The Ranching for Profit School is sometimes called the “MBA of Ranching” or referred to as “better than college.” The RFP School has an amazing curriculum that can have enormous impacts on the alumni and their ranches, but I don’t like those comparisons. Here’s why: you will hear and interpret things differently in each stage of life because of experiences up to that point. Different life experiences could be college or trade school, years in the workforce, spouses and kids, or just simply age. Your ranch business will also have an ever-changing business environment, so we try to blend all those moving pieces together at the school. I also believe we meet the right people at the right time in our life, so I think it is important to trust your chosen route. I was lucky enough to be the co-instructor for Ryan Hemphill when he chose to attend the RFP School in December of 2022. About six months later, he shared the below email with his whole class to talk about his RFP Successes. There is nothing more rewarding as an instructor (and RMC as a whole) than to hear of alumni “wins” like this.
From Ryan to his classmates:
I hope 2023 is treating you well and RFP has been a benefit to your operation. It definitely has for me. As I’ve begun devoting time to WOTB (Working On the Business), I’ve found that putting my thoughts in writing has been a healthy habit to help me get things ironed out. So, I’d like to occasionally share some of my thoughts with the people that I met at RFP in December. If you don’t remember me, I was the good-looking guy from Colorado sporting a red cap with my cattle brand on it.
Fifteen years ago, Ranching for Profit probably wouldn’t have gained me much. My identity was as a farmer and a rancher. I poured myself into the work because that identity gave me value as a man. I would have done it for free as long as I got to do it. I’m now 43 years old. Time and wear and tear on my body have forced me to reevaluate what truly gives me value and purpose. It has also made me recognize that I need to pay more attention to my profitability and happiness because at some point I may not be able to (or want to) do this job. Since RFP in December, I’ve been busy discovering paradigms in my life, deprogramming my mind from these invisible boundaries, and trying to identify the direction my operation needs to go. I’ve also realized that I need to do a better job of celebrating successes instead of just moving on to the next task. I’ve put together a list of personal victories for me since December as a reminder to myself that I am not confined to the rut of the way things have always been done; that it’s ok to dream a little bit and do some things differently. Here are some of them:
I negotiated with a hay broker to use his own loader and personnel to load-out my remaining 2022 hay inventory of 4×4 bales. So why is this a big deal? Hay trucks show up anytime between sunup and sundown and often don’t call until they are a couple miles away. By the time I stop what I’m doing, get the loader to the right yard, load the truck, and visit with the driver it usually takes about an hour per load. By putting this on my “To Don’t List” I saved about 60 hours of my own time plus fuel and depreciation of the loader. I’m calling it a $10k win (since I’m now worth $100/hr). His bid was still the highest even after figuring in the loader cost.
I have a real office; not just a desk with a bunch of papers. I have two dry erase boards; large farm maps; lists of goals, tasks, and paradigms hanging on the walls; I even bought a flip chart! Super useful but don’t give it to your kids to doodle on – they cost like $1/page!
I only AI’d 45 cows/heifers this year. AI’ing can be a great tool for producers if they have specific goals and marketing plans for their calf groups. It wasn’t paying off economically for me to AI 150-200 head so I cut way back. It saved several days of labor for 3 guys during a time of the year that is very busy for us.
I partnered with my neighbor on some higher-quality bulls to make replacement females. We turn out bulls about 6 weeks earlier than he does; he runs them after that for the remainder of the season then we keep them on farm pasture during the winter. I’m curious to see if the shared bulls can last as many seasons as our current herd bulls.
I have not used any insecticide on my crops this year. Our main crop is alfalfa; most of it goes to dairies in west Texas. I always budget treating all of my alfalfa fields for weevils in early May. This year my agronomist recommended I treat about one-third of my acres. I almost did it but finally just threw the recommendation away and forgot about it. It’s sort of an experiment – I want to see how the alfalfa yields without being treated; more importantly I want to see if it has any effect on beneficial insect populations (natural predators to weevil) for the remainder of this year and next.
I swath grazed 100 pair on 30 acres of sudangrass from Feb until mid-April. We moved the fence every 4 days or so. I think it worked well and am planning on doing more of it this winter. I’m planning on adding more crop species to the mix to better balance the nutritional needs of the cows during this time.
I have not used the tub grinder or feed wagon since December. I’m convinced our cows are candy-asses because we pamper them too much with ground alfalfa and ground corn. When we did feed this spring, we simply flaked alfalfa or sorghum bales to them. They were not in as good of condition as they usually are so I guess we’ll see this fall if there is much change in conception percentage.
I contracted my first cutting alfalfa in the windrow to a local small bale custom operator who brokers to a lot of horse owners. Weather has set us back several weeks on first cutting so if the quality isn’t there, we may end up baling a lot of it ourselves. I hope it works – his price is higher than what I can get from our other brokers and all I have to do is swath it. Free time in June is a pipe dream for me (kind of like farming in shorts and a tee shirt)!
I joined Executive Link. It’s like the last day of RFP on steroids. I’ve been through one board meeting and loved every minute of it. It is such a unique experience being part of a group of outside-the-box thinkers whose purpose is to push your boundaries and make you dig deeper into your operation. We have a board meeting in July near Calgary, Alberta and I can’t wait!
I’ve been a lot better human being. I had some really good conversations at RFP that made me rethink my purpose with other people – from being a better listener to prioritizing relationships over profits or tasks.
If you have any updates or success stories from your operation, please share them with me. I would love to hear from you!