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Owning a ranch is hard, but not impossible.
Time, money, and energy are a rancher’s most precious resources; and how you spend them will make all the difference. Successful ranchers are more than willing to go against the grain (literally and figuratively) in order to run a healthy, thriving operation. If you want to learn how to increase your ranch’s profitability and longevity, there’s one truth you have to build your foundation on - Practicality always trumps luxury.
Build Your Ranch From the Ground Up
The richer your soil, the more you can produce and graze on your land. Rotational grazing is a simple way to improve soil health and increase plant diversity. Planting cover crops will allow livestock to graze through the winter, which keeps natural fertilizer out in the fields instead of in a pen or stable. Spreading out your water sources can also improve soil health because it naturally spaces out your livestock. The more space you can leave between herds, the higher quality your pastures and grass will be. Year-round grazing also saves a significant amount of money on harvested feed.
Saving Money Transcends Splurging on Upgrades
Delayed gratification always outweighs immediate satisfaction. Sacrifice where you can, even if it hurts. What you consider a “simple luxury” could bankrupt your operation. Expensive hobbies, new pickup trucks, and upgraded equipment are not necessities. Make do with older tractors, balers, and equipment for as long as you can and live by the old adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Fight the temptation to spend your paycheck all in one place during flush years, because you never know when hardship is around the corner. Smart ranchers know how to live within their means down to the nickel. If you want to run a thriving operation, save as much money as you possibly can through thick and thin, stay humble, and be ready to work your tail off.
Stay Up to Date on Market Shifts and Trends
Successful ranch operators are open-minded to new techniques, but follow what works best for their unique property, livestock, and team. For instance, you would cycle your pastures much differently than the fifth-generation cattle rancher down the road if your land were previously undeveloped. Ranching conferences and conventions aren’t only beneficial for fellowship - they’re also an incredible resource for predicting market trends and picking up the latest developments in farm and ranch research. For instance, many cattlemen could be easily discouraged by this year’s decrease in beef exports based on sales through January and February. The COVID-19 pandemic was a global disruption in the 2020 beef trade. According to agricultural economist Dr. Derrell Peel, the latest research indicates that 2021 exports will likely recover and increase over last year’s pandemic-related statistics. Ranch operators have to stay up to date on market research because those predictions could massively impact their operation’s supply and demand economics. Publications like Beef Magazine and Successful Farmingare excellent resources for the discerning rancher.
You Don’t Have to Learn Things the Hard Way
Ranching is not for the faint of heart, and those who choose to pursue the vaquero lifestyle tend to stick together. No matter the industry, it’s essential to cultivate and maintain good friendships with like-minded business owners. The ranching community is tight-knit, and most of its members are happy to help through tough times. If you’re new to the industry and struggling to meet other ranchers, look out for local cattlemen and agricultural conferences and conventions. Not only will you learn the latest trends and most efficient practices, but you’ll also start to have the chance to build relationships with other ranchers. If your operation isn’t active yet, try to work at various ranches to learn different ways of doing things. When you find a rancher you admire, talk less, and listen more. A bit of humility and an eager-to-learn attitude could save you from good, old-fashioned trial and error!
At the end of the day, your ranch is your legacy. Your land will be left behind for future generations to build their lives on and will tell your story long after you’re gone. Ranching isn’t for the weak, but the reward of your blood, sweat, and tears will be harvested for years to come.