Gordon Hazard Talks Money Management In Beef Production

via Beef Producer

There is some great advice here–especially for young, energetic and ambitious cowboys and cowgirls who are just getting into the business. — jtl

Money management as important to profits as any other concept.

One of the geniuses of Gordon Hazard’s 60-year-old, started-from-scratch beef operation is his money management.

Hazard has always counseled people who want to build a beef business this way: Make your living outside your beef business, make it profitable and keep pouring the profits back into expansion.

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Hazard, who is now 90, started in the business when he was on leave from the Army during World War II. While on leave he found a piece of land to buy near his home in West Point, Mississippi, decided he could easily cover the payments with his monthly salary, bought the place against the banker’s advice, and went back to Europe.

He survived the war, later went to vet school and then made his living as a veterinarian. He and wife Sarah raised and educated four children on his veterinarian’s income and Hazard kept growing his business, all in his “spare” time and always investing profits from the beef operation back into … the beef operation.

When Beef Producer visited the Hazards last July we watched them move one group of 500 steers in less than an hour. All their cattle are owned and all are moved on a three-day rotation in the summer growing season and are basically set-stocked on fescue in the winter.

That’s about it,” Hazard said at the end of the move. “It takes us two hours or less each day to take care of the cattle.”

The only exception is receiving and shipping time.

Nearly all other management needs Hazard pays for out of profits on the cattle: Mowing, fence building, corral building and repairs, occasional day labor. He says minimizing owned equipment and labor is one of his money management secrets.

For simplicity, the Hazards have set up their grazing so different groups are moved each day. Commonly, Gordon opens the gate and calls them and elder son Mark, a retired bank president, pushes the tail-enders, if necessary, with a UTV. If there are no new calves on the property they may not need to be pushed. Then both men go about the rest of their day’s business.

Some of Hazard’s ideas have been well copied by the beef industry but most have not. Yet his 60-year record of success seems to beg inquiry. Here are some of Hazard’s key principles.

No debt. In his book Hazard says he grew up in the depression and watched his father lose everything to debt by farming and have to start over. He says that’s when he learned to hate debt and plows. “I knew debt would take the farm and if you plowed long enough you would accumulate debt.” Further, he says, economies cycle and bad times will always come around again. That’s when debt will take you down.

Use sell-buy accounting. Buy the cattle with your own money, Hazard says. Then count your profit as the difference between the calves you sell and those you buy back. Forget about the money you put in. It’s collateral, working capital. It’s now cattle. Do a good job selling and re-buying in the same market and you’ll have a profit margin. Ownership is the key. “When you own the cattle, it is nearly impossible to go broke,” he says.

No depreciation. Part of Hazard’s no-debt policy is fulfilled by not owning depreciable equipment. He doesn’t like anything that rusts. He doesn’t own cows.

He buys no hay and feeds no hay.

He hires out any mowing of pastures he needs. He hires work done with equipment because it saves valuable working capital. It also helps your neighbors who own equipment. Perhaps most important, his mantra is to keep his money working, growing and turning over.

Cheap gains. Hazard says good grass and minimum feed has always provided the cheapest gains. He was one of the earliest to develop successful rotational grazing program, which is the basis for good production and for attaining further production efficiencies. All perennials and no annuals.

Hazard says to make profit such a central part of your thinking that it becomes painful to spend a dollar. At the same time, he says to always keep in mind you can’t starve a profit out of a steer. “In summation, grass is what we’re selling.”

Run the right cattle. Hazard has long favored steers versus heifers for their higher rate of gain. You’re selling pounds, after all. He also favors plainer cattle such as 1 1/2 Okies, that he can “upgrade,” not just put weight on. Further, he prefers to buy them pretty light and keep them a long time. That just makes sense, he says, since conditioning is the biggest cost you put into stocker cattle, other than purchase price.

TLC. Practice good receiving, handling, loading. Establish good receiving protocols and knowledge of receiving — usually a strength of modern stocker operations. Use low-stress handling from beginning until steers leave on the truck. Grazing management helps with this. Use a lead steer to teach new arrivals the system.

Market well. When it’s time to sell, of course it’s always better to sell potloads. Beyond that, Hazard says you should never ask the buyer what he’ll give. The cattle belong to you; you have the right to ask a fair price, set the time of delivery and suggest reasonable shrink in the deal. Further, Hazard is known for loading every ethical pound possible on the trucks on shipping day by giving the animals some grazing time early in the morning, keeping them very calm and still loading them quickly.

Most of Gordon Hazard’s favorite advice is dispensed in his book, Thoughts and Advice from an Old Cattleman, available from hazardmg@bellsouth.net.

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Books by Dr. Jimmy T. (Gunny) LaBaume

Planned Grazing: A Study Guide and Reference Manual by Jimmy T (Gunny) LaBaume.

This guide is a detailed book review of sorts, but perhaps it would be more accurately described as an abstract that condenses 864 pages of detail into 189 pages of concentrated information. No more excuses for failing to properly plan your grazing. The booklet is available from Amazon.com in both soft cover and Kendall versions. Click here. 

CoverA Handbook for Ranch Managers A Comprehensive Reference Manual for Managing the Working Ranch. Click here to buy the paperback version from Land & Livestock International’s Rancher Supply aStore.

Digital media products such as Kindle can only be purchased on Amazon.com. Click Here to buy the Kendall Version on Amazon.com

To purchase an autographed copy of the book Click Here

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The Betrayed: On Warriors, Cowboys and Other MisfitsThe Betrayed: On Warriors, Cowboys and Other Misfits.  Click here to buy the paperback version from Land & Livestock International’s Rancher Supply aStore.

Digital media products such as Kindle can only be purchased on Amazon.com. Click Here to buy the Kendall Version on Amazon.com

To purchase an autographed copy of the book Click Here

About Land & Livestock Interntional, Inc.

Land and Livestock International, Inc. is a leading agribusiness management firm providing a complete line of services to the range livestock industry. We believe that private property is the foundation of America. Private property and free markets go hand in hand—without property there is no freedom. We also believe that free markets, not government intervention, hold the key to natural resource conservation and environmental preservation. No government bureaucrat can (or will) understand and treat the land with as much respect as its owner. The bureaucrat simply does not have the same motives as does the owner of a capital interest in the property. Our specialty is the working livestock ranch simply because there are so many very good reasons for owning such a property. We provide educational, management and consulting services with a focus on ecologically and financially sustainable land management that will enhance natural processes (water and mineral cycles, energy flow and community dynamics) while enhancing profits and steadily building wealth.
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