A Rancher’s Payday
A rancher’s payday often comes once or maybe twice a year. It depends on when their calving season or seasons are. There are also many ranchers that are farmers as well. If they raise a crop it could lead to additional opportunities of cash flow. We personally have two calving seasons and no crops. That means that we see two paydays a year typically. Our larger bunch of calves is ready to market in November or December once we gather them off of the mountain.
What does a rancher’s payday look like?
First thing in the morning, before the sun peeks over the mountain, we gather our calves that are out grazing and being fed long hay in a field close to our house. We get them into the corral and sort the steers from the heifers. Depending on their sex we receive a different price. This is the time to get a really close look at the calves . If there is a calf that shouldn’t be marketed that day, we pull them out. Maybe there is a calf that isn’t feeling well, perhaps a bad eye, or they just don’t look uniform with the rest. We will keep those, treat them for whatever they have and sell them at a later time.
Things Vary Ranch to Ranch
For some ranchers, they load up their calves and haul them to the nearby auction yard to be sold. For others, they take video footage well before sale day. Their cattle sell live auction style over a video auction, which is increasing in popularity. The larger outfits oftentimes have semi cattle trucks arrive from the place they are contracted to raise calves for. You load the semi cattle trailers of calves, after weighing the cattle and then they take off for the backgrounding yard or feed lot.
We aren’t there (Yet!), so we take multiple gooseneck trailer loads to a set of corrals nearby. Before showing up, we are aware of the approximate price that we will receive. That means that we aren’t at the mercy of buyers attending or not attending or the market that day like some are at an auction. We are thankful for that. At the corrals, two brothers who hold the title of “Cattle Buyers” put together calves from smaller producers to fill semi cattle loads.
When we arrive to the corrals they ask us what we have, steers or heifers so they can keep them sorted accordingly on their end. We unload the calves onto the scale. Once they weigh them they let them out into a pen that has cattle of the same sex. The total weight of the calves is added up for both steers and heifers once all calves are hauled. They take 2% off of the weight to account for “shrink.” Then we are given a set price per pound for steers and a price that is about 10 cents lower for heifers. They hand us a check and we are no longer the proud owners of those calves. It is a bittersweet moment.
It happens in every business, trends. Being aware of trends before the trends are trending is the trick. Last year, we had a couple of Hereford calves that the cattle buyer wanted to give us significantly less for. We hadn’t realized the market had become that tough on them. The feedlot didn’t want them. Instead of giving away a perfectly good calf, we loaded them up and took them home. We were able to grain finish this beef ourself and sell it direct to families in our community.
How to Celebrate Payday
Carefully. You should celebrate payday carefully. This day can typically bring some relief. You are no longer responsible for the care and feeding of as many animals. Payday is a great day to strategize for the next fiscal year. Since our larger payday comes once a year we have to strategically plan. We consider the expenses we know we will incur. We do our best to forecast changes in prices for our inputs. Then we decide how we want to continue building our assets.