Trainor banked on goals, continuous learning to start cattle business
One of the most valuable pieces of advice cattle producer Nick Trainor has to offer young cattlemen is that learning never stops. This young cattle producer makes it his goal to surround himself with positive-thinking ranchers who want to see him succeed.
“When I was 18, my goal was to have 500 cows by the time I was 30,” he says. “I probably had a thousand people tell me I wouldn’t succeed in the cattle business. If I had listened to them, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
With a $12,000 pickup and a sound, well-thought-out business plan, Trainor has built up a cattle business that would make even some seasoned cattle producers envious. Starting out small with some leased land and trader cattle, 10 years later, he now calls home the 26,000-acre Lowry Ranch in Arapahoe County. The ranch is located near the small town of Watkins, Colo., which is 10 miles east of Denver.
Although Watkins, only has about 30 residents, Trainor jokes he has 5 million neighbors bordering the perimeter of his fence.
The Lowry Ranch serves as home base, but Trainor also keeps a second grazing lease in Weld County. Between the two ranches, the operation is 60 percent cow/calf, 30 percent yearlings and 10 percent custom grazing.
Trainor made the decision to include yearlings and custom grazing as part of a management plan that addresses a fluctuating cattle market and anything Mother Nature may have in store, including drought.
“The cattle cycle and the cattle market dictate what type of cattle we run here,” Trainor explains of his management. “A percentage of the cows are short-term, and some are what I call trader-type cows that we turn over quicker.”
“Our land base grew exponentially at the top of the cattle cycle when cattle where high, and I couldn’t afford to pay $3,000 for a cow. I have always had to be creative in what I buy and how I buy it,” he explains.
Keys to success
Motivation and goal setting are two attributes he admits are key to his success. “When people are motivated and set short- and long-term goals, they become the driver,” Trainor explains. “It’s a pretty powerful tool.”
He adds, “Being honest with ourselves and having some goals written down that we can look at will get us through the hard times.”
“We have to develop a mindset that failure just isn’t an option,” he confesses. “I had tons of people say, ‘How will you ever buy a ranch? How will you ever make it work?’ I just refused to accept that, and I think it boiled down to attitude.”
“A huge part of my success has been finding the positive-thinking, progressive people early-on,” he adds.
Freshly out of college, this young cattlemen says the biggest challenges to starting up a ranching operation were the capital requirements needed and access to land. He also made it a goal to work full-time for at least six years while he built his cowherd, a land base and a reputation with a banker.
“I wanted to build up a big enough operation I could justify quitting my full-time job,” he explains. “I think that is how a lot of young people have to start if they aren’t inheriting something.”
“There are a lot of opportunities out there to break into this business,” Trainor continues. “I just had look for them and realize they probably wouldn’t be perfect. For me, working full-time allowed me to reinvest all my profits from the business back into the business and continue to grow. Having that full-time job solved a lot of cash flow problems.”
Continuing education is also important to Trainor, so he regularly attends educational events just to learn.
“I think people need to be life-long learners and willing to try new ideas. If we don’t get ourselves out there, we won’t learn about new and better ways to do things. Most of the good ideas I have had, I stole from someone else,” he says.
Trainor continues, “This business is dynamic and constantly changing, and a young producers’ odds are stacked against them. The best thing they have going for them is knowledge.”
Trainor is involved with management groups, like Ranching for Profit and Holistic Management International, so he can network with like-minded, successful ranchers who are willing to share ideas to improve their operations.
He also takes part in an executive link program with the Ranching for Profit group that meets three times a year and allows him to network with progressive-minded people.
“The benefits of this group are far-reaching,” Trainor says. “Everyone in it has big ideas, and are willing to share them. It is a group of open-minded people always looking for something bigger and better. I think the power of positivity is important. I want to surround myself with positive people.”
Trainor spoke during the Colorado Farm Show, held earlier this year in Greeley, Colo.
Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.