John Marble has an eye for good cattle. Of course what John calls “good” might make traditional ranchers scratch their heads. But John isn’t concerned with pedigrees. The only papers he wants to see are the green ones with President’s pictures that each animal he buys returns.

John and I spent an enjoyable day together last week hiking to a cascade lake and talking about land, life and livestock. John and his wife Chris ranch in the Willamette Valley of western Oregon. It’s in an environment where land is expensive and large scale leases are hard to come by. That makes increasing turnover by traditional means difficult. It also means that it is even more important to keep overhead costs low and the margin per unit high. John’s highest margins come from buying undervalued cattle and adding value. A lot of the animals he buys come from the local sale barn.

John told me, “Most people see a sale yard as a cesspool of disease-ridden and defective cattle, unless of course they happen to be selling their own cattle there that day.” One local producer recently asked John, “How can you stand sitting in the sale barn and buying those cattle.

Read More...

A few weeks ago I visited with the owner and manager of a high-desert ranch to explore ways to improve ecological processes and the overall productivity and profitability of the place. We threw down some plot frames and estimated cover. We agreed that 90% of the range was bare soil. When I asked how they thought the place should be managed they talked about “impacting” the soil, “hitting” the pasture, “attacking” the weeds and grazing the grass down. It was like they were talking about doing battle with an enemy. It reminded me of something I heard Bud Williams say. He said, “Cattlemen love their cattle and hate their grass.”

Read More...

Yes, you are at the right place! Welcome to the new look of Ranching For Profit’s blog page. Our blog host recently implemented changes resulting in some changes in the […]

Read More...

A Ranching For Profit School alumnus sent me a paper published by the Society for Range Management on calculating the optimum stocking rate. The authors crunched 14 variables through 1o equations to reach the conclusion that the optimum stocking rate is somewhere between a low rate that maximizes per head performance and a higher rate that maximizes production per acre. Nowhere in the variables or formulas did they account for carrying capacity, the value of leaving cover, the influence of stockmanship and forage quality on animal performance, or many other things that impact stocking rate and animal performance. The authors acknowledge that they ignored “elements that may be important.”

That may be important?!? How can you have a credible conversation about stocking rate without mentioning carrying capacity? How can you have an intelligent discussion about animal performance without addressing stockmanship or forage quality?

Animal performance is not just a matter of the quantity of forage available in a paddock, it is also an issue of forage quality.

Read More...

When my kids were young they played in a youth soccer league. At the end of the season all of the players were given a participation trophy. I sat there and applauded the kids as they passed out the awards, but the applause wasn’t sincere. I thought, “Self-esteem out of control! You don’t get awards in life for just showing up!” but I mustered the required self-control to avoid rolling my eyes. I’ve started to rethink this. I think Woody Allen had it right when he said, “80% of success is showing up.”

What got me thinking about this was a conversation I had with a Ranching For Profit School alumnus who’d had some set-backs in his business that were impacting him personally. He had righted the ship and had a solid custom grazing contract for …….

Read More...

An Australian colleague and I were driving through the tablelands of New South Wales talking about generational transition in ranch businesses when he pointed out the window and said, “There’s one miserable bloke.” There was a long driveway leading to a house and what looked like a machine shop. On the other side of the shop was a new house under construction.

I asked, “Do you know the people?”

“No, but look at the new house they are building. They’re doomed,” he concluded.

Read More...

Many of us hope and fear that the next generation will want to be part of the family business. We hope because we feel validated that we must have done something right when our kids want to follow in our footsteps. Many of us see it as our role to create opportunities for our kids. Deep down we may also wonder who will be there to work the ranch (and take care of us) when we no longer can take care of the ranch (or ourselves).

But we have reason to fear the transition too. For some the ranch is barely big enough to support one family, let alone two. And what if our other kids want to come back?

Read More...

The Ranching For Profit School is intended for ranchers. But every year some people who want to get into ranching attend the class to build a business plan to test the feasibility of pursuing their dream. A week hasn’t gone by in the last couple of years when I haven’t had an email or phone call from someone interested in attending our course because they want to start a ranch business. Some are from young people about to get out of the military. Some are from people who’ve been working in the industry for years but want a place of their own. Others are from people with careers in town who envision ranching as a healthier, happier way to live and raise a family. Here is an excerpt of an email I received last week:

Read More...

A lot of ranchers use some kind of grazing rotation. Very few do it in a
way that has even a 50/50 chance of improving the health of the land, the performance of their cattle and the profitability of their businesses. There are so many names attached to various
rotations, it is hard to know from the name what people are doing. Cell Grazing is not a grazing system, it is a management method based on 5 fundamental principles. You might be cell
grazing if…

 

  • You are using at least 10 paddocks per herd. It takes a minimum of 10 paddocks just to stop the overgrazing. 14-16 are
    required to support …
Read More...

In the last
ProfitTips I asked you to share the top 5 challenges you face in ranching and share you did. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to visit the blog and see what people wrote. Several
more people e-mailed me directly. (By the way, I’d prefer you send your responses to the blog. I do read them all.)
 

 

Here is your list of the top 10 challenges facing your ranch:

 

#10: We have a victim attitude "LINE-HEIGHT: 115%; FONT-SIZE: 10pt">.

Read More...