It's time to upgrade browsers.

This site is meant to be viewed on a modern browser.

Chrome Internet Explorer Safari Firefox
Articles and Updates
Jul 13, 2017, 2:44 AM
​Grazing management is the science and art of manipulating grazing animals and the pastureland upon which they feed. The effects of grazing management on both land and animals will be good or bad depending on the knowledge and skill of the manager. In the short run, it is possible to increase animal production at the cost of damaging the land just as it is possible to improve the land at the expense of the animals. An area may be overstocked and for a short time thus increase the pounds of animal produced per acre. If all or most of the animals are removed, for a short time an area will produce more pounds of forage per acre. Neither option, however, is viable if the goal is to promote a profitable and sustainable operation. In the long run, a program must address the needs of all members of the plant- soil- animal- complex if it is to be both financially and ecologically sound. If we can orient our thinking to the long-term effects of our management practices, it becomes easier to make the good decisions that will bring about a stable and healthy operation. In order to make sound decisions, it is necessary to have both knowledge and information. Information is facts that are relevant to our task and knowledge is the ability to make use of these facts to promote the desired results. One of the hardest concepts for most ranchers to grasp is that rather than being in the "cattle business” or the "sheep business” or even in the "grass business" they are really in the solar energy business. All production requires the input of energy. Whether the product is steel, meat or great literature energy is required to fuel the process of creation. The true source of this energy is always the same. Sunlight, Coal and petroleum are merely fossilized sunlight that was harvested eons ago by green plants using the same process that green plants use today to convert solar energy to biological energy. Nitpickers might argue, correctly, that sunlight is actually one form of nuclear energy. The fact remains that for millions of years and for the foreseeable future, sunlight is by far the most significant source of energy available to the earth. All life depends upon photosynthesis, the process by which green plants convert sunlight to biological energy. Even those organisms that spend their lives beneath the soil surface or at the bottom of the ocean derive their substance from materials whose energy originated as sunlight. The success or failure of farmers, ranchers and other land managers of all kinds depends upon how wisely and well they make use of this process. The success or failure of these land managers will ultimately decide the success or failure of humanity and the earth, as we know it.
Jul 13, 2017, 2:43 AM
​While we are always interested in seeing our stock do well, management will vary depending upon what we are trying to accomplish at any given time. Much of the time management will be designed to supply proper nutrition to as much stock as is feasible. Going into winter with a set of dry cows, the goal might change to stretching a supply of dormant grass into as many days of adequate nutrition as possible. There will also be times when the goal is to maximize the amount of nutrition that a set of animals take in from pasture...
Jul 10, 2017, 3:48 PM
In the early 1970’s we were running Davis Ranch in southeastern Oklahoma as a high tech beef cattle, pecan and crop operation and were following all of the land grant college recommendations as to fertilization, weed and insect control. We routinely used 100-150 pounds of actual nitrogen on our cropland, almost that much on Bermuda grass pasture and were producing a lot of product. Production was high but so was the cost of production and all too often we found ourselves losing money on every pound we produced and trying to make up the difference by producing more pounds. This was the period when conventional wisdom was “get big or get out” and efficiency of scale and specialization were the buzzwords of the “agricultural experts”. In 1974 the cattle market broke, as it had about every nine years for over 100 years, and we found ourselves in serious financial trouble. After ten years of trying to “do it right”, we had the choice of changing the way we operated or going broke. A look through our books made it crystal clear where the money was going; fertilizer, machinery upkeep, chemicals, fuel and labor expenses were all much too high. We had taken a very simple business based on natural biology and changed it into an industrial monster with an insatiable appetite for expensive inputs. One of the largest of these expenses was nitrogen fertilizer. We decided to halt nitrogen use on pasture and instead use forage legumes to supply this need. This started what my wife termed “Your annual sacrifice to the clover gods”. This was not an inaccurate statement, as I knew very little about growing legumes and it would be several years before I learned enough to give the clovers a chance. The extension recommendations of the time still called for applying nitrogen fertilizer to new legume plantings even though research by Dr. Bill Knight and others had shown that as little as sixteen pounds of actual nitrogen could kill all of the rhizobia bacteria on an acre of sandy soil. By trial and error, over a period of years, we learned how to establish and keep a high percentage of legumes in our forage sward at a reasonable cost. We were intensifying our grazing management at the same time that we were introducing legumes and quickly learned that the two practices fit together like a hand in a glove. When we got enough paddocks to control exactly what our stock was eating at any point in time, it became much easier to maintain the legume mix and also to prevent bloat and maximize animal performance. The benefits of legumes in a complex pasture mixture go far beyond merely reducing cost.
Jul 10, 2017, 3:46 PM
I am continuing to write about drought because dealing with drought and its effects is going to be important to a lot of people for some time to come. Though at times it seems as if it never will, droughts eventually end. Depending on how an area has been managed during drought, recovery can be rapid and complete or it can require years of good management to get back to pre-drought levels. Part of the damage is due to the loss of high quality forage species to over grazing but the most serious and long lasting harm comes through damage to the ecological processes: water cycle, nutrient cycles, energy flow and biological succession...