Saturday, June 22, 2024
HomeMoney MattersAre You Working for Nothing?

Are You Working for Nothing?

Once, when we were in the dairy business, we decided that our butterfat was not high enough. After much thought we came up with the idea if we fed some alfalfa hay it would be possible to increase our butter fat. Any alfalfa used down here must be shipped in. It just will not grow in Louisiana.

Dairy_Cow_eating_hay-Dave_ChristensonWe contacted a hay broker and made a deal to have a load delivered. The day that truck load of hay arrived may have been one of the hardest days I have ever worked in my life. We milked that morning, about 100 cows, and cleaned the barn, fed the calves, unloaded the truck of hay into the barn, milked the evening milking and then put out alfalfa hay for the cows. We gave them alfalfa hay every evening for a month.

The day the next milk check came we were all anxious to see if there had been any improvement in our butter fat. This little change had done exactly what we thought it would do. The butterfat was up to the point of making the milk check increase enough to make us very proud of ourselves. BUT, and there always seems to be a but, after doing some figuring on the cost of the hay and the extra labor involved in putting it out every night, and being later for supper every night, this little project had broken even. In other words we had done all of this for nothing.

I thought of this lesson the other day when I was at our Co-op and I saw something that really upset me. It was a pickup hooked to one of those big self-feeders that hold a couple of tons of feed. Now I know that old boy who the pickup belongs to and the first thing that come to mind was to say something to him and try to make him realize if that same money were to be spent on pasture development, he would be money ahead. Down here in Louisiana a good crop of ryegrass will provide enough green, growing forage to feed your cattle for 150 days or more at a cost that can be very manageable. If the grass is managed with any sense at all and the stock is moved at the right time and returned at the right time it will provide feed for as low a cost as it is possible to feed cattle. If given the right amount of time the grass will replenish itself over and over again through the whole growing cycle.

On the other hand, when the feeder becomes empty there is only one solution: it must be refilled with feed and this is not free. Back when we were milking cows it was not unusual for our feed bill to exceed thousands of dollars a month.

If you're working for nothing, maybe you'd like one of these charms. Click to order 10 of them for $7.55 :-)
If you’re working for nothing, maybe you’d like one of these charms. Click to order 10 of them for $7.55 🙂

This is why, after making every mistake it is possible to make by listening to the wrong people, we finally have learned two very important facts about this business of producing livestock and that is this: you cannot spend your way to prosperity and production does not mean profit.

And I don’t care how you figure it, breaking even is doing something for nothing.


Your Tips Keep This Library Online

This resource only survives with your assistance.

Don Ashford
Don Ashford
My name is Don Ashford and my wife is Betty and we live in Ethel, LA. It would be impossible for me to write a bio about myself without including Betty in it. We have been together since high school. I was in the senior class of 1955 and she was in the class of 1957. Do the math. We have raised cattle since 1959 except for a little time that I spent with Uncle Sam. We have grazed stockers, owned several cow- calf herds and custom grazed cattle for other folks. I worked as a pipefitter for more than 25 years. Until we went into the dairy business in 1977 we were as most people down here part-timers or week-end ranchers. Later after we had learned enough about MIG to talk about it so that it would be understood by others we put together a pasture-walk group to introduce it to our friends and neighbors. We belong to more farm groups then we probably should but we get great joy working with other people. What makes us most proud are our son and daughter, our 5 grandkids and our 7 great-grand kids. It has been a hell of a trip so far, but we are not done yet.


  1. It is refreshing to see that at least some of us producers are learning that production does not necessarily equal profit. “Breakeven” is the worst thing ever invented as far as thinking and making a profit goes. A really good article. Keep up the good work.

Comments are closed.

Welcome to the On Pasture Library

Free Ebook!

Latest Additions

Most Read