Home Notes From Kathy Some Advice for Beginning Graziers

Some Advice for Beginning Graziers

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I was talking with a friend last night about our experiences with beginning farmers and ranchers, some of the things they do, and the consequences of those choices. Here are some thoughts for you drawn from our conversation.

Choosing an animal breed

What should you buy? Well, What will make you money?

Mangalitsa pig, a Hungarian breed of domestic pig.

Don’t choose Icelandic sheep or those pigs with curly hair just because they look cool on the outside. In the end, you’re going to sell that animal as a product. Generally, what your customers care about is what that animal looks like on their plate and how much they pay for it. Sure, some might pay more for that heritage turkey on Thanksgiving day, but if you’re headed that direction be sure you have a grasp of what the market for those birds is, and how you’ll reach those folks.

John Marble wrote an excellent article about what cattle buyers want. It might give you some ideas for who to talk to to find out if that Oreo striped cow is going to be worth what you need to make from it for your farm to survive.

While we’re talking about animals – buying them shouldn’t be the first thing on your to-do list anyway. There are a lot of other things to do before you ever bring home an animal, like…

Write a Plan

“The dream comes before the plan, but to make that dream reality we have to have a plan.” Don Ashford

Don Ashford has 60-plus years of experience as a grazier and a long history of helping the next generation be successful. So, when he says you need a plan, you should listen.

I’m with you when you cringe at this idea. Writing a plan down isn’t the most fun thing in the world, but think of it this way. Not only is writing your dream down a fun way to expand your dream and focus in on what you want and don’t want, it’s a great way to solve problems before they happen. In fact, focus in on those things that could go wrong or have gone wrong for others. There are lots of mistakes to be made in this business. Learning from others who have already made some some of them is a great way to start off on the right foot.

Business planning is one way to do that. Here’s my personal example of that.

Read the right stuff

Let me offer you our free ebook, Grazing 101 to get started. It’s over there in the right side bar. Just fill in the info, click submit and you’ll get the download link. We give you the things you should consider in order of importance, per Don Ashford’s advice. We also focus on principles – the key things you should keep in mind when you’re making management decisions.

I’ve got more thoughts, including the right stuff and the wrong stuff to read, putting together an advisory team, and practices to avoid. So, stay tuned!

Thanks for reading!


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Kathy Voth
I am the founder, editor and publisher of On Pasture, now retired. My career spanned 40 years of finding creative solutions to problems, and sharing ideas with people that encouraged them to work together and try new things. From figuring out how to teach livestock to eat weeds, to teaching range management to high schoolers, outdoor ed graduation camping trips with fifty 6th graders at a time, building firebreaks with a 130-goat herd, developing the signs and interpretation for the Storm King Fourteen Memorial trail, receiving the Conservation Service Award for my work building the 150-mile mountain bike trail from Grand Junction, Colorado to Moab, Utah...well, the list is long so I'll stop with, I've had a great time and I'm very grateful.