Last year Kathy Voth came down here and introduced us to her concept of teaching our cows to eat weeds. It started me to think about just how we run our outfits down here in the Deep South. Here in Louisiana our growing season is longer than most the winters are mild to non-existent. Grass will grow 365 days a year. It is possible for our cattle to eat grass every day. The one thing that we do not need to do is try to be Texas or Oklahoma or any other state. One of the selling points of the tourism people is just how we are different. We talk a little funny, we eat crawfish and we have a festival for everything from jambalaya to hot tamales. But with our cattle operations we try to be something we are not. This is not Iowa or Illinois, this is Louisiana, it is hot and humid and we have almost every bug known to man. But this country will grow grass. Look out the window of your vehicle when you are driving down the road and you will probably see more cow feed growing in the road ditches than is growing in three counties in Wyoming or Utah. Now this does not say much about how we maintain our roadways but it does illustrate the point, grass really grows down here.
What Kathy’s visit really made me understand is just how much time and money we spend trying to do away with something that with a little thought and work can become a useful resource. The problem of over grazing is one that most folks will acknowledge but how much thought is given to the under- utilization of our pastures and the costs that this represents. We waste more than we use, we do a poor job of managing what we do have, and turn around and plow up our native grass and plant some stuff that 9 out of 10 times is no help at all. Instead of learning how to take advantage of our mild winters and long growing seasons, we put up hay as if we lived in Montana or some other place that would be covered in snow for 4 or 5 months.
Our cow operations down here in Louisiana can be among the most profitable in the country if we will just learn to use what we have and stop trying to emulate others in ways that don’t fit us. No other part of the country should beat us growing grass. The day we accept this simple fact is the day we will begin to make our outfits the most profitable in the country. The foundation of any cattle operation in Louisiana should be the production and proper utilization of our forages. And the fact that we now know how to use the weeds growing in our pastures only makes it better.
So take a look around, think about who you are, and where you area, and how you can be who you are, eat what you’ve got, and be as successful as you ought to be just by growing where you’re planted.