Top 10 Challenges In Ranching

by Dave Pratt

In the last ProfitTips I asked you to share the challenges you face in ranching and share you did.

Here is your list of the top 10 challenges facing your ranch:


#10: We have a victim attitude

We will never succeed if all we do is blame others for our failures. Self-proclaimed victims abdicate responsibility for their situation and the power to do something about it.


#9: We have lousy business skills

There is a difference between knowing how to raise livestock and grow crops and knowing how to run a business that raises livestock and grows crops. Our parents and the universities focus on the raising and the growing. Of course The Ranching For Profit School focuses on the business side of things.


#8: Our attitude that Ranching is not a business, it’s a lifestyle

A lot of people seem to believe that business and lifestyle are incompatible. An alumnus once told me that when he and his wife focused on their lifestyle, “All we did was work our butts off.”  When they started focusing on the business, he said, “Our life got so much better.”


#7: Access to leasable land / Fragmentation of ag land

It is getting harder and harder to find leases and the leases we do find tend to be smaller, making it harder to manage them well. Part of finding long-term leases with adequate capacity boils down to being the right person, in the right place, at the right time.  


#6: Weather related challenges

Drought, severe storms, heat, cold, you can’t do anything about what Mother Nature is going to throw at us, but you can prepare. While you can’t do anything about how much rains falls there is a lot you can do to make sure whatever does fall soaks in.  

#5: Challenges to reaching viable scale that are not land or finance related

This was a complex grouping but the consistent theme was it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. This was particularly important for self-identified first generation ranchers. Difficulty sourcing cattle to lease came up several times.  


#4: Can’t find financing / undercapitalization

This grouping was complex.  Some people were afraid of debt, others couldn’t get the financing they needed but either way the result was not enough money to build the business they wanted to build.  I will tackle this, and many other issues you raised in your responses in future ProfitTips.


#3: Family matters

The only thing tougher than running a business is running a family business.  Getting everyone on the same page, talking with one another and working together is challenging.  Unless our goal is to hurt one another, we need to learn to air our differences and disagreements respectfully and constructively. Rather than arguing over positions, it helps to focus on the underlying interests. Then, once we’ve all been heard and a decision has been made, we need to learn to put our ego aside and remember that we ride for the brand.


#2: We resist change

It isn’t embracing the new idea that is so difficult.  It is letting go of the old one. I’ve read research that shows that we tend to inflate the value of the things we have by a factor of five.  In other words, to feel confident letting something go that earns a dollar, the new thing must be able to produce $5.


#1: Time management / WITB v. WOTB

Most of the time management issues boiled down to the seemingly inexhaustible list of chores that keep us working in the business and not working on it.

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