In order to be a successful beef producer, one must manage two key factors very well — the land and the cattle. As the summer grazing season draws closer, it’s a good time to think about the ways we can improve our pastures, and subsequently increase our calves’ gains, as well.
So what does it take to be a good steward of the land?
That was the question asked in a recent survey of 14 natural resource professionals. Based on their responses and combined 469 years of experiences, Jeff Goodwin, pasture and range consultant for The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, compiled the survey results and created a list of the top 10 traits that successful grazing land managers exemplify.
Here are five examples from his list:
1. Manage the ranch as a business
Goodwin writes, “These are managers who make decisions based on the physiological needs of the vegetation, the nutritional and habitat requirements of the animals, and the financial realities of the ranching business enterprise. They scrutinize every dollar spent, limiting unnecessary and nonprofitable inputs. They completely understand that profitability will often come down to how he or she controls costs.”
2. Understand ecological principles
“Most successful managers have the ability to observe climate, animal and plant interactions, and they make management decisions that capitalize on those conditions,” says Goodwin. “They understand the real purpose of roots versus leaves and where the plant makes its food. They may not know the name of the plant, but they understand plant selectivity and production differences. Most certainly, they understand soils are the building blocks. They know that soils are teeming with life and that biology drives most systems such as nutrient cycles, water cycle, etc.”
3. Have a conservation ethic
Goodwin quotes environmentalist Aldo Leopold, who stated in 1949, “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”
4. Have clear, measurable and attainable objectives
Goodwin writes, “Monitoring and keeping good records is a common practice among successful ranchers. A recent study conducted by Texas A&M indicated that less than 15-20% of producers monitored their forage, indicating 80-85% may not know how much forage they have or need. Most successful producers, at a minimum, consistently monitor rainfall, available forage, body condition score relative to class of livestock and reproductive stage, and market tendencies. Then, they act on monitoring triggers.”
5. Cautious risk taker
“A cautious risk taker is someone with an open mind and willing to consider more effective and efficient methods of doing things,” said Goodwin. “They often carefully consider new technologies and might implement a test on a small portion of their operation. Many times, they are willing to try new ideas and concepts. They take risks based on knowledge, experience, and sometimes hunches, but on a limited basis. They rarely risk everything and always operate within a safety margin.”
Now is a great time to tour your summer grazing spots and evaluate the shape of the fences, estimate available forages, calculate stock density for the upcoming grazing season and monitor for thistles and other weeds that might be cropping up with the spring weather.
Make this your best grazing season yet by utilizing these leadership traits and making improvements to your management strategies.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.