Project Cowherd 2020

Castle Rock in the foreground, Pikes Peak in the background.

On many weekend days, I enjoy a spectacular view from my chair at the breakfast table. Our home, situated on top of a hill, offers views of Pikes Peak, with Castle Rock in the foreground, that take my breath away. The crystal clear air shimmers with bright sunlight. (I feel just like Yertle the Turtle with this view.)

Yertle the Turtle

I’ve heard because Colorado has low humidity, the air is clearer than in other parts of the country. The bright sun coupled with intensely clear air make me glad I am alive. 

But then, if I were somewhere else, with another spectacular view, I would also feel blessed, wouldn’t I? After all, if your view clouds over–you may not be aware that anything is blurring your clear line of sight.

Our vision is like that. Our lives are like that. Blurred and blocked and fettered by our experiences and our prejudices, our inability to imagine things that have potential gets in our way. That is why expanding ourselves helps our world grow, and paves the way for imagination too. 

(Truth is, Pikes Peak MAY be the most beautiful mountain in the world. But until I’ve seen the Alps, I’m withholding judgment.)

Bear with me. This is my unique and individual (ok, some would say weird) way of introducing my topic–the cowherd in 2020

When my son was young, I used to encourage him, saying “Almost no decision cannot be undone later. Do what you think is right.”

But what I didn’t tell him was that there are opportunities that only come once. Some only come once in a lifetime. If you don’t have the vision and the courage to take them when they come, you lose them. Forever. 

What if I told you that beef producers (indeed the entire beef business) has one of those huge, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, right this very minute? 

An opportunity so big, that we may never get this chance again. An opportunity with so much potential, it could change our business forever. 

It is the chance to rebuild our cowherd, reset our future, reform our beef supply.

With cow numbers so low, and herd expansion shivering on the brink of fruition, we have an unmatched opportunity to determine our own future. 

What if every commercial cattleman and woman, dedicated him or herself to Project Cowherd 2020–an aggressive, genetic improvement plan for the future of our business? What if we called upon our business partners, feeders, processors, extension agents, seekstock suppliers, to help us to do just that? How much progress could be made?


I’ll bet you my friend Don Schiefelbein would say A LOT. (I’m cheating here, because I’ve heard him say something similar, without the cool name Project Cowherd 2020, on several occasions!)

It’s about you, envisioning how your herd could work best for you, and for the beef consumer, in 2020. If you asked your buyer how your cattle did on the rail, what would you want to hear? What would your calves’ feed efficiency look like? How would your cows perform in your environment? Dream big. Build (or rebuild) your perfect herd for 2020 by beginning with the end in mind.  

What if EVERY producer started today? I believe if a majority of us dedicate ourselves to Project Cowherd 2020 this year, we have the opportunity of a lifetime.

I’m not blowing sunshine up your skirt here. Our national herd is very small. While we rebuild, we have enormous potential for improvement–if we rebuild consciously and carefully. 90% of successful innovation is timing. By 2020 our cowherd could be the best it’s been in history–with the potential for optimum production efficiency, enhanced business sustainability and practices, improved consistency and consumer acceptability, optimal diversity of beef offerings to satisfy everyone’s demands. Or it could look about the same as it did 10 years ago. Your choice. 

A Chinese proverb says: The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is today. (Has anyone mentioned to you how much beef China is going to want by 2020?)

It’s a big dream, a wildly important goal. But also one that is completely achievable with dedication, and clear vision. Would you rather write your destiny, or sit still and see what others do for (or to) you? Does we have what it takes to write our own destiny? I guess we shall see…and sooner rather than later. 


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