Category: Livestock

COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE

Holding on to Your Advantage –

By Kit Pharo

In last week’s PCC Update, we discussed the need to have a competitive advantage – and how to obtain one.   This article was written for the benefit of the many PCC subscribers who already have a competitive advantage.

NOTE: If you don’t have a competitive advantage, I suggest you re-read last week’s PCC Update.   We believe having a competitive advantage will be the difference between mere survival and true success in the future of the cow-calf business.

You have a competitive advantage because you were willing to step out of the status quo herd and do a better job of running your business.   However, you will only have a competitive advantage until the majority discover they can do what you are doing.   Rest assured, this will take much longer than it should.

Eventually, though, yesterday’s Herd Quitters will become the new status quo.   If you want to maintain your competitive edge, you must continue to change with the times.   You must recognize when you are in danger of becoming the new status quo, and start looking for new advantages.   This is a never-ending challenge that I love.

Henry Ford is an excellent example of a leader who fell behind.   It has been said that Henry Ford was 20 years ahead of his competition for the first 20 years of his business – and 20 years behind the next 20 years.   During the boom years of the Model T, over two-thirds of the cars in the U.S. were Fords.

Henry did what he had to do to become the leader in the early car business – but he failed to adapt and change with the times.   For example, he thought every car should be black.   He allowed his business to stagnate under its previous success.   The same thing can happen to us if we’re not careful.    Nothing stays the same!   The key to staying ahead is to adapt to change as it is taking place.

Quote Worth Re-Quoting –

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives.   It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”   ~ Charles Darwin

“It is not necessary to change.   Survival is not mandatory.”   W. Edwards Deming

Production Per Acre –

By Tim Goodnight

Shifting the focus from production per cow to production per acre has been shown to increase profitability.  It’s no secret that smaller framed cows will produce more calves and more total pounds per acre.  In addition, these lighter calves are worth more per pound.

More pounds that are worth more per pound is a win-win, right?

As simple as this concept is… status quo producers can’t seem to understand that by focusing on individual growth and weaning weights, they are limiting their profitability.  Despite the emphasis placed on growth, the status quobeef industry has not been able to increase average weaning weights over the past 15 years.   The only thing that has increased in the last 15 years is cow size.  This has led to the increased use of expensive inputs, which has had a negative impact on profitability.

So how can producers increase production per acre?  It begins with a paradigm shift.  Shifting the focus to the production and performance of the entire operation instead of the individual animal is the most important first step.  Next,you should align your operation with a program that has shown the ability to increase total production without expensive inputs.  Pharo Cattle Company has been that program for 30 years.  If you’re ready to increase your ranch’s total production and profitability, we can help.

Quote Worth Re-Quoting –

“In times of change, learners will inherit the earth – while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”   ~ Eric Hoffer

“Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”   ~ George Bernard Shaw

Here’s How to Successfully Grow Grass

By   /  May 6, 2019  /

I took the time to walk through most of my pastures a few days ago. I recommend doing this fairly often to keep a mental forage inventory. It is best to record the findings. Some use fancy electronic data sheets, some track on paper charts, some just have notes in their pocket datebook or smart phone. I use a combination. I like the paper charts for long term planning, but for a quick assessment, I like a white board.

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I have a white board, you know, one of those new-fangled chalk boards that you use erasable markers on. I took 1/8-inch black tape and used it to outline the boundaries of all the fields. If I get present yield estimates taken, I put those numbers on the board with the date collected. But I use the board more for tracking grazing patterns and, more importantly, rest.

Animal groups are color coordinated and enter and exit dates are marked on the board. If animals are strip grazed across the field, then an arrow is included to show the move. I can now look at the board and quickly see how long it has been since the field was last grazed and/or how many days it has been rested.

Rest is very important – Really important!

How productive would you be if you worked 24/7 with no rest? It’s the same for forage.

Rest grows grass. If a pasture is continuously grazed, how much rest does the pasture get? None if the animals are never removed.

Forages can’t rest while being bitten off by ruminants. They only rest when they are allowed to regrow in peace! I often talk about stop grazing heights. It takes grass to grow grass! We need to move the animals to maintain an effective solar panel. Only green, growing leaves carry out photosynthesis! Most tall cool season forages, such as orchardgrass and tall fescue, need at least four inches of live leaf matter left for collecting solar energy for rebuilding roots, reserves, and then regrowth.

The grazing or harvest event of forage removal has a direct correlating effect on root growth. Research shows that we can remove up to fifty percent of the forage plant with little or no impact on root growth. If we removed more than that fifty percent, then root growth is drastically slowed down. Once we remove seventy percent or more of the plant, which is approaching hay removal levels, root growth comes to a screeching halt. It will now take a longer rest period. There is approximately equivalent live growth above and below ground. When we remove plant leaf matter, roots respond similarly because they are supported by those leaves. Therefore, there is die back of roots when not enough leaf matter is left for maintenance.

How much rest is really needed or ideal?

Early in the growing season when forages are growing fast, it can be pretty short, but normally never less than 14 days. As forage growth starts to slow down a little, then rest should be at least 30 days. When summer heat and drier conditions kick in, cool season grasses then benefit from longer rests, quite often 45 and up to 60 days. To keep it simple, just remember when forages are growing fast, move animals fast (no running, a gentle walk from pasture to pasture is sufficient), and when forages are growing slower, move animals slower.

Longer rests periods and more live residual left behind mean more roots. More roots support quicker regrowth of grazeable material and increase drought tolerance. The more growth there is above ground means there are more live roots below ground. As longer, deeper roots move downward through the soil profile, they bring moisture and nutrients upward. Shallow root systems have no drought tolerance. It certainly doesn’t appear right now like the lack of moisture could possibly be a problem, but we are always only about sixty days from a drought. Drought management should always be a part of our contingency plan.

How can you rest your grass?

If you divide the pasture up into four permanent paddocks and rotate through them, 75% of the paddocks are at least getting some rest. Is it ideal? No, but it is still better than no rest. If we increase the number of paddocks to say, twelve and rotate through them, then 94% of the paddocks are getting some rest while the 60% portion is being grazed.

After grazing is initiated in the spring, I generally recommend continuing to graze around the system until the first paddock is ready to graze again. You can then move back to that paddock and start over. The paddocks that you skip can then be stockpiled for summer grazing or cut for hay. If forage growth starts slowing down quicker than expected, say from lack of rain, then you can always jump back to the paddocks you skipped. If you plan ahead, especially if you have been tracking moves for a few years, you can estimate what field(s) you may want to skip this year in the first rotation. If you have fields that could benefit from longer rests due to being used hard the previous year or overwinter, or one(s) that could benefit from some extra carbon, then this is a chance to provide some extra rest and recovery.

Annual rest is important too.

I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again. It is best not to start the grazing season in the same field every year. Those first fields often get grazed before ideal conditions. This short time abuse, done year after year, can increase problem weeds and reduce diversity of forages, especially desired forages.

How low can you go?

The old adage, or rule of thumb, of “take half and leave half” is actually not a bad rule as long as the starting point is high enough! More importantly, when we allow animals to graze too close, we slow down regrowth, require longer recovery, and reduce year around production. For the highest production, most tall cool season forages do the best when grazing is initiated at eight to twelve inches and ended at four to six inches as the stop grazing height. Stop grazing height, or residual height, is not the tallest forage left behind after a grazing event, but the shortest! The shortest forages should be at least four inches tall. Animal intake is also influenced by the amount of desirable forage present, especially height. Intake can be reduced when a full bite is not possible.

The bottom line…

Forages need rest. Rest influences forage yield, persistence and, therefore, animal performance. No or little rest results in lower forage yields and poor persistence of desirable species due to depleted root reserves and roots. On average, most forages benefit from at least thirty days of rest between grazing events.

Enjoy the new grazing season and keep on grazing!

Replacing the Monkey –

By Kit Pharo

The PCC Discussion Group recently had a very interesting discussion that tied in very well with the “Woe is Me” article in last week’s PCC Update.   While most people know what they should do, very few actually follow through.   Why is that?   What prevents most people from making the changes they know they should make?  I will share a few high points from this discussion.

The discussion thread was started by Jim Gerrish, who is a world-renown grazing expert.   Jim discussed two clients he had worked with.   He helped one client double his carrying capacity and reduce hay feeding by 60% in just three years.   Since the infrastructure required to do this cost $36 per acre, this client essentially purchased another 8000-acre ranch for $36 per acre.   Rangeland in that area is currently selling for $1000 per acre.   That was a no-brainer.

Jim worked with another client who had a 30,000-acre ranch.   Jim said, “I am confident we can double the carrying capacity on this ranch similar to what we did on the other project.   Spread across the 30,000 acres, that is a stock water and fence infrastructure cost of less than $40 per acre.”   He went on to say, “That is the equivalent of buying another 30,000-acre ranch without closing costs, additional taxes, or all the other associated overheads for less than $40 per acre when the prevailing land cost in that area for similar rangeland is about $800 per acre.”   Although the client understood the possibilities, he decided not to go forward with the project.

Doug Ferguson, who lives in Nebraska and is a very active and outside-the-box contributor to the PCC Discussion Group, responded by saying, “Jim, I have spent several years studying the subconscious mind and paradigms – and how they affect our results.   I’ll try to condense what I have learned.”

Doug went on to say, “What you ran into with the second rancher is called the Terror Barrier.   He probably understood it, and gets it.   So, what is stopping him?   His old paradigm.   The old paradigm is what keeps us from doing what we know we should do.

“The second rancher has the knowledge and you gave him a simple plan to follow.   But then what I call the Monkey Mind kicks in.   The monkey represents the old paradigm – and that monkey talks a lot.   He’s going to put up one hell of a fight because he doesn’t want to be replaced by a different monkey.

“So, the monkey says things like: That’s a lot of money.   How are you going to pay that off?   What if there is a drought in a couple years and you have to destock?   What are you going to do then?   People will laugh at you because you spent all this money to increase stocking rate and you ended up destocking.   You’ll never be able to show your face in public again.

“The monkey may go a different route.   Fear of success: What if this works?   If your stocking rate doubles, where are you going to get the stock?   Can you afford to buy that many cows?   That’s a big risk putting all those dollars out there.”

Doug concluded this part of his discourse by saying, “The second producer was on board and fired up right until the monkey started talking.   Then he gets scared, hits the Terror Barrier and goes right back to his old paradigm – with results he is comfortable with.

“Paradigms are a multitude of habits.   Habits are hard to change.   That reminds me of a great quote that ties in with what Kit is always preaching, ‘In times of change, the learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists’”

It is not easy to replace the old monkey.   It is a bit scary and a lot uncomfortable.   Nevertheless, monkeys must be replaced every now and then if we want to achieve true happiness and success.

Quote Worth Re-Quoting –

“Let us not be content to wait and see what will happen, but give us the determination to make the right things happen.”   ~ Horace Mann

“The cure for boredom is curiosity.   There is no cure for curiosity.”   ~ Ellen Parr

 

Rules of Thumb for Ranching

Rules of Thumb for Ranching
Compiled by Steve Moreland, March 23, 2017

This subject has come up on Ranch Talk on the Ranchers.net Bull Session. Here are a few axioms that have been passed on through the years. Others might find them to be of interest.

A theory I heard just lately is that the cost of five months of rented summer pasture should be equal to a third of what a steer calf is worth at weaning time. If the calf is worth $900, a third of that would be $300. $300 divided by five months would be $60 per month.

Always keep your best heifer calves.

Don’t keep kicking a dead horse. If something isn’t working, kick the habit.

Have a rigid culling program on cows in the herd. If you have to give them extra attention to get a calf sucking, graft the calf onto a better young cow and say adios’ to the problem cow.

Good nutrition trumps high-falutin’ genetics.

Never sell hay, especially if there is any chance you might come up short for your own cattle before green grass.

Uniformity helps to achieve premium prices.

If you are sitting in a pickup waiting for a cow to have her calf, park sideways to the cow and try to act nonchalantly disinterested. If the pickup is facing the distraught cow, she regards the headlights as “eyes” staring at her.

My dad and other neighbors always used to say that you should half your hay left by the first of March. Of course in those days it was a lot harder to haul in stacked hay if you ran short.

An hour in the morning is worth two in the afternoon.

Glamour tends to dissolve in sweat.

One old neighbor that my dad worked for as a young man would say each evening before supper, “Well, we didn’t get much done today but we’ll give ‘er hell tomorrow.”

It’s easy to cut a big strap if you’re using someone else’s leather.

If the sun is shining, take along a coat. If it’s cloudy do what you want.

The only way to move cattle fast is to move them slow.

It’s amazing how dumb a cow can be. What’s more amazing is how many cowboys can’t outsmart a dumb old cow.

A good cowboy on a poor horse can get a lot more done that can a poor cowboy on a real good horse.

A boy is all boy; two boys are half a boy; three boys are no boys at all.

The two most critical weeks of each year for grass and hay production are the two middle weeks of May. If you can get some rain and sunshine and no late freezes during that time period, the rest of the summer usually goes quite well.

An extra inch of rain takes the place of a lot of management.

Substance over style.

Don’t judge a book by its cover.

Always keep your cattle saleable. If cattle in good condition are worth a premium if they are offered for sale, they are worth that same premium if you own them. If you have to sell them for some reason, they will command a good price.

Extra feed on hand, whether it be left-over grass in a pasture or year-old hay, is always an asset and not a liability. It is just as good as money in the bank, and you don’t have to pay income tax on it.

You can’t starve a profit out of a cow.

The best insurance is a fat cow going into the winter.

Fat is a pretty color.

A good horse is never a bad color.

It is easier to pull a chain than to push one. Often times the same principle applies in moving cattle. A feed pickup in the lead can save a lot of whooping and hollering and exasperation at the rear of the herd. If a bunch of cattle won’t cross a bridge, try stringing out a little cake in front of the ones in the lead.

If a bunch of cow/calf pairs won’t cross a barrier such as a bridge or slippery ice, rope a calf around its neck. When it bellers, its mother will come and bring many of her bovine buddies with her. Pull the calf across the barrier, and the rest will follow.

Portable corral panels are very handy. Often times a panel or two in a strategic place can make cattle sorting a whole lot easier.

An ounce of rain is worth much more than a pound of hail.

A job well done is a self-portrait of the one who did it.

A sign in an implement dealer’s store that holds merit: “Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on our part.”
The best cow dog in Cherry County resides on our ranch. He stays in the house yard digging up petunias while we work cattle.

Very often a dog that shows up at a cattle working screws things up as much as if three hard-working cow hands had not come at all.

Chinks look cool, but if the wrestler on a calf’s head is wearing them, the fringe tends to be very much in the way of the workers who are vaccinating, installing ear tags, ear marking, implanting or dehorning.

If you think a horse might buck and give trouble, try leaving the spurs off of your boots. Often times, the extra inadvertent poking that a horse gets from a rider trying to stay on, only further antagonizes the horse and makes them buck harder.

A brand put on properly gives extra insurance that it will be easily seen for the rest of the bovine’s time on your ranch. This is your stamp of ownership, so apply it the best you can—not too deep but not too lightly. A brand that does not blotch is an extra bonus.

DISCLAIMER: All of these rules of thumb have served well through the years except for 2016. It seems like last year none of these rules worked. But this has always been a “next year country,” and I have high hopes for 2017 and beyond.

Feel free to add to the list, or to debunk some of my theories.
Some of these ideas vary greatly from those of others. I am not trying to offend anyone, but only offering food for thought.

Is Average Good Enough for You?

Kit Pharo – Pharo Cattle Company

As silly as it sounds, average is good enough for most cow-calf producers.   In agriculture, average is breakeven.   Below average producers are losing money.   The only way they can stay in business is to subsidize the farm or ranch with outside income.   Above average producers are profitable.   A few are extremely profitable.   They are profitable because they do things differently from status quo (average) producers.   They have a distinct competitive advantage.

Most PCC Customers are well above average.   Many have doubled or tripled their profits.   They are focused on production per acre – instead of production per cow (bragging rights).   They are using ultra-low-maintenance bulls – instead of the status quo, high-maintenance bulls everyone else is using.   They know stocking rate affects profitability, or lack thereof, more than anything else.

Ag economist Danny Klinefelter explains how you can get a competitive edge simply by rejecting the status quo.   That’s right… by rejecting the status quo!   Klinefelter says, “The only truly sustainable competitive advantage today is the ability to learn and adapt faster than your competition.”   Click on the link below to listen to what he has to say.

Reject the Status Quo

Following the crowd and doing what everyone else is doing is never the best way to manage a business.   In most cases, it is the absolute worst way to manage a business.   If you are part of the status quo herd, you will never be above average – and you will never have a competitive advantage.   Dare to be different.   Dare to be a Herd Quitter.

Quote Worth Re-Quoting –

“If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t try to compete.”   ~ Jack Welch

Ranchers get training for DIY range monitoring

A University of Idaho Extension program aims to empower those using rangeland to track its use.

Apr 04, 2019

Public rangelands are a great Western resource. Ranchers running cattle on those lands know they are the stewards of that ground, and federal land managers help track the land’s use. Those grazing allotments are monitored annually — and if overuse is found, it can limit a rancher’s ability to run the same number of cattle in that location.

Standing forage height is determined annually to help with erosion and plant growth, and land managers decide how long and how many cattle can be turned out on each pasture based on data collected. If overuse is found, limiting the duration and number of cattle on pastures helps grasses replenish, but this can also reduce ranch income. This switch from grazing lands to alternative feed can be costly.

But ranchers can monitor rangelands themselves. The process can be relatively simple, and it can help those using grazing lands better manage the ground. Shannon Williams, University of Idaho Extension educator, Lemhi County, has long offered rangeland monitoring workshops but has found adoption of the practices taught to be low.

She found that workshops held during the growing season — the best time for monitoring — had ranchers attending, but few were taking the next steps. She discovered it was due to the ranchers’ lack of time or comfort level in how to monitor the land properly.

Williams added: “For the majority of ranchers, a few have a plant background, but where they were really comfortable is the animal side of everything. We train them and expect them to go out and do it, but they need a little bit of help and encouragement.”

In 2016, Williams met with federal land managers from the Salmon-Challis National Forest and Salmon Bureau of Land Management to explore ways to help ranchers better monitor those grazing allotments. The group decided that photo monitoring would be the ideal method. Photos can establish long-term trends, are easy to take and are already being shot on allotments by federal land managers.

grid for rangeland monitoring
ACCURATE MEASUREMENT: This is a photo kit with a grid and instructions developed by the University of Idaho Extension, Lemhi County office. The kit can help growers do their own rangeland monitoring.

Show, don’t tell

Photo monitoring is a solid management approach to grazing allotment analysis; instead of just telling ranchers how to photo-monitor, however, Williams took an added step. She decided to show them with the implementation of a photo monitoring tutor program. That year, Williams secured funding and hired Tessa Shepard, a UI student studying rangeland ecology who received training in photo monitoring.

The next step was to assemble a photo monitoring kit: “I didn’t want one of the excuses for the ranchers to not monitor to be that they didn’t have the equipment,” Williams said. She noted they needed a fence post, a photo frame and a book with some common plant pictures. Williams and Shepard built a photo frame with a bag to hold the hardware, so all ranchers had their own kits. The idea was to get those ranchers comfortable enough to go out and monitor for themselves.

Participants in the program, which included Shepard traveling to ranches and helping demonstrate monitoring, also gave UI Extension permission to access the photo monitoring data for their grazing allotments that was collected by federal land managers. Shepard scheduled time to visit monitoring sites with the ranches and offer help with GPS on how to find the correct sites. At that point, she showed ranchers how to take photos with all the required elements present; and how to complete a photo board, fill out the data sheet and build notebooks for housing the data.

Ranchers can’t always be on hand when federal land managers show up, but Shepard was able to set up her visits when ranchers were available. That flexibility allowed more ranchers to become familiar with the process.

The photo monitoring process continued in 2017 with a second intern. “The interns were the nudge [ranchers] needed to go out and do it,” Williams said of the do-it-yourself photo monitoring. “It was one-on-one, it was their range — so it was important to them.” And it continued in 2018 as well.

Source: University of Idaho. The source is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.