Land Livestock & Life – A Book Review

In Book Reviews, Stockman Grass Farmer by James0 Comments

Land Livestock & Life: A Grazier’s Guide to Finance is the first Allan Nation book I’ve read. I first heard or read the name Allan Nation while reading through Joel Salatin’s books. I’m pretty sure he mentions Allan’s name at least once in all of his books. Likewise I heard Allan’s name mentioned in other books I’ve read over the past year, usually in reference to his monthly publication The Stockman Grass Farmer, which is the most recognized trade publication in the realm of grass farming in the United States. I was looking forward to finally reading one of Allan’s books and it didn’t disappoint. As one may construe from the title of the book it covers primarily the finance aspects one needs to consider if running a ranch or is in the grazing business, or somebody like me – interested in stepping into the business.

What’s in the Book?

The book is 213 pages sectioned into three parts: Land, Livestock, and Life.

The Land section includes chapters as titled: (The basic rules of the game – Finance) (Real estate, formally known as farmland) (Land and Livestock) (Leased land and custom grazing) (The Ultimate – Being paid to Graze) (Farming to preserve the land) (Real estate – It doesn’t always go up, a personal story) (Sell it and keep it) (Flint Hills ranch practices what it preaches)

The Livestock section includes chapters as titled: (Cycles and how to ride them) (Lag in the cycles) (Good depreciation vs. bad depreciation) (Crisis Marketing) (Get the hay out and profits will follow) (Concentrate on things you can change) (Following Nature’s model) (Enterprises, holons, and centerpieces) (To learn profitability focus on the top 20%) (Surviving the shakeout years) (Thinking the unthinkable) (Custom grazing with livestock) (A custom grazing success story) (Livestock ownership not necessary for successful ranch) (Custom Grazing offers consistent profitability) (Custom grass finishing – The Ultimate Skill)

The Life section includes as titled: (Wealth is found on the sunny side of the street) (All change starts with innovative few) (Tools and toys) (Avoid the treadmill, let the animals do the work) (Employees are the only way to have more leisure time) (No shortage of opportunity for your children) (Sell your ranch to your children) (Making room for your children) (A rancher’s son creates a ranch of his own) (When the thrill is gone, find a new challenge) (Ranching after 50)

Highlights

One of the things I like about this book was that it read like one big highlight. Every page or two had a little box with an insightful quote, and the chapters were short enough as to not go into every specific detail about the topic but give you enough information to give you a general understanding and enough ammunition to decide if you wanted to pursue it further on your own.

One insight which I found promising, especially for a wannabe farmer like myself is the paradigm shift that has happened in ranching. Today unlike the past it is not ownership which makes one a rancher, and or a profitable rancher, but rather control of land. There is enormous opportunity today in the management of land.

Nation puts it like this: Today, the profit emphasis is on the management of grass and livestock more than the ownership of grass and livestock. Livestock ownership is both capital intensive and extremely risky. In contrast, the management of livestock requires only small amounts of capital, provides a monthly cash flow and involves virtually no market risk. The buying and selling of livestock management services is the new profit paradigm in today’s ranching.

Another key insight is the new paradigm says scenery and wildlife add more value than agriculture production. This ends up being a win win because in order to produce the best scenes and the healthiest environments for wildlife it takes proper management practices. This is where I can see somebody coming to a wealthy land owner who only visits their property a few times a year for hunting or to view wildlife and offering your services using Holistic Management as a tool to what you promise to do for the land. The results for the land owner are going to be a huge tax break and a beautiful property to visit that is abundant with wildlife. It’s a win for the land owner, the wannabe farmer/rancher, and the land.

Another thing I liked about this book was that nearly every chapter ended with a 4 or 5 point recap called The rules of the game. For example at the end of the chapter entitled Crisis Management the chapter ends with these four rules: 1. In a crisis, first build a feed inventory. 2. Check your cash reserves. 3. Sell cattle closest to slaughter at whatever price they will bring as quickly as possible and buy back lighter cattle. 4. Mother cows are the first category of animals you should consider selling.

The design and organization of the book, especially the abundance of information  densely packed into easy to remember segments is perhaps the strongest point to this book.

Final Thoughts of a Wannabe Farmer

This book was  a pleasant and informative read. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post Allan Nation is a bit of an icon in ranching and farming circles, especially in the realm of grass and everything that eats it. I have several other of Allan’s books which are on my shelf to be reviewed in the future and I’m looking forward to them after reading this one. This book gives a lot of tips on financial planning and markets which I did not go into the dirty details in during this review, but are quite useful for anyone who is interested in getting involved with grazing or livestock. This book has a little bit of everything, but most of all it reads like a compilation of words of wisdom from men who have lived the game and are still active in the game – something that is quite invaluable to a wannabe farmer trying to learn the game.

Buy the book via Amazon by clicking HERE (It’s an affiliate link so I get a little kickback if you buy. Thanks!)

 

I highly recommend checking out The Stockman Grass Farmer which is Allan’s monthly publication. If you go to the website they’ll send you a free sample copy. They even sent a free copy to Korea, and I became a subscriber.

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