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By Austin Snedden, Ranching Contributor, Valley Ag Voice

Cattlemans corner Austin Snedden
Austin Snedden

There are a fair amount of folks that have been managed by someone who has never done the job they are managing. The frustration commences when an experienced person is told how to do something by someone that has never done it. We see this a lot in the adverse relationship that government has with private businesses, regulations, and fees to incentivize doing business a certain way when the desk-bound bureaucrat sending the edict has never participated in production in any way. Whether talking to a private sector boss with no savvy or a bureaucrat with soft hands, it is dangerous to respond, “Do it yourself and find out if your way is better,” when we all know that is what needs to be said. I do this myself sometimes in thinking I know how everything should be done, but frankly, I regularly overestimate my own knowledge. Some of the best learning happens when I know from zero experience how something should be done and I do it myself, only to find out quickly why it isn’t done that way.

These days, everything is costing more and when you have periods of extreme inflation like this, you find out in a hurry what are luxury items. Although we are seeing gross inflation, thankfully most goods and services still aren’t overpriced. Things are expensive based on what we are used to, but are they really too expensive? Competition keeps prices lower which means I can shop around for a price I like. The ultimate factor in competition is that if I don’t find a price I like, I can grow it, build it, or do it myself. Occasionally, when I do it myself, I find out I can do it better and cheaper… but rarely.

“Beef is too expensive!” is a line I hear regularly. Even though the meat packers have had record margins over the last several years, is it too expensive? Do the job yourself and find out. You will need to start out with a calf. You might be able to get a decent weaned calf for $700, but if you think the $700 is too expensive, you can start from scratch and maybe buy a cheap cow for $500. You can cut a corner and artificially inseminate the cow instead of having to buy a bull; maybe someone generous would do that for you for $50, including semen. There is a 60% chance she gets bred from this; otherwise, you’ll have to repeat the process. Let’s assume you now have a bred cow, you will need to purchase a large stack of $20 bales of hay to feed her for nine months until she calves. Maybe you are looking to grass-feed and want to skip the cost of hay. You can hunt down a piece of property to lease or buy, which in our area takes about 30 acres to run a cow for a year, and that is with average rainfall. Hopefully, you won’t have to commute very far or haul water to the property with fuel prices at $6 per gallon. In nine months, there is a good chance you will have a live calf. Keep in mind if you are hay-feeding, the lactating cow and growing calf are going to now require more feed. If you feed the calf conventionally, he will be ready to harvest in about 18 months, but you will need to buy a lot of grain. If you want to go the grass-fed route, you will need to grow him for 22 to 29 months for good quality on grass in this region.

Now it is time to harvest. If you have the skills, the tools, and a strong back, you can do it yourself. Or you can have a professional do the harvesting and have it cut and wrapped for maybe around $1,000. Hopefully you have a large freezer and don’t have to purchase one. Hopefully you won’t have any veterinary expenses, and maybe you can skip buying insurance in case your animal gets out on the highway and totals a vehicle. Anywhere from 27-39 months after you started, and several thousand dollars later, you will have a freezer with about 500 pounds of meat in it. Do it yourself and find out if the beef in the store is too expensive. This is not exclusive to beef, this example could fit many things, especially in agriculture.

One of the things that many people think is overpriced (and even fewer people have tried do themselves) is the cost of a farrier. Getting shoes on a horse or having them trimmed can get pricey. The cost seems even more pricey if you have never done it yourself and you have a farrier that makes it look easy. Occasionally, I will trim a few of our own horses. After only a few horses, I think to myself as my sweat-soaked body crawls to the gate to turn the horses out, “Maybe the farrier isn’t that expensive,” and then I spend the next several days in a more aerodynamic position as I hunch forward because my back won’t straighten.

I am in no way defending inflation and the government-created mess we are in. Things could be cheaper, and things should be cheaper. I am offering a different perspective, looking from a production standpoint. Thankfully there are still those of us that like to be in production, and there are still consumers that will spend their hard-earned dollars on the things we produce.