for the calves of the bulls you sell them. Help them market those calves. Anything that helps create demand for what they’re producing will ultimately help them as a producer,” she says.
“If I could just do one thing all day, every day, it would be to reach out and provide customer service. Let your clients know that you’re thinking about them and that you really do care about their bottom line. That, ultimately, is going to drive your success in what you’re doing as a producer.”
One area in which seedstock producers can help their clients is in interpreting what can seem like an overwhelming amount of genetic data available on cattle. The array of expected progeny differences, values and measurements can be daunting to a client who buys a bull every few years.
“This is an area in which AHA, and we as purebred cattle providers, are trying to help educate our customers. We are working to educate folks on what information is important when making breeding decisions,” she explains.
This puts the Hereford association, and any seedstock rancher who goes to this effort, “in a favorable light as a good resource,” she says.
Barber can’t stress enough the importance of “keeping yourself educated. Go to events that TSCRA sponsors, the ranch gatherings, your board meetings, any type of event that can empower you as a producer and help you be a provider of knowledge. This is good for your customers. You will be seen as a solution and a resource, and not somebody just trying to sell them something. They’ll remember that.”
Learn more about American Hereford Association at hereford.org, or find the association on Facebook by searching for American Hereford Association. ❚
“Time for the Next Generation” is excerpted from the August 2017 issue of The Cattleman magazine.