AG REPORT 2000: Ranchers balance variables

The ranching business is booming for several Marion County farmers. But the future holds challenges because of the constant changes experienced throughout the agribusiness community.

Variables change continually, including weather, vaccines and demand. Producers in this line of work pay careful attention to these variables and how they can affect operations.

Van Peters buys and sells cattle in rural Lehigh and runs an operation of more than 1,000 head.

Helping in his operation is his son, Ryan.

The business continues to prosper, but without a close watch on both the demand for beef and on the herd, the business can be dangerous.

?Everything depends on the public demand and how much beef is in demand,? Peters said. ?Right now, our main concern is weather, because we are right in the middle of calving. If the weather gets too cold, it can be a major concern.?

Because of weather concerns, Peters and his crew are up at all hours of the night, checking the herd.

?This rain and snow we?ve experienced recently is really causing us to be concerned,? Peters said. ?You can?t sell the cattle if you can?t keep them alive. That?s a real factor a lot of people don?t think about. We have to monitor things differently when bad weather approaches.?

With tornado season nearing, weather becomes more of a concern. Cattle are prone to the same bad weather humans are.

?That kind of weather makes it tougher and tougher to keep them alive,? Peters said. ?We?ve been averaging about three hours of sleep the last 10 days to two weeks trying to keep everything checked and make sure there are no problems there.?

Marcus Carlson, Lincolnville, who sells cattle for finishing but also raises crops to feed the cattle, tries to keep his operation profitable by sharing equipment costs with his brothers, Duane and Ronnie, who both have operations of their own.

?It?s more cost-efficient that way,? Carlson said. ?Their business is kept separate from mine. We do some work together and do own some equipment together, but for the most part, we are all on our own.?

Carlson sells loads of cattle to finishers when the cattle are at a uniform size and quality, usually between 500 and 800 pounds.

But even with the uniformity of his operation, Carlson said agriculture is a difficult business in which to succeed because of continual change.

?I?m 40 years old, and about the only thing I know about agriculture is that it changes,? he said. ?Most of what I knew when I was 20 is different from now, and 20 years from now, who knows what things will be like.?

With the challenges of the changing environment and economy, Carlson said his greatest defense is to attempt to change with the environment.

?We use different vaccines for the animals and herbicides for the crops to try to stay on top of everything as much as possible,? he said.

?It is a continuous learning process.?

With the learning comes change, and with change comes knowledge and understanding of how to adjust.

?I think for what I do, there will continue to be a niche,? Carlson said. ?What I can do is provide something that somebody wants, and I think that is what you look for.?

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