An Insight into Koffee Kup Ranch Autumn

On October 26, 2013, in Inspiration, by speaker

An insight into ranching! Each fall cattle ranchers ship their calves to market. Alas, this year the cattle on our ranch belong to a stockman who is leasing the pasture. However, our minds are with those Stockgrowers who are shipping calves now.  This story is reprinted from THE DUDE THE DUCKS AND OTHER TALES OF MONTANA (which can be ordered from this website).

My folks shipped their calves on Saturday. Translated for the city-bred, that means the independent businessman brought his product to market. For the rancher, it is the day of reckoning.

            Invested in the product (calves) are feed costs, health care, pasture, labor, taxes and general ranch maintenance. There is interest on the loan at the local bank to buy the aforementioned. Then the investment of the rancher’s time and labor to keep those calves alive from birth to market. The labor is directly proportional to the hardness of the winter and the spring moisture. Most folks go to a job knowing the amount of money they will earn. For the stockgrower, there is always an element of risk. It depends on market price and the weight of the calves.

            When October approaches, the stress starts up the spine of the individual stockowner. He has read market reports and listened to the agricultural news on the local radio station. He has an idea of the price of livestock around the nation. But the final sale comes down to the offer. The prospective buyer offers a price per pound for the calves. Then the fall guessing game starts. Is the market going higher or lower?

The rancher thinks back. Four years ago he sold at .64 and two weeks later the price was .69. Year before last, he toughed it out waiting for a better offer. He lost a dime per pound. If he sells at .74 and the neighbor down the creek gets .79 two weeks later, he won’t sleep for weeks. If he doesn’t take the .74 offer and the market drops every day thereafter, he will kick himself the rest of the winter – course he won’t sleep, either.

            He takes an offer and sets a shipping date. The year’s earnings will be determined by the weight of the calves. The rattle of the scales will tally his income.

            Stock trucks line up at the shipping yards. Surprisingly, there is not a lot of tension on the weather beaten faces. This is not new to them. This is a way of life. They’ve been here before. This year’s stock prices are up. But so are the expenses.

“You win some, you lose some,” says Hank as walks back to his truck. “Sure thought they’d weigh more.

            Grandpa, Hank’s dad, walking slower with a cane to strengthen worn-out legs, says, “Well, that bottomland just needed more moisture. But it could have been worse. Back in ’85 . . . ” The rest of his sentence is lost as he labors up into the truck.

            In an old International stock truck, a husband and wife lean back against the seat. “We did it. Another year is ours.” They sit rejoicing that the bank will not be able to foreclose on them this year. The payment will be met.

Across the way, another rancher jumps into his truck. It, too, has seen better days. He takes off his hat and bows his head. “Thank you for meetin’ our needs. You have never failed us yet. I just wanted to say thanks, Lord. Those calves of yourn and mine weighed in right respectable.”

            The trucks pull out of the shipping yards. The ranchers will all be meeting down at the Trail Rite Inn, a local café – a twenty-year tradition of saluting the departing stock. No one asks the weight of his neighbor’s calves – or the price he got. That information always comes second hand, “I heard the Double U got .73” or “Joe said the Curtis calves averaged 520.” Asking weights and prices is in as bad taste as asking a man how much he makes or how much money he has in the bank.

            In this business, the talk centers around the ifs. If it rains. If the hay prices is up. If the interest rate is down. If it snows. If the calving goes smoothly. There are no slumped shoulders around the table as the coffee cups are refilled. There are no newcomers to reckoning day here. When the grain is harvested, the hay stacked, the alfalfa seed cleaned, or the pigs loaded, the game of risk is run again. The profit will be in the tip of the scales and the going market price.

Their camaraderie has given them a good time. But the chores are waiting. They grab their hats and tease the waitress as they pay their tab. Beside the cash register is a plastic box with a roll of bright foil-covered Montana lottery tickets. No one buys a chance. The Big Spin doesn’t excite these folks.

*****Folks at Work


How I Came To Believe

I am at an age in my life where it is hard for me to remember anything. I walk into the kitchen to get something and when I get there, I can’t remember why I came there. ‘Course I don’t want to spend much time in my kitchen anyway because I don’t like to cook.


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Contact Information

"Time Out With Lois"
Lois Olmstead
78 Shields River Rd E
Livingston, Montana 59047
(406) 222-7484