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Working Ranch - March 2018

With Lynn Myers “I believe the Lord expects us to be good stewards of the land,” offers Lynn Myers. “I believe He expects us to try to leave it in better shape than we found it.” Lynn and wife Marlene are well into the process of surrendering management of the family ranch, near Lewellen, Nebraska, to a sixth generation. Lynn, in particular, hasn’t stopped emphasizing stewardship as fundamental to the sustainability of a business built on land and livestock. Lynn considers stewardship to be a big part of this family’s ranching heritage. “I really can’t think of a better legacy to leave behind,” states Lynn. As daughter and son-in-law, Carissa and Phil Munn, gain a grip on the reins of management, Lynn’s role shifts to that of mentor. For sustained profi tability in the cow business, Lynn’s recommended philosophy – the same one modeled by his own early mentors - is that of a low-cost producer. More correctly, Lynn recommends a goal of optimum production at the least cost. Toward that end, Lynn favors a truly moderate-sized cow. A mature cow, in good fl esh, that weighs 1,250 pounds is big enough, in Lynn’s opinion. She fi ts the semi-arid Sandhills environment and a production system relying heavily on grazed forage. Lynn calls it a “range and cake” outfi t, which means cattle graze year-round, receiving supplemental protein (cake) when dry winter range won’t meet nutrient requirements. Hay is fed supplementally, when winter weather renders grazing inadequate. Hereford infl uence is prominent in the breeding herd, which includes both straight-breds and baldies resulting from mating Hereford cows with Angus bulls – blacks initially but now only Red Angus bulls are used for crossbreeding. For 23 of the last 32 years, the same private-treaty buyer has purchased the ranch’s weaned steer calves. Part of the heifers are sold in the fall too, but about two-thirds of the heifers are retained. These are wintered on range, plus supplemental hay and cake. In the spring, the heifers will be exposed to bulls for a 45-day breeding period. Following pregnancy examination, open heifers are marketed, ranch replacements are selected and the remainder of the bred heifers are sold in packages to suit the buyer. “Over time, low-input heifer development and a short breeding season has helped us build a cow herd that is, we believe, highly fertile and productive in this environment,” says Lynn. “This year, we had a 93 percent pregnancy rate for our heifers and 94 percent for the cows. All were bull-bred, 45-day exposure for the heifers and 60 days for the cows, but we’re thinking about shortening the cow breeding season to 50 days.” Lynn likes selling cattle at private treaty and he prefers to buy Hereford and Red Angus bulls the same way. Most are purchased as calves, soon after weaning, and brought to the ranch for development. “We think we can buy better genetics, more economically, when we buy bull calves and grow them at home,” explains Lynn. “We grow them on range and hay and protein supplement, so they’re not overfed, and they keep right on growing during their fi rst breeding season. We believe they stay sound and last longer.” Lynn has long emphasized range management practices refl ective of good stewardship. He has applied conservative stocking rates and varied the time periods that various pastures are grazed, year-to -year. Crossfencing to create more and smaller pastures plus installation of pipeline for more and better-located stock water sites have complemented rotational grazing and improved both grazing distribution and forage utilization. The ranch uses a three-year deferred rotational system, which means every pasture is deferred – left ungrazed during the growing season – once every three years. Relatively short grazing periods, when pastures are utilized, means all of the range benefi ts from long periods of rest. Lynn says the specifi c benefi ts include increased vigor among desirable forage plants and a decreased presence of undesirable species. The good grasses have deeper root systems, giving them increased drought tolerance. According to Lynn, as a result of producing more and better forage, the ranch’s carrying capacity has increased. Couple improved cattle performance, due to genetics, with the ability to run more cattle, and the ranch now produces more beef per acre – about 50 percent more than it did before the grazing system was introduced. “I’m sure the kids will change some things as they go forward. It’s inevitable,” says Lynn. “But I think we’ve got something here they can work with and continue to improve. If they’re good stewards, they’ll keep trying to make it better.” “If you don’t have a plan…” with resistance. She also notes the very different personalities of her husband and her father. She explains how Phil is a perfectionist who takes a methodical, carefully planned approach to nearly every situation. Lynn sometimes goes at things differently. “My dad is a ‘fi x it with duct tape and baling wire’ kind of guy who looks for the most inexpensive way to create something new out of a bunch of things he found lying in a tree row,” grins Carissa. “So, working together requires patience, from both parties.” However, Carissa and Phil are quick to credit her parents’ willingness to make compromises and concessions. It makes the younger couple want to try just as hard, so all are committed to making the smoothest transition possible. And it’s progressing. Over time, more management responsibility has been handed over to Phil and Carissa. Accordingly, Lynn and Marlene are moving more toward roles as advisors 74 I WORKING RANCH I MARCH 2018


Working Ranch - March 2018
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