A business-first approach lets everything else fall into place when families want to make their living on the land. Raising beef cattle as a business, Noble Ranch keeps crunching numbers to keep the family in control of its destiny.
“We're south of Yuma, Colorado. We've been here for 109 years. We run an Angus cow herd and we breed everything back to Angus bulls. We do a lot of replacement heifer development for ourselves and for other people that have similar genetics that we do,” rancher Ryan Noble says.
As on many large ranches, cattle are the only source of income.
“Everything on this ranch really needs to pull its own weight. It has to make a profit. There's no subsidizing anything on this ranch. We are a cattle ranch, period. There's no other money coming in from anywhere else,” Noble notes.
To raise the best, Noble realized he had to start breeding the best.
“We went to Basin Angus in Montana, and we bought bulls from Doug and Sharon. The first year we went up there, we bought six bulls and some semen, A.I.’d our heifers. Bred the cows, really liked what we saw. The next year we went up, we bought 18 head of bulls,” he says.
But it isn’t just the bulls that make the difference, it’s the kind of genetics they bring to the herd.
“We just try to build these cattle to be in the upper 25% and that eliminates all of our bottom end, and we don't chase any particular trait down a rat hole, or down a different direction because that might paint us into a corner someday. We're just trying to get better with each successive generation,” Noble says. We don't like to leave a lot of things to chance so let's bet on a sure thing and let's bet on best thing. Right now, that's Angus cattle.”
When the cattle market was at a high in 2014, it was time to look into the future.
“We started DNA testing. We made some changes in our bull battery and we filled up a couple holes that we had so we really improved our stock right there,” he says.
The investment continues to pay for itself.
“I just got back a cutout on our 2018 crop of steers, and we crowded 70% Certified Angus Beef. They yielded about 63%. They were almost 30% choice, and there was zero select in the whole pen of steers. That's on 14 month old calves. The pay weight was around 1340 lb. I think we're doing okay,” he continues.
Percentages translated into dollars, that’s a lot more money in the producer’s pocket.
“We beat the base bid by almost $10 a hundred. Well, 900 pound carcasses, that's $90 a head. That's our profit. If we weren't trying to raise Certified Angus Beef cattle, we'd have a lot more Select. We'd have just a lot more discount cattle, and in today's really tough selling environment for the feeder, we would've been in big trouble. We would've lost quite a bit of money on those cattle,” he says.