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Ranching "Rule of Thumb"

Posted: Wed Mar 22, 2017 3:03 pm
by master stockman
I am working on a project collecting "Rule of Thumb" ranch principles that we often use. I am interested to see if they are different by region, or if they are fairly uniform. I will share a few examples.

Multiply your calf check by 2 and that is how much a replacement cow is worth.

Contract your calves light so you don't get caught by the price slide.

Take half and leave half for good pasture management.

These are just a few that I hear often. Do you have any "Rule of Thumb" principles that guide your decisions on a ranch?

Re: Ranching "Rule of Thumb"

Posted: Wed Mar 22, 2017 4:22 pm
by Big Muddy rancher
Don't Squat with your spurs on. :cowboy: :lol: :lol:

On your theme of "Take Half ,Leave half" my Dad always said "It take old Grass to make new grass"

Re: Ranching "Rule of Thumb"

Posted: Wed Mar 22, 2017 6:45 pm
by RSL
You can owe for Cows, Land and Equipment. If you owe for 1 out of 3 that is ok, 2 out of 3 is tough and 3 out of 3 is a recipe for disaster.

Form follows function.

In order of importance it is Water, Grass and then Cows.

Re: Ranching "Rule of Thumb"

Posted: Wed Mar 22, 2017 7:14 pm
by Soapweed
A theory I heard just lately is that five months worth of rented summer pasture should cost a third of what a steer calf is worth at weaning time. If the calf is worth $900, a third of that would be $300. $300 divided by five months would be $60 per month.

Never sell hay.

Always keep your best heifer calves.

Don't keep kicking a dead horse. If something isn't working, kick the habit.

Have a rigid culling program on cows in the herd. If you have to give them extra attention to get a calf sucking, graft the calf onto a better young cow and say adios' to the problem cow.

Good nutrition trumps high-falutin' genetics.

Uniformity helps to achieve premium prices.

If you are sitting in a pickup waiting for a cow to have her calf, park sideways to the cow and try to act nonchalantly disinterested. If the pickup is facing the distraught cow, she regards the headlights as "eyes" staring at her.

My dad and other neighbors always used to say that you should half your hay left by the first of March. Of course in those days it was a lot harder to haul in stacked hay if you ran short.

An hour in the morning is worth two in the afternoon.

Glamour tends to dissolve in sweat.

One old neighbor that my dad worked for as a young man would say each evening before supper, "Well, we didn't get much done today but we'll give 'er hell tomorrow."

It's easy to cut a big strap if you're using someone else's leather.

If the sun is shining, take along a coat. If it's cloudy do what you want.

The only way to move cattle fast is to move them slow.

It's amazing how dumb a cow can be. What's more amazing is how many cowboys can't outsmart a dumb old cow.

A good cowboy on a poor horse can get a lot more done that can a poor cowboy on a real good horse.

A boy is a boy; two boys are half a boy; three boys are no boys at all.

The two most critical weeks of each year for grass and hay production are the two middle weeks of May. If you can get some rain and sunshine and no late freezes during that time period, the rest of the summer usually goes quite well.

An extra inch of rain takes the place of a lot of management.

DISCLAIMER: All of these rules of thumb have served well through the years except for 2016. It seems like last year none of these rules worked. But this has always been a "next year country," and I have high hopes for 2017, especially since Donald Trump is our new president. :cboy:

Re: Ranching "Rule of Thumb"

Posted: Wed Mar 22, 2017 7:38 pm
by Soapweed
Substance over style.

Don't judge a book by its cover.

Always keep your cattle saleable. If cattle in good condition are worth a premium if they are offered for sale, they are worth that same premium if you own them. If you have to sell them for some reason, they are by far more saleable.

You can't starve a profit out of a cow.

The best insurance is a fat cow going into the winter.

Fat is a pretty color.

A good horse is never a bad color.

Re: Ranching "Rule of Thumb"

Posted: Wed Mar 22, 2017 9:03 pm
by Faster horses
Mother Nature ain't got mercy on nobody.

Nothin's forever.

Both sayings by a good ole cowboy that has passed over the Great Divide.
----------------------------
Gentle is a pretty color on horses and cows.

In his lifetime, if a man has one good dog, one good horse and one good woman he's lucky.

If you take care of your cattle, they will take care of you.

Hay in the stack is money in the bank. (We have changed that to be "Hay in the cow is money in the bank.") :D

Don't burn your candle at both ends.

Re: Ranching "Rule of Thumb"

Posted: Thu Mar 23, 2017 6:59 am
by LazyWP
Soapweed wrote:A theory I heard just lately is that five months worth of rented summer pasture should cost a third of what a steer calf is worth at weaning time. If the calf is worth $900, a third of that would be $300. $300 divided by five months would be $60 per month.

Never sell hay.

Always keep your best heifer calves.

Don't keep kicking a dead horse. If something isn't working, kick the habit.

Have a rigid culling program on cows in the herd. If you have to give them extra attention to get a calf sucking, graft the calf onto a better young cow and say adios' to the problem cow.

Good nutrition trumps high-falutin' genetics.

Uniformity helps to achieve premium prices.

If you are sitting in a pickup waiting for a cow to have her calf, park sideways to the cow and try to act nonchalantly disinterested. If the pickup is facing the distraught cow, she regards the headlights as "eyes" staring at her.

My dad and other neighbors always used to say that you should half your hay left by the first of March. Of course in those days it was a lot harder to haul in stacked hay if you ran short.

An hour in the morning is worth two in the afternoon.

Glamour tends to dissolve in sweat.

One old neighbor that my dad worked for as a young man would say each evening before supper, "Well, we didn't get much done today but we'll give 'er hell tomorrow."

It's easy to cut a big strap if you're using someone else's leather.

If the sun is shining, take along a coat. If it's cloudy do what you want.

The only way to move cattle fast is to move them slow.

It's amazing how dumb a cow can be. What's more amazing is how many cowboys can't outsmart a dumb old cow.

A good cowboy on a poor horse can get a lot more done that can a poor cowboy on a real good horse.

A boy is a boy; two boys are half a boy; three boys are no boys at all.

The two most critical weeks of each year for grass and hay production are the two middle weeks of May. If you can get some rain and sunshine and no late freezes during that time period, the rest of the summer usually goes quite well.

An extra inch of rain takes the place of a lot of management.

DISCLAIMER: All of these rules of thumb have served well through the years except for 2016. It seems like last year none of these rules worked. But this has always been a "next year country," and I have high hopes for 2017, especially since Donald Trump is our new president. :cboy:


This HAS to be some of the best general advice I have read in a LONG time. Most of I have heard and do. Some of it I needed reminded of, and a bit I had never heard. Thanks!!

Re: Ranching "Rule of Thumb"

Posted: Thu Mar 23, 2017 11:17 am
by littlejoe
A lot of great stuff above!
Ray Banister talked about how neighbors would say "it woulda been a good yr if..........."
fill in with your choice of--or another one:
low prices
flood
grasshoppers
fire
blizzard
health wreck
drought
calving wreck
etc
etc

Ray's point was people acted like one of more of the above was abnormal, he figured something like one or more happened maybe 8 out of 10 yrs, with that %, the 'abnormal' was actually a yr when most things went your way, the 'normal' was when they didn't.

He said ranching was 'chaos' so developed the 'chaos' theory or ranching.

And had '10 rules of chaos ranching' or somesuch----which I can't locate.

His point was manage for the 8 'normal' yrs, you'll do fine, and cut a fat hog in the 'abnormal' ones.

Re: Ranching "Rule of Thumb"

Posted: Thu Mar 23, 2017 12:16 pm
by Soapweed
It is easier to pull a chain than to push one. Often times the same principle applies in the moving of cattle. A feed pickup in the lead can save a lot of whooping and hollering and exasperation at the rear of the herd. If a bunch of cattle won’t cross a bridge, try stringing out a little cake in front of the ones in the lead.

If a bunch of cow/calf pairs won’t cross a barrier such as a bridge or slippery ice, rope a calf around its neck. When it bellers, its mother will come and bring many of her bovine friends with her. Pull the calf across the barrier, and the rest will follow.

An ounce of rain is worth a pound of hail.

A job well done is a self-portrait of the one who did it.

A sign in an implement dealer’s store that holds merit: “Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on our part.”


The best cow dog in Cherry County resides on our ranch. He stays in the house yard digging up petunias while we work cattle.

Very often a dog that shows up at a cattle working screws things up as much as if three hard-working cow hands had not come at all.

Chinks look cool, but if the wrestler on a calf’s head is wearing them, the fringe tends to be very much in the way of the workers who are vaccinating, installing ear tags, ear marking, implanting or dehorning.

If you think a horse might buck and give trouble, try leaving the spurs off of your boots. Often times, the extra inadvertent poking that a horse gets from a rider trying to stay on, only further antagonizes the horse and makes them buck harder.

A brand put on properly gives extra insurance that it will be easily seen for the rest of the bovine’s time on your ranch. This is your stamp of ownership, so apply it the best you can—not too deep but not too lightly. A brand that does not blotch is an extra bonus.

Re: Ranching "Rule of Thumb"

Posted: Thu Mar 23, 2017 12:34 pm
by Faster horses
Soapweed has 'been there, done that' and can articulate it very clearly. :clap:

I thought of one more:
Normal changes every 50 miles.

Re: Ranching "Rule of Thumb"

Posted: Thu Mar 23, 2017 2:57 pm
by littlejoe
Ya, but he's sure down on cow dogs.

Oddly enuf, most here have the same name "Getinthepickup,yousonof..."

A good cowdog can replace a couple good hands, sometimes. I saw one once---about 1957 or so....

Re: Ranching "Rule of Thumb"

Posted: Thu Mar 23, 2017 3:55 pm
by leanin' H
Grandpa used to say, "Kids, horses and dogs...ya get out of them exactly what ya put in."

One of my Uncles once told me while making a long circle in rough country, "Youngster, only look as far as you plan to ride."

My Dad always tells about an old poem here heard which stated, When you arise on a February morn, you better have half your taters and half your corn. Dad changed it some and the way we quote it is, When you awake on a February day, ya better have half your woodpile and half your hay!

My own rules of thumb are as follows-

You can always go faster with cattle by slowing down

We don't raise cows we raise grass

Kids cant learn a thing if you don't take them with ya, and let them have enough slack, to make a mistake now and then

If momma isn't happy, well....

Treat folks just how you'd like to be treated

The time to prepare for the leans years is pretty much always

Never forget to show your gratitude. Folks cant hear what you think.

It takes just as many groceries to feed a poor cow as a great one. Whether you have 10 or 10000, run the best cows you can.