Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of participating in a panel discussion at the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association’s 2016 Cattle Producer’s Forum in Billings, Mont. The panel focused on the next generation of beef producers and how we can be profitable in the 21st century. I shared my own personal experiences in going back to my family’s ranch in 2009 with my husband Tyler and some key principles we try to follow in our operation.
Here are five principles that millennial ranchers should keep in mind as they begin their careers in production agriculture:
It’s unlikely you’ll transition to managing the ranch fresh out of school, particularly if there are still a couple of older generations involved. You may feel like the ranch is your birthright, but it won’t make you successful right out of the gate. Don’t sit around and wait for your inheritance. Know that it took decades for the ranch to be built to its current level, and it will take time for you to achieve your ranching goals, as well.
The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Know when to take advantage of opportunities and when to pull back. The average farm family living expense is close to $90,000 per year. Be willing to make sacrifices, face scrutiny from friends and neighbors and make do with current equipment to avoid falling into financial pitfalls. With discipline, you'll also be better prepared to move on opportunities as they come along.
3. Out-of-the-box thinking
When you come home to the ranch, don’t divide the income that is currently there. Instead, add to the operation by diversifying. This can be in the form of additional crops, a second breed of cattle, a hay enterprise, working remotely in an agri-business position, or doing side jobs to make ends meet. This can alleviate some pressures of the ranch enterprise and allow for more consistent cash flow. Remember that 70% of ranches rely on off-farm income, so be willing to work hard on and off the ranch to advance your pursuits.
Communication isn’t a cliché; it’s the cornerstone of success for ranchers. Talk with your spouse and make sure your goals align. Talk with your parents and grandparents and know where they stand on transitioning the ranch. Talk with your banker, lawyer and other industry professionals who can help you succeed. And talk with consumers who will ultimately determine the way you do business.
Get involved. Attend cattlemen’s meetings. Introduce yourselves to folks. Develop your network within the industry. Join a group that is active in policy development and lobbying for the industry. Be at the table for important discussions. The people you meet in the beef cattle industry are a great source of support and learning opportunities.
What would you add to the list? Share your advice in the comments section below.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.
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