When I was putting together my presentation for the recent Holistic Management Canada conference, my wife Deanna said, “Don’t forget the two trucks.” It has been several years since I shared the Two Trucks slide in a presentation. Since it provides a great visual aid and makes people think, I decided to add it to my Canadian presentation. I’m glad I did. Now I am going to share it with you.

For the past 50+ years, cow-calf producers have been breeding and selecting almost exclusively to increase production per cow – at the expense of production per acre. As a result of this incessant selection for bigger and bigger weaning weights, cow size has increased by 40 percent, stocking rates have decreased, cost of production has increased – and profits have decreased.

Let’s assume there are two neighboring ranches of equal size. One ranch produces 50,000 pounds of 400-pound calves, while the other ranch produces 50,000 pounds of 600-pound calves. Fifty thousand pounds of calves is a truckload of calves.

Using last week’s market numbers, the 400-pound calves on the blue truck are worth a whopping $42,000 more than the 600-pound calves on the red truck. Lighter calves are always worth more per pound. For over 50 years, the average cow-calf producer has been breeding and selecting for the wrong thing! Their bragging rights may have increased – but it was at the expense of their profits. Bragging rights are fun – but you can’t buy anything with them.

Allow me to push you a little closer to the edge of your comfort zone. With proper grass management and the right kind of low-maintenance genetics, many cow-calf producers have more than doubled the amount of beef they produce per acre. If you think this is impossible, you are wrong! It is happening in many different environments – on four different continents.

Consider the two ranches represented by the two trucks above. While the ranch represented by the red truck on the right continues to focus on increasing pounds per cow (weaning weights), the ranch represented by the blue truck on the left is focused on doubling its pounds per acre through a combination of low-maintenance genetics and proper grass management.

What is the income difference between these two ranches. The ranch represented by the two blue trucks is grossing a whopping $215,500 more than the ranch represented by the red truck! This is the reason a few cow-calf producers are extremely profitable, while most cow-calf producers are struggling just to make a decent living.

If I succeeded in pushing you out of your comfort zone, you will probably spend the next few days trying to pick this example apart. Instead of wasting time with that, I encourage you to seriously consider what you might be able to accomplish if you STOP focusing on increasing pounds per cow (bragging rights), and START focusing on increasing pounds per acre (profit).

It’s a tragedy – but many ranches that were put together and paid for with 350-pound calves are now struggling and going broke with 600-pound calves. Now you know why!

Share on Social