For most of us, the word “education” harkens back to the sound of chalk against the chalkboard with our teachers quizzing us on fractions. Once we received that piece of paper with the word “diploma” on it, as kids we thought that was the end of education. But now, we realize that education continues through adulthood.

This is especially true when it comes to the livestock business. We get educated every day when something goes wrong, or conversely when a mistake turns out to be more beneficial than harmful.

There are also more formal opportunities for education, such as the producer meetings that happen in the summer and winter. While we often dismiss these as a “free lunch and a sales pitch,” several of these meetings are quality learning opportunities. Attending them has numerous benefits to your employees and your bottom line.

What benefits can you accrue from educational meetings? The first and most apparent benefit is learning new techniques and management practices that lead to better returns. Especially in tough years like this one, knowing how to squeeze every drop of profit from our investment may be a make-or-break factor. Discovering new ways of making more money will not come from living in a bubble on our own operation. These meetings function as a pathway to make lucrative discoveries.

These meetings also force us to look at the livestock business through a different person’s perspective, which in turn helps us reexamine our business. While something learned at a meeting might not necessarily change how we raise our livestock, hearing other person’s way of doing things gives us a chance to ponder why we do things the way we do. Through this periodic reconsideration, we can identify opportunities for improvement when they do present themselves, as well as double-down on the things we are doing that make good sense.

Another benefit to educational meetings is the chance to meet like-minded individuals in the livestock business. A subject expert that presents may be handy to ask a question of later down the road. The people you sit next to may be a great partner in a future business endeavor. The only good way to meet these people is to go where they gather, which is at quality producer meetings.

With these benefits, the next question to answer is who from the operation attends educational meetings? While it is often assumed the owner of the operation will receive the most benefit, the truth is everyone that is a part of the operation can gain from meetings. All people play a part in the operation, from the person who does the accounting to the person who greases the equipment. If every one of them understands the “why” behind changes implemented at meetings, they are more enthusiastic about doing their part to make that change happen.

Having everyone at meetings also helps glean more information from the presentations. Each person hears and notes something different from the speakers. A short statement from the presenter about how to improve a menial task may lead to a significant cost savings. The thing is, usually the only person who remembers this improvement is the person who actually does that job. If taking the hired man to a meeting could save you $5000 this year, it would make sense to do it.

Educational meetings also stimulate intellectual curiosity. We all can get bogged down in the day-to-day tasks, which leads to boredom and job dissatisfaction. A good producer meeting that makes employees think brings them back to what interests them in their job, which combats monotony.

We’ve all learned our education didn’t end with our diploma — there’s been a lesson or two from the teaching of the school of hard knocks. Instead of getting our education that way, seek out educational meetings, be they from companies or extension. By increasing our knowledge, we can keep our employees engaged and add to our bottom line.

Jake Geis, DVM, works with Sioux Nation Ag in Freeman.

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