Strategic Planning For The Ranch

Tips For Overcoming Paradigm Lockdown

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It’s easy to get caught in “paradigm lockdown.” I think we all do to a certain extent. However, the best ranchers continually resist paradigm lockdown; they’re always looking for new ideas and better ways.

Paradigm is a person’s world view or the way one looks at or sees the current situation. In ranching, it’s the way you operate or run your business. Throughout my career as a ranch manager, and especially now as a consultant and speaker, I’ve met and talked with a lot of ranch managers and owners.

Usually after giving a talk, a number of people will come to visit with me. I’m still somewhat surprised when some assure me there’s no way my suggestions will work in their environment. Others express appreciation for the ideas, tell me they’re already using some of them, and thank me for the additional insights into how to progress further.

I know ranchers who are “absolutely sure” they’re doing exactly what should be done on their ranch despite the fact they’re losing money. Others seem to understand there is a better way to do everything they do; they just haven’t discovered it yet. They even admit that radical changes may be needed to make them profitable, or more profitable.

Paradigm lockdown

It’s easy to get caught in “paradigm lockdown.” I think we all do to a certain extent. However, some continually resist paradigm lockdown; they’re always looking for new ideas and better ways.

After having been involved in ranches in several very different locations, I know it is unrealistic to expect that all my ideas in this column can be used in all situations. The ideas simply are presented as a “mind stretch” to help readers think differently, or expand their thinking to embrace and evaluate new and different ideas. The objective is to become a “possibility thinker” – a person who asks himself, “What could I do that would make this ranch more profitable? Is there something radically different that we should consider and analyze?” This should become an attitude or mindset that is revisited frequently.

Many ranchers do what they do very well but still aren’t profitable, or are only minimally profitable. Thus, improving what you’re currently doing will seldom yield significant bottom-line improvement. Spending money, time and effort to improve your pregnancy rate, reduce death loss, make calves bigger, or to make yearlings gain more are all important, but won’t make the big improvement often sought. As ranchers, we have a strong tendency to do things right – and we’re very good at it. We should spend more time on being sure we are doing the right things.

The big changes in profitability usually come from radical changes in grazing management, changes in cow size and heterosis, changing from cow-calf to cow-calf and yearling, yearling, or vice versa, changing the calving season to better align feed requirements with the availability and quality of grazed feed, doing things to enable more grazing and less feeding or to make a drastic reduction in overheads.

At first thought, these changes almost always seem impossible or impractical, but there’s usually someone not too far away who is already doing one or more of them. I understand. I was there, mentally and emotionally, for far too long. In my online article of Aug. 28, 2012, I related an experience with a rancher in northeast Wyoming that began to jolt me out of paradigm lockdown. Since then I have made a concerted effort to meet and talk to people who are doing things differently.

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What's Strategic Planning For The Ranch?

Burke Teichert provides readers with his practical take on efficient and cost-effective livestock production and ranch management.

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Burke Teichert

Burke Teichert was born and raised on a family ranch in western Wyoming and earned a B.S. in ag business from Brigham Young University and M.S. in ag economics from University of Wyoming. His work...

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