Category Archives: Environment

Manage the world like a ranch

My son, Rial, and I are in Hawaii riding some horses for our friend, Nancy Jones.  We had a nice discussion at supper and Rial expressed concerns about the world’s future. This got me thinking about solutions to the world’s challenges.

I wonder if the world leaders were all ranch managers if we could manage it for maximum production and maintain it for future generations.

The first thing we would need to figure out is available resources.  The next thing would be to figure out how to manage those resources in a way that will create profit, investigate ways to increase resources, and decide the best methods to harvest those resources.

If I purchase a 1000 acre ranch it comes with a history.  Its resources were managed in a way that those in control decided they wanted.  When I take over I make the decision to keep operating in the same manner or to change it to what I want.

If I am going to raise livestock without any inputs from anything but this 1000 acres, I will need to be very careful about the number of animals I run on the ranch.  In some cases it may be better to operate with a certain number of animals and bring in some outside inputs that I can purchase from another source with some of the profit I take in from selling my resources off the 1000 acres.

The previous management may have only ran 50 head of cows, did not manage grazing, did not irrigate, never made any repairs to improvements, and did not spend any money because they did not make any.  They got along fine, but had a very hard life because there was not any money to purchase things that made life easier and they could never save enough to be secure.

I could possibly take this ranch and increase production dramatically.  I could develop and improve the soils to create great forage with improved management and utilizing irrigation.
I could manage the grazing in a way to quadruple production.  If done properly  this could really make this a ranch that is going to improve soil fertility, ensure a high quality of life for the people involved on the ranch, and create an environment on the ranch that is comfortable in the present and will be improved in the future. The profit from the resources are split up into maintaining and improving infrastructure, creating a high quality of life for those involved with the ranch, training new help for the ranch, taking care of those that have worked on the ranch after they retire, and some of the profit should go to stockpiling resources for future use.

I could also take this same ranch and only think about taking as much as possible with no regard to what effect it is having on the soil or surrounding ranches.  I could use as much fertilizer and chemical as possible, run as many animals as possible, only trying to get as much as I can as fast as I can.  I may more than quadruple production and take as much profit as I can so I can live an extravagant lifestyle.  I am not sure how long it will last, but I am going to get the most out of it I can.

From what I can tell, the Earth ranch is either the first or the third scenario.  What I think we need to do is get to the second scenario.  We need to utilize the world’s resources in way that works like a good ranch, combining Mother Nature with technology, then adding common sense and integrity.

The Earth is a big place.  If there is a worldwide drought or if the animal units get to be more than capacity, we can’t haul in more feed or ship units off to another earth.

The Earth is only so big, and there are only so many resources.  We can’t expand this ranch unless we go to space.  We must manage with what we have.

I have seen many places with the same resources in which one outfit improves and prospers, and another beside it goes bankrupt.  It is all about the management.

I think all the world leaders should go to a Ranching for Profit School.  I and Jesse have both attended this school and many people I know have as well.  It lays it out how to work with available resources to improve and prosper in many ways.  Isn’t that what the world needs?

We need to be realistic with how we manage. Before ranching came along Mother Nature kept things in balance for the way the world worked.

I am not sure everyone on Earth will ever work together to make the ranch run smooth, but you and I can work on our division to make it the best, and just like on ranches I have worked on, this creates desire to improve from other ranch workers.

~ Curt Pate

Nevada “Range War” Seems A Tough Story To Unravel

Image via The Dana Show

Sharing at Curt’s request:

By now most of the nation is aware of the self-proclaimed “range war” brewing on the ranch of Cliven Bundy in Clark County, Nevada. The situation is complex, and like most complex issues it’s hard to pinpoint who’s in the right and who’s in the wrong on this one. Throw in the various spins the talking heads of the media are taking on the story and we will likely never get a straight answer.

If nothing else, the Bundy ranch difficulties show how difficult it is to ranch in the West under the supervision of bureaucrats.

Click here to read more in my latest Beef Producer blog on Fodder for Thought.

~ Jesse Bussard

Cow Pasture Pool

I think we should convert all golf courses back to grazing land.  Great grass, good water holes, even sand traps that would be like a buffalo wallow.  They would already have mineral boxes in place, back scratchers already set, lots of shade.  I think it would be the perfect way to make beef more sustainable and take quite a bit of stress out of some people’s lives.  All joking aside, I saw a golf course that went bankrupt once and there were cattle grazing on it. It was on the Big island of Hawaii.

~ Curt Pate

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Sustainability: My point of view

I am going to explain this word from my point of view.  Many things have led to my definition of it like the way I was raised, the environment or area of the country I have lived in, the places in the world I have traveled to, and most importantly the different ideas people have shared with me on how to live and think.

For some reason I have a huge desire to learn and develop knowledge and skill, then try to take this even higher. I feel the only way to do this is to is let your ego take you where you need to go, then overcome the ego to learn even more, and allow your skill to improve to the point your ego shows up again to start the whole process over again.

When you get satisfied and think you are as good as it gets, you are right.

To me this is really dangerous not only on a personal level, but also on the world level and industry level as well.

On the subject of the sustainability of beef, ego is playing a huge part.  It has become us against them.  The problem is there are not many of us and a whole bunch of them.

As I said before many things have influenced the way I feel and think.  I am exposed to more opinions from all sides than most folks.  The hard part is getting the facts and not opinions or wishes from both sides.

The place I grew up on in the Helena, Montana area is now a housing development around a golf course.  There are many huge homes and paved streets.  The golf course has a fancy clubhouse, restaurant, pro shop and a very large paved parking lot.

The shop, hog barns, and slaughter house are used for golf cart storage and to keep all the equipment it takes to operate a golf course stored or worked on.  The corrals, feed lot and the fences are all gone.  No animals or crops are raised on the place any longer.  Just big expensive houses and a golf course.

I am sure many of the people that live and play on the place believe beef is bad for the environment.  I beg to differ.  It seems to me we were operating a sustainable operation.  We grew hay and grain to feed the cattle and hogs.  The manure from the cattle and the hogs was used to fertilize the soil.  We rotated crops with alfalfa to put nitrogen back in the soil. We were a part of the community and provided a service with our slaughter house for folks to harvest their own food.

My grandfather’s place bordered the place with the golf course.  We ended up buying the place.  The creek that ran through the golf course came through our place as well.  The plant life in it was so thick that you could hardly ride a horse through it and the flow really slowed. It was much different than before the golf course.  We had real big trout in it before, but I think they have all disappeared.

With so many houses and sewers the ground water contamination was getting to be a concern.  Most of the people had dogs and that was always a concern to have them chasing stock and I would sometimes see the cattle running.  I think it was a fun pastime for some golfers to see if they could hit a cow with a golf ball.  We also got a lot more traffic on foot and in cars.  The golf course and subdivision really changed everything.

My definition of sustainable is this:  Using something in a way that maintains or improves quality.

That’s it.  Producing beef, pork, and growing crops on that land was sustainable.  Not only for the land itself, but it was not hurting the surrounding area, and was creating protein for humans while improving the land.

Something had been grazing and  putting manure and urine on that few hundred acres for thousands of years.  Grazing had made it sustainable for all those years.  From the way I see it, our farming and ranching enterprise was as good or maybe better than the previous use, and I am certain it was much better for this land than a housing development and a golf course. I guess I can see this because I was there.  I am proud of the way it was taken care of by my family.

Mother Earth is what is important.  We need to sustain her.  I truly believe grazing animals must be a part of that.  It’s not about the beef, it’s about what the cattle can do to improve and sustain the soil and water.

Big companies like Walmart and McDonald’s may not know what they want from those of us raising beef. The customer may be unreasonable in their desires. It may be a conspiracy theory by the United Nations. We may not be able to feed the world because of it, or one of the many other reasons I have or haven’t heard.

It’s really about figuring out what is right for everyone and then doing it.  If the consumer doesn’t approve they will change their consuming habits.  If the producer can’t make a profit long term they will change the production model or stop producing.  The government can regulate us out of business, or subsidize to keep us in business, or stay out of it and let supply and demand control it.

I don’t care what you call it, but it has to be right for two reasons, first to be able maintain or improve soil and water in a profitable manner, and second to produce a product the consumer wants.  That is sustainable beef.

The way I see it sustainable beef is the best term for it.  If you have a better term, let’s hear it. I would really like to here what you have to say about this, and how you would label it.

Watch this YouTube video and it will show how I feel every time I go by the old place.

~ Curt Pate

Sustainability and the customer

Last week was the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s annual convention.  It’s a big time deal and I am proud I got to be a part of it. I had lots of good experiences, met lots of good folks, and got some new things to think about.

A man from McDonald’s gave an interesting talk on the sustainability commitment that the company has made.  The most interesting thing that I found was that favorable public perception for the fast food giant was very low.  The customer has spoken and they are trying to do something about it.  They may not know exactly what to do, but they are working on it and I bet they will figure it out.

The A&W burger joints in Canada have gone to all natural beef.  They even go so far as to feature the main suppliers and the sustainable practices they use. To learn more about what they are doing check out: www.awbetterbeef.ca

Several companies have been able to already convince or capitalize on the more affluent members of society about sustainability and create or satisfy a customers needs for organic or natural labeled foods.  I did not know if this was a trend or a fad, because it was a pretty niche market.

I used to get kind of a big kick out of going to the natural food store in Helena, Montana to shop with my wife.  We had a big old diesel pickup with a bale bed and brush guard and it would really stand out in the parking lot full of Subarus.

You are supposed to bring your own bags to these stores and I had lots of them from all the cattle trade shows I was involved in.  The trouble was they had been given out by all the drug companies. You will get some looks in the natural health care isle if you are putting natural cold remedies in a bag with a cattle vaccine logo on it.

Just me being in the store with a cowboy hat on created quite a lot of stress.  I would seek out the folks that seemed to be the most opposite of me and ask them questions or try to get them to help me.  Some would be a little hard to catch up with.  At the check out line it was really interesting because so many of the folks had to stay there with me and felt uncomfortable knowing I was a rancher and just maybe a republican.  Most of them had a brace up against me, but if I smiled and asked them some question or complemented them on something they would talk to me, and a few of them would even look at me.

My point is that I was very different in my lifestyle from the people that chose to shop in this store.  They were skeptical of me and I had to make a big effort to change the way they perceived me.

The reusable bag with a medicine bottle and a syringe picture carried by a guy with a cowboy hat and manure on his boots was just as sustainable as the the guy with the tattoos and nose rings and the hemp bag.  I was reusing a bag and expressing my lifestyle through my appearance the same as him.  We may have been more alike than either of us thought. Or maybe not …

It sure looks to me like the sustainable movement is not only here to stay, but is growing at a very rapid pace.  When Walmart and McDonald’s are marketing to the customer as sustainable it’s pretty hard to deny it.

The funny thing is after the seminar I heard lots of negative talk about this whole sustainability thing.  It confuses me as to why beef producers don’t understand that we produce a product for a customer.  Most of us don’t sell directly to to the consumer so we hire someone to do it for us (i.e. Walmart and McDonald’s).  I am pretty sure they know what the customer wants but we don’t seem to want to listen.

Most people don’t see when a bull is on the fight or a horse is going to buck them off, until they have been run over or bucked off a few times.  They just could not see it shaping up.

I don’t know how it’s going to shape up, but sustainability is an important concept for our consumer of beef. If we can’t see this by now we are about to get run over and bucked off hard.

My grandfather always said we need to “separate our wants from our needs.” People don’t have to or need to eat beef.  We in the beef industry “need” to get consumers to “want” to eat beef.  They are telling us what they want and we need to listen.  Enjoy it and profit from it.

~ Curt Pate

Time well spent with United Farmers of Alberta

I have spent most of the month of January in Canada.  United Farmers of Alberta is a farmer owned co-op that hosts a series of “Cattlemen’s Colleges” each year and I spoke about cattle handling.

They were great learning experiences for me.  The speakers were top notch. Marketing, finance, nutrition, forage management, and best calving practices were presented.  I did not hear one sales pitch to buy anything from the store.  One  speaker on nutrition explained how a certain blue block of salt had little value nutritionally, and was like licking metal in the subzero temperature.  He recommended loose salt added to mineral to get the best value and health from the purchase of salt.  That was real good information, but the funny thing was the store was giving away several blue salt blocks for door prizes.  Now that’s humor!

I think it is real smart what they were doing.  If I owned a store I would want my customers to be educated enough to purchase things that made them a profit.  It is in the store’s best interest to help the customer become a professional beef producer.  The more they learn and implement for-profit practices, the longer they will be in business, and when you are profitable it allows for more expansion.

Knowledge is the first step, then learning how to use the knowledge. Then keeping that knowledge and skill learned in practice and improving is the big challenge.  This kind of beef production is what it is going to take to get it done in this era of ranching.  This is also what the consumer of beef wants, a producer that treats and cares for the environment and the livestock up to their moral standards.

I am a little embarrassed when I speak in front of the Canadian rancher.  They are good people that have had a tough go of it.  You can’t believe how bad they felt for the South Dakota storm victims.  These are the same ranchers that R-CALF and other groups has cost thousands of dollars.

I am not a political person.  I am a dedicated proponent of the proper production of beef.  If you are Mexican, Canadian, or from the U.S., we all are North Americans and if we can work together it sure seems like a lot better way to go about it.

I look at this in the same way as I look at neighboring in ranch country.  I’ll bring my crew to your branding and you bring yours to mine.  If there is a range fire we all go to it and help each other by putting it out, no matter whose land it is.  In the Southern U.S. they put everyone’s cattle together in groups to improve the marketing of the cattle. Good neighbors help each other, no matter if it costs them a little, because at some point it may save them a lot, and I am not talking only financially.

I’ve seen quite a few people bad mouth their neighbor when they weren’t around, and then not say a thing when they are present, but they can’t look them in the eye.

So all you folks that are for putting politics in to the beef industry, go to it.  I hope it’s not to just raise money for your organization or cause.  I am going to stay with doing the right thing for the industry, not for my own selfish greed.

If you get in a bind and need some help give me a call.  I bet I can get some of my Canadian ranching friends to come help us out of a tough spot.  You see there are some things you don’t learn at a Cattlemen’s College.  It’s called doing what’s right, it’s called integrity, it used to be the “Code of the West.”

~ Curt Pate

I Am Angus: Curt Pate on importance of stockmanship, future of ranching

Curt Pate was recently featured on an episode of of “I Am Angus.” In this segment, he discusses the importance of stockmanship and stewardship to the future of ranching. For those that weren’t able to catch the segment when it aired on January 2nd, you can watch in the embedded video below or click here to go directly to YouTube to watch.

~ Jesse Bussard