Last year I took part in a pasture walk and workshop. The turnout was good and the folks in attendance were very attentive and seemed to be interested in what we had to say. As is normal, there was some negativity on display and this can lead to some very interesting and colorful conversations. At times such as this, all we can do is to continue to stress what is involved in becoming a successful grazier. To my way of thinking if you are not profitable you are not successful.
Sometimes I believe that those of us who use managed intensive grazing, and all of the other practices that we have learned in the last 20 years or so, have forgotten what it took for us to be where we are today. I know that I am guilty sometimes of making it sound too simple and easy when I am speaking to an individual or a group. On the other hand maybe they figure if we can do it and make it work it cannot be too complicated.
After 40 years in the cattle business in 1997 we used Management-intensive Grazing (MiG) for the first time and have never looked back, so it has become second nature to us. I will not even make an attempt at listing all of the mistakes and missteps that were made in the beginning. There seems to be two problems with some folks accepting the whole concept of MiG. Number one they believe it is all foolishness. Number two, they think there is something we are just not telling them and there is no possible way that little white poly-wire can make that much difference. For the first group there may be little hope. For the second group understand this, that little white poly-wire is a tool. Buying a hammer does not make you a carpenter, no more than putting up poly-wire makes you a grazier.
I met a young man at the aforementioned pasture walk and while we talked he became very excited telling me all about his operation and spent a lot of time explaining to me what and how he planned to make it successful. I listened politely and rather than trying to point out some of the things that I thought would be problems for him I wished him well and gave him my card with the invitation to call if he thought I could be of any help. A few months later I was talking to a friend of mine who had sold this young man some cattle and I asked about how he was doing. My friend said that he had called to offer him the opportunity to buy some calves that he thought would work for him and his reply was that he had sold his cattle.
The way he told it was, he realized he did not know how to grow and manage his grass to feed his cattle and that he believed he should start over and concentrate on learning how to grow grass. I do not believe it would be fair to label this young man a failure. Let’s give him credit for having enough sense to realize that he had much more to learn. And not spending a lot of money on hay and feed was a mistake he did not make.
It just may be that some of the blame belongs to those of us who talk about all the animals that can be grazed on a piece of ground before we make it understood what goes into making this possible. This young man learned a valuable lesson that at one time or another we have all have had to learn, to have grass and no cattle is a problem, to have cattle and no grass is a disaster.
What are some of the lessons you have learned? On Pasture is a great place for us to share some of our mistakes and the solutions or workarounds we figured out. It will surely help the next generation of graziers. Why not drop Kathy an email and share some of what you’ve learned. Maybe your piece will become a published article. Or maybe she’ll be able to put your experiences together with other information that will give someone I hand up. And if you’re a new grazier, send her your questions. She can share them with some of us old timers and maybe we can help.
Let’s all take this good advice from Warren Buffet!
Excellent advice, Don.
The best lesson I have learned in my ag experience is, if you don’t know the answer, ask. The only stupid question is the one that isn’t asked. And it is surprising where some of the ideas and answers come from. For example, I have a friend(also my part time boss) that is a loan and landscape professional. It is surprising how many conversations we have had about things like soil health, etc. It is also surprising how closely our professions parallel, when you get right down to the basis of them. Thanks again.
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