Supporting youth producers: Supporting youth producers WSGA looks at helping young ranchers succeed
Laramie – “The most important thing we can learn from college is how to learn,” said Sage Askin, a young rancher from Lusk.
Askin concluded a panel discussion titled, “Preparing the Next Generation of Wyoming Ranchers” at the 2016 Wyoming Cattle Industry Convention and Trade Show, held in Laramie June 1-4. He was joined by University of Wyoming College of Agriculture and Natural Resources professors, who emphasized what they teach in their classrooms on campus.
“Open-mindedness is the second most valuable thing we can learn,” Askin added. “It’s hard to stop a person that has those two things.”
Askin graduated from the University of Wyoming in 2011 with a degree in rangeland management, but he noted that the information he learned in college was far from all he needed to be successful as a rancher.
“Another thing we can learn is that more heads are better than one,” he said. “If we try to go it alone, we’re not going to do as well.”
Askin added that the university also emphasized the importance of networking.
“That carries on for the rest of our lives,” he commented. “The friendships and connections I have made have helped me, and I believe they will continue to help me.”
“It truly is about standing on the shoulders of giants, as Stephen Hawking wrote,” Askin added. “It’s the people we know and can learn from that help us to stand tall.”
“We have to have the social skills and human relationships,” he said.
While in college, Askin also noted that it’s about more than taking a single course or degree program.
“There’s not a single degree field that will set anyone up to become a rancher,” he said. “I tried to tailor my courses, but I skipped the boring stuff – and I shouldn’t have.”
Askin asserted that economics and business courses have more of an impact than perhaps range management or animal science course work.
“An ag business degree might be better to have than anything else,” he added.
“We all have our own passions,” Askin said. “Every student goes to school with something that they’re interested in. The sooner they can jump into a degree program that will allow them to follow it, and take other classes on the side, the better.”
Askin also noted that it’s important to select a specialty and pursue something that they’re interested in. However, he said that it’s important to add additional coursework on the side for a well-rounded overall education.
“If I were to make a recommendation, I’d say pick a specialty, become good at it but keep a broad view,” he said. “Never become too narrowed down. We have to be holistic managers and keep a holistic approach. If we get too tapped into the details, we’re going to lose sight of the big picture, which leads to success.”
“There’s three main things that make ranches successful,” Askin said. “Those are grazing management, marketing and stockmanship. I’ll stand by those.”
However, he noted that the other aspects of ranching aren’t to be devalued, but they are tools in a big toolbox.
Managing the resource and selling a product are the most important pieces of a story. He also added that at the end of the day, ranching is about selling a product, and if ranchers lose sight of that, they will be less effective and profitable.
“Every class we take has an impact. Every conversation we have can teach us something,” he said.
In today’s connected world, Askin commented that it is important to plan for the future and be prepared for all potential outcomes in any situation.
“I’m constantly producing contingency plans for what could happen,” he said. “It’s important.”
“We’re more connected that ever before, and we can contact more people and have more of an impact than in the history of the world,” Askin added. “Based on that, we’re ranching in an era of greater opportunity than has been seen before, contrary to pessimism. There are lots of reasons to be optimistic.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.