When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. This is the phrase that kept coming to my mind as I looked at range condition on a ranch recently, except the tool wasn’t a hammer … it was a hoof. The problems included overgrazing, bare soil and plants in phase 1 and 3 side by side. The land had been hammered, but none of these problems looked like nails to me. Even so, at each site we’d visit, the host of the tour said he wanted to hit the range with more hooves. In my opinion, that’s the last thing his pastures needed.

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I once heard Bud Williams say, “Ranchers love their cows and hate their grass.” Bud thought they had it backwards. They should love their grass and hate their cattle.

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I recently had the pleasure of attending a 2-day workshop conducted by eminent Australian soil scientist, Christine Jones. Among other things, Christine shared long-term research results from the UK showing that the nutritive value of vegetables, fruit and even meat is lower today than it was 75 years ago.

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According to David Allen in his best-selling book, Getting Things Done, “We don’t need more time, we need room.” Just as there is only so much RAM in a computer, we have only so much capacity in our heads to keep track of all of the things going on in our lives. With so many things on our minds we find it difficult to give anything 100% of our attention. David Allen has a solution.

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In Alice in Wonderland, Alice asks the Cheshire Cat, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” The Cat responds, “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.” Alice tells him, “I don’t much care where.” To which the cat responds, “Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.”

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The prevailing paradigm in ranching is that profit in the cattle business is dependent on the market. There’s no doubt that higher cattle prices improve the profitability of most ranches, but price gets too much of the credit and too much of the blame for ranch profitability or the lack there-of.

To show you why, we need to break things down a little.

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In a 2013 ProfitTips column I wrote about a young couple who, after attending a Ranching For Profit School, came home to meet a brick wall of resistance from the folks. The couple wrote: They were very upset when we showed them the numbers and compared them to the RFP benchmarks. We proposed several alternatives but every idea only seemed to anger and frustrate my folks. A few more years and I’m sure that will change, or is that what every younger generation rancher tells themselves?

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Have you ever heard or read something that made you wince? A little voice says, “Just let it go,” but there is something in you that just won’t obey. I received an email like that from an organization purporting to help farmers and ranchers become sustainable.

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Dear Mr. Kringle,

I am concerned about the sustainability of your operation. Your workshop may be productive, but that doesn’t mean you are profitable. Your production doesn’t seem to create any significant income. I’m also concerned that your operation is completely out of synch with nature. The nutritional demand of your reindeer when they fly must be incredible! And you demand that peak performance at a time of the year when forage is least available. I can only imagine your winter feeding costs!

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Last week I shared suggestions that Executive Link members made about what to do with the increased profit many ranchers are experiencing these days. They had a lot of good ideas, but I think the best one may have been to take this opportunity to restructure the operation for profit, whether prices are high or low.

Ironically, the best time to make change is when we don’t need to make change.

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