I don’t think there is a producer alive who hasn’t attended a meeting or read articles about the virtues of rotational grazing and better grass management. I doubt that few would argue with the claim that, over time, proper management can increase production capacity by as much as 30%. Those same meetings also talk about the value of artificial insemination, good genetics and better records. Yet, most of us go home and implement only a fraction of these recommendations, if any.
When I was in college, I thought that those actually making a living from the cattle business didn’t implement these practices because they were either uninformed, lazy or bound by tradition. It is funny how actually getting out in the real world changes one’s perspective.
That said, these practices are pretty easy to implement, once you acquire the skill set, but the learning curve can be pretty difficult. Go to the operation that has benefitted from rotational grazing, AI, individual herd management or solid performance or economic information, and they will act as if it is no big deal. Once they have acquired the management skill set to effectively implement these practices and have seen the benefits, very few go back to their old management practices. Yet, many start down those paths and turn back frustrated with the early results and the difficulty of implementation.
I’ve been living through that transition with my grass management planning and implementation. My grazing friends have water sources developed, grazing plans established and can move three miles of electric fence in less than hour. They make it sound so easy, because it is – for them. My pastures are not square and oval, my water sources were put in without any consideration for my future grazing programs, my electric fence isn’t as hot and I can’t begin to tell you many knots you can put in a half mile of electric twine if not properly rolled up. It is like sending out two rookies to gather cows versus two veteran cowboys. It takes 10 times as long and the result is only half as good.
I came home last night and discovered what every cattlemen does, that the to-do list is longer than the hours in the day. So I began making excuses why I shouldn’t implement my rotational grazing program. After all, we have grown more good grass already than we have in the last two summers combined. We are actively looking for additional grass, and exploring several options that would change how we utilize the existing grass. And I have one or two projects on hold that might provide even greater benefits in the short term. I can come up with a whole plethora of reasons why it works for these guys but it just isn’t right for our operation right now.
The reality is that in order for ranching to be fun and enjoyable, it has to be profitable, and a grazing program is just one of the 10-15 skill sets that we must implement if we are to be successful in the short term. I cured most of my information and data problems via what has become my most valuable skill – delegation. Since that is not an option in figuring out a new grazing program, I think I’m going to go spend half a day with one of my friends who has mastered this grazing thing well enough that he has seen the benefits outweigh the costs and see what I can learn.
Check back in six years, and I’m sure I will be writing an article expounding on the benefits of rotational grazing, and saying that it is so simple that everyone should be doing it.
The opinions of Troy Marshall are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com and the Penton Agriculture Group.
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