My take on “Red Delicious Beef”

It has long been known by all (or so I thought); that our best beef gets exported and we, American’s, eat the crap no one else in the World wants. This post is an expansion of a blog post from @CBKimbrell titled “Red Delicious Beef“.

In the USA, our homegrown Beef is Graded on the Quality System (Prime, Choice, Select) and the rest of the world including South America, EU, UK, AU, etc are on the Yield Grade System. The differences are apparent in that “we prefer” marbled grain-fed beef (quality pounds), with less emphasis on Yield and the rest of the world is concerned with quantity pounds (Yield).

In order to maintain the consistent quality of Prime and Choice in our commercial herds, those of us in the seedstock business must raise the kind of breeding stock that will assist our commercial counterparts with this endeavor.

This is the reason I seem so harsh with Beef Magazines’ (BM) Seedstock 100 (SS100). A large percentage of the SS100 breeders have cattle that in no way can provide the superior genetics that are required to meet the needs of our commercial cattlemen/women as they pursue the highest quality possible, thus reaping the premiums associated with that quality. 

To me, this is unfortunate because of several reasons: 

  1. Commercial operations are not reaping the benefits of the best quality genetics
  2. Commercial operations are not reaping the benefits of all premiums possible
  3. Commercial operations are being fed propaganda by a Feeder-oriented BM Publication
  4. It’s unfortunate that consumers are choosing other meat choices, which is more than likely caused by an increase in those lower quality cuts due in part by less than stellar beef cattle genetics promoted by the ilk of Beef Magazine and others.
  5. Lastly, it is unfortunate that some feel the need to export our best beef and feed our own people all the crap that no one else in the World wants

I like what Mark Gardiner says about the cattle business:

A lot of people spend so much time and effort on things that don’t have anything to do with making money in the cattle business.

Its not too complicated. It involves calves that are born alive, grow efficiently, sell at a good pay weight when sold ahead of the feedlot or as a premium carcass through retained ownership, and leave a sister in the herd that will replicate it all again. Accomplishing this goal with Genetics is just as straightforward.

The old technology of using proven, high accuracy bulls through Artificial Insemination (AI) works exceedingly well, Gardiner says. His family is a longtime proponent of embracing technology and stacking proven genetics in the name of accelerated genetic progress.”

What this statement says to me, as a seedstock producer, (and should say to every single member of Beef Magazines SS 100) is that if “we” are not using the best bulls available (no matter who raised them) through an AI program that “we” are really doing a dis-service to our buyers – the commercial cattlemen/women that tirelessly go out everyday in harsh environments to make an honest living for themselves and to feed our own people and the World. 

Beef – It’s What’s For Dinner

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5 principles for millennial ranchers to follow

Taken from an article of the same name in BeefMagazine

  1. Patience

It’s unlikely you’ll transition to managing the ranch fresh out of school, particularly if there are still a couple of older generations involved. You may feel like the ranch is your birthright, but it won’t make you successful right out of the gate. Don’t sit around and wait for your inheritance. Know that it took decades for the ranch to be built to its current level, and it will take time for you to achieve your ranching goals, as well.

My Comments are in blue

Don’t think you are going to walk into something; like ranching, in your 20’s; that took generations to build. You will have to pay your dues, just like every generation that has come before you. Remember that only 2% of the population is in Agriculture, if it was easy more would be doing it – after all it is not for everyone and it is definitely not your birthright.

Instead, go off on your own, buy / lease some land, work another job, live in a rat hole if need be, eat skettios for every meal if need be, buy your own cattle, equipment, drive junk to work daily, etc, for about a decade — or more. Prove to the older generation that you really want it bad enough, that you aren’t a quitter and would actually be an asset to the family ranching operation. This is what it will take.

  1. Discipline

The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Know when to take advantage of opportunities and when to pull back. The average farm family living expense is close to $90,000 per year. Be willing to make sacrifices, face scrutiny from friends and neighbors and make do with current equipment to avoid falling into financial pitfalls. With discipline, you’ll also be better prepared to move on opportunities as they come along.

If this is your expenses for a young farm family you need to either wake up from that dream or refer to Mori’s #1 in  8 tips from an old timer on how to succeed in ranching

You will have to be willing to watch your peers get married / start a family, buy nice homes, fancy cars, boats, ATV’s, RV’s and go on fabulous vacations while you sit in a rat hole driving an old truck to a second job every day with time off spent repairing old farm junk someone discarded long ago, because you are building something for the future. Debt will be your nemesis. Do that and you will have earned your so-called birthright.

  1. Out-of-the-box thinking

When you come home to the ranch, don’t divide the income that is currently there. Instead, add to the operation by diversifying. This can be in the form of additional crops, a second breed of cattle, a hay enterprise, working remotely in an agri-business position, or doing side jobs to make ends meet. This can alleviate some pressures of the ranch enterprise and allow for more consistent cash flow. Remember that 70% of ranches rely on off-farm income, so be willing to work hard on and off the ranch to advance your pursuits.

Out of the box thinking is good, but do these things on your own place. Go and earn the right to be here. Show some backbone, just because we share the same last name doesn’t mean you deserve it. This may seem harsh to some, but it takes the right kind of mindset to do this work day and day out and under varying and adverse conditions.

  1. Communication

Communication isn’t a cliché; it’s the cornerstone of success for ranchers. Talk with your spouse and make sure your goals align. Talk with your parents and grandparents and know where they stand on transitioning the ranch. Talk with your banker, lawyer and other industry professionals who can help you succeed. And talk with consumers who will ultimately determine the way you do business.

This should have long since been a communication in which you already know you will not walk into a successful ranching operation ready to take over after making a few C’s in college on your parents’ dime. Talk to whomever you want to talk to and refer to #1 and #2. Long since you have already discussed this in detail with your potential or then spouse. refer back to Mori’s #6.

  1. Networking

Get involved. Attend cattlemen’s meetings. Introduce yourselves to folks. Develop your network within the industry. Join a group that is active in policy development and lobbying for the industry. Be at the table for important discussions. The people you meet in the beef cattle industry are a great source of support and learning opportunities.

Networking is good if you can afford a computer in your first couple of years. Be at your own table for important discussions. As you suffer through the decade(s) — you will have then been around long enough to appreciate what those hardships really meant to you and as an aging rancher you will appreciate what it taught you. Also, as you suffer through the challenges ranching provides there are always those people willing to assist a young rancher in his/her endeavor. Lastly, find a mentor, not family, that is successful in ranching.

 

Mori’s 8

Mori acknowledged that many ranchers hold outside jobs or have other businesses besides ranching. “If you don’t have nothing else but ranching, you better get with it and sacrifice and change your lifestyle,” he said. “It’s gonna be tough; you bet it’ll be tough. But, the good times will come.”

He’s right, you know. When I started in 1982, it was at a time of the worst farming times of the age, some said. Many farmers and ranchers were not only quitting, but also planning never to return to it again. My mentor of those days told me the same things as you hear today; he said go get a job in town and save your money — every dime. Invest in yourself and maybe someday you will have what you want.

Now in my 35th year ranching, I too have a few thoughts to share.

Mori’s tips for today’s young ranchers.

1. Sacrifice luxury items such as expensive hobbies, new pickup trucks and cars, and brand-new equipment. “A new truck, no doubt you’ll need it, but you just can’t afford it. You can’t go out there and buy one of those fancy tractors. Nowadays, they’ll break you doing that,” Mori says.

You have to keep Ag-Business out of your pocket – no new equipment; no new trucks; no new Atv’s/Utv’s; no grand vacations; no fancy homes; because you just cant make it on borrowed money.

2. Make do with older tractors, balers, and other farm equipment. “You have to fix them, and learn to fix them,” Mori says.

When Mori bought his ranch at Jack Creek in 1958, the buildings were run down and the house was infested with rats. He cleaned up the infrastructure, demolishing and improving as needed over the years, and now his great-grandchildren live on the ranch that he started.

I started with no grass, no fences, no cattle pens, no cattle, no equipment, no tractor; a house built in the 1850’s with no running water that you could hear the wind whistling thru every winter and a 1972 Ford pickup.

There was farm junk strown from one end to the other on this place; leftovers from a time gone by; from pre-Civil War times to the early 1980’s. I lived in that rat hole of a house for about 6 months before I had running water and spent the next 2 years just cleaning it and the property. I cant tell you how many loads of junk I hauled out of there, but it was a lot. I took a job in town loading trucks at night and worked on my place during the day.

In 1984, I contracted out the planting of improved grasses, opting out of the government funded program because of never wanting to feel like I owed them for anything and continued loading trucks at night. I fenced the place in 1984 and 1985 with some of it still standing and in good shape today.

In 1986, I had finally accumulated enough money to buy the first cattle I had and bought 25 bred heifers. The year after that I bought 25 more and continued to work in town at night loading trucks.  The 80’s were many long days and putting every dime I had into ranching; bought a used tractor, a used baler, a used rake and a flatbed trailer and built a stout cattle pen out of 6×6 treated posts and 2×8’s. I spent my 20’s working like a Hebrew, too tired for a social life.

In 1989, I decided to give my full time to ranching, kinda, yet still worked for another cattleman everyday and took care of my cattle when I could. I planted a garden every year and learned to put up veggies; I harvested the fatted calf and put up a good amount of venison each year; Wild Turkey in the spring and catfish out of the stock tank in the summer. 

The 80’s were hard times, droughts of 1986 and 1988, were both killers and the fall run of hurricanes were tough too, but I had a vision. Those were the days I watched my peers start out with more and end up with less — usually headed to town to never return to the cattle business again.

3. Be ready for an upturn in the cattle market.

“You have to take advantage of it, you want to be ready for it,” Mori says. “Right now, we had a really big spurt in cattle prices, and I tell you what, this helped everyone.”

The upturn for me was doing more with less with the hopes of more at some time in my life. Ranching takes a lot of planning and one must think about the worse case scenario while your peers are practicing naive optimism. The upturn for me was my decision to produce registered cattle instead of commercial — yeah the initial investment was more, but so were the returns (hopefully).

4. Beware of the temptation to buy a brand new pickup with your calf check in a flush year; see #1.

I had my first new truck in 1993 and first new tractor in 1999. Paid in full. My biggest pet peeve is Ag-Business with their hands out wanting your hard earned pay. They will do anything for a dollar including lie, cheat and steal. 

5. Adjust your traveling and lifestyle to revolve around the ranch. Annual vacations, except to the Elko County Fair, usually aren’t in the cards for a northern Nevada cattle rancher. “You gotta stay home and do the work. It’ll take you longer to do it with the antiquated equipment,” Mori says.

My lifestyle was much different from all the others and still is as everything I did revolved around ranching. Every time I get down about the life I have chosen for myself; I think about how others have to live and remember that at least I wasn’t one of those poor bastards sitting in traffic in Atlanta- a pink slip away from destitution.

6. Marry well. “You need a good wife to do it with or you’re not going to make it,” Mori advises young men. He has been married to Ida May for the majority of his life, and she has played an integral role in developing his ranching business.

Traditionally, ranch wives, did all the cooking and errand-running, retrieving machinery parts and other supplies from town as needed. Nowadays, many these ranching partners also keep the books on home software programs and take care of business correspondence via email, among many other ranch jobs.

Very important; you have to find a girl, that also thinks quality of life is more important than the “stuff” some people feel the need to acquire. Basically, if she thinks a hamburger at the Tasty Freeze in town (with Ice cream) is high living –she might be the right one. 

7. Cultivate and maintain good friendships. The ranching community is a tight network, and its members are happy to help each other out during tough times.

“I had a lot of friends, whenever I got in trouble, which I did several times, they were there right now. They always helped me. That’s really important, in ranching especially, to have good friends and a good family,” Mori emphasizes.

This is also very true. More and more our numbers are dwindling in animal agriculture. Here, even today, there are only 5 of us in the County, which is one of the largest agricultural counties in the State.

8. Get a good banker who understands agriculture and will work with your unique situation. Sometimes, a rancher will be unable to make his loan payment on time, so be sure and explain this to your banker in advance of the bill date.

I have mixed emotions about this because I know that you cannot live on borrowed money and in the market we find ourselves involved in I think it is best to stay away from the bankers as long as possible. I did it — so can you.

My tips for young ranchers:

  • The Mentor > Find a successful rancher
  • Sometimes Extension folks (even in good faith) don’t always know what works or doesn’t work and their bad decisions wont affect them — just you.
  • Do your own research, be open-minded, but don’t fix it — if it works
  • Be a life-long-learner.