Ranching in the Future – What Should Young Ranchers Expect?

I recently received a note from a young friend (let’s call her Peggy Sue) who desperately wants to be a rancher. Since her childhood she has dreamed of working with animals. She has learned about marketing and economics. She’s studied hard and become a competent grazier. She’s done some hard work. But she’s getting a little impatient. “So, I’ve been looking at real estate ads all over the country, studying up on productivity of land in different places, trying to look up how many acres per cow it takes and how much each acre costs, and I just can’t figure this thing out. How are people doing it? I mean, how are people able to buy a ranch and pay for it by raising cattle?” My immediate answer was not what she had been hoping for: “I don’t know of anyone in America who is buying a ranch and paying for it by running cattle. This doesn’t mean you can never be a rancher—you can be. But going forward, you will only be successful as a rancher if you accept the realities of the current world. You must be able to adopt a definition of ranch and rancher that fits in the economic universe in which you currently live. And guess what? This is true for every other new rancher, too.” Sorry, Peggy Sue. Past, Present and Future Ranching Models Both my wife’s and my own family trees are well stocked with hopeful people who put together ranching operations 100 or more years ago. First was homesteading, and later on there was picking up the pieces from other fo

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4 thoughts on “Ranching in the Future – What Should Young Ranchers Expect?

  1. Maybe “Peggy Sue” should be referred to Greg Judy. He does exactly the kind of ranching talked about in this article.

  2. Awesome perspective John. Glad you took that hill because folks around here think it’s too negative but the rule of reality dictates other strategies. My ancestors all farmed and had diverse talents; barn building, accounting, hop-picking, postmaster, marketer, deacon, etc. It made sense since the ebbs and flows of farming required other financial ventures to keep the “whole” going. But their time and the community was different as everyone relied on their neighbors and agriculture was “it”. The kids today, like myself, want to farm but the kick in the teeth is we generally have to quell some of our expectations. Working another job, in addition to finding your farming range, is smart but often frustrating. It helps to share the outlier stories and aspire to go against the machine. Since most farming situations are highly local, adaptation is key. Knowing and going with your unfair advantage does create positive niches. Problem is, competition wants what you have so you have to keep innovating or just plain be the best. I’m concerned there is too much pressure placed on the sanctity of farming full-time while you’re shunned for having off-farm jobs. I get this every day as I write this at 4 am working at another career. I’m just blissfully arrogant enough to not listen to the noise. That’s were your rugged individualist is shining! Thanks Young Man

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