May 30, 2014
The extension educator types like to lecture us on the important skills that a rancher should possess. They stress attributes such as people skills, being a good judge of rangeland, and having financial and economic skills. While I have no argument with these ideals, a lifetime of ranching has taught me that these skills are not necessary for success in ranching.
We had an Irish neighbor that had unusual people skills. He had come over from the old country to work for his uncle. His best people skill would be described as closer to boxing or mixed martial arts. He had a fist fight with nearly every neighbor, one BLM employee, and a host of trespassers, and terrorized a couple of brand inspectors when he was in his prime. This unusual skill with people did not hinder him in the least from trading and selling ranches until he had built up a large successful operation. We might have been glad when he sold the place next to us, but you have to admit he achieved the American dream.
I am not certain that being a good judge of rangeland is always necessary for success either. When we bought a neighboring ranch, they were surprised at how many more sheep they owned when they gathered them to sell. It was probably unusual for them to have all of their livestock on their own land at one time. They were grass whisperers, only they whispered to the grass on our side of the fence.
As to economic knowledge, an old timer here once said that a rancher put the profit and loss in the same pocket. I am not sure what school of economics that concept comes from. Another one of our neighbors was quite successful having been governor and owned several ranches. When he exhibited his oil portrait at a local bank, another rancher pointed out that the painting was not an accurate representation. His main objection was the former governor had his hand in his own pocket.
Another bit of sagebrush economics was the story about the man who bought steers when they were high. By fall, the market was down, but at least he had the use of the steers all summer.
With an attitude like that, it might be hard to define ranch success. Extension educators aren't allowed to force people to tell the truth. Until they have a rational way to discover the truth about successful ranchers they will have continue with their obvious theories.