I know what it’s like to have someone depending on me.

I have four little children who look to me for clean clothes, a full tummy, and lots of love and support.

It’s been a few years, but I also remember what it’s like to come to a feedbunk, lined with cattle looking up, eagerly awaiting breakfast or supper.

No doubt, you know that feeling well. Maybe it’s the cows waiting for you to chisel ice during a cold snap—a scene that might seem all too familiar to many northern readers this year. Maybe it’s the weaned calves going from momma’s care to your care. Regardless of the situation, if you’re raising cattle, you know what it’s like to be needed.

But have you ever thought of the others, all along the beef chain who put their faith in you?

Maybe it’s Ruth Ammon, an office manager at a western Nebraska feedlot; it could be Dan Chase, an export specialist from Florida; or perhaps it’s Meg Groves, a carcass data collector from Iowa.

These people rely on you. Their jobs exist only because of a healthy and robust beef industry.

The list continues with everyone from chefs to meat marketers to even ag journalists like myself. (Sure, I could write about broccoli, but certainly my livelihood would not be the same without committed cattlemen and women across this country.)

For many of these people, it’s not just about beef. It’s about really good beef.

“We’re a premium provider and we’re priced at a premium. There are always going to be countries that are going to be cheaper than us,” says Liz Wunderlich, of the U.S. Meat Export Federation, yet another person who has made a career out of this business we all love.  “We talk about why we’re unique, with beef that’s grain-fed, high-quality.”

Those producers who seek more knowledge of their end product require smart feedlot employees who can help track that data and relay it. They need collectors in the plant, gathering marbling and yield information.

Chefs like Mark Morgan, near Baltimore, build their reputation on serving the best beef available. Salespeople like Scott Redden of North Carolina find repeat customers when they move product like that.

It’s a circle. You need them, too. The people who take what you produce and make sure it reaches its highest potential, also make sure it reaches its highest value. They want you to be rewarded for your work. In that sense, you need them, too.

Without high beef demand, without a premium protein to sell, life would be so different for people like meat cutter Tim Toussaint and Ohio packer Bob Boliantz.

Keeping cattle alive, healthy and productive is a big responsibility to shoulder. You might not think of the gravity of that as you go about your everyday tasks, but it’s a pretty astounding purpose.

Although it’s less tangible on the ranch, keeping the beef business healthy and productive is equally so.

Next time in Black Ink® Steve Suther will consider calving time. Questions? E-mail [email protected].