Animal Science Department


Date of this Version

December 2001


Published for Proceedings, The Range Beef Cow Symposium XVII December 11, 12, and 13, 2001 - Casper, Wyoming.


Given the amount of time I have driven around, or stood around thinking about this topic, I can now definitively say that it is one of the meanest assignments Professor Hixon has ever given out. The fact that he gave me several weeks to ruminate on the topic only makes it more distressing, and the loss of sleep has been severe. If the time frame were more strict, such as what is the worst or best decision you made yesterday, or last week, this would not be nearly as stressful, but to force me to think of every stupid thing I have done in the past eight years is a little harsh. For that I say, “thanks Doug,” because all of us should do this more often, but not all the time.

My discomfort obviously hinges on having to account for all of the bone-headed things I have done, and then having to compare that with a rather meager list of great, foresighted wisdom. So let me try to explain the process I followed as I thought this stuff through.

First, there are three basic components to making ranches work, and the public fails to see all of them at the same time. Simply put, ranching is a blend and balancing between ecological goals and realities, economics, and cultural demands. I tried to make the assessment of best and worst of each, and it led me to a lot of thinking. I won’t belabor the point, but as you already know, some of the really great decisions made in one area turned out to be disasters in another, and when you add time to the mix, this question becomes a massive tar baby. I only relate this because the mental exercise has been fantastic, and I encourage people to do this on their own – you will get more out of the process than you will out of this discussion, I assure you.