Cattle ranching runs in Bass' blood
CHRISTY SWIFTRaising cattle is no get-rich-quick scheme but it's something worth sacrificing for.
Published: July 11, 2012
Published: July 11, 2012
That's how Ladd Bass feels about it. The sixth-generation Floridian and Venus resident owns a cattle ranch with his partner, Chris Sebring.
"It's a long payout. You don't really make real money in the cow business until you sell out. By the time you get this cattle paid for, well, it's getting time to replace them," he explained.
So why do it?
"I really have a love for cattle," Bass said. "It's hard to explain. It's something that's in your blood."
Bass' day job is buying cattle for Cargill Cattle Feeders and soliciting cattle for custom feeding for Great Plains Cattle Feeders. He brokers and manages the deals that allow these Texas companies to buy Florida feeder calves from local ranches.
Bass' father was cattleman Jackie Bass, who died 10 years ago. Young Ladd grew up tending cattle, rodeoing and living the ranch lifestyle. That's something he wanted to pass along to his children, 16-year-old Mattie and 12-year-old Amery.
"A lot of kids today don't even know what it's like to be thirsty," Bass said. "I wanted my kids to know what hard work and sacrifice are."
And his daughter and son have so far followed in his footsteps. Mattie just won the state of Florida high school rodeo for girls cutting. Amery won in junior cutting. Both kids help out on the family ranch.
But Amery seems to be following a little too much in his dad's footsteps, Bass said. "I may have to push my son to go to college. All he wants is to work on the cows now." Bass recalled that as a young man he was the same way.
"I thought I'd feed my horse and live in a trailer," Bass said with a laugh, but according to his father, not attending college was not an option. Bass graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in food and resource economics, but only after a taste of the life of a laborer.
"I went to Texas on a sabbatical," Bass explained. He spent a year on a feed yard in the Texas Panhandle, where he worked so hard and long that he suddenly realized he couldn't remember what day it was. During the winter, the cows' water troughs would freeze over, and Bass would have to ride out to break the ice so the cattle could drink. That's when he realized maybe it was a good idea to go back to school after all.
At UF, "I had a picture of a 600-pound steer standing on top of a water trough because it had frozen over. Whenever I needed inspiration, I would look at that picture and think that it could be worse," he said.
Bass expects his children to earn college degrees as well, but he's flexible.
"I'll pay for anywhere they want to go as long as it's UF," he joked.
On a more serious note, Bass said his hard work and sacrifice are all for his kids and wife, Renee, who teaches English at Moore Haven High School, Ladd's alma mater.
"If I had gone to work on a big ranch, I wouldn't have been able to own my own cattle. My family is just so important to me," Bass said. "The Lord has blessed us."