5 ranch management best practices from profitable ranch businesses

Feb 22, 2019 4:08:26 PM / by Christine Su

I sat down to nerd out with Clay at Working Cows Podcast last week. We talked about what we're seeing at PastureMap from the ranch businesses we serve. I shared a few of the best ranch management practices that we're seeing from the ranches that we serve. 

Now it's an unseasonably cold winter (albeit nothing compared to the Midwest) and I was a little sniffly to start. But be forewarned - when I get warmed up, I talk fast! :)

Click here to listen to PastureMap on the Working Cows Podcast.What the best ranch businesses we've seen are doing:

  • The best run, most profitable ranch businesses we see live in the flow of their data. They're managing their feed and forage management tightly. They know forage management is the biggest profit driver of their business. They know how to measure their pasture inventory, calculate animal days, and match their stocking rate to carrying capacity.  Here's more on how to do the basic stocking calculations that I talked about.
  • They treat their grazing chart like a living document. The folks who are able to make decisions who impact their profitability for the season are the ones who aren't afraid to confront data and see how far they might be off-plan. They can make a decision before it's too late! Keep adapting and re-planning. Keep up with your grazing plan in the season. I've written more on: How to Use a Grazing Chart as a living document
  • They communicate and keep everyone on the same page. Sometimes it's staff that's off on the grazing management - maybe they grazed too short, or something else happened and you had to put out a fire. But by putting yourself in the flow of the data and reviewing grazing photos and records against the plan, you can adjust mid-season and avoid bigger mistakes.

Heidi Terrell-2

Feature image: Heidi Terrell in Nebraska manages grazing data and decisions like a boss. 

  • They use data to keep them honest. When grass is growing, everything looks great. But forecasting how much stockpile you will need by end of season is critical. Folks like Heidi and Brock Terrell use PastureMap to forecast average daily gains (ADG) to each herd. 
  • They run their business(es) like a business. Ranching is way more complicated than other businesses. There's family dynamics, rain, hail, a volatile cattle market, and at minimum two enterprises - land and cattle. They figure out which enterprises are driving profits - including depreciation and opportunity costs (grass is not free!). Ranchers need all the business management tools you can get to make every acre of grass, and every cow, work for you.
  • Bonus: consider new revenue streams! Stack multi-species enterprises. If the goal is really to make profits and build healthy grasslands, consider whatever gets you there. If you listen to the Working Cows Podcast and follow PastureMap, you're likely an out-of-the-box thinker already :)

Shoutouts to all the great folks we mentioned:

Read more about our awesome customers: Heidi and Brock Terrell of Terrell Farms in NE, Brian Alexander of Alexander Ranch in KS, Deb and Emry at Birdwell & Clark RanchJoe Brummer at Colorado State University, Conservation International Wildlife-Friendly Beef Program, Sunnybrae Acres, run by the late Neil Dennis and now by his son Brad Dennis.

Many of these concepts are taught at Ranching for Profit - the excellent ranch management school that our whole team attended in South Dakota. Dave Pratt and Dallas Mount are master educators on ranching business profitability. 

Register now for Grassfed Exchange - Regeneration Rising in Santa Rosa April 3-5, 2019!

Thanks again to Clay Conry for producing this excellent podcast. Go here to upvote Working Cows Podcast for this people's choice podcast award! WorkingCows.net/Vote

Topics: Practical Tips, ranchers, stocking rate, pasture, grazing management, cattle

Christine Su

Written by Christine Su

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