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.