Durham Ranches, Inc.
7835 Hwy 59
Gillette WY USA 82718
The following article was originally presented at the International Bison Conference in Edmonton, Alberta in August 2000. The conference covered a wide array of bison topics including production, marketing, genetics, history and much more. This article has been reprinted with the permission of the IBC2000 Chairman.
People, Land and Capital are the three resources that are the common theme for management of all our operations. No matter the location, north or south, east or west,managing these three things is our most challenging and key task.
The bison is also a common theme for most of us here as far as the tool we have chosen to help us attain our goals, whether we know them or not. It is important that we take care of these resources and do a good job with the bison in order to be successful as well as sustainable.
Doing a "good job" means more than just making sure our animals have enough to eat and drink. For one, we need to be aware of the chain that is involved beginning with calving all the way to choosing to feed grain or not and then to marketing the animals, either as feeders, carcass meat or breeding stock. Problems along any link in this chain can and will affect the whole picture.
The other considerations are, what is happening to the land that I run my animals on? For the future generations, we need to be aware of the impacts that grazing has on our land. Am I managing the grazing with the latest information available? And how about the little-thought-about people resource? How do they fit into our situations? What type of quality of life am I leading and providing for others involved with me? All questions that must be answered.
At the Durham Ranch, in our 35 or so years of managing a bison operation in Wyoming, we have learned much. One of the most valuable lessons we have picked up is that you're never done learnin'. We must try to stay out of the paradigm rut. One of the ways to do this is to continue to attend conferences and seminars like this. Other types of conferences do us good too. When was the last time you attended a human-relations type seminar, to work on things like conflict resolution or keeping happy employees? How about a grass management or financial planning seminar? They are all available to you if you just look for them. We are very committed to learning for ourselves as well as our entire staff.
The people part of managing, for a lot of us is the most challenging. It is not easy, as well we all know, to try and find and then keep good employees. Fortunately for the Durham Ranch we have been able to find and keep some good people. Bud Knight is going on 17 years for us and Craig McFerran is in his 9th year. This is enough years to grow up some with these guys and their families. It is a type of community on the ranch and we all pull for each other from time to time.
As far as the financial aspects of resource management go, this just takes time for planning and managing and then good, old fashioned discipline and a commitment to follow through with the plan. It is always amazing to me how most generally the higher our level of income the higher the level of spending. If generating wealth is one of our objectives then we need to make some changes there. We manage to budget our expenses and stay within 5% of the budget. We plan a profit that way.
While on the subject of finances, let's talk about marketing here for minute. Cost control is one of the top ways to make money in this or any business. If we are producing our own animals, we must be doing that as efficiently as we can. If we are buying animals, we need to be buying them from producers that know how to control their costs. This allows for more and better marketing opportunities for the meat.
Let's not get greedy either. We need to conduct our business with high integrity and ideals. We look for producer's who are interested in a situation that works well for both parties. There is enough room in this business so that all parties can make a living. We try and price our meat products to fit the customer. If he is a distributor then he should always be able to buy that meat cheaper from us than the restaurant that we sell to.
Let your product and your service sell your company. There needs to be healthy competition out there. No one needs to go out and bad-mouth a competitor in order to drum up business. Also, controversies within our industry can and will confuse our customers. At this time, we are interested in supplying our customers with what they want, a clean product, free of growth stimulants and hormones. Let your customer tell you what they want and be aware of any changes they are trying to tell you about.
To try and sum it up here, if we know where we want to go, even though we may not know the best way to get there, if we are open to change, we'll do OK. Hang in there and look for good people to work with, the long-term relationships are usually the best. Remember to keep the big picture in mind, work "on" the business and have fun while doing it! Thanks much and good day!