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Advice For New Land, Cattle Owners

jacks-first-branding-by-amanda-gillett.jpg The optimism of the cattle business in 2010 is spurring a growing number of novice land and cattle owners to try their hand in the trade, a decision that can have both positive and negative results, Larry Redmon, Texas AgriLife Extension state forage specialist in College Station, told me in a recent conversation. Redmon is part of a group hosting Ranch Management University next month, a new landowner workshop designed to help promote a better understanding of resource management. Whether in Texas or South Dakota, the fundamentals for new beef producers are the same, and Redmon offered BEEF Daily readers the following early look at the program.

Redmon says one of the first things a new landowner should do is to take a quick mental inventory of the resources available and be realistic about the potential of those resources. He likens the beef business to a game of stud poker, where you are dealt a hand of five cards, and those are the only cards a person can play.

“Being in beef production is like a game of stud poker; it’s not like draw poker, where you can throw three cards back and trade them for new ones if you don’t like the hand you’re dealt,” Redmon explains. “The five cards you have are the resources you have. Maybe you inherited something, or maybe your parents are around to help you. Whatever the case may be, the next question is: what is the best use of this land? Is it cattle? Maybe. But, it might also be wildlife or agri-tourism.”

Redmon says it’s critical to understand soil, plant and animal relationships because whatever livestock enterprise a person pursues – cattle, sheep, horses or even deer – there is an appropriate stocking rate that benefits the landscape, the animals, the pocketbook and the environment.

“We really have to work on becoming better stewards of our land resources,” notes Redmon. “It’s important for new landowners to explore what they want to do with the property, and then be realistic in analyzing if that land actually lends itself to meet that goal. How can we make the land work in a long-term, sustainable operation?”

When first getting started, among the many things to consider are: soils and soil fertility, forage species selection, hay production, weed and brush management, beef cattle breed selection, nutrient requirements and feeding strategies for livestock, grazing management strategies and which niche markets to pursue.

“My best advice is to not be afraid to ask questions,” advises Redmon. “There is a wealth of information and help out there for novice land and cattle owners. It’s not necessarily on the Internet, but it could be just an email or phone call away. There are experts in all of these things who can help producers. Novice land and cattle owners don’t need to feel that they are in this new operation all by themselves.”

The photo in today's blog post was taken by Amanda Gillett, and was a finalist in the most recent BEEF Daily Kids and Cattle Photography Contest. View the complete photo album here.