Our Business Brochure

Last week I talked about a business plan in ranching, so this week I’m sharing our business brochure with you.

Your place is unique, so decide upon a model or plan that works for you. We need a brochure style. Maybe you want a one-page outline or a spreadsheet. Since we are sharing this with customers, we wanted a formal approach combined with our story.

We can’t put everything on a brochure, but I’m a strong believer in connecting our story with your story. Maybe you’re a fellow producer, perhaps you’re a customer, or you could have stumbled upon this website. Whatever “you’re” you are, we value your journey and how it connects with us. A solitary story line is a very boring place to be and we treasure how our story has, or will, weave along with yours.


The Plan

ImageWhat did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you doing it?

After the phases of wanting to be Tinker Bell, Batman, and such, did you have an idea of what you really liked? I dreamed of being an author. Oh to write books like Judy Blume! Today, words impact me more than any other art form. For my hubby, it was ranching. He’s wanted to be a cowboy since he was old enough to “saddle” the arm of the couch.

He shared his passion of agriculture and I found it naturally alluring. As we’ve done this ranching adventure, we’ve had to adjust and think about what we want the future to look like. When we first began years ago, we started out with a few cows here and there. Our setup was less-than-ideal, but we made it work. In 2013, we sold the 125 cow herd we’d grown (still not huge in many ranching circles, but it was profitable and enjoyable), as well as our house. We let go of leases. We didn’t have land of our own, so this move was to lead us to a place of our own where we’d rebuild the herd.

It took two years before we found our land and it didn’t end up being where we thought. Now we have 135 acres–a fair chunk of land–but you ranchers know this isn’t enough land to accomplish ranching full scale. We had nearly 4,000 acres in lease land before–this seems minute. However, it isn’t impossible. We just need to change our business plan. Obviously we can’t run a cow/calf operation that will pencil with so few AUM’s.

What we can do, is support a small herd of beef cows where we supply local restaurants with high pasture raised veal. This is a different picture than we ever anticipated, but as I’ve dealt with health issues and our family with food allergies and sensitivities, we are increasingly excited about quality food. We have a mission statement and business plan that clarify and outline our goals.

Do you know where you want to be in ten years? How will you get there? What will be different? What will be the same?

Here’s what we did: First, come up with a vision statement and/or mission statement that describes what you do and WHY you want to do it. Simon Sinek has an excellent talk about the motivation behind what you do. Your WHY is always more important than your WHAT.

Next, outline your business. That’s right, ranching is a business. Obviously we sell cattle. Go deeper. Do you want to start keeping replacement heifers? Raising bulls? Is your target wean date in October for November shipping? Even if you’ve done this for years, look at if there is something you don’t want to do or something you’d like to add to your operation. Get it on paper. This brings solidarity to your ideas and uniformity to your thoughts. Thoughts will often swim around in our brains for decades unless we give them some form of action.

Finally, make a plan for what you’d like to accomplish this year. Even though it is March, there is time to evaluate. As I’ve mentioned before, use what resources you already have and then look at moving forward. It might not happen exactly as you plan, but you will move closer toward that place of where you want to be in ten years

Nearly Calving…

cardwell ski day, cattle pics 074
Some of the new girls.

It’s almost that time for us–calving season! I know its cliché, but calving season and spring are true reminders of the cycle of life. The snow will stop (although sometimes in Montana we wonder). Trees will become green. Everything that slowed for the harsh temperatures and weather patterns of winter will indeed come to life again in the spring.

As I’ve mentioned before, we downsized when we moved, selling our herd. We’ve had short-term cattle and steers and now we are building back a small herd. We picked up a few “late” calvers from some friends. They begin calving in January, but we prefer to aim for the first of April. Their lates were our on-times.

Most every rancher has their calving preference. Some like after the first of the year because it allows for older calves in the fall, it doesn’t interfere with spring farming, and rebreeding happens before you turn them out to pasture in the summer.

We like April calving because the temperatures are milder and we don’t have indoor facilities. We have very minimal farming on our place and historically our calves gain well by November. This timing works for us, but each producer must do what works best to fit their needs. Where a small group didn’t fit the winter calving bunch on one place, they were a perfect addition to our pasture.

Wouldn’t it be handy if everything in life worked that way? There are avenues were it does: that’s why craigslist and garage sales are successful.

Don’t you ever wonder sometimes though–what does work best? Certainly trial and error are great teachers. If you happen to have heritage on a place, perhaps time has shown you what works best. However, conditions (people included) change over time. It isn’t ever a bad idea to create a business plan for ranching. (More on business plans in ranching next week.) Having a vision of where you are going will help you take steps in the right direction.

We began ranching from scratch and we are thankful for the piece of land we have now. Is it feasible to stock it with a lot of cattle? Absolutely not. It’s going to need a few years of TLC before it reaches maximum production. It is in our best interests to have a small scale operation focused on instilling quality grazing for meat production. Our goal this fall isn’t to sell to a feedlot, but to sell high quality veal to consumers.

We believe in a symbiotic relationship between land and animals. This vision gives us an opportunity to grow and care for both land and animal alike with a family focused production. We’re quite excited about this spring…

Let the calving commence!




How About Those ZZZ’s?

Boy, Male, Man, Young, Sleeping

Maybe it is night calving, or worry, or working two jobs…whatever the source, lack of sleep messes with people. I’ve misplaced my keys after just having them in my hand and forgotten what someone told me… in addition to yawning my way through the day. At some point, it seems sleeplessness affects everyone.

In keeping with the unwritten laws of cowboy culture, plans do not change because of exhaustion. After repeated cups of coffee or several pinches of chew, the cowboy keeps going as if nothing had ever happened. Life doesn’t stop because we are tired, I understand. It’s just that after decades of pushing through, it can catch up with a person.

There are a couple of old wives tales or pioneer remedies for lack of sleep, like drink a glass of warm milk before bed. (This has actually been proven to have some merit because of the soothing effect of a warm drink as well as a tidbit of tryptophan in milk.) My grandpa used to put a big rock in the oven, then put the warm rock in his bed before climbing under the sheets at night. Early settlers used to pick hops, dry it out, and put it in their pillows. Hops are still recommended as a natural remedy for sleeplessness. (This doesn’t include passing out from drinking your hops.)

If you google insomnia, there are more websites than I can count with suggestions for sleeping. There are many helpful tips. Yet hearing people in agriculture talk about difficulty sleeping makes me wonder: Can a lack of sleep come from adhering to past cowboy culture in our modern world? In other words, how much pressure is there to work sun up to sun down because that’s what ranchers “do”? Does an unwritten mentality–I must do x y and z today in this particular way because otherwise the neighbors might think I’m lazy or incapable–keep us from a peaceful night of sleep?

Ranching is hard work no matter what. It is rarely a lack of exercise that keeps a cowboy or cowgirl awake at night. Many days our bones melt into our beds. What I’m wondering is if old mindsets effect new circumstances. I think they do.

There are worthy traits passed along in ranching: good work ethics, caretaking, respect, joy, nurturing, tenacity, etc. May we always hold on to these! However, if we are doing something simply because that’s the way it has always been done (even if there is a simpler method available), maybe we can save ourselves some hassle and catch a few more zzz’s. In our place that we bought last year, we are modifying the irrigation system because what’s always been done here is wasting water and causing soil erosion. Upfront, it would be easier to just leave what’s here, but in the long-run, we’ll have some mighty dry and unproductive pastures. We are looking to enhance productivity for the future–not just for us, but for those who come after us.

I’m also reevaluating my daily process because doing what I think looks good to others or continuing in something because that’s what’s always been done has cost me some sleep. I certainly don’t want to do the opposite and tick everyone off just because I can, but I think remaining true to how God made me, even if it doesn’t fit the mold, is of high priority. I may not get it right all the time, but I suppose that’s why there is grace.

May we find grace for one another, our mindsets, and our ranch–and may this lead to some restful nights.