A few thoughts by John Nalivka: What is ranching?
October 28, 2015
I have often said that ranching should be viewed more as a business and less as a lifestyle. You make better decisions in a business context rather than the emotional context of lifestyle. The lifestyle part of ranching really became apparent to me this summer when my father-in-law sold his ranch. Kitt is 78 years old and has ranched his entire life, mostly in Elko County, Nevada. He sold that ranch 10 years ago and purchased a ranch in eastern Oregon not too far from Vale where my wife and I could spend more time with him on the ranch.
After the sale of his ranch, Kitt leased grazing for his cows while he decided what his next step would be. I first realized the difference in business and lifestyle when we shipped his cows to the grazing lease. This was the first time that his cows got on a truck and he wasn't going with them. I emphasize "his" cows. People who have been on the outside of this business often don't know what an old rancher's cows mean to him. Those cows were Kitt's cows from the time that they were heifer calves. He knew those heifer's mothers and their mother's mothers. There is a special bond. Now, someone else would have responsibility for their well-being. I assured him that his cows would be well cared for. The ranch where we leased the grass for the summer is an old family ranch with the same ranching values. When we went down in August to see how things looked, we agreed the cows looked good and the calves were doing well. The "girls" came to meet Kitt. As they say, everyone was happy! My wife and I didn't say much. While Kitt outwardly expressed that he was glad to see the cows were doing well, we could still feel that certain sadness that comes with watching an old rancher who is considering that he probably won't be ranching any longer.
At the end of September, Kitt decided he wouldn't buy another ranch. He sold the calves and also decided to sell his cows. This was about to present an entirely new challenge. These weren't just a set of cows. These were my father-in-law's cows. While his cows were quality running age Red Angus, the market was down and buyers were getting demanding.
There is a good ending to the story. The entire herd was purchased by a family member where the cows spent the summer. There is no particular moral to my story except that as we all know there is more to ranching than simply cows. The beef business is also the people who live and work in this business. And sometimes, time spent watching a 78-year-old rancher with his cows can give you a better appreciation. Perhaps, the activists who make the news criticizing this industry should have been standing next to my 78-year-old father-in-law back in August and seen the pride in his eyes after 60 years of successful ranching.