Remember that childhood game you may have played on the kitchen floor? The one where you jumped from square to square in the Linoleum, saying, “Step on a crack, break my mother’s back.”
Donnell Brown does. And as he’s watched his and others’ kids play that same game in his house on the R.A Brown Ranch at Throckmorton, TX, he observed that sooner or later, they always step on a crack.
“I think I have the answer to why we tend to step on the cracks more quickly than maybe we should,” he says. “When we think about playing that game, where’s our focus? Our focus is on the crack. I’ve taught several children over the years that if they focus on the open places, the place they want to be, they’ll hit the target more often.”
Good advice. In fact, Brown says, it’s something you can apply to every aspect of managing your ranch.
Take, for example, the challenge of focusing on increased profits. Don’t, he says, focus on the cracks, the flaws, the imperfections, the things you can’t change. Focus instead on the things you can change.
To do that, start with the end in mind. “Let’s focus on where we want to be and build a system to get there.”
The profit equation is simple, really. “We can increase revenue or we can decrease expenses,” he says. “For years in the business, we worked hard to increase revenue – increase growth, increase red meat yield, increase feed efficiency. All the things on the output side. Now I’m excited that we’re working more and more on decreasing cost on the input side. And it’s a two-part relationship.”
Here are Brown’s three rules to increase profits:
• Select the cow that best fits your environment. “She’s the factory and if the factory isn’t running at peak efficiency, then she’s probably costing you too much money.” Cattlemen have traditionally worked hard, using additional inputs, to change the environment that they ask their cows to flourish in. Instead, he says, change the factory to fit the environment she’s in. “When we fit our cows to the environment, we allow our cows to be productive in that environment. We increase the traits of most economic importance, such as fertility.”
• Select the bull that best complements the cow to produce the calf that best fits your market. Focus on the target, Brown says. “I’ve found it a lot easier to raise what people want to buy than it is to sell what I want to raise.”
• Select breeding and mating systems that best fit your management. “We can use a lot of different breeding systems and technology to incorporate genetics. But we really need to look at our labor and our market access and try to manage risk to fit where we and our family are in what we do,” Brown says.
Much has changed in the cow business and there’s more to come, much more. That means, Brown says, that there’s significant opportunity as you go forward in the business. “The reality is we don’t have to change. But we will have to compete with those who do.”
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