Many years ago, I made one of the best financial decisions of my lifetime. I had the unique opportunity to be the first importer of a certain breed of beef cattle from a foreign country. The outlay of cash was significant, but if the breed panned out, I stood to make lots of money by being the first source of the new genetics to the rest of the United States. After much study and deliberation, I passed on the chance.  The breed didn’t offer much to U.S. beef producers and I really don’t think the people who took that chance profited much (if any) from their risk, since the breed has really become just a novelty. That turned out to be a really good decision on my part, but… I have made many, many bad decisions.
Shortly after my wife and I got married and bought a few acres just outside of town, the 160-acre farm across the road came up for sale. As soon as I saw the realtors sign, I called to see what they were asking for the place. “Two thousand dollars per acre,” was the cordial reply from the realtor, “and I’ll bet you can double your money in five years.”
After sleeping on it a few days and visiting with my agricultural loan officer at Farm Credit, I called the realtor back and told him I didn’t want to insult him or the owner, but I’d give him $750 per acre for the run-down old place. He wasn’t insulted and said he’d get back to me after talking to the owner. The next day, he called back and said that he couldn’t take my offer but counter-offered the place for an even $1,000 per acre. I told my new wife that if they came down that much in one day, all we had to do was wait them out and they would accept my first offer. “I know how to play this game,” I assured her.
A week later, after hearing no response from the realtor, a team of surveyors were across the road laying out the old farm into five-acre lots, starting at $15,000 each, and going up to $30,000. They all sold within a couple of years.
Then there was the time I had the chance to buy a couple of hundred shares of stock in a relatively young company. One of my relatives had worked for the company for a short time and was in dire need of quick cash. He offered the stock to me for five dollars per share, but I didn’t have a thousand dollars – especially to buy something I knew nothing about. If I had bought those two hundred shares of Wal-Mart at that time, I’d be… well… let’s just say I probably wouldn’t be writing humor columns today.
But, one of my greatest lapses in judgment came just this past summer.  Since the boys are no longer home and interested in cattle, I decided to put their last three purebred cows up for sale. I listed them on a purebred Internet site, complete with pedigree, show winnings as heifers and the discount price I needed to move them. The cows were seven, eight and nine years old – all former show heifers for my sons. A young cattleman from Ohio showed up one day and offered me a decent price for two of the three. I came down a little on my asking price since he was taking two head. He paid $3,500 for the younger one and I was happy to get it.
Six weeks later, I received his production sale catalog in the mail and was surprised to see my son’s former cow listed as lot No. 3, with a full-color, entire page picture of her. I have to admit that she looked great, all clipped up and standing in full show form.  Obviously, that nasty case of sore-foot she had when I sold her was all healed up, as well. Good for him. I hoped he could sell her for a profit.
I didn’t think much about her until I was talking with one of my purebred friends a few weeks after that sale and asked him if he knew what the cow brought. “Yeah, I was there,” he answered. “Lot No. 3… hmmm… that really big, long-bodied, strawberry roan?”
“Yeah, that’s the one. I just sold her to that farm a few weeks before the sale,” I added excitedly. “What did she bring?”
“Well,” he began, seeming to drag out his answer, “She sold for $15,000.”
“My $3,500 cow brought $15,000?” I asked in disbelief.
Laughing, he answered, “HALF-INTEREST in her brought that much!”
Jerry Crownover is a farmer and former professor of Agriculture Education at Missouri State University. He is a native of Baxter County, Arkansas, and an author and professional speaker. To contact Jerry call 1-866-532-1960 or visit and click on 'Contact Us.'


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