COLUMNS: Young ranchers, listen up: advice from your elders

Advice from elders may or may not be appreciated by the younger generations.

Advice from elders may or may not be appreciated by the younger generations.

Years ago, when I had the privilege of being the Minister of Agriculture in B.C., I attended a rancher/farmer meeting in the East Kootenays.

At this meeting, a younger man was bemoaning the price of farmland and said he did not think it was possible for a young person to get a start without inheriting a farm.

This sparked a discussion, which culminated with an older fellow having the final word. Those words ring in my ears to this day.

He said “nonsense” to the younger farmers concern about land prices.

He was in his 90s and had come here from Europe as a young man. He said that was what people said to him way back then.

There is always an opportunity.

Last month, in BEEF magazine, Jolyn Young wrote an article called: “Young ranchers, eight tips from an old-timer on how to succeed in ranching.”

Is this old speak or is it timeless wisdom?

Mori, in his 90s, gave up his love of rodeoing to follow his life’s dream of ranching.

These are his tips: I quote extensively here.

One: Sacrifice luxury items like expensive hobbies, new cars and pickups and new equipment.

Two: Make do with older tractors, balers etc. Learn to fix them. Fix up older buildings. You know this strategy.

Three: Be ready for an upturn in the cattle market.

Four: Beware of the temptation to splurge on a new pickup when calf prices are really high.

Five: Adjust your lifestyle and travelling to revolve around the ranch. Stay home and do your work as it takes longer with older equipment, he says.

Six: Marry well, as ranch wives do a heck of a lot of the hard work in the operation, in the home, and on the business end of things.

Seven: Cultivate and maintain good friendships. With good friends you will have help in the tough times. Good family is a must too.

Eight: Get a good banker. This person must understand agriculture.

If you are going to miss a payment, or be late, be in touch ahead of time and explain the situation.

To all this good advice, I would add the advice to participate in the local rancher’s organizations, get on mailing lists and go to conferences to keep up the latest and best efficiency information.

By the way, current prices are hovering around the breakeven for our industry at the moment.

David Zirnhelt is a member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association and chair of the advisory committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching program which started at Thompson Rivers University in Williams Lake this January.

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