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Grazing Business Instructions for the New Year

As you opened gifts this Christmas, some may have included instruction manuals, often full of ridiculous legal jargon. Those manuals aren’t very useful and tend to get thrown out with the used wrapping paper and boxes.

But what if you got an instruction manual that was actually useful to your grazing operation? I’m not talking about how to fix a windmill, pull a calf, or feed cows. I’m talking about instructions on running a successful grazing business. What do you imagine this instruction manual would say?

I’ve taken a stab at a few “instructions” I think should be included. I didn’t try to draw any diagrams or step by step instructions for assembly. Instead here are some processes that any profitable ranch needs to address:

1. Figure out what parts of your ranch business are working well and what parts need to be overhauled or scrapped.

If you are running the ranch the way you always have, you’re getting left behind. Or, as famous management guru Edwards Deming said, “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” This isn’t to say we should throw it all out. Let’s get busy figuring out what parts of the business will work well moving forward and what parts we should abandon or fix.

2. Build an economic and cash flow plan for the coming year BEFORE the year is in full swing.

Doing economic projections allows the business to make changes before any wrecks occur. A complete economic model will include profit targets, overheads, gross margins for each enterprise and comparisons to benchmarks.

3. Make sure everyone on the ranch team is crystal clear about where the business is headed and believes in the why behind it.

The “why” behind a business is the mission, the purpose of the business. This is what gets people inspired and bring passion to their work.

4. Start with soil, then plants, then livestock.

This is a great recommendation from Burke Teichert. We first need to support the life underground to grow our crop (grass) that our combines (the livestock) harvest. Too many ranchers spend all their time polishing their combines and never understand how to grow a thriving and resilient crop. Begin by creating a grazing plan for the coming year that focuses on building the health of the soil and plants.

5. Learn how to lead and engage people to bring their best.

This is what separates the top business leaders from the rest. There are multiple lifetimes of learnings when it comes to leading people. A good place to start is to read Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

Not sure how to get started on some of the elements of Dallas’s ranch instruction manual? Maybe this is the year to consider attending one of his Ranching for Profit Schools. You can learn more here.

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