“There’s a real place in the industry for contrarians, market-wise,” Jay O’Brien says. “If everyone is convinced something is going to happen, it probably isn’t.”
The primary mission at O’Brien’s ranch and those he manages is to care for the land and create a sustainable profit.
Battling increased calf health challenges over the years means that O’Brien tries to buy as many one-brand calves as he can, along with receiving fewer at each ranch in a week’s time.
One way O’Brien addresses today’s health challenges with young calves is to buy them in the Southeast, then put them on a 45-day preconditioning program prior to shipping them west to his ranches. He says focusing on cattle handling helps as well.
“The opportunity is that you have a resource in forage that basically has no other beneficial use than turning it into beef. You can do that with stockers or with cows,” O’Brien says. “If you don’t put cattle on it, you don’t have a way to get paid anything for the grass.”
O’Brien has long been a student of the environment, considering how management practices and products used impact the ecosystems of the ranches he manages. Here, he’s examining the work of grass termites, yet unsure whether they contribute to plant damage or simply clean up already-dead forage.
Although it will take time for the country to heal, timely rains made the grass jump enough by late summer at O’Brien’s ranch to start grazing some stocker cattle again.
Besides managing ranches, O’Brien has lent his leadership to a number of industry organizations over the years. As chairman of the Texas Cattle Feeders Association more than a decade ago, he began championing individual animal identification for the industry as a way for producers to increase management opportunities while providing a safeguard against an animal health crisis. Tied to ownership, he also believes it could help protect producers in financial transactions.