A great article from Walt Davis – Written in 1999.
There have been how-to books on lots of different subjects lately and I thought that it might be nice to help those people who get up every morning and wonder “what can I do today to lose money in the ranching business?” There is bound to be a huge demand for this kind of information since regardless of weather or markets, losing money is the main topic of conversation in every coffee shop in the country. The following is a collection of thoughts that should be of use in preventing any accidental out break of profitability.
Set your breeding season so that calves, lambs, kids, etc. are born well before the onset of new growth. This ensures that the young animals will be big enough to utilize the forage when it arrives and thus will wean off heavy. You will hear some nay-sayers blather about; the expense of maintaining lactating females without green forage, trouble getting females re-bred, disease and death loss in the young and even predictions that losses to predators will be worse since there are no young rats or rabbits around at this time of year. Some of this may be so but “we have got to have heavy weaning weights, right?”
Always stock your country with just a few more head than you think you can handle. If you get lucky and have a good year, you will have more to sell and you can’t carry that grass over to next year, can you? Besides the Fat Cow Feed Company has a new feed guaranteed to make stock do good on broom weeds and tree bark. No need to worry about how much grass you have, just book your feed early and read the trade magazines so you can keep up with the latest feed supplements and mineral programs. You may hear tales about people claiming to winter with no supplemental feed but you know darn well it can’t be done “here”. When you feed hay or other supplements, be sure to always feed in the same place so that you don’t stomp out all your pasture. By feeding in the same place, you can get rid of the wasted hay and built up manure in the spring by setting it on fire. You won’t have to worry about the fire getting away, there will not be any thing growing anywhere close to the feed ground. Just up hill from your stock pond is a good place for the feed ground so that the bare ground will cause more of the rain to run off and keep the pond full. Sure a little manure, urine and dirt gets in the water but the stock will still drink it.
Make all of your breeding decisions based upon “what the trade demands” rather on silly criteria such as the type cattle that performs well under your conditions or animals with traits that allow you to reduce inputs. After all who knows more about what is good for the industry, you or ConAgri? Along the same line, be sure to buy great-big, good old’ bulls that throw really heavy weaning calves. You may have to pull some calves and maybe even lose some cows and after a few years your cows may get pretty big and expensive to winter but even if they made four times as much money do you really want to have to tell people that your calves only weaned at 450 pounds?
Don’t get talked into this management intensive grazing stuff. Some people claim to be able to run more stock with better performance at less cost while improving their country but you don’t have time to do all that and besides “it won’t work here”. Stay away from these schools and seminars that claim to be able to teach you how to reduce your costs, increase production and improve both your country and your quality of life. Even if what they teach works, you have to spend so much time thinking that you won’t have time to rope more that twice a week.
Don’t get caught up in low stress livestock handling like Bud Williams teaches. So what if it will reduce sickness and death loss, improve animal performance, cut labor costs and lower your vet bills, you have to maintain an image don’t you? Do you really want your neighbors to see you walking behind a bunch of cattle? How are you going to have good horses and good dogs if they don’t get lots of work? How can you teach a young horse cow sense with a bunch of cattle that never break a walk and all stay together? Just why are you in the cattle business anyway?
Be sure and have the latest and best in hay equipment so that you can get your hay put up in a hurry. What is a few extra thousand dollars a year in interest compared to the satisfaction you get from all that shiny new iron? Plow up those old native hay meadows and plant one of the new “improved” varieties of annual hay plants. Sure this means that you will have to till and fertilize and plant every year so that costs go up and your country will erode some but you will get bigger yields. Above all don’t let one of these nuts talk you into making hay out of surplus pasture or even into getting out of the hay business by rationing out standing hay with sub divisions or even worse, temporary electric fence. This would mean that you would have to be thinking and planning all during the growing season about what forage you can expect and what your forage demand will be all during the year. If ranchers didn’t make hay all summer and feed it all winter where would they get their caps?
For sure don’t listen to listen to the “low cost production advocates”. So what if the price of beef and other commodities does tend to settle at the break-even price of the average producer so that only the low-cost producer can be profitable every year. What’s the point in being a rancher if you can’t drive a new four wheel drive, four door, dually pickup, ride really high powered horses and be known for having the most expensive and fattest purebred cattle in the county? Get to know all of the fertilizer, feed, vet supply, equipment and supplement salesmen so you can keep up with the latest technology. Steer clear of taking advice from the old timers in the business. Just because somebody has made a living ranching for forty years doesn’t mean they know the business. Most of those people don’t even use embryo transfers or GPS precision fertilizer systems.
Get those calves to market before they get too big. A 300-pound calf will bring a lot more per pound then a 500 pounder. If you want to be able to brag about “topping the market”, you better ship them early. There is a lot of talk now days about retained ownership instead of just shipping calves at weaning. Some people claim to dry winter their calf crop with just enough supplement to keep them healthy and growing normally and then make big and cheap gains on the spring flush. Even if they make three times as much net profit per calf, it is a lot of trouble to wean those calves and worry with them all winter. Don’t believe the stories about people weaning calves in the pasture with no stress, weight loss or sickness. You know darn well that won’t work. Have a real market plan. Bankers don’t like to loan money to buy when the market is down so pay attention to the market and be ready to buy when they get high. Bankers will always loan more money when the market is high, after all they are the financial experts.
Most important, know why you are in the business and what you want to accomplish. There are some soft headed nuts out there talking about how ranchers are not in the livestock business but in the business of harvesting free solar energy by converting it first to biological energy (green plants) and then into wealth in the form of meat, milk, wool, wildlife or what ever. You know what is really important and there will never be a (pick one- Angus, white face, goat, sheep, other) on this place while you are running things. Your grand daddy was a ______ breeder, your daddy was a ______ breeder and you are a ______ breeder or at least you were until the bank sold you out.
Walt Davis 1999
“Our past shapes us, but it does not have to define us. Trust the timing of your life while focusing your thoughts and energy on what is in your control.”
To venture deeper into your inner spirit, you have to humble yourself and acknowledge what you do not know. The more questions you have about life, the more you will improve and grow. When focusing on a change I break down the goal into the most manageable action and then I build a strategy from there.
Focusing on evolving each day becomes a unique opportunity to remove the walls in our life while liberating our minds. Educate yourself every day until your last breath. To excel, you must have the courage and discipline to show up at my very best. You compete with one person and one person only, yourself. You compete to be the greatest you can be.
On our self-discovery journey, we must free ourselves from automatic judgments that arise with every experience we have. Attempt to understand other people’s perspectives. The world unveils its secrets to us very slowly. We never know anything for sure. So roll with the discoveries while being patient and open to connecting with new people who might not look and think like you.
The road towards self-mastery is a marathon, not a sprint. As we begin to acknowledge and dismantle the self-limiting and disempowering barriers in our lives, we allow for a more authentic version of who we are to emerge. Our past shapes us, but it does not have to define us. Trust the timing of your life while focusing your thoughts and energy on what is in your control. While you may not control everything life presents, you can refuse to be reduced by it.
— Coach George Raveling
7 Steps to Creating a Successful Ranch Management Plan
What is intentional management? It might be easier to describe what it is not than to describe what it is. In an attempt at “tongue-in-cheek” humor, let me describe what intentional management is not.
You might not be managing intentionally if:
- Your record-keeping system is a shoe box or a file folder in which you keep receipts until tax time.
- Your marketing plan is to sell the largest calves each time you pen the herd, weaning the calves en route to the sale barn.
- Your winter feeding program is to provide cubes a couple of times a week to the herd without knowing the quality of the hay or standing forage on offer.
- Your stocking rate was set by what the neighbor, your granddad or your real estate agent suggested, and you don’t adjust it until drought forces you to.
- You don’t routinely test and analyze your pasture soils, yet you routinely apply fertilizer.
I’m sure you can think of other s of how we as producers too often go about “running” cattle with little forethought and planning. In favorable years, we can get by easily enough, but in unfavorable years (due to weather, markets or other issues), difficulties arise. These unanticipated surprises can be costly and often difficult to overcome. Hopefully, most of us learn from our mistakes and failures and, if we survive, can laugh at them in hindsight. The secret is to fail early, fail often, but fail cheaply — and adapt our management so that we do not repeat our mistakes.
MANAGE WITH INTENT
Intentional management is the active management of the collective components of an operation toward the achievement of realistic, well-defined goals. It is a holistic and forward-focused management approach in which an operational management plan is created and used as a template to plan and prioritize activities then to monitor and measure progress toward defined production and economic objectives. Management plans need to be built to complement the resources of the operation — the land, facilities, personnel and production system(s) being operated. Even though there is always some uncertainty within an agricultural operation, with a management plan in place, a producer has a road map to guide him or her toward a predetermined outcome. When variations in climate or markets or other surprises occur and force a change of course, having the plan in place helps guide a producer to either continue to navigate toward the original outcome or alter the course toward a new, more realistic or attainable goal, given the circumstances.
PLANNING BRINGS CLARITY OF PURPOSE
For intentional management to be more than a concept, it takes forethought, planning and action. The biggest challenge for most producers is getting started. It is much too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day activities of running a cattle ranch or agricultural operation. It is in the intentionality of developing a management plan where clarity of purpose is achieved. This is where a manager establishes a vision of a desired future for the ranch, identifies the key management objectives to be accomplished, devises an action plan that addresses the critical aspects of each management component, and integrates these components into the management plan for the ranch that the entire staff will implement.
The management plan for the current year becomes the template for the following year, with continual fine-tuning and adjustments over time while adapting to the changing industry, market conditions and climate variations that will occur. Through intentional management and use of a management plan, managers are more likely to attain their desired goals, will experience fewer surprises, and are better prepared for the unexpected when it occurs. Then, instead of just laughing at mistakes of the past, we can laugh ourselves all the way to the bank.
7 STEPS OF INTENTIONAL MANAGEMENT
1. MANAGEMENT PLAN
First is the management plan itself, which is the compilation and integration of the other six components.
2. PASTURE MANAGEMENT
Second is the pasture management plan, which includes the soils, forages and water resources. The management plan is grounded by the pasture management plan, which forms the foundation upon which the other components rest. The pasture management plan is the first component to address in intentional management.
3. STOCKING RATE MANAGEMENT
Third is the stocking rate management plan, which entails the matching of grazing livestock numbers to forage production as well as managing and adapting livestock numbers as forage production changes within and throughout years.
4. CATTLE MANAGEMENT
Fourth is the cattle management plan. The cattle management plan includes the breeding, nutrition, health and husbandry aspects of a cattle program, which ideally complements the land resources of the operation.
5. MARKETING PLAN
Fifth is the marketing plan, which leverages the attributes of the cattle and management for optimum economic results. Typically, this means managing the ranch resources so there is an element of flexibility within the stocking rate for retained ownership of calves or other stocker cattle enterprises as well as timing sales with favorable cattle markets and market cycles.
6. RECORD-KEEPING SYSTEM
The sixth component is a good record-keeping system for ranch operations. This is a record-keeping system that allows easy tracking and monitoring of critical production and economic information. It also provides managers the ability to conduct enterprise analyses, prepare financial statements, and develop monthly and annual operational reports.
7. PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT PLAN
Seventh is a personnel management plan, which allows a manager to intentionally develop the skills and knowledge of ranch staff to build competencies and enhance their value to the operation. A personnel management plan addresses the needs of the operation, from onboarding a new employee to rewarding valued and tenured employees. It also includes performance evaluations, goal-setting sessions, training and professional improvement.
Our Education system today is not able to produce the type of worker that is needed for today’s jobs. This is a manifesto written by Seth Godin about where our education system needs to be headed. Sit back and take in what he has to say.
It will make you Think – What is School For…..