Ranching “Granny Style”
We have a basketball hoop in our dirt driveway (makes dribbling interesting). My daughter, Gracen, a sophomore in high school, plays several sports including basketball. I’ll join in on a game of “horse” every now and then. We make it more interesting by calling the type of shot, hook, backwards, or of course “granny”. I’m guessing most of you know what a “granny” shot is. Throwing the ball underhanded with both hands gripping the ball and dipping the ball between your knees then giving it a toss. A pretty easy way to shoot the ball when not being guarded, but not a way to impress your pals or more importantly impress the “chicks”. Did you know that Rick Barry, a twelve-time NBA All-Star shot his free throws “granny style”? His free-throw shooting percentage is 89.3 compared to the NBA average of 75%. In fact, it is well documented that, when practiced, almost every basketball player can significantly improve their free-throw shooting percentage by going granny. So why don’t they do it? The answer is obvious right? It looks stupid! What self-respecting, cooler than most, NBA superstar would stoop to the level of shooting granny? There have been a few brave ones, but over time, most revert to the traditional shot even though their success rate goes up when shooting granny.
Of course, in ranching we only manage for results right? We never worry about looking cool and we never get concerned about being different, do we? As much as we are tough and independent, it is still very difficult to go against the grain. Being part of the community is important to us all, so going against traditions is risky. Humans all want to be part of a group. Doing things differently in a way, is telling everyone else they are wrong. However, ranching like everyone else stinks! What are the results everyone else is getting? When we look at all the economic costs the average ranch is losing money. Traditional ranches today usually require one person to work in town to support the ranch, and that is if we start with inherited land, equipment and cows. If you are happy with those results, then by all means keep shooting free-throws overhand and you can look cool all day. If you want different results you might want to try ranching granny style. I’m not suggesting you switch to raising emus and wearing speedos with your boots but being a bit weird might be what you need. Maybe it is running a class of livestock that won’t impress the neighbors but has an amazing gross margin. Or maybe it is leasing the piece of ground that no one else can make work, driving a Subaru Brat instead of the new pickup, or managing your grazing in an unconventional manner to promote land health while increasing carrying capacity.
What if junior is looking to come into an existing ranch business that has been ranching in the traditional way for decades. If we are asking the ranch to support an additional family, replace aging equipment with higher priced options, or cover the increase land costs; will we be able to keep running things the way we always have? I understand that for established ranches, moving from long standing traditions can be way more difficult than making changes in a new start-up operation. Wilt Chamberlin and Shaquille O’Neil both had terrible free throw percentages. Yet they both had the courage to shoot granny when the stakes were high. You can always go back to ranching the “cool kids” way when you can afford it. If you want different results, have the courage to look outside the norm. Tim and Bonnie Downing from Dunning, NE exemplify having the courage to look outside tradition. I admire their bold steps and the results they have been able to produce are incredible.
While shooting granny style might look foolish, isn’t winning the game the goal?