Getting Started in Ranching



How can first generation ranchers get started – and get established – in the business? Several producers shared their experiences during sessions at the 6th National Conference on Grazing Lands (6NCGL).

Ryan Sexson, Kilgore, NE, shared his 20-year journey with attendees during one of the concurrent session.  Sexson, who has a wife and three young children, said his family and his children’s love for ranch life are what have kept him going. He noted that the ability to build honest relationships has been essential to helping him achieve his goal of leasing land and owning his own cows. 

Sexson worked as contract labor and with a bank loan was buying cows from the sale barn on the side.  But a little over a year ago, he had 40 head of cows, and no place to go. When it looked as if he might have to sell his cows, he credits a few long-time ranchers in the area for providing him additional work opportunities, land and cows on shares to finally get established.

As he reflects on the past two years, Sexson says his biggest obstacle to getting started was not physical, it was mental. “You have to switch your mind and thought process. It’s not about you – it needs to be about ‘us.’” He explains, “We have such a tendency to be so concerned with ourselves that we don’t have thought process for someone else. But these arrangements need to work for everyone involved.”

He credits the ranchers who have assisted him by saying, “What others have done for us is they’ve gone outside of the box and did things for us they would have done for their own children – and we have no relation. They have an interest in our family and our success. We’ve built relationships with them and been honest always in our dealings – that’s a core value that has helped us.”

He also offered this advice: “If your kids want to come home to the farm or ranch, do everything you can to make it possible. If they don’t want to come home, make sure they are treated equitably and then do everything you can to get someone else started and keep that small business going. Do all you can to help someone. It will be rewarding.”

But he adds, “It has to be equitable, because there will be no reason for your children or grandchildren to keep that business if it’s not.”

Michael Vance, cattle manager for Stark Ranch at Gainesville, TX, noted that he did not inherit land or livestock. As he’s built his own herd of Red Angus cattle, Vance has worked a variety of side jobs – including real estate agent and property manager.

He shared that his Number 1 rule in pursuing your ranching goals is this: Learn to ask. Vance says, “If you don’t ask, you’ll never get the help. You are not begging, just asking for opportunities.” He adds that from his own experience, asking has led to loans, leases and learning.

Source:  Grazing Lands News

image by the U.S. Forest Service

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