First, do you want to own a ranch or do you just want to be in the cattle business? Did you know that you can enter the cattle business without owning either land or cattle?
“Waiting for a Chinnook” Also known as “Last of the 5000”
You are already thinking, “This guy has lost his mind!” But seriously, you can. You can lease land and take in pasture cattle–i.e. you can pasture someone else’s cattle on leased land for a monthly per head fee. Once you get a reputation for paying your bills and taking good care of other peoples land, ranch lease opportunities will come to you. You won’t have to look for them.
This is an excellent way for young prospective ranchers to get into the business without having to…
Too many times I engage in projects which end up as time wasted. Case in point this 12×12 chicken tractor. After spending time and money on it, I’m now faced with more time wasted disassembling it. I have no intention of raising layers on pasture again and it’s too awkward to move very far and a waste of space to store it. The high quality tarp from Troyer Tarp will be stored, however, since it is a $100 item. I’m learning, albeit slowly and with the wisdom my children bestow upon me, to utilize my time more wisely.
Yeah, i’ve harped before about keeping good records and tracking expenditures and income, but when i hear the same people complain about having no money to pay bills, yet when asked if they keep records, they say ‘no,’ it causes me to wonder if they just want to complain, don’t have any idea of where their money is being spent, or perhaps don’t want to know. But, like anything, if one doesn’t make improvements, then you’ll always be able to complain about something and that is stressful.
It’s imperative and so easy to keep track of expenses. Most can simply use a notebook and pencil. Even easier is to have a calculator in the mix. (Coffee optional) Write down the amount or ask for a receipt when you stop by the coffeeshop for a latte. Picking up a soda from a vending machine – well, you’ll have to write it down. Whatever you need to do, keep track of even the smallest expenditure and categorise it. THEN, you can make decisions to change and improve your financial situations. Reimburse your cash expenditures by writing a check to maintain your petty cash stash. Sure, you can take cash out of your paycheck each month, but it makes it more real when you have to write a check. Keep your petty cash in balance.
This can be applied to businesses as well, but managing one’s household and personal expenses is the first step. Personal finance record keeping should begin in the preteen years – as soon as you earn or spend money.
The opportunity cost of owning land is next to nil since the government insists on stealing our savings by keeping interest rates near 0% and printing money (inflation), so the easiest way to determine the cost of the grass consumed is by using current pasture rental rates, which in north Missouri is about $60/acre.
Too many times I read (even from producers, sometimes!) that grass is free. Whoa, Nelly! It is not free and, in fact, the cost of grass has sharply increased due to so much of it being ploughed up to raise more corn and soybeans. Folks, that is not sweet corn nor edible soybeans. This is commodity, GMO crops raised to be fed to animals like cattle, chickens, pigs, fish, horses, buffalo, and even lambs and deer!
But I digress – how much grass do pastured hens eat and how does that relate to a dozen eggs? Hopefully, these questions can be answered at least for our management style.
By measuring the amount of forage in a small paddock before the chooks are moved in and then again after they are moved out in 3 days (during the growing season, it is imperative to move stock at least every 3 days to prevent removing too much forage, however, if you need to improve the diversity, overgrazing is a good tool to use for establishment, but it must be part of the plan). As with any research, there are variables that are hard to control. While we will measure the amount of feed we give them and report that, there is no way of knowing how many bugs they will eat. We plan three replications.
Day 1 – Fourteeen mature egg laying Barred Rock hens – .039 acres with mature fescue and about 40% red clover. Estimated forage available is 4 inches times 200 lbs of grazeable feed is 800 lbs per acre or 31.2 lbs (800 x .039). I’ll measure what is left when we move them in 3 days to obtain what they actually consume. Chooks will mash down a fair bit, but that is okay since that will feed the soil microbes and organisms. We are offering 1 lb of seed cleanout consisting of wheat screenings – unsprouted. Sprouted would be better, but for this trial, we want to know how much forage they are eating out of the pasture.
Results: Eggs laid: Day 1: 12 eggs, Day 2: 11 eggs Day 3: 7 eggs. Indications are that without more grain – production decreases markedly, this may not be a bad thing – pencil out the costs and needs.
Grazing equivalent: The 14 chooks grazed in 3 days what 1 cows would grazing in one day
Bear in mind, however, the trampling/mob effect would be entirely different since cows would likely trample more and certainly put more poop in large piles which will then cover up more grass. With so much rain, even more grass would be destroyed. There would also be a considerable difference in mob effect with 500 or 1000 chooks vs 14 as well. Chickens range only up to 250 feet (extreme outer limits) from their nesting boxes, so more trampling would occur due to concentration. I would think with that many – chooks would need moving everyday vs 3 days.
Chooks will eat far more bugs than cows.
There are several differences in the grazing impact, so just comparing the potential grazing is just for fun.
Neverthess, this experiment demonstrates that no matter the species – pastures MUST BE ALLOWED ADEQUATE REST PERIODS TO IMPROVE AND ALLOW FUTURE GRAZING! Animal movement must be controlled and their keepers must balance animal performance and pasture production effectively.
Here is another thought from Burke Teichert, a man whom I’ve yet to meet, who has words of wisdom and experience worth pondering taken from his column “Strategic Planning for the Ranch” in Beef magazine.
“We can all think of things we used to do. We quit doing them because we discovered they were not necessary –often long after they’d ceased to be necessary, if they were ever necessary in the first place. I’ll guarantee most of us are still doing things that don’t need to be done, but cost us time and money.”
Burke Teichert, a consultant on strategic planning for ranches, retired in 2010 as vice president and general manager of AgReserves Inc. He resides in Orem, Utah. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
What are some things you do that are time wasters? I know i have some, but it seems like they come from poor planning rather than day to day wasting (although this blog may easily fall into that category, but I am hoping it will build into a business someday). Questions i ask myself: What am i doing right now? Is it costing me time and money? or is it a good investment for my time and money? If it is a cost, why am I doing it? Sometimes we do things because we enjoy them and that’s okay IF we can afford it. For example, if we have no debt, if we have some serious savings, and if we can easily live within our means. But if we struggle with finances, we need to seriously slash those costs that yield no income. Don’t fall into a trap of justifying anything.