Colter DeVries: 0:02
I’m Colter DeVries, owner of Ranch Investor Advisory and Brokerage Services. I’m an accredited land consultant with the Realtor Land Institute and proud member of ASFMRA.
Ranch Investor : 0:13
The Ranch Investor Podcast is the most downloaded and informative industry-specific content that intrigues while entertains.
Colter DeVries: 0:22
So let’s do get an introduction. Darwin, I’ve been receiving your text messages and I am royally confused. This looks very complex and complicated for a simple guy like myself. What are we looking at here? What is this program?
Darwin Pluhar: 0:43
COFI stands for Cattle Unfeed Indicator. And let me just back up first, second, so that everybody realizes where I come from. First of all, I put God first, family second and cattle business third. In 1975, I was a junior in high school. I was a third generation on a cattle family ranch 40 miles north of Mild City, montana, and my folks went in for their annual cattle ranch loan renewal and the banker proceeded to tell them that they did a good job at production but if they didn’t get smarter about their marketing he didn’t think they were going to be able to renew their cattle loan the next year. And I can remember that kitchen table conversation that night in the deer in the headlight look of my parents, and realized that somebody in the family had to get smarter about the cattle market or three generations of hard work were going to go down the drain in 12 months. And so I started to learn as much as I could about the cattle market, realized that I didn’t be the first person in my family to get a four-year college degree, went to Bozeman and then got introduced that you know, if this was my passion, I probably need to do a graduate program on it, which I didn’t have an idea what that was all about. But, with the help of my advisor, he said yeah, you go to a different university, prove yourself all over again over a two-year period, get a master’s degree and focus for two years upon what it is that you’re so passionate about. And what that was all about was I was convinced that there had to be some mathematical way to know when you need to be hedged in a down market and the cattle market and when to be on hedge and be able to reap the benefits of an upmarket, and my graduate advisor, texas A&M, threw cold water on my idea. He said, well, you can’t do it. And I said well, you know, I want to spend the next two years seeing if I can. And I had to have three normal professors serve on my committee, and what I was in hopes of doing was finding a tool that any cattleman could use to enhance their bottom line, and I wanted to. Besides the academic perspective, I wanted to have, you know, a lot of people who are a well-respected cattleman and a well-respected cattle market expert critique my work. So I had five people serve on my committee and what I did was I dredged all these different alternatives over 10 years worth of daily cattle prices in order to see if, in fact, I could come up with a tool that I could use that would do just what I wanted to do Make sure that you were protected when the market went down, but you were on hedge so you could reap the benefits. In an upmarket Example this cattle on feed report we’re getting this afternoon I looked at a hundred different alternative ways of there’s got to be something to tell you what is this cattle report telling us and how can we capitalize upon it. And this is where the simple comes in. One strategy stands out by itself. The most important thing associated with this cattle on feed report that comes out this afternoon is how does the market close on the second day after the report. So this afternoon you get everybody’s perspective on what this report has to say. The first day after the report is meaningless because it’s just all noise. It’s just everybody throwing their buys and sells at the market, depending upon how they looked at the report. But what really matters is how does it close on Tuesday? For example, if October live cattle and October feeder cattle close tomorrow lower, you need to sell the market on the close and hold that short position, expecting a downtrend for 12 business days. At the end of that 12 business days, you exit your position. You do this month after month after month. That daily text that I sent you, koltirk, is the result of 60 months worth of doing just that. Everybody likes to believe that they can outthink the market, but what’s really most important is that you listen to what the market tells you, and when the market tells you, on that second day’s close, the direction of the market for the next 12 days, you go with it. And if you would have done that over the last 60 months, for the example that I have listed in that daily text that I sent you for the last week, you would have taken $400,000 and transformed that into $2.251 million. So for every bull cow calf that you have in your operation, you would have added $462 to your bottom line.
Colter DeVries: 7:25
That is, I mean, that’s amazing the text that I received from Diamond M Bar, livestock, futures and consulting LLC, this update from you, darwin. There’s a lot in it. I mean, is this talking about? So we’ve got corn, we’ve got oil, we’ve got live cattle, we’ve got futures. We’ve got other commodities March corn, future corn. We got Tyson stock. We’ve got the US dollar index, we got the Dow Jones Industrial Index. We got the Fed interest rates, consumer credit, china cuts interest rates, jbs report, fed chairman Powell, you’ve got all these. Are these all indicators? Are these covariance, correlation, explaining variables to the second place.
Darwin Pluhar: 8:22
But what I do with the beginning client is I say all we’re gonna work on for the first 12 months is building block A. Building block A is we’re gonna introduce you to my daily grind and I want you to see the results after 12 months and all we’re gonna do is trade the market by the COFI. I’m gonna install building block A Now. If, after 12 months, you wanna advance yourself, then we’re gonna go to building block B and after 26 years we’ll get you to building block Z. The information that I provide on a daily basis in that text is gonna show the final result of just that building block A. But all those other factors are so important in those other building blocks. But I wanna expose you to that of all the different things that I’m thinking about in addition to installing this basic building block A the COFI, in the first 12 months. And what I do in addition to that daily text then is every morning I have clients on specific set times prior to the time that the market opens and I call them and that conversation might last from 30 seconds, it might last up to five minutes, and basically I’ll hit the high points of the market from a daily perspective and then allow you an opportunity to have any and all concerns and questions answered, but again, it’s to getting you into the daily grind of what it takes to be successful in marketing. However, the bottom line is it’s less than five minutes a day, five days a week, so it doesn’t take a whole lot of your time. But just think about if it’s only gonna take you five minutes a day and you can add $462 ahead to your bottom line. Isn’t it a pretty good use of your time?
Colter DeVries: 10:44
Well, certainly, and my next question would be how many years have you been at this 40. 40 years. And how did this? Is this an algorithm? Or is this a Excel model that you put together, that you built?
Darwin Pluhar: 11:03
It is. It was called a SAS program when I was at Texas A&M. That’s how I was narrowed down to this specific tool that was so successful. But the bottom line is you can track it in any form that you want to on a daily basis, because it is very simple If on the second day after the cattle on feed report the market closes lower, then you sell October live cattle and you sell October feeders and 12 business days later you exit those positions and whatever money the market gives you in that 12 days you add to your bottom line.
Colter DeVries: 11:56
Now does this only work for CalCAP producers, because they’re selling into the feeder market.
Darwin Pluhar: 12:03
No, I use this for all kinds of different cattle and beef entities. We basically can customize it to your situation. The text that I list there is for 2000 CalCAP operation, which requires you to have 55 live cattle and 29 feeder cattle futures. Now, as an example, let’s say that, well, I’m only a 400 CalCAP operator.
Colter DeVries: 12:33
Yeah, that’s more like Montana right, darwin Right the 400 head guy CalCAP.
Darwin Pluhar: 12:38
Right. So in that situation you’d be trading 11 live cattle futures and six feeder cattle futures over that 12 day period. Again, it can be customized to whatever kind of cattle or beef operation you have, and I have clients from CalCAP operators all the way to Packers that use this. How about dairy?
Colter DeVries: 13:10
You can use it for dairy as well, Okay so is this a natural hedge. Should this be for someone who’s holding the tangible asset, or can some office jockey like myself speculate? Can I throw money at this and just let it ride?
Darwin Pluhar: 13:30
Yes, I have certain clients that don’t actually have any ownership of cattle and say okay, I wanna invest $400,000 in this and if the next five years, or like the past five years, you’ll take that $400,000 and turn it into 2.251 million, Well, that was my leading question how did this perform in the 2015 downturn, the last time we were at these type of highs?
Colter DeVries: 14:09
Very, very well.
Darwin Pluhar: 14:13
Colter DeVries: 14:16
So it’s proven itself through market cyclicality.
Darwin Pluhar: 14:19
Exactly. I mean, it’s proven itself through sideways markets. It’s proven itself through up markets. It’s proven itself through down markets. Again, what I tell beginning clients is that you have to take the attitude that whatever size I decide upon in that first month, I will in fact trade that same size position for 12 months in a row and then, at the end of the 12 months, you have 12 months worth of data and you’ve been consistent about how you have went about your business and the results will reflect that.
Colter DeVries: 15:02
How about? I mean, as someone who is severely ADHD, I’m overwhelmed looking at your text messages, the report, and I’m overwhelmed thinking about a five minute commitment every day. Is there a way that I could just say, look, I’m willing to roll the dice here and diversify my portfolio, Darwin? I mean, I just put $50,000 into an account and you tell me in a month how we’re doing.
Darwin Pluhar: 15:36
I prefer to have a hands on with clients, and I don’t expect you to essentially be available five days a week at a specific time. If you’re not available, I’ll leave you a voicemail with what I consider to be the need to know info, and I may only touch base with you once a week. What’s most important, though, is on those two specific days a month that you trade, I will send you a text, 24 hours in advance of the time that’s executed, that you forward on to you, whomever your broker is, that you feel comfortable with having your money with and that broker’s whole job is to execute. That precisely is listed on that text. And an example Monday after the market closes, we’re going to know where October live count of close, where October feeders close, and that text that I send you will precisely tell the broker exactly what he needs to do, and 24 hours after you have sent it so he can’t say well, I got your order right at the last minute, I couldn’t fill it he has 24 hours in advance to know exactly what he needs to do at the close on Tuesday’s close, and so you get that text for me. Monday afternoon, you forward it on to your broker, your broker fills it and you don’t have to worry about it for 12 days, and 12 days you’re going to get another text 24 hours in advance telling you to exit that position. You forward it on to your broker, your broker fills you and mission accomplished. So how do you get paid 40% of the profit after commissions and fees is what my fee is, and again after one year. If you think that you can do it on your own, good luck to you. If you want to continue with me and learn Building Block B and proceed, that’s great.
Colter DeVries: 18:06
How do you? Is that a contract? How do you ensure that Honor system? Wow, 40% on the Honor system. That’s incredible.
Darwin Pluhar: 18:18
The bottom line is most brokerage statements. At the bottom of the statements you have must-a-day profit and your-today profit. So I mean, if I was really concerned about our relationship, I could fall back on that. But for the most part I’m a believer that the people that I like to be in business with, I like to be in the Honor system with, and I have kind of a rough idea of how much money was made in the size of the position that they were trading, and that’s good enough for me.
Colter DeVries: 19:06
Now, everyone has their own feelings about where the market is going where it’s at. It’s very subjective and opinionated Someone like me who well, and a lot of our beliefs are influenced. We are biased by one event and a lot of people can take their decision-making back to some kind of a trauma in their life. For some, it was the 2008 financial crisis, the correction of the housing market in 0708. And therefore they are more hesitant to invest in residential real estate. Today there’s a lot of people more conservative, millennials. There’s a formative event in their life, I think your parents’ generation, darwin, that was the Great Depression.
Darwin Pluhar: 20:07
Colter DeVries: 20:08
That caused them to be much more frugal. Conservative, fiscally conservative, savings, the savings and loan crisis. So if you put your money in an institution and you can’t get it out, that causes a lifelong resentment or hesitation to have a lot of money at any one bank and that’s where a lot of people stuffed it in there, literally stuffed it under their mattresses or in a coffee. Can you know the stories of old farmers and ranchers, homesteaders, who had money hidden behind the wall and stuff like that?
Darwin Pluhar: 20:44
My grandfather hid his in 1929 in the cistern I hope it was coins.
Colter DeVries: 20:55
So for me, that trauma that biases my outlook on markets was the 2015 correction, because I was fully levered and I bought in at the top and then I immediately went underwater, went backwards, and you just can’t dig fast enough deep enough out of that type of a hole, and so for me, my long-term outlook on this cattle market is short. I’m pessimistic, and I’m short long-term relative to where we are today. I do want to play with this though your program. How does it perform in a down market?
Darwin Pluhar: 21:46
It’s amazing because it gets you short and you stay short for 12 days and you don’t have to make those day to day fly by the seat of your pants. Decisions are gone. What was it Broke enough? Do I need to get out because it’s going to bounce? No, you get in because the market tells you you need to be short and you trust it and you let it go for 12 days and then you get out. Now you know stepping back from it. Why is it that it has performed like it normally does? And the reason for that being is that it ignores the first day after the cattle on Fade report, because just there’s just a lot of knee jerk reaction to the report so you can’t pay any attention to it. But by the second day the market knows where the market’s headed and then it makes its move for essentially two and a half weeks and then by that time the market is already back into okay, we’re looking forward to the next cattle on Fade report and there’s jockeying for position that takes place and so that pre-report jockeying you’re out of the market You’re not concerning yourself with. And then the next month one more time. By the second day it tells you where the market’s headed and you know that’s how it, why it performs month after month like it does.
Colter DeVries: 23:32
Now, if I am a cow-calf producer or anyone in the beef livestock industry, this definitely it has tangible or it has intrinsic value to me. This has real world value add To me. I can see this being an operating expense in my business, but where I am today, Darwin, I don’t have exposure to livestock. I couldn’t make it work as a rancher. I’m not as good as the rest of the producers out there. I failed. But I’m sitting here and I researched your program. I’ve been hearing about it for a couple of years now. A lot of my peers are very optimistic and interested or involved in what you’re doing, some to a very high level, and I want to get in. But I’m completely a speculator. I want to make it easy on my ADHD self. I would rather just you send everything to Ty McDonald, my financial advisor. He sends you the brokerage statement at the end of each month and he sends you your cut. I want to be passive about this in the sense that I just want it to diversify my portfolio. And is there a way to make that work?
Darwin Pluhar: 25:06
What I’d recommend is that you try it a month with the way I prefer and then, after that month, if there needs to be some minor adjustment, so be it. But I view my responsibility to do a certain amount of hand holding to develop confidence in you, and to me the only way to do that is to have that day to day interaction and that installs that confidence that, yes, I can do this, because it’s much more rewarding from my perspective if I kind of see the process where that light bulb comes on, where I’m over the fear of being able to do this, and, yes, I see the value in that five minutes a day commitment and I think you get more out of it besides, not only the return on investment.
Colter DeVries: 26:35
Well, yeah, I mean, you got to understand the market that you’re dealing with and especially the understanding and the time spent with you. If I were a beef producer in the livestock industry, that would absolutely that would be paramount, I would say to an operating expense, treating this as an operating cost in your business. Which makes me go on a tangent here. Darwin, can you change this around to use the case-shiller housing index so that it applies to real estate? Because my natural product as a consumer of residential, my wife and I, plan on buying a house when this market corrects and normalizes. We’re not going to be buying anytime soon. So I’m naturally short in that regard because I plan on buying consuming residential. But I’m also naturally long because we own a house and we’re not going to be selling it. Well, we want the equity to build, we want market appreciation, but, yeah, what I’m trying to look for is like a hedged position on our next home purchase using the case-shiller index or some of the publicly traded stocks, such as a DR Horton, one of the home developers. Can you tailor this program for us in the real estate industry?
Darwin Pluhar: 28:11
Unfortunately, my passion is the cattle market and in the same way that I’ve had similar requests to say well, if this works so well in cattle, can you re-tailer it for a wheat farmer? And you’ve got to understand that every commodity is its own beast, it has its own personality, and understanding the finer details of the cattle market is completely different from that of the wheat market in those two situations, because cattle are a flow commodity whereas grains are a stock commodity and therefore you have to say that you need to kind of find your niche and focus on it versus trying to be a jack of all trades.
Colter DeVries: 29:29
Yes, that’s very understandable and I can just tell that we’re going to have lots of questions on this one. So I wanted to remind everyone that we’ve started a Discord channel where people can post comments, feedback and ask questions anonymously. So that’s out there Ranch Investor Discord channel. And we’re talking to Darwin Plouhar with Diamond M Bar, livestock Futures and Consulting LLC. Darwin, you’re originally from Myl City, north Myl City. The Plouhar is a very prominent family name, very good name in Eastern Montana, and now you live in Amarillo, correct?
Darwin Pluhar: 30:15
Colter DeVries: 30:16
So you’re in Amarillo, out of the Panhandle of Texas, and people are going to want to get in touch with you. How do they reach out and find you?
Darwin Pluhar: 30:27
Call me or at 806-679-3540. And if I’m by chance on the phone, leave a voicemail and as soon as I am done with one commitment, I will call you back at that phone number. That’s the best way to get a hold of me. Again, that’s 806 679 3540.
Colter DeVries: 30:58
Yeah, that’s the best way to get a hold of you, because you’re very bespoke, you’re, you’re. I don’t think do you have a LinkedIn or a website or?
Darwin Pluhar: 31:08
I actually have a LinkedIn account, you know I have an email, but realize that I’m on the move a lot between Texas and Montana and and there’s a lot of places, such as son at Montana, where you barely get text ability, let alone anything else, and so I try to be available on the means of communication. That Is realistically where I’ll be available at. So, again, my phone is the best way to get a hold of me. And, going back to when I worked for cactus for ten years, I had to be available 24 seven, so I am available 24 seven on my phone.
Colter DeVries: 32:02
Well, tell, tell us about that. Cactus feeders is One of the largest right Yep, I mean how many, how many millions of assets, millions of dollars of assets trade daily through cactus feeders.
Darwin Pluhar: 32:19
I Can tell you this a bit of information. When I, after ten years, decided that I need to put God first, family second and cattle business third, I Could either make or lose my boss 11 million on a daily basis.
Colter DeVries: 32:43
And you did that for 27 years.
Darwin Pluhar: 32:45
You say no, I did that for ten years ten years. Yep, yep. I, right out of graduate school, because of the Masters thesis that I’d done in the tool that I had come up with, that’s what caught the eye of at that time, the two owners of cactus, and they didn’t really have a position for me in the beginning. So, as Paul Engler said, well, would you mind being a head grunt for a while? And I said, if I have to start out washing water tanks, I’ll do it. And? And shortly after I was on board, the executive vice president decided that he needed to go out on his own, and so they divided his responsibilities Into two different people. One had that title, executive vice president, and Was basically in charge of operations of the feed yards. The other aspect, who was responsible for the profitability of the company, owned cattle and feed. That was me, in my position of what was called director of hedging and risk management. And, to understand, when I first got it, we had just grown to three feed yards, and by the time that I left, we had grown to eight feed yards and were the world’s largest cattle feeder at that time. To give you some idea of what that entailed. Basically, every 24 hours, everything that had been bought by the cattle buying department that some customer hadn’t cherry-picked into their own account got dumped into my position. And the goal was right from the beginning a 10-year goal to become the world’s largest cattle feeder. And the way I calculated we had to consistently make ten dollars ahead and Realize if I got dumped with the poorer buys each day. On average they were 35 to 40 dollar losers from a hedge break even standpoint. So my job then was over a hundred and thirty three days. To take that thirty five to forty dollar loser and make him a ten dollar winner, I had to essentially increase his profitability by 45 to 50 bucks ahead. And you know, that’s. That’s where the COFI is so important is because you can chip away from that. Chip away at that with the results that has had and Get those kind of results.
Colter DeVries: 35:55
Well, now I’ve got a burning question, the difficult question. You have alignment of interest with your client in that your profit sharing 40 percent, but nothing is a can’t lose scenario what happens? What happens on the on the down cycles, when, when the margin calls happen and your positions are losing money?
Darwin Pluhar: 36:20
That’s. That’s why I Example the 200,000. I mean the 2000 cow-calf operator. I tell them you’re gonna need 200,000 for initial margin Plus, you’re gonna need a backup of 200,000. That’s where the 400,000 comes into place. Now, example if your 400 Cow-calf operator then divide that by five, five, you’re going to need 40,000 to begin with and you’re going to need an additional 40,000 as backup in case you need to meet margin calls. And so with that amount of money, that will get you started. Now your next part of your question is okay? Well, so you get started the first month and you make money and I send Darwin a check for 40% of the profit. Okay, the next month I lose money. What do you do then? Well, we keep track until you get back to where you have made money since the last time that you paid me. And if that takes three months, then I don’t get paid for three months. But the reason why I don’t do a subscription system is because I want clients to know that I’m serious about this and the only way I feel right about getting paid is if you’re making money.
Colter DeVries: 38:03
Yeah, I like that, that you can essentially credit any position losses in the short term, knowing that you’re going to hold on for the long term and make it back, or assuming that you’re going to hold on for the long term and make it back, and then that’s when you start getting paid again. Yeah, that sounds like a good program to me. So how do I get started?
Darwin Pluhar: 38:34
Well, the best way today would be to get yourself an account opened up with a broker there in your area Monday, make sure that it has the necessary funds in that account. Monday afternoon you would receive my text which you would forward onto your broker, and Tuesday, however, the market closes, you have a position on as of Tuesday’s close and you’re started.
Colter DeVries: 39:12
Just that easy, yep. Well, since it’s that easy, darwin, tell us a little more about yourself. We have about 10 minutes left. What are you interested in these days? You mentioned Sonnet, montana, which is God’s country. It’s beautiful Powder River County. I’m going to plug it really well right now Darwin and just Bull Elk. Crazy beautiful Sonnet. Lots of trophy Bull Elk. New records have come out of that herd in the last six years, I believe. What books are you reading? Where are you interested today, outside of trading futures?
Darwin Pluhar: 39:57
You headed on the head. In terms of elk, I have a real Sonnet. Montana is very near and dear to my heart, and to see the type of wildlife that exists in that country, it’s precious. Yeah, I like to spend as much time as possible up there. In addition to that, I’m a real fanatic about college football and, of course, the Montana State Bobcats and Texas A&M Aggies. This time of year I try to get as many of the games as I can get to.
Colter DeVries: 40:55
Well, there are certainly some friction of late in Montana and the real estate ranch brokerage industry because those Texans are coming up here and buying elk hunting ranches like crazy. But I think we do have a lot in common. We got the Aggie football and, granted, montana State football is probably about one one hundredth of what Aggie football is in the SEC.
Darwin Pluhar: 41:23
I’ll tell you what, though. You know I had an opportunity, after I got my elk last fall, to go up there when Montana State played the Grizzlies and to see the environment when College Game Day was there. You know it ranks right up there with Texas A&M football. You know, you might only have what a twenty two thousand capacity stadium, whereas Texas A&M has a hundred and three thousand, but there’s a lot of electricity in both those stadiums.
Colter DeVries: 42:04
Even on the coldest recorded College Game Day in history, that was a whole. That one was bitter, bitter cold.
Darwin Pluhar: 42:12
Yeah, my brother and I got there at six in the morning and we didn’t leave till after the game. It was a great time.
Colter DeVries: 42:27
Well, I hope you, I hope you can make it up for one more, and I’d love to come down to a SEC game.
Darwin Pluhar: 42:34
I mean what station? We’ve got four seats at Kyle Field, there at College Station. So if you ever can make it or you and your wife or a buddy or something let us know and we’ll introduce you to A&M football.
Colter DeVries: 42:58
That would be wonderful. Well, darwin, thanks for coming on and, you bet, walking me through this program I’ve heard I had to get you on. I’ve been wanting to for quite a while now because, like I said, some of my peers are involved to, I think, some to a very high degree, and I also do think that this is just a. I mean, it’s a product and something that should be considered as an operating cost for people who have exposure to the livestock industry. So just be part of the P&L, no different than if, right now, you’re considering purchasing LRP livestock risk premium 15 bucks ahead or something. Do the same for this. This is, this is a seems like a necessary tool for marketing. Would that? Would that be semi accurate? Yes, yes.
Darwin Pluhar: 43:56
You know, and again you’ve got my phone number. Don’t hesitate to call. You know, I know how my family and I felt back in 1975. And if I can help somebody get started doing a better job of managing their risk in this cattle business, to me that is very rewarding. I cherish the opportunity.
Colter DeVries: 44:29
Well, that’s, that’s some of the personal insight that I was looking for. To wrap this up, darwin was a lot of this is driven by an event that happened to your family, that that was formative in your life, and if this, that event, provides meaning and value to what you do, well, thank you. Thank you for coming on the Ranch Investor podcast, darwin, and I encourage everyone again the Discord channel anonymously Ranch Investor on Discord and submit your questions, comments, feedback. Also, this is everywhere on social media, so feel free, if you want to not be anonymous, to comment on social media and share it around with your friends. Thanks for tuning in.
Ranch Investor : 45:17
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