Shober Livestock Inc.: Shober continues ranching for love of land
Ron Shober has been ranching since he was a boy. Today, he continues his ranching traditions with his wife Jo Ann on the Belle Fourche River in Campbell County.
“I was raised on a ranch north of Gillette with my family,” he says. “It was sold when I was in high school, and I worked on a ranch for quite a few years.”
After he married, he leased a place south of Gillette from a coal company and continues running Black Angus cows on the property today.
“Ranching is all I ever wanted to do as a kid,” Ron says.
Ron notes that he began raising Black Angus because of their marketability, and it has worked well for him to this point.
“We start calving heifers on March 10, and the old cows start April 10,” he says.
Cattle graze on pastures throughout the year, and he notes that he doesn’t have to feed them much.
“In southern Campbell County, the wind blows, so it bares the ground and cattle can eat,” he explains. “We hardly ever have to hay, unless we get into drought.”
“Most years,” Ron continues, “the cows don’t ever see a bale of hay.”
As a result, he notes that it is cheaper to operate than on many places that have to feed. He also adds that they buy all their hay, so it works well to graze as long as possible.
In the fall, they strive to sell 600-pound calves, and he notes that he’s been exceeding that goal, selling 620-pound calves at the end of October.
“I’ve been buying my bulls from a neighbor, and that has helped my calf weights,” says Ron.
Ron looks for a medium-framed bull that is easy fleshing.
“Our cows have to be easy fleshing,” he explains. “We can’t have great big cows that are narrow across the back because she can’t eat enough to survive out here. When we winter out, we have to have a cow that can get by and is easy fleshing.”
He also works to keep replacement heifers. In addition, Ron notes that he has started saving heifers to sell as yearlings, though this year he didn’t.
“I’m trying to work into a yearling operation,” he says, noting that he would prefer to sell yearlings instead of selling calves.
“If I could sell yearlings, I’d move my calving dates later to avoid snowstorms during calving,” Ron explains. “The ideal scenario for me is to work into a yearling operation.”
Ron also has two children. Son Ira is currently living on the ranch with his wife Meli. Ira will eventually take over Shober Livestock, Inc. when his father retires. Ron’s daughter Sarah Conway and her husband Kyle live is Arizona with their new baby Kayson.
Though he enjoys ranching, Ron says it is a hard business.
Drought had impacts this year, as did costs.
“We grew some grass this year,” he says, despite drought conditions. “It wasn’t a lot, but enough to get by.”
Regardless, he notes that he sold some cows to get numbers down and bought hay, in case the winter got cold.
“We didn’t have things as tough as a lot of places south of here did,” Ron comments.
He also mentions that the cost of production is increasing along with profit increases.
“We see that the cost of everything has increased so much,” he notes. “Our prices are up, but everything else is up to.”
As things like trucks, fuel and other inputs increase, Ron mentions that he doesn’t think they are making more money than they used to, despite price increases.
Though times are challenging now, Ron notes that he sees growth for agriculture in the future.
“Ag is going to get better,” he says. “The outlook of the cattle industry right now says to me that things are going to continue to improve.”
As a result of cattle numbers being down, he references the cattle cycle, saying, “There have to be quite a few good years coming.”
At the same time, he cautions that the good times depend on the promise of rain that he hopes to see in the future.
“It all depends on this spring,” he says. “If it rains, we are going to be doing good.”
Ron continues, however, “If it doesn’t rain, we have no carryover feed.”
The result for his operation would be a continued downsizing, and he hopes for moisture.
“There is no moisture right now,” he adds, “but it has been a warm winter, and that saved us.”