Ranching is a great way of life, but is it sustainable? Can it produce enough income to support a growing family? Can it be passed on from one generation to the next? Will the next generation want to come back to the ranch?
In recent years there has been much talk about a concept called "sustainable agriculture" but most of the so-called experts fail to mention the two most important ingredients - profit and enjoyment. Agriculture that is not profitable and enjoyable will never be sustainable.
I'm very troubled by the large number of ranches that are struggling to make a profit. I'm troubled by the number of ranchers who are tired and burned out. I'm troubled by the fact that the average age of ranchers continues to increase because the next generation is not coming back to the family ranch - but can you blame them? They spent their entire lives watching their parents work relentlessly, often with off-farm jobs, just to breakeven. If ranching isn't going to be profitable and enjoyable, why ranch?
This is a subject I am very passionate about, but since space is limited I'm just going to hit some of the high points.
1. Profit and enjoyment are attainable. I know many ranchers who have both. While some have inherited a family ranch, others have done it on their own. Age and sex don't seem to be major factors.
2. Success is more a matter of attitude than of anything else. Those who are open to change and not afraid to think outside-the-box are most likely to succeed. On the other hand, those who resist change while trying to blame their problems on someone else will seldom (if ever) be successful.
3. Successful ranchers work smarter, not harder. Although they enjoy riding a horse and driving a tractor, they always set aside time to drive the desk.
4. Profitable ranchers make efficient use of the ranch's available resources. Instead of investing in the latest gadget, they invest in education courses that teach them how to get the most from what they already have.
5. Successful ranchers observe and imitate nature. Going against nature requires extra labor and extra money.
6. Production and profit are not the same thing. In fact, they are often antagonistic toward one another. Successful ranchers realize that some increases in production will actually reduce profit.
7. Successful ranchers know who to listen to. You have been taught, by the so-called experts, how to maximize production, but few are teaching you how to maximize profits and enjoyment. Most ranches, unfortunately, have developed a "herd mentality" way of thinking. They may be doing everything right, but they're doing the wrong things.
8. Profitable ranchers have a very low cost of production. Their breakeven price is so low they have a huge competitive advantage over their neighbors who are still trying to increase profits by weaning bigger and bigger calves.
9. The most profitable ranchers are selling a product instead of a commodity. They control their marketing and pricing. Time spent on marketing can pay dividends ten times greater than time spent on production.
10. The easiest way to adapt to change is to create it. Successful ranchers chart their own course. You may be the only one who is capable of making your ranch more profitable, enjoyable and sustainable.
Editor's Note: Ohio cattlemen are invited to visit with the author of this article in person at a free Workshop and Farm Tour on Saturday, October 3rd in Cadiz, Ohio. Contact James Coffelt (ph: 330-328-4470 or JamesCoffelt@hotmail.com) for details.
Source: Kit Pharo, Pharo Cattle Co., Cheyenne Wells, CO