Black Ink

Opinion
Jun 21, 2013

No brainer?

You’ve heard it many times, maybe even said it: “Oh yeah, that’s a no-brainer.” But how can that be when that assessment and comment took conscious thought? I submit there are very few legitimate no-brainers except autonomous functions like breathing.

Illegitimate ones, sure, as in “pulling a no-brainer.” Those are actions we look back on and realize in retrospect should have been given more thought. If we’re lucky, we learn without serious injury to health or pocketbook.

Technology is a good thing, but you have to understand it with brain fully engaged. I have learned much about global positioning system (GPS) units since the days when mine kept telling me to “make a legal U-turn!” But it’s not automatic yet, and I keep re-learning to maintain human control.

This month I let that slip with a no-brainer while trying to find a hotel in a big city, having turned that task over to GPS with a few clicks.

Frowning once or twice at the instructions to turn there and then in that direction, I still trusted it to get to “my destination,” where I was soon said to have arrived. Only then did I realize there was more than one location for that hotel chain in the city, and this was the wrong one.

Entering the right address and once again relying on the GPS, I got to the hotel just a little later, and no harm done.

Earlier this spring while assisting in artificial insemination on a set of heat-synchronized heifers, I discovered a potentially fatal error in my chute-side routine.

There are several models of squeeze chutes, and this one is not mine but it relies on an angled tab sliding down a rod to keep the squeeze on until released by changing the angle with a release handle. Or, if a critical juncture is affected by moisture, it turned out.

A soft rain was falling that morning, and I noticed what that could mean on the second heifer. It wasn’t the first, because on that one I had held a tail out of the way and perched in what seemed like a logical spot. It was almost a no brainer.

After setting the squeeze for the next one but before I could step up where I had been, the wet rod slipped and the squeeze released in a bang microsecond. Thankful it did not hold for a minute longer, I saw then that the chute action would have dealt a serious head injury had I been standing where I had been oblivious of risk.

I felt lucky and stupid all at once, and of course found another way to help secure tails after catching the heifers. Let that be a warning to carefully study the workings of every squeeze chute or other equipment before getting down to work.

It’s risky to do or casually “decide” anything as a nobrainer, even when they seem obvious. Danger or opportunity could be just around the corner, only to be avoided or engaged by thinking.

Is your business on course? Have you even set a destination, or are you just following a path of least resistance at the least possible cost and hoping for the best day to day?

Are you missing some real and present danger by assuming your first idea—or somebody else’s idea that you took on as a no-brainer—was the right idea?

The power of an engaged mind can use technology or sometimes just simple logic to produce cattle that are worth hundreds of dollars more per head than those from a herd on autopilot. Whether drought and debt are knocking at the door or prosperity reigns over your pastures, every decision will brighten or dim your prospects. Stay focused. — Steve Suther (“Black ink” is a cattle management column written by Steve Suther and Miranda Reiman of Certified Angus Beef. The column is not designed for strictly Angus producers, and does not necessarily represent the views or opinions of WLJ or its editorial staff.)

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