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Animal Health Notebook

Lose the agricultural and land management baggage

ironstuff-GettyImagesPlus Tattered old luggage
Author says shedding counterproductive management practices is like getting rid of old baggage.
Some of our management habits give us short-term gain and long-term pain.

Experience and study should lead to wisdom, and it’s my opinion that wisdom is likely the result of the natural principles we learn, understand and apply. This is true with human relationships, stockmanship, management of land and soil, and also our cattle and their health, production and profitability.

As we travel through the life experience we call ranching, we accumulate agricultural baggage. Some of it is good and lots of it is counterproductive. Cattle health and profits are a good flag for us to use to check how we are doing with our interpretations of the natural model.

My friend Doug Peterson, a grazier and soil specialist from upstate Missouri, has stated that the excesses and repeated applications of many farming/ranching practices are negative. This also is true for our cattle, as well as our soil and plant growth and community.

Along those lines, Walt Davis needs to be heeded when he explains that pushing growth of a few plants in the spring depresses the later growth of lots of “good stuff” in the summer.

Serious consideration needs to be made, and often a reduction in these practices, if we are to move forward when it comes to health and profitability of our resource. Some of the baggage that may hurt us as much as help us are in this list, depending on how these things are used, but it certainly doesn’t cover all of them.

  • Use of cattle pesticides and anti-parasiticides
  • Inorganic fertilizers
  • Broiler litter and other manure spreading
  • Haymaking and hay feeding
  • Lack of plant recovery prior to grazing
  • Long-term presence of cattle (set-stocked)

When we rid ourselves of agricultural baggage, our forward movement can resume. As we actually adopt the natural principles we start and then continue to see really good things happen. They build and build. Yes, the “bust” will come at some point, but with the system in place it cushions the severity.

Boom and bust grazing management is biological ranching. Forages are allowed to completely recover prior to a fast and short-term severe grazing. In dry environments this grazing event might happen every 18 to 24 months. In the mid-south where I live, most pastures need grazing twice annually with a third yearly pass about once every third year. We seldom graze a pasture more than once during the growing season. Once every three years we often graze on both shoulders of the growing season and may not graze in the middle. Seedling grass plants that are twice grazed while in growth phase during their first year most often die. The “principle of chaos” tells us to gaze at different seasons in every pasture.

You may be asking why and how is biological ranching connected to health?

It is being scientifically shown and accepted that everything is connected with everything. The “bad guys” are out there most all the time but the “good guys” will keep them highly controlled when the systems are functioning as designed by the creator. They are all closely connected, sometimes related, and when we go after the bad we usually kill a bunch of good.

The major pasture and soil cycles that we acknowledge and must work with include the water cycle, the biological cycle, the mineral cycle, and the energy cycle.

These cycles are all interconnected as well, and as they improve and are fed with high plant diversity and density and biomass followed with high animal concentration grazing for very short time periods then we quickly see improvements, normally in less than two to five years. Animal health and profitability are the first that come to my mind. This lifts a bunch of baggage from the shoulders of beef producers.

Human health is a three-legged stool, with control of stress in the extremes. The three legs are:

  • Our thoughts and beliefs
  • Our work and exercise
  • Our eating habits and nutrition

Cattle health stands on a very similar stool. Keeping the stool stout is our job. The rewards are many. The failure to do so adds baggage that is closely followed by animal health issues.

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Beef Producer or Farm Progress.

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