Silver Bullet

by Dallas Mount

misty pasture

There isn’t a recipe for a profitable ranch. Not every profitable ranch calves in May and June. Not every profitable ranch has sold all their hay equipment. Not every profitable ranch uses some form of intensive grazing.

It’s time to start looking beyond the production practices of some ranches and start looking deeper at the core principles they follow.

Just about everyday I encounter someone looking for the next silver bullet to save their ranch. Unfortunately there isn’t one, so stop looking “out there” and start looking “in here” (picture me pointing at my head).  

The solutions for fixing a business lie in the creativity of your team. Your team includes not only the people directly involved in your business, but also those people you surround yourself with. The solutions will come when you start asking the right questions. Not operational questions, but strategic and tactical questions. 

Some examples of better questions are:

  • What do we want this place to be?
  • How do we want the ranch to serve the owners, the employees, its customers, the community?
  • What results must we produce to achieve these outcomes?
  • If there were only 5 things we could measure against these results, what would they be?
  • What enterprise mix can achieve our profit goals? Our land health goals? Our ideal work/life balance?

So much of the things you read, hear, or watch in agriculture are focused on the actions people take. When do you calve? What do you feed? What breed do you run? How do you select your bulls? When do you sell your calves? How do you sell your calves? How do you select your replacement heifers?  

We like to talk about this stuff because it’s comfortable. These are the issues that many of us feel knowledgeable about and the stuff we enjoy in ranching. It’s the operational stuff.

We need to deepen the level of the conversation. If the solution to running a profitable business were as simple as finding the right recipe, the secret would be out. It isn’t about a recipe. It is about identifying and exploiting your competitive advantages. What are you passionate about? What can you do well that few can? What does your business do that creates a strong gross margin?

Stepping back and finding the answers to those questions will help you find your competitive advantage. Let’s change the level of conversations in agriculture from operational details to strategic level discussions!

One Response to “Silver Bullet”

January 12, 2022 at 12:03 pm, Jack Corson said:

A timely article for us, as we had a ranch meeting this morning and I used this article as the introduction. We are going to use the questions to get everybody involved in our mission statement. Thanks

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