In thinking about this I realized that status quo ranching (what we have been doing for the last 40 years) is using management by someone else. We are playing someone else’s game. When playing a game with rules written by folks selling inputs, the only one that truly wins are the rule makers. That means we have bought into their management scheme which is based on use of their products. These inputs are legitimized by research dollars flowing from company profits to Universities looking for money. That means most farms and ranches are being run using management from big agribusiness, which is to their benefit, not yours. This is close to the old “company store” concept of always being held in debt to the “company.”
It may now be done freely, but a person is still in “debt” because his cattle, being diminished in “natural” abilities, are dependent on “purchased” resources from the company. As survivability, plus disease and parasite resistance are further depleted by this system, the “company” gains more control over ranch management. An even higher level of inputs is then sold to the ranch, thus maintaining management direction.
There is a saying that should be repeated at this time. “If you use chemicals, you always will.” Take a look at fly control with chemicals. A chemical will not kill all the flies. If only a small percent survive that is enough to begin building resistant numbers until a new chemical is required to keep them under control. Then the same procedure is followed until a new chemical is needed. In effect all you are doing is breeding a better fly! Now for something you might not have thought about. When you buy the fly chemical, part of the cost is for producing the product, part is profit for the company and part is for the research budget to develop the next chemical needed to kill flies. In effect what you are doing is funding, with a no interest loan, the next product they will sell you! Sucker!
Inputs are priced to make the manufacturer a profit, regardless of the ups and downs of the cattle market. And the middlemen follow the same structure to ensure a certain level of profit. There is little reduction, if any, in input prices during the downtime of markets and drought, but just as soon as profits are glimpsed, they sure haven’t forgotten how to raise prices. You will never get very far ahead of input expenses so why try. Eliminate them!
Profit killers are not what you usually blame. It is not the down market. Not the dry year. Not the long winter. Not the hot summer. Not the late frost. Not the early frost.
Every expense is a risk factor. Every expense has to be recaptured before profit can be counted. The higher the input level, the higher the risk. Every input expense is an investment. Will it pay off? Calamities are survivable with low risk! Eliminate expense. Learn to work with nature
The big disadvantage to promoting low input management is that there is no “product” to sell on a continuing basis. There is no huge profit to fund research for this method of management. Sell the management method once and it is over. Compare this to the hundreds of millions of dollars the competition can spend from their repeating sales!
Think this over. Do you want to control the direction and destiny of your farm or ranch? If so, the change has to begin with you. The only way to break out of the high input, no win game is to build your management skills and become your own boss, writing the rules you want to live and operate by.
Low input ranching uses management instead of money to solve problems. What could be more cost effective? Management is cheap. Imagination is cheap. Just put’em to work! Do not become mired in status-quo apathy. Improvement can be made in almost anything if imagination, knowledge, persistence, desire and logic are applied.
Good article Chip! Keep preaching it! I believe it is making a difference.
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