The Osage LLC is getting out of the cattle business.
In a surprise move Sept. 28, the Osage LLC board of directors voted to vacate their lease with the Osage Nation Ranch, liquidate all livestock assets on the open market and liquidate or dispose of ONR’s non-livestock assets. The proceeds from this liquidation will pay back the Nation’s initial investment of $4.5 million, and then some. This ends a chapter of the Nation’s cattle operation that saw highs and lows since 2016.
But wait, there’s more. A second cattle operation owned by the Nation has been operating on the ranch under the Department of Natural Resources within the Executive Branch since 2022 and it’s this second cattle operation LLC board members say led to the Sept. 28 vote.
In a statement made by outgoing Osage LLC board member Danny Sadler, who was not reappointed by Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear before the close of the Tsi-Zho Session on Monday, said legal threats received from the Nation, “predicated upon dubious alleged breach of the ranch lease and ongoing challenges of separate co-existing cattle operations on the same land.”
The board denies all allegations asserted by the Executive Branch, Board Chairman Frank Freeman said.
Osage LLC assumed operation of the ranch at the Nation’s request in October of 2021 and has dramatically improved production resulting in profitability and a healthy cash position, he said. In 2022, Osage LLC subleased land back to the Nation to engage in its own cattle ranching operations as part of a food security program. The CARES cattle program, operated by DNR employees, is now the sole supplier to the Nation’s Butcher House Meats in Hominy.
“The conflict of interest this created led to ongoing miscommunications and conflict regarding management of the ranch property. Due to the continued interference and additional human and capital resources being incurred, the board has determined it is not practical to operate the ranch in an efficient and profitable manner or in accordance with this planned growth.
“The disposition of the ranch assets will be left to Congress to determine if they want to establish a separate board that will oversee the transfer of Osage Ranch LLC or if assets will be liquidated with the return on investment to Congress. This board will consider resolutions to liquidate the cattle and bring Congress whole, $4,500,000 investment in the LLC.”
There was much discussion in a Congressional Governmental Operations Committee meeting on Sept. 12 about the two cattle operations, with Congresswoman Jodie Revard calling the CARES cattle operation “toxic,” drawing the ire of Assistant Principal Chief RJ Walker.
The herd was purchased with CARES Act funds in 2021 as part of the Nation’s food sovereignty initiative and there are currently 250 cattle in the herd. It’s not a for-profit operation as those cattle solely supply Butcher House Meats in Hominy.
“CARES cattle was a nightmare to me. I got tired about hearing about it. The way it was purchased, dropped at the ranch, nobody counted them, they weren’t branded, then we went back and branded them, part were sold, nobody knows how much they were sold for, who sold them … it was a mess,” Revard said. “Why are we duplicating what our LLC is doing. Makes no sense to me, logistically, common sense, it does not make any sense why we have a cattle ranch operation here and one here and guess who its costing.”
“Yeah it does,” Walker said.
“No it does not,” Revard said.
“Yes it does,” Walker said.
“No, it doesn’t. And I’m telling you that under this government our Executive Branch, this is not where you do business. This is a government. Your business arm is your LLC, that’s the business arm. Now, we have a broadband over here, a broadband over there, a cattle ranch over here, a cattle ranch over there,” Revard said.
“If you wouldn’t do it with your own money, then why would we do it with the people’s money. It doesn’t make sense.”
DNR employees were addressing the Gov Ops committee that day for additional funding for the CARES cattle herd. Revard said the CARES cattle herd is a continuing expense to the Nation that she didn’t feel necessary when the Osage LLC had a cattle herd.
Dividends and profitability
Osage LLC was established by the Osage Nation in 2008 to build economic prosperity for the Nation and its people. It currently operates businesses in the transportation, technology, environmental planning, construction, defense and broadband services sectors. The Osage Nation Ranch, LLC is an asset that was placed under the management control of the Osage LLC board of directors by congressional act in October of 2021.
The ONR was a for-profit cattle ranching business located on property owned by the Nation under a Land Management, Farming & Grazing Lease. According to a news release, “Since assuming management control of ONR, Osage LLC has dramatically improved cattle conception rates, pastures, surface water impoundments, and invasive plant/weed species, resulting in a 500 percent increase in profitability.”
ON Ranch Manager Mike Alexander was present at the Osage LLC board of directors meeting on Sept. 28. Board Chairman Frank Freeman attributed the current success of its cattle operation to Alexander, his team and past ON Ranch board members, which he also fired in August of last year.
“Let it be noted within our minutes, that in 2021 when we took the ranch assets there was negative retained earnings of $355,636.75. Between 2018 and 2021, there was negative retained earnings every single year. As of 2023, we have a retained earning position of $1,476,690.37. The asset base on the ranch, when it was given to us in 2021, was right at $5.3 million. As of today, our asset base is $7.6 million. And that is attributed to the hard work of Mike Alexander and his team and we Thank You.”
Freeman said the board accomplished what they set out to do and by exiting Ranch operations, they can return a sizable investment to the Nation for the benefit of the Osage people and refocus on their other for-profit businesses, federal contracts, and the “exciting” momentum of Skyway 36.
According to the release, Osage LLC has begun the transition process, which is expected to take 90 days.