Grazing plan must be long term
A detailed, long-term plan is the best way to start up a new cow-calf enterprise or improve an existing operation. Once a plan is in place, the next step isn’t just turning out the cows, it’s explaining the plan to the people you work with from your spouse to your lender and everyone in between.
“Cattle producers are independent and often work alone. We usually aren’t very good at communicating our plans, or even sitting down and making a plan with long-term goals,” says Laura Paine.
Paine is program director for the nonprofit Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship, a nationally accredited training program for beginning dairy farmers in Wisconsin. Previously, she worked for the Extension Service in Wisconsin and as a grazing specialist for the Wisconsin Depart-ment of Agriculture. Paine and her husband also own a small beef cow herd near Columbus, Wis.
She visited Iowa in the fall to talk about the Holistic Management Whole Farm-Ranch Planning System at a series of grazing workshops sponsored by Iowa State University Extension.
From 2002 to 2005, Paine attended training sessions to become a Holistic Management educator. She says it was the most valuable thing she has ever done. “Holistic Management is a decision-making framework to ensure the decisions you make every day will move you toward your long-term goals. It has been invaluable to my husband and me in developing and operating our farm business,” says Paine.
The triple bottom line is a concept that includes three aspects of a well-rounded business:
• stable economics and profitability
• sustaining the natural resources
• making time for family and community
Many companies have developed socially responsible practices to produce and sell products, as well as benefit employees and communities.
For agriculture, an industry dependent on the use of natural resources, it is in our best interest to take care of the land that we depend on for our livelihood, says Paine. “And when you live in the same place where you work, it’s sometimes easy to forget that you need to stop, take a break and take care of family things. You have to be conscious about maintaining the balance.”
Holistic Management was developed by grazier Allan Savory after he watched the movements of wild game herds through the grasslands of Africa. He developed the concept of managing domestic herds in ways that mimic nature. But knowing the rest–rotation grazing cycle and how to keep pastures productive and healthy is only a part. Holistic Management is about changing the daily decision-making to align with long-term goals that provide the balance of economics, natural resources and family and community.
The basic framework of Holistic Management is a good way to start the process of developing a grazing plan that looks at the whole picture. The elements of a well-rounded plan for your farm include planning, setting goals, decision-making and monitoring, says Paine.
Kreidler is from Indianola.
This article published in the December, 2015 edition of WALLACES FARMER.
All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2015.