Saturday, March 5, 2011

Can You Afford To Burn Money?

I know of very few people who can afford to burn hundred dollar bills ten at a time, but many ranches tend to do just that every time they work cattle. This seems to be especially true on desert ranches where time is spent, not in the cattle, but constantly checking waterlines.

This past week I day worked on a local ranch which I've worked on before. Cattle are scattered out in groups of a hundred to two hundred per pasture, with the average pasture size around two thousand acres. If the cattle were ridden through even once a week, and handled with reduced stress methods one person could gather the cattle into the pens with no help, and a crew of four or five could get done with the sorting, branding, vaccinating and castrating fairly easily.

As these cattle only see people horseback when they are going to the pens to get worked, they are not only trotty, they have no intention of going into the pens. Since it is a known "fact" that the cattle are going to be hard to handle the crew grows to nine people, or an extra four or five hundred dollars a day.

Finding cowboys to work for day wages is hard. Finding cowboys that work for day wages who also work cattle in a reduced stress manner is next to impossible. As a result, when the cattle start getting leery of the pens, rather than back off and keep them quiet, the charge is on to get them into the pens as fast as possible. The pressured cattle wind up running off and in the ensuing stampede, calves have more stress related shrink, which winds up in higher than necessary morbidity and mortality rates. It also results in having to go back out to the pasture and roping calves that got away. At today's cattle prices this is costing in the neighborhood of thirty dollars per calf, or burning thirty one hundred dollar bills for every hundred calves you wean.

This week the ranch I worked on, between having to hire extra help, and their methods basically burned two hundred and five, one hundred dollar bills. If this isn't burning enough money, the cattle we worked this week is only one third of their herd, so between weaning the three groups, they are burning six hundred and fifteen of those one hundred dollar bills a year on weaning alone. Add a third that much shrink loss during branding and you are looking at over eighty thousand dollars a year going up in smoke.
Even including all related expenses, paying a cowboy thirty thousand dollars a year would save this ranch a minimum of forty thousand dollars a year. However the mentality seems to be that if a person is horseback in the cattle they are not "getting anything accomplished."

If you are tired of burning hundred dollar bills, and would like to learn more about reduced stress cattle handling, click here.