RANCH MUSINGS: What can we do in the face of challenges?

Regular columnist David Zirnhelt writes about meeting challenges head-on

This is a grim topic for many, but the future is hopeful, but not unless we change our ways and meet the challenges head-on.

There is a saying in business that if you don’t have challenges every day, then you are not in business. We succeed by overcoming them.

Headlines last seek showed costs went up in 2018 by 6.5 per cent — double the forecast — whereas revenue from livestock sales dropped a fifth of a per cent. “Net farm income plummets” was the headline.

Now, we haven’t seen a dramatic reduction in prices recently, but most economists suggest that is just a matter of time.

So why would this matter to consumers and producers alike?

If you are a consumer, engage a producer in the conversation of how the meat is produced and what the cost of production is and what he/she can do to reduce costs. If they understand the challenge of food production, then maybe they will be willing to pay more, especially if the quality is higher and the footprint lower.

Many producers will say that they have trimmed costs as much as they can. If that is the case, then maybe bigger changes are necessary. It has been said that cost management in ranching is like pruning a tree to get more fruit. Taking off small twigs here and there may not do it. One might just have to take off major branches (enterprises) to get the tree producing again.

In order to do this, any ranch has to have its finances broken down into its component enterprises and ask the question about efficiency of : land management, the cow/calf enterprise, the haying enterprise, the replacement cow enterprise, the yearling operation and maybe the finishing operations, and so on.

Just as an example, someone recently told us they rent bulls from a neighbouring ranch, and that is a lot cheaper than owning the bulls.

Sometimes these opportunities are hard to find. But ask yourself, how hard are you trying?

Some people allow others to critiques their operations, although bankers and accountants are not really used to doing that. We obsess over the financial statements we prepare for the taxman, Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). The CRA expects all incomes and expenses to be lumped together to get a bottom line for calculating taxes from the net income. That does not help with the financial analysis of the business.

Matching one’s way of life to the business needs of you farm or ranch remains the primary challenge.

Some of these are old ways and some are new.

If you — either consumer or producer — are concerned about increasing our resilience in the face of changing weather patterns or the need for there to be local producers, then here are some of the practices that can be tried:

• Have a positive work culture-promote enjoyment of the work at hand.

• Engage young people — children, grandchildren, neighbours, students, new employees — in the interesting work. They have skills that can help.

• Check nutrient levels in the soil and crop and see if you can tweak the soil to produce what you are missing. Promoting more diversity can achieve this.

• Let the livestock work for you. Put grazing and winter feeding onto the “crop rotation.” Let the cows fertilize and stimulate growth of other plants for resiliency sake.

• Select breeding stock from those individuals that do well with modest rations of feed that you can grow cost effectively (reduced cost).

• Measure the results of different management practices. Keep an eye on quality and not just the quantity of the crops (mostly hay and silage).

• All land needs time to rest and recover after usage. Manage pastures and fields to achieve this. Every month, there are stories from farmers and ranchers who are doing this.

• Our biggest costs are in the winter feeding, so any feed that can be stockpiled on the stem and let the cows eat it into the winter or spring will reduce costs. Grazing is at least a dollar a day cheaper than feeding hay. One month more grazing means $30 more to the bottom line.

Let’s ask how can we do some of these things, not why we can’t do them!

David Zirnhelt is a rancher and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association.

Just Posted

Washout hits Highway 97 north of Cache Creek

Drivers turning back as road is impassable

Billy Barker Days costume shop now open in West Quesnel

You’ll find all the dresses, hats and boas you need at the West Park Mall

Finding their 4-H wings in Quesnel

Members of Cariboo Wolf Pack 4-H Club spot rare Virginia Rail near Dragon Lake

UNBC student will run for Cariboo-Prince George Green Party in federal election

Mackenzie Kerr says she is ‘deeply committed’ to climate action

Construction begins on 32-unit supportive housing project in Quesnel

Construction of the three-storey building is expected to be completed by July 2020

‘Bad choices make good stories’: Margaret Trudeau brings her show to Just for Laughs

Trudeau says over the decades she has been suicidal, manic, depressed

UPDATE: Youth seen with gun at Nanaimo mall, suspect now in custody

Woodgrove Centre shut down during police incident

B.C. man dies from rabies after contact with Vancouver Island bat

Last known case of human rabies in B.C. was 16 years ago

Crown recommends up to two-year jail term for former Bountiful leader

Crown says sentence range should be 18 months to two years for Bountiful child removal case

B.C.-wide police efforts identify Vancouver Island robbery suspect

Warrant issued for arrest of North Vancouver man for TD Bank robbery

VIDEO: Wolf spotted swimming ashore on northern Vancouver Island

Island wolf population estimated at under 150 in 2008, says VI-Wilds

Diversity a Canadian strength, Trudeau says of Trump tweets at congresswomen

Trudeau avoided using Trump’s name when he was asked about the president’s Twitter comments

B.C. couple bring son home from Nigeria after long adoption delay

Kim and Clark Moran of Abbotsford spent almost a year waiting to finalize adoption of Ayo, 3

Garneau ‘disappointed’ in airlines’ move against new passenger bill of rights

New rules codified compensation for lost luggage, overbooked flights

Most Read