Category Archives: Environment

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

Avarice

This is a word I did not know of until recently. It kind of is the same as greed but it’s more about an uncontrollable desire for money and riches no matter what, and the desire to hoard the wealth.

The way I learned about this was someone talking about big companies being avaricious. This may be true with some companies, and I have even saw the results of this in one company.

When I first started in the world of horse expos I got involved with Purina Mills. They had been a company with a great reputation in all ways. They were purchased by another company and I was in on some of the process. A bunch of young greedy fellows that knew everything came in and managed with a total different philosophy. They bankrupted the company in a few years. This was a great lesson in how greed and arrogance will get you. Purina Mills was then purchased by another company that was managed with integrity and sound business practices and now they are making a profit providing a valuable product for consumers.

The thing I saw was the sales people, mill managers, research farm and even some of the tops in management knew that things at the top were not right, but kept on trying to do the right thing for the customer. That seems to be the only thing that saved the integrity of the checkerboard.

I have been fascinated with Walmart for several years. I have read several books about the company. They have a reputation for being a tough company to do business with and have probably been the reason for some companies demise. My conclusion is they are all about the customer and they will do everything they can to provide their customer with value and moral satisfaction.

Ryan Rupert of the NCBA invited me to attend the Walmart Global Sustainability Milestone meeting. Ryan presented on behalf of the beef industry. It was a great experience and I really was proud of what Ryan did and was amazed at how people in the audience responded to him and the message he shared about beef.

If Walmart is interested in sustainability, the majority of the consumers in the United States and the world are interested in sustainability. Walmart is also very interested in animal welfare. This tells me the customer is very interested in animal welfare.

From what I have read and from my experience at Walmart world headquarters, I do not feel Walmart has avarice. Instead it is almost like a culture to create great value for the customer. The Walmart mantra is “Save money, live better.” That is what Sam Walton was about and that is what the company is still about.

We in agriculture would do well to watch and learn from them. It seems we have to overcome the reputation of exploiting resources because of grazing. We need to refine our resource management and animal welfare practices. We need to work with the Walmarts of the world to learn to be better and help the customer understand “If it isn’t right, we will fix it.”

After thinking about it avarice is kind of the opposite of Stockmanship and Stewardship. We are about working with Mother Nature to create a quality lifestyle that is sustainable and profitable. For most, it is an honor and a huge responsibility to do it the best we can.

It would be time well spent to watch the Global Sustainability Milestone Meeting. Here’s the link: http://corporate.walmart.com/global-responsibility/environment-sustainability

~ Curt Pate

South Dakota storm

Close to twenty years ago, I drove from Miles City, MT to Belle Fourche, SD.  For some reason it struck me as the place I needed to live.  Western South Dakota in my mind is one of the really great ranching areas in the U.S.

I also found at the time it was one of the least expensive places to purchase land.  We bought a place North of Nisland, SD. It was the perfect place for all the things I wanted to do. Things in my life changed and we ended up selling it.  We have been back and forth to South Dakota several times and have owned some real nice places but I think we made a big mistake in selling the place in Nisland.  Another word for mistakes is experience.

Rial, my Son always liked South Dakota and went to work on a ranch near Faith.  He learned a bunch about the harshness and the productiveness of the environment.  We were discussing the recent South Dakota storm and he questioned the running of livestock there.

He always has a way of looking at things that set me to thinking.  We were tearing out some old fence on a place we had in Newell, South Dakota. He wondered what the people that put it up some 30 or 40 years before were discussing. It probably had something to do with the weather.

It was just a few years back that many of the ranchers in that area lost a lot of the livestock due to an late spring storm.  Then 2011 had the huge drought in the south and hay prices were very high.  Most of the excess hay was sold and trucked out of the country.  Then South Dakota had a terrible drought and the hay crop and grazing was real short.  Hay prices doubled if you could find any at all.  2013 was a great crop year and pastures were very good. When I drove through the area in August it was like driving though it in May.

Everything seemed to be great.  Then this storm hit.  It is so incredible how hard Mother Nature can be.  It is also incredible how in this day and age of communication, technology and equipment how we still have no real defense against the power of nature.

Looking back on the last five years of extreme weather in South Dakota, Rial may be justified in his statement.  We may need to ask a few more questions and try to make management decisions based on these questions.

Has the weather always been this extreme or are we in a different weather pattern?

Can we change management practices to deal with extreme conditions?

If we do experience losses should the government be obligated to help financially even though history shows the risks?

What will public opinion be?

We hear all the time how animals should be free range.  Now I hear how people are questioning the ranchers care of the livestock.  They are being criticized for not having them in shelter.

Weather has always been the big influence in profit or loss in agriculture.  It seems it will always be.  South Dakota is extreme climate country.  It can be bitter cold in the winter, and scorching hot in the summer. Flooding, drought, snow, wind – South Dakota has it all.

From what I have seen, it is wise to have a years worth of feed in stockpile.  With the uncertain weather conditions it looks like it is real difficult to have a set stocking rate.  With the extreme climate conditions I think I would want to run all my livestock from about the middle of May to about the first of September.  From what I have seen in the past this is the only way to keep from the extreme harshness of South Dakota weather from getting you.

What I am going to say now is as harsh as the climate in South Dakota.  We must be honest and face reality.  When you are in the livestock business there are chances for loss from extremes in the weather.  If we keep doing things over and over and it is not working that is crazy.  This last storm was a terrible thing.  All these storms are terrible and devastating to ranchers especially if they are impossible to prepare for.

I go back to Rial’s question of “Should we be trying to ranch in Western South Dakota?” I think so, but we better really pay attention and maybe the best thing to do is to shut off all the technology and get to the highest point on the ranch, sit down and look and think things over for a few hours with no distractions.  Ask the important questions and find the best answers.  We must blend today’s technology with yesterday’s traditions.

South Dakota ranchers are tough people.  It is a terrible thing they have gone through.  I really feel for them, but know if they are tough enough they will stay and continue, if not they will go away.  This is called the survival of the fittest, and it’s the way of the land in South Dakota. It always has been and it always will be.

For the rest of us, let this be a lesson.  The power of nature should never be forgotten.  Don’t get careless.  Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.

If you want to help you can check out the South Dakota Rancher Relief Fund started by the Black Hills Area Community Foundation.

~ Curt Pate