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Advice For Beginners (and All of Us)

I am a late arrival to YouTube and am amazed at some of the presentations. I am not about to question the motives of the folks who are doing these things, but I will question some of the stuff that they are putting out there.

I saw a guy the other day explaining just how to start a cattle operation and what he said just blew me away. This old boy was explaining just how a cattle auction worked and said, and I’m paraphrasing here, “if you are just starting in the cattle business one of the first places to start is learning how the auctions work.”

This makes as little sense as anything that I have heard lately. There is without question a need to understand the options that are available to you when you are selling your cattle, but this is by no means the first thing you need to learn. If for one second you believe you can make it in the cow/calf business by manipulating the market you will lose your behind and all the trimmings. Marketing is important, but, and this is a big but, the market cannot save you from yourself. Our son was a sale barn manager for 17 years and one of his favorite sayings was, you cannot do dumb stuff on your place for 364 days a year and think that I can save your dumb ass on day 365.

Another piece I saw on YouTube was trying to stress the fact that you should try to be a low cost producer. Then it went on to say this: fencing, water facilities, feed bunks, troughs or bale feeders are a priority above all other assets needed. A tractor, hay equipment, trailer, handling facilities and other buildings are also important. But that’s not what you need first.

This is not a chicken or egg question about what comes first. The grass comes first and the management of the grass is the foundation on which the outfit must be built. All of the equipment and buildings in the world will not make your operation profitable. As a matter of fact, the less spent on stuff the better it will be for your bottom line.

We are hearing lately a lot about using per acre costs rather than per head costs. No matter how you figure your costs understand this: if you do a bad job on the grass part of the operation the only person being cheated is you. The marketing method that you use to sell your cattle, and there are several choices, will not be what makes or breaks you. And understand this too – the price that you get for your cattle is what the market dictates not what you think they are worth or what you must get to make a profit.

The cost of production is what will enable you to make money. The best insurance that you can have in this business is to produce a good product for the least cost possible.

Do you have some advice to share?
Beginners/New Farmers and Ranchers – do you have some questions you’d like answers for?
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