How do I get started ranching these days

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pwilli3

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Hey Everybody,

I'm a town kid one generation removed from the life of cattle ranching and row crop farming in Kansas. I have always had a yearning to get into ranching, but always thought it was something you had to be born into and grow up around. Over the last couple of years I've decided I've wasted enough time on such foolish thoughts as that. My question now is: what is the best way to get started?

I am 35 years old. I work 50 to 70 hours a week as a chef. I live in the suburbs of Kansas City, but the most remote suburbs there are to the east. I am actually surrounded by cattle and row crops just outside my neighborhood.

I make good money and have good credit. In order to make a move outside of the burbs and into the sticks to buy a small piece of land I can put 4 cows on and run a small herd of stocker steers in the Summer I want to gain some practical experience. Land prices are huge around here. $4k an acre is bare minimum to get half-way decent highway access, which I will need because I will need to maintain my job in the city.

I've spent time haying, pulling thistle, and mending fence in my life. I know the work does not bother me. In fact it brings me great peace! I enjoy cattle and horses a great deal, but have not spent enough time working with them to get the experience I feel I should have before laying down hard earned cash to find I just can't make the time commitment to keep up the land and the cattle.

What is my best option for getting started? There are two small cow/calf operations 5 minutes from my house that I have thought many a time I should stop by and offer my assistance in trade for the experience. Is this a good idea?

Any and all advice would be helpful and much appreciated.
 

novatech

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Sounds like you have started formulating a plan. Getting the job for the experience is a good idea because it will help you learn if you really want to do this or not. Secondly you will find out about all the different things needed for you to get started.
Land is going to be the biggest expense. These days it should be considered as a separate investment. (And probably the best) Make sure you can make the payments without the income from cattle. There will probably be very little profit from the cattle, if any.
Your least expensive investment but most important is a sharp pencil and paper. Use it to formulate a written plan with the dollars and cents part included.
 

skyline

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Nova, that's good advice about treating the land as a seperate investment. That's how I've always looked at it. You won't see a return on that investment unless and until you or your family sells the land. I know folks that bought land years ago for $50 per acre and now it's worth well over $2,000 per acre where they are located. That adds up.

As far as the cattle end of it goes, I suggest finding yourself a cattle mentor. I too was raised around cattle, but never really learned anything about them before I left home. Now all my family that were into cattle are gone. Too late to learn from them. I got cattle about 4 or 5 years ago. Found a gentleman who has run cattle for over 50 years. Bought heifers from him and he let me borrow a bull for the first season. He selected my first bull for me the next year and hauled it over 300 miles home along with a load of his bulls. I have talked to him many times over the last 4 or 5 years and just hung out with him and his family (not as often as I would like). I bought a load of bred heifers from him last year, and I'm trying to mirror his program (on a much smaller scale).

I guess what I'm saying is to find someone that is well respected in the cattle business in your local area and try to hook up with them. Look for opportunities to do business with them and to learn from them.

And even though you seperate your land from the cattle enterprise, don't expect to make any money in the cattle business until after you spend a bunch of money on facilities like fencing, working pens, hay rings, watering facilities, pasture improvements, etc.... etc.... etc....
 

Jim62

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I think your original line of thought was right on the money. If you did not inherit (at least) the land, you are not going to ever make enough with cattle to pay for it, in spite of the fact that $4000 per acre is dirt cheap. About the only way I've seen it done is to buy land over one's working years, and then get some cows after retirement, when ranching can be a hobby. Even that method is pretty shaky around here now--that 4 acres would cost you about $20,000 per acre.........
 

terra8186

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I just started raising calfs for beef last year. I started by asking a lot of question. Learning new things is what makes life interesting.

The way I did it was I fenced in 1/2 acre of pasteur and built a barn to house the calfs. I spent approximately $1,500. I bought grain; gathered hay with a rake and a waggon; spent hours picking, husking, and shelling corn; and cut stalks. I made $100/calf last year @ $0.02/labor hour. That doesn't include any gas, building depreciation, or electricity.

My wife and family liked it so much we bought 3 more this year. We planted 1.5 acres of corn for feed, which we harvest by hand. We pick a couple of buckets a day. Earlier this week a wandering calf showed up at our fence. We put it in the fence and found its owner, by a "lost cow" sign on a telephone pole. I purchased the calf from him because it was going to be to difficult for him to move it and he made me a good deal.

You only live once, you might as well just do it. You will have fun learning.
 

shorty

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If you can build up a friendship with a neighbor that has cattle and help him out , that would be some of the best experience you could get . He might also give you some good ideas as to getting started some day. Get some experience before rushing into something.
 

msscamp

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pwilli3":2q1yl6mv said:
Hey Everybody,

There are two small cow/calf operations 5 minutes from my house that I have thought many a time I should stop by and offer my assistance in trade for the experience. Is this a good idea?

Any and all advice would be helpful and much appreciated.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. They might say 'no thanks' but, then again, they might not. You will never know until you ask. ;-)
 

hillsdown

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Professional chef ,,,,,,,,,hmmm?????????
pwilli3 how far away are you from central Alberta ....I would definitely let you help out, teach you the ropes and make sure you were back in time to make dinner... :lol2: :cowboy:

All kidding aside ,,,learn all you can before you dive in, and start small slowly..and if you can learn from an existing operation that is a very good plan.

Good luck to all of your future endeavours.. :tiphat:
 

hopalong

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Take only about 1/2 of what TTCLM TENNMASTERCATTLEMAN) says as even being close, Checking cattle 2 times a day might be ok for him, but if I were to do that I would spend all day just checking cattle, But then I run more than 3 head like he does.
Get your infrastructure in before you buy cattle, find a friend to mentor, listen to people who know cattle not those that pretend to know cattle, most of all don't expect to get rich.
Good luck and welcome to the board.
 

Busterz

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There is a guy named Greg Judy who wrote some books on running cattle on leased land. It may be worth you time to read it. (I never have so I'm not necessarily vouching for it but it sounds like it might fit your situation.)

Its tough doing two jobs. How far away from KC do you think you can get and still work in the city?

If you can find someone who will let you get some experience and let you ask questions, that would be great. It also might give you some perspective on the time commitment.
You mentioned getting started with 4 but I think you'd find that the time commitment for 25 isn't that much more than it is for 4.
 

Jogeephus

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Busterz":2157nre4 said:
You mentioned getting started with 4 but I think you'd find that the time commitment for 25 isn't that much more than it is for 4.

Excellent point.

One thing you might want to do is get involved with your local Cattleman's Association. This will be a good place to meet people and learn more about cattle. If you let your interest be known, you might also meet someone who can take you under their wing and help you and guide you in the right direction. Some of these people might even let you work with them on their farms. Though it is rare, I know of three instances where the mentor passed the day to day responsibilities on to his apprentice and they worked on shares. One in particular was given a truck, home and half of the gross calf sales to run the operation so the owner could continue his operation in his latter years.
 

bigbull338

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i for 1 dont have a head gate.an up till 15yrs didnt have much of a corral.till i built the steel corral.an if a cow was sick didnt have much trouble doctoring them.an loaded them out of the dairy.still dont have a head gate or a squeeze chute.but in all honesty newbies do need to get the corral an working chute in order before they get cows.because they can get hurt real bad working cows.
 

backhoeboogie

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bigbull338":2v9tos18 said:
i for 1 dont have a head gate.an up till 15yrs didnt have much of a corral.till i built the steel corral.an if a cow was sick didnt have much trouble doctoring them.an loaded them out of the dairy.still dont have a head gate or a squeeze chute.but in all honesty newbies do need to get the corral an working chute in order before they get cows.because they can get hurt real bad working cows.

You are right. They were using things like medina gates long before anyone ever heard of a head gate. Most LH breeders still use medina gates for everything. In the 60's we were running the really wild ones into a loading chute to isolate them. It is much easier for me to use a head gate for some cases. For other issues I simply use the medina because it is simpler for me and seems to put less stress on the cows.

Newbies are going to have a very difficult time making any kind of business case analysis to get into the cattle business. There are variables that are beyond anyone's control. Droughts can cripple. The market itself is a variable from week to week.

Still, there are people who make money in this business year after year. Being prepared to buy when the market is down and sell when it is up is a great asset. The ability to hold and feed cattle when the market is down helps. There are years when practically everyone does okay, but those better prepared do better than average.

If you are going to hold cattle, it is best to have seperate pens or pastures for weaning. If you can save a sick cow and it takes a head gate to do that, you can probably make a business case analysis for purchasing a head gate. But there is no way small time folks can make an analysis for sinking $30K into an automated systems. That all goes back to the start small, stay out of debt type of discussions early on in this thread. There are ways to do things without sinking all your nickels into the business or hocking the farm beyond control. This is where an old mentor can help with advice on how to get things done.
 

hopalong

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I didn't have a head gate till just about 3 yrs ago, and i can guarantee i have a lot more cattle and property than TTCLM (TMC)and have run them a lot longer than he has,
Most in here have good advice, some decent advice, some just agree with what has already been given (TTCLM)and a lot read the posts and do not reply if the answer has been given already,

Nuff said!!!
 

hillsdown

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I will also add that if you plan on doing a lot of sh*t by yourself you had better have a working coral with some place to treat animals.
I can pretty much look after my animals by myself most of the time but I have excellent handling facilities and I have over 100 head .It may not seem a lot to some but for one person to manage it is more than enough.
And yes, I am talking about my beef not my Holstein flush cows they can be worked on in an open field with ease. :lol2:
 

ToddFarmsInc

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On the topic of corralls, my local vet will require you to take a lame cow to their facilities if you don't have a decent one on location.
 

backhoeboogie

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ToddFarmsInc":35r3b8zr said:
On the topic of corralls, my local vet will require you to take a lame cow to their facilities if you don't have a decent one on location.

Exactly. I have neighbors who have none and another with none that work. They use mine and they are great about it. One is just starting out and got in a mess with a cow and needed her in a head gate. He seems like a really good kid. The place he has is old and the old corrals and chutes were made of wood.
 

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