One of the easiest things to do on the farm is to get in a pattern of doing things the same way. This may go on for days or even years. We seem to get comfortable in a zone and no longer question how we do things during our daily routines around the farm. We get stuck in a rut of doing things the same way because that is the way they have always been done. I want to discuss some of the methods that I use to ensure that we are not in that group. Instead of being comfortable doing things the same way, learn to embrace new ideas and try them on your farm. You may hit a home run with one of them.
Our internship program has been a real home run when it comes introducing new ideas and positive changes to Green Pastures Farm. When we get new interns on our farm, we believe it is our responsibility to foster an atmosphere that encourages their input and outside the box thinking. We must absolutely be humble enough to provide the daily environment that welcomes their ideas or questions about the way we are doing things. We never ridicule them for a silly question or idea, because we don’t want to limit our possibilities.
That’s what led to a huge improvement. One particular intern named Jake questioned me about our paddock designs after he had been here for a while. His comment was, “Greg, why do you have all these smaller permanent paddocks installed across your farms?” Jake went on to explain that these smaller paddocks were causing problems and bottlenecks with the cow herd movement.
By having all these smaller permanent paddocks, this greatly restricted how we could design our temporary paddocks with each grazing move. We also had numerous permanent gates that had bare soil showing from concentrating mob moves through that constricted gate opening in wet conditions. There were also dirt cattle trails in these smaller constricted permanent paddocks. I gave Jake the okay to start taking the permanent paddocks out that year. In one week Jake and Chris rolled up over 40,000 feet of hi-tensile permanent fence leaving large open areas behind them.
We immediately realized huge dividends from having larger open areas to work with. Now there were no permanent gates to make mud holes. We also could give the herd large paddocks in the spring while the grass was growing faster which allowed us to keep up with the spring flush of growth much easier. The open areas also resulted in less pugging in wet spring conditions by not having small confined paddocks. When the grass growth slowed down in the summer or drought conditions arrived, we could tighten up the size of our paddocks easily with our portable fence that was strung up for each move.
All permanent dirt cattle trails from the previous small paddocks disappeared by having the luxury of changing the direction of the temporary paddocks with each grazing rotation. The larger open areas of our farms now were being grazed in many different directions. The large chicken shelters for the layers on our farm are easily slid across the open landscape without encountering permanent gates. I will admit, it felt awkward walking out into the larger open paddocks after the permanent wires had been rolled up. It ended up being one of the best changes that have ever happened to our farms. Thank-you Jake for thinking outside the box while convincing me to change the way our farms were fenced!
If you’d like to get other folks’ brains working for you and your operation, try these things:
• Invite young people onto your farm and listen to their questions that they might have about the farm.
• Do 20 minute brainstorming sessions with friends to introduce new ideas or products that could bring positive change to your farm.
• Never poke fun at any idea, it kills the enthusiasm and participation of the brainstorming session group. It might surprise you what total strangers to your farm come up with.
I hope you find this helpful. My wife Jan and I are passionate about giving back to our farming community, to the current generation and the next, and it drives us to share what we’ve learned – what worked and what didn’t. One way I do that is by sponsoring On Pasture and writing articles. Another is by putting on a grazing school every May. This is our 11th year, and once again, we’ll be working with Ian Mitchell-Innes and Mark Bader. Visit our website to learn more about this year’s grazing school.
Stay tuned for next week when I have some more ideas to encourage you to think outside the box.