Tag: managment

Wealth really comes from sunshine

Improving the life processes that convert sunshine to energy on the ranch or farm can increase all forms of wealth.

Walt Davis 1 | Feb 18, 2020

Ranching is different things to different people but like all types of agricultural endeavors, it comes down to converting sunlight into wealth through green plants and photosynthesis.

This wealth can take several forms aside from money. Grazing animals, especially ruminants, can convert vegetation that is inedible to humans into high quality food. This can be done, without machinery, on land that is unfit for cultivation. Lately this has been getting press under the guise of “upcycling.”

There are other beneficial products, but one desperately needed in today’s world is improved water management. In some situations, if grazing management is used properly, it can double or triple the amount of precipitation captured and used to grow vegetation. This management will also greatly increase the amount of water that accumulates in the soil and in subsurface aquifers.

Proper grazing decreases the likelihood of flooding and increases the usefulness of precipitation. These advantages come about through creating the conditions that allow water to enter and be held by the soil. Foremost amongst the conditions is keeping the soil surface covered with organic matter.

I was on a ranch recently in the hot dry summer when a four-inch rain fell in about four hours. This was followed several hours later by a two-inch rain. This ranch is rolling sandy loam with sandy clay subsoil and has some steep slopes. Little, if any, water ran off the ranch while the neighboring areas had heavy runoff of muddy water.

The difference was the amount of bare ground on the two areas. The ranch with good ground cover absorbed the rainfall to the degree that the tanks (ponds to those of you not from Texas) caught no water. Twenty-four hours after the rain stopped, clear water began to flow from springs into the tanks.

What is the value of six inches of rain stored in the soil rather than running down the creek? There are millions upon millions of acres world-wide that are totally ineffective in capturing and storing rainfall. Water shortage for crops but also for humans is already critical in many areas. Good grazing management can dramatically improve the water cycle of these degraded areas while producing food and profit.

A second condition critical to improving water capture and retention is soil organic content. Organic matter that has been processed by microbial action can seize and hold many times its weight in water. Soil life is dependant on soil organic content, and plants are dependent on soil life. Soil life, especially mycorrhizal fungi, produce the organic compounds – essentially the glue – that holds soil particles together in aggregates and gives soil the porosity and permeability that allows it to take in and hold both water and air.

A big portion of soil organic content comes from root exudates – mostly carbohydrates – pumped into the soil by living plants. In a classic example of symbiotic relationship, the root exudates nourish the soil lifeforms which nourish the plants that provide the root exudates.

Given the opportunity, natural forces promote life to the benefit of the whole soil-plant-animal complex. This is not always a straightforward process. Drought can cause an explosion of grasshoppers by killing the fungi that normally limit the viability of the hopper eggs. When normal weather returns, the fungi will return, and balance will re-establish in insect populations. If we intervene with insecticides spread over large areas, the ecology of that area becomes unstable with ongoing wide swings in both populations and numbers within populations.

Catastrophes such as wildfire, drought and flood happen in the natural world, but only man prolongs the effects of these events. Millions of acres of grassland have been destroyed by holding stock on areas that can no longer feed them. The diversity of life from plants, animals and microbes provides stability and productivity, but it is destroyed when management focuses on “kill the pest” rather than on fostering the conditions that promote health through out the local environment. This may sound sophomoric, however it is not only possible but much more effective financially, ecologically and to human benefit than what is common practice over most of the world.

WHO AM I IF I AM NOT A FARMER or RANCHER ANYMORE?

FIND PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL OPPORTUNITY.

Let’s face it, transitioning to a niche market or picking up more work is not a solution for every farmer facing hard times. Some will need to stop farming. While that may be hard, it can also be an opportunity.

Outside agriculture, career shifts are often seen as a way to advance, points out Extension educator Megan Roberts. “In other occupations, if we switch jobs, that’s not seen in any way as a failure,” she says.

READ MORE: Shortage of truck drivers means opportunities for farmers 

Here’s a look at how to stop farming and the opportunities that come with the change. Ending a career in farming begins with making a decision.

Mental health practitioner Shauna Reitmeier explains, “In some situations, that decision is something you’re choosing to do on your own without any external pressures, and in some situations, you have to do it in order to sustain. We know that this current environment we’re in, many farmers dealing with commodity prices and weather situations are needing to decide, ‘Do I liquidate? Do I need to sell half of my dairy cattle, or not?’ ”

Anxiety and worries about the unknown are totally normal, she says. To keep from getting overwhelmed, it is important to recognize what is in your control and what you can’t control.

Keeping your values front and center as you make decisions may ease the heartache of difficult choices. Ask yourself, what are the two or three values that drive you to get up every day?

“Yes, farming is a way of life and we identify ourselves with farming, but it’s really those strong values that get you up every morning to continue to farm. Those values don’t change based on whether you’re farming,” Reitmeier says.

“It isn’t the farm that makes the farmer – it’s the love, hard work, and character,” says Brenda Mack, who lives on a farm and works as a licensed independent clinical social worker.

After making the decision to end or pivot your farming career, don’t expect to bounce back overnight. Some people experience real grief and loss over the change, and that’s OK, says Reitmeier, who grew up on a farm. Be prepared for the following range of emotions as you make decisions, develop plans, and put them in place.

  • “Normal” functioning
  • Shock and denial: Avoidance, blame, fear, numbness
  • Anger: Anxiety, embarrassment, irritation

“You might be having more fights with your spouse or get more irritable with the lenders you’re having conversations with,” Reitmeier says.

  • Depression and detachment: Blahs, helplessness, lack of energy
  • Dialogue and bargaining: Reaching out to others, desire to share one’s story, struggle to find meaning for what happened
  • Acceptance: Exploring options, a new plan in place
  • Return to meaningful life: Empowerment, security, self-esteem, meaning

The stages of grief may not all come in this order. “One day you’re angry, the next day you’re feeling a little acceptance, another day you’re depressed. You’re all over the place,” Reitmeier says.

Mack remembers watching her own parents process their decision to retire from farming. The transition was especially hard for her proud, third-generation row-crop farming father.

After retiring, her dad felt as though he didn’t fit at the table of neighboring farmers discussing their problems at the local café. He struggled to find where he belonged. Conversations with his wife, other farmers, his priest, and a mental health therapist all helped him find a new, broader identity for himself and a renewed sense of purpose.

“I was really proud of my dad for having the understanding and ability, and not feeling shame in reaching out to a formal provider because that can be really terrifying. It can be hard to go see a mental health provider, but it’s what he needed at that point in time,” Mack explains.

Mack acknowledges mental health resources aren’t always easy to find in rural areas.

In addition to seeking professional mental health services, there are other strategies to cope with the massive changes that come with the end of a farming career.

Keep in mind who you are in addition to your role as a farmer. Farmers wear many hats: parent, child, sibling, community leader, church member, history enthusiast, 4-H leader, to name a few.

Building self-awareness can help you discover you are more than what you do. If you’re struggling to get out of the grief and loss process, Reitmeier suggests knowing your body cues. Sensing when they become different can be helpful. Also, keep tabs on your relational, cognitive, and physical health

LEARN MORE

Cultivating Resiliency resources are presented by American Agri-Women, District 11 Minnesota Agri-Women, University of Minnesota – Women in Ag Network, and Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center.

umash.umn.edu/cultivating-resiliency-webinars/

The 7 Critical Skills Of Successful Strategic Thinkers

Life as business are both long-term races. They require to fully commit to the present while seeing through years ahead in order to define and achieve the best of the future. They require to embrace today while deciding on objectives, understanding the options, creating possible alternative scenarios and situations and determining the direction to be followed. They require strategic thinking.

Defined as the process that determines the manner in which people think about, assess, view, and create the future for themselves and others, strategic thinking is basically the ability to know what you want to achieve and how to achieve it. Developing a strategic approach is not always easy as it is as much a mindset as a set of techniques. However, it does result in the main difference between an average and an exceptional achiever.

Success and achievement can not just be left to hazard.  In a study conducted by Harvard Business Review, 97% of the 10,000 senior executives asked chose strategy as the most critical leadership behavior to their organizations’ future success. Strategic thinkers are able to imagine the big picture, identify the possible impact of their decisions and project the way to get there. These are the seven traces that define them all.

  1. Vision

Strategic thinkers are able to create and stick to a very clear visioning process. Using both the left (logical) and right (creative) sides of their brain, they defined an ambitious but rigorous vision of what needs to be achieved. A clear, positive and big enough vision is what inspires for action and pulls in ideas, people and other resources. A vision is what enables commitment and moves the needed energy to make it happen. In this way, strategic thinkers are visionary leaders. They see the potential for how the world should exist and take steps to get there.

“The purpose of life is a life of purpose” (Robert Byrne)

    1. Framework

Vision should be carefully embedded within a framework. Successful strategic thinkers have the ability to define their objectives and develop an action plan with goals broken down into tasks specifically measured in terms of timeline and resources. They set up deadlines and they commit to them. Self-aware enough, they are conscious of their own biases and factor their own circumstances, perspectives, and points of view within this framework. This helps them to ensure that their own backgrounds are not an impediment but a boost to their goals. Their framework envisions always a plan A, B, and C that drives them all to the same expected result. They factor all possible ways within a reasonable timeline for action.

  1. Perceptiveness

Strategic thinkers are able to look around and understand the world from all the different perspectives. They listen, hear and read between the lines. They observe before forming a judgment and absorb and make use of the different angles that could be helpful for better guidance. They understand peoples’ intentions, hopes, and desires and play with them in a symbiotic way that could help all to achieve greater. They recognize internal and external clues that may sharp and clear the direction to be taken. They are able to grasp the perfect match and put together all the pieces of the puzzle. They are able to feel the breeze because they know that big achievements are just the collection of all the different angles.

  1. Assertiveness

They are good at decision-making. After a comprehensive evaluation, they chose the way to go and walk firmly into it without vacillation. They may doubt but they do not let the doubts to fog the vision. They communicate effectively what they want and need by using clear orders while simultaneously respecting the thoughts and wishes of others. They are able to react appropriately under pressure and reduce anxiety by sticking to their decision and avoiding excessive questioning. Through high levels of confidence and self-esteem, they receive both compliments and critics in a constructive way. They defend their points of view without harming others and manage to convince without force or hostility. They are easily followed.

“Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude” (Zig Ziglar)

  1. Flexibility

Strategic thinkers are clearly aware of their weaknesses so they are committed to seeking the advice of others. They are humble enough to be flexible and twist their ideas and framework as to truly achieve the desired vision. They do not confuse flexibility with lack of structure. They accept the rules of the game because they are aware that without rules there is no fair game. Strategic thinkers are flexible thinkers what allows them to shift gears and think about something in more than one way and develop different strategies. Along with working memory and self-control, flexible thinking is one of the three main executive skills allowing to properly manage thoughts, actions, and emotions to get things done.

“Life is a sum of all our choices” (Albert Camus)

  1. Emotional Balance

Strategic thinkers are able to balance their emotions in a way that always favors the achievement of the ultimate goals. They are aware of their emotions, they are able to name them when they arrive, they do not react to them as an important element of accepting them and just when they are over control of them, they take a decision. Whether they received positive or negative feedback, they are able to deal with it, understand and respond in a way that protects and progresses toward their desired outcome. They are able to control and master the three drivers of any emotional state. They stand tall and breathe fully as part of their physiological reaction. They think positive and look for the opportunity as part of their psychological reaction. They are kind, compassionate and optimistic whenever facing their language response.  Strategic thinkers are tremendously creative but they are able to balance this creativity with pragmatism through a sense of realism and honesty about actuality. They are realistic optimists.

       7. Patience

Strategic thinkers do not ignore that achievement is a long-term ride. Milestones have all a concrete time and moment. And success is the result of a process of strategically planned work and efforts. Strategic thinkers have the ability to be patient. They do not rush conclusions. They do not bet it all at once. They invest their energies in a way that is sustainable and led by a long-term vision. They have learned to wait.

“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time” (Leo Tolstoy)

Education of One’s Self

“Our past shapes us, but it does not have to define us. Trust the timing of your life while focusing your thoughts and energy on what is in your control.”

To venture deeper into your inner spirit, you have to humble yourself and acknowledge what you do not know. The more questions you have about life, the more you will improve and grow. When focusing on a change I break down the goal into the most manageable action and then I build a strategy from there.

Focusing on evolving each day becomes a unique opportunity to remove the walls in our life while liberating our minds. Educate yourself every day until your last breath. To excel, you must have the courage and discipline to show up at my very best. You compete with one person and one person only, yourself. You compete to be the greatest you can be.

On our self-discovery journey, we must free ourselves from automatic judgments that arise with every experience we have. Attempt to understand other people’s perspectives. The world unveils its secrets to us very slowly. We never know anything for sure. So roll with the discoveries while being patient and open to connecting with new people who might not look and think like you.

The road towards self-mastery is a marathon, not a sprint. As we begin to acknowledge and dismantle the self-limiting and disempowering barriers in our lives, we allow for a more authentic version of who we are to emerge. Our past shapes us, but it does not have to define us. Trust the timing of your life while focusing your thoughts and energy on what is in your control. While you may not control everything life presents, you can refuse to be reduced by it.

— Coach George Raveling

7 Steps to Creating a Successful Ranch Management Plan

7 Steps to Creating a Successful Ranch Management Plan

By Hugh Aljoe
Director of Producer Relations

Posted Jan. 1, 2020

What is intentional management? It might be easier to describe what it is not than to describe what it is. In an attempt at “tongue-in-cheek” humor, let me describe what intentional management is not.

You might not be managing intentionally if:

  • Your record-keeping system is a shoe box or a file folder in which you keep receipts until tax time.
  • Your marketing plan is to sell the largest calves each time you pen the herd, weaning the calves en route to the sale barn.
  • Your winter feeding program is to provide cubes a couple of times a week to the herd without knowing the quality of the hay or standing forage on offer.
  • Your stocking rate was set by what the neighbor, your granddad or your real estate agent suggested, and you don’t adjust it until drought forces you to.
  • You don’t routinely test and analyze your pasture soils, yet you routinely apply fertilizer.

I’m sure you can think of other s of how we as producers too often go about “running” cattle with little forethought and planning. In favorable years, we can get by easily enough, but in unfavorable years (due to weather, markets or other issues), difficulties arise. These unanticipated surprises can be costly and often difficult to overcome. Hopefully, most of us learn from our mistakes and failures and, if we survive, can laugh at them in hindsight. The secret is to fail early, fail often, but fail cheaply — and adapt our management so that we do not repeat our mistakes.

MANAGE WITH INTENT

Intentional management is the active management of the collective components of an operation toward the achievement of realistic, well-defined goals. It is a holistic and forward-focused management approach in which an operational management plan is created and used as a template to plan and prioritize activities then to monitor and measure progress toward defined production and economic objectives. Management plans need to be built to complement the resources of the operation — the land, facilities, personnel and production system(s) being operated. Even though there is always some uncertainty within an agricultural operation, with a management plan in place, a producer has a road map to guide him or her toward a predetermined outcome. When variations in climate or markets or other surprises occur and force a change of course, having the plan in place helps guide a producer to either continue to navigate toward the original outcome or alter the course toward a new, more realistic or attainable goal, given the circumstances.

PLANNING BRINGS CLARITY OF PURPOSE

For intentional management to be more than a concept, it takes forethought, planning and action. The biggest challenge for most producers is getting started. It is much too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day activities of running a cattle ranch or agricultural operation. It is in the intentionality of developing a management plan where clarity of purpose is achieved. This is where a manager establishes a vision of a desired future for the ranch, identifies the key management objectives to be accomplished, devises an action plan that addresses the critical aspects of each management component, and integrates these components into the management plan for the ranch that the entire staff will implement.

The management plan for the current year becomes the template for the following year, with continual fine-tuning and adjustments over time while adapting to the changing industry, market conditions and climate variations that will occur. Through intentional management and use of a management plan, managers are more likely to attain their desired goals, will experience fewer surprises, and are better prepared for the unexpected when it occurs. Then, instead of just laughing at mistakes of the past, we can laugh ourselves all the way to the bank.

Cattle in pasture

7 STEPS OF INTENTIONAL MANAGEMENT

1. MANAGEMENT PLAN

First is the management plan itself, which is the compilation and integration of the other six components.

2. PASTURE MANAGEMENT

Second is the pasture management plan, which includes the soils, forages and water resources. The management plan is grounded by the pasture management plan, which forms the foundation upon which the other components rest. The pasture management plan is the first component to address in intentional management.

3. STOCKING RATE MANAGEMENT

Third is the stocking rate management plan, which entails the matching of grazing livestock numbers to forage production as well as managing and adapting livestock numbers as forage production changes within and throughout years.

4. CATTLE MANAGEMENT

Fourth is the cattle management plan. The cattle management plan includes the breeding, nutrition, health and husbandry aspects of a cattle program, which ideally complements the land resources of the operation.

5. MARKETING PLAN

Fifth is the marketing plan, which leverages the attributes of the cattle and management for optimum economic results. Typically, this means managing the ranch resources so there is an element of flexibility within the stocking rate for retained ownership of calves or other stocker cattle enterprises as well as timing sales with favorable cattle markets and market cycles.

6. RECORD-KEEPING SYSTEM

The sixth component is a good record-keeping system for ranch operations. This is a record-keeping system that allows easy tracking and monitoring of critical production and economic information. It also provides managers the ability to conduct enterprise analyses, prepare financial statements, and develop monthly and annual operational reports.

7. PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT PLAN

Seventh is a personnel management plan, which allows a manager to intentionally develop the skills and knowledge of ranch staff to build competencies and enhance their value to the operation. A personnel management plan addresses the needs of the operation, from onboarding a new employee to rewarding valued and tenured employees. It also includes performance evaluations, goal-setting sessions, training and professional improvement.

Do you possess the characteristics of an intentional beef producer?

Intentional Management

Robert Wells, Noble Research Institute livestock consultant Jan 24, 2020 Updated Jan 27, 2020

To be successful, any business person must develop a plan and then devise a strategy on how to work the plan to accomplish desired goals. That’s especially important in the cattle business, where most cow-calf producers would agree that the return on investment on an annual cash basis is typically low.

In order to become and remain profitable, producers must effectively manage the operation by paying close attention to all aspects of the ranch. If this is done correctly, revenue and expenses also will be accounted for. An intentional beef producer is one who takes the business seriously and is willing to go through the process of developing and working a plan for his or her operation. The following is a list of characteristics that successful, intentional producers share. Intentional beef producers:

• Understand the importance of record keeping.

Find a record-keeping system that works for your individual style, whether a paper ledger or on a computer. The key is to keep records that are meaningful and that you will use to make management decisions. Do not collect data on metrics you will never use, as this creates extra work that will have no measurable outcome you will implement.

Keep detailed enough records that you can understand what occurred “once the ink dries” later in time. Identify key production and economic metrics you can use to monitor your operation. Examples of this would be length of calving season and calving distribution, amount of feed/hay/mineral fed, pounds of weaned calf per exposed cow, body condition scores (BCS), pregnancy and calving percentages, weight and prices of all animals sold, and grazing days in each pasture.

With the help of the aforementioned parameters, you should monitor inventories of cattle, feed, hay and available pasture forage, as well as production costs and revenue generated.

• Know animal nutrition management can make or break an operation.

There is an old saying in the industry that “you can’t starve a profit out of a cow.” This statement is true and has been reaffirmed many times over. The feeding program can account for 40-60 percent of the total annual cost of maintaining a cow in most operations. This typically equates to several hundreds of dollars per cow annually.

Work with a nutritionist to develop a strategic feeding program where the supplemental feed is designed to complement the quality of the forage base the cow is consuming. For spring-calving cows that are fed hay during winter, feeding the lowest quality hay earlier in the winter makes the most sense. Keep the best quality hay for later in the winter, and incidentally, later in the cow’s gestation cycle or early lactation.

• Try never to buy hay based strictly on a cost-per-bale basis or to feed on a cost-per-bag or ton basis. Better quality hay may cost more, but it can dramatically reduce or eliminate the need for supplemental feed. The break-even price of hay is the cost at which you would purchase feed to supplement the low-quality feed. If you are in a situation where hay must be provided, feed the best hay possible to reduce the need for additional supplementation. The cheapest option is rarely the right feed for the circumstances.

Many times of the year, the cow is more deficient of energy than protein. Remember, a cow is not as concerned with nutrient percentage or concentration of the feed as much as she is with how many actual ounces or pounds of a nutrient she receives daily to meet her needs.

Finally, match the cow’s time of highest nutrient requirements—early lactation or around 2 months of calf age—to the time of year when the pastures supply the highest quality and quantity forage of the year. During preconditioning of the calf, balance the cost of gain with the value of gain. In many years, more profit can be made in a 60-day preconditioning program than is realized on the calf coming off the cow.

• Know when and how to market calves.

Determine the type of animal you will sell and when you will sell it. Will you sell the calf right off the cow or after a preconditioning program? Will you retain further ownership into the feedlot but sell live, or sell on a grid? Do you want to market quality replacement heifers rather than terminal calves? The answers to these questions will provide focus to your program.

Regardless of when or where you market calves, remember that uniformity of calf type, age and weight is typically rewarded by the buyers, as it helps them meet their marketing goals as well. Identify value-based marketing programs such as the Integrity Beef Alliance to help you collectively market cattle like a much larger entity. No matter how large your outfit is, it can still benefit from selling in a market that has more cattle that are similar to yours.

The goal of feedlots is to fill entire pens which could hold as many as 200-300 head, with very similar cattle. One uniform truckload will only fill a portion of a pen. Remember to give consideration to how you market cull cows and bulls, as they typically can account for up to 15-20 percent of the annual ranch revenue.

• Have a defined outcome for the ranch breeding program.

What type of cattle will you produce? This goes beyond the concept of uniformity previously discussed. Make sure the calving season is as tight as possible, ideally 60 days or less. If you are a commercial producer, consider the value of heterosis and the advantages built into a well-defined and thought-out crossbreeding program.

Identify the breeds you will use, and then work to find the right individuals within each breed to reach your goals. Consider breed complementarity, where the characteristics of the two breeds will be synergized in the resulting progeny. A good example of this is Angus x Charolais or Angus x Hereford.

• Have a comprehensive herd health program.

As the cow-calf owner, you have a moral obligation to the animal to set them up for a healthy life. Work with your veterinarian to develop a comprehensive vaccination and herd health program. Remember to consider that the calves will not live their entire lives on your ranch; therefore, they must be vaccinated against the typical diseases they could be exposed to once they leave the ranch. Become Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) trained and certified.

By adhering to BQA standards, you are honoring the commitment to develop and market a quality calf. BQA certification also helps develop consumer confidence in beef. Part of BQA is proper nutrition and health of the calf as well as keeping records. If you do not have documentation, you cannot prove how your cattle were immunized.

• Optimize stocking rate and pasture management

Set a realistic stocking rate for your operation. Make sure that the forages in each pasture are provided rest at different times of the year, across years. Monitor rainfall events and understand the concept of effective rainfall. Not all precipitation that falls will lead to increased forage growth. An intentional grazier will record when cattle are moved into and out of each pasture.

He or she will consider setting up exclosures to help monitor forage disappearance and growth, will use soil tests before fertilizing introduced pastures, and will use prescribed weed and brush control to reduce invasive species encroachment. A cost-effective grazing principle is to use standing dormant forages instead of hay during the dormant season. Cover crops can add a new dynamic to the grazing operation, as well.

• Develop a ranch management calendar.

Begin with the end in mind. Determine when you want to sell your calves and what your end-product will be for most years, and work backward from there to develop the management calendar. The management calendar should include the following dates: bull turn-in and pickup (hence subsequent calving dates); weaning and marketing dates; when to BCS the cows; when to work calves for the initial and booster vaccinations; when to conduct a breeding soundness exam; when to scout for weeds; and when to apply fertilizer and/or lime.

Additionally, an intentional producer will develop a plan for when to consider grazing each pasture, all the while recognizing that the exact date will vary based on weather and other uncontrollable factors.

• Remain flexible.

Above all else, an intentional producer will learn to be flexible, since so many variables are out of one’s control. However, just because intentional producers have developed and are working a plan it does not mean they cannot adjust as the need arises. Conversely, they will be more strategically positioned to make correct and meaningful adjustments to their plan without wrecking their system, largely because of the knowledge gained from well-kept records. — Robert Wells, Noble Research Institute livestock consultant

Planning With Purpose

Practical Planning

Components of Intentional Management on a Ranch

Updated 

What is intentional management? It might be easier to describe what it is not than to describe what it is. In an attempt at “tongue-in-cheek” humor, let me describe what intentional management is not.

You might not be managing intentionally if:

  • Your record-keeping system is a shoe box or a file folder in which you keep receipts until tax time;
  • Your marketing plan is to sell the largest calves each time you pen the herd, weaning the calves en route to the sale barn;
  • Your winter-feeding program is to provide cubes a couple of times a week to the herd without knowing the quality of the hay or standing forage on offer;
  • Your stocking rate was set by what the neighbor, your granddad or your real estate agent suggested, and you don’t adjust it until drought forces you to; or
  • You don’t routinely test and analyze your pasture soils, yet you routinely apply fertilizer.

I’m sure you can think of other ways of how we as producers too often go about “running” cattle with little forethought and planning. In favorable years, we can get by easily enough, but in unfavorable years (due to weather, markets or other issues), difficulties arise.

These unanticipated surprises can be costly and often difficult to overcome. Hopefully, most of us learn from our mistakes and failures and, if we survive, can laugh at them in hindsight. The secret is to fail early, fail often, but fail cheaply—and adapt our management so that we do not repeat our mistakes.

 

Manage with intent

Intentional management is the active management of the collective components of an operation toward the achievement of realistic, well-defined goals. It is a holistic and forward-focused management approach in which an operational management plan is created and used as a template to plan and prioritize activities, then to monitor and measure progress toward defined production and economic objectives.

Management plans need to be built to complement the resources of the operation—the land, facilities, personnel and production system(s) being operated. Even though there is always some uncertainty within an agricultural operation, with a management plan in place, a producer has a road map to guide him or her toward a predetermined outcome.

When variations in climate or markets or other surprises occur and force a change of course, having the plan in place helps guide a producer to either continue to navigate toward the original outcome or alter the course toward a new, more realistic or attainable goal, given the circumstances.

 

Planning brings clarity of purpose

For intentional management to be more than a concept, it takes forethought, planning and action. The biggest challenge for most producers is getting started. It is much too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day activities of running a cattle ranch or agricultural operation. It is in the intentionality of developing a management plan where clarity of purpose is achieved.

This is where a manager establishes a vision of a desired future for the ranch, identifies the key management objectives to be accomplished, devises an action plan that addresses the critical aspects of each management component, and integrates these components into the management plan for the ranch that the entire staff will implement.

The management plan for the current year becomes the template for the following year, with continual fine-tuning and adjustments over time while adapting to the changing industry, market conditions and climate variations that will occur.

Through intentional management and use of a management plan, managers are more likely to attain their desired goals, will experience fewer surprises, and are better prepared for the unexpected when it occurs. Then, instead of just laughing at mistakes of the past, we can laugh ourselves all the way to the bank.

 

Components of intentional management

Management plan

First is the management plan itself, which is the compilation and integration of the other six components.

Pasture management

Second is the pasture management plan, which includes the soils, forages and water resources. The management plan is grounded by the pasture management plan, which forms the foundation upon which the other components rest. The pasture management plan is the first component to address in intentional management.

Stocking rate management

Third is the stocking rate management plan, which entails the matching of grazing livestock numbers to forage production as well as managing and adapting livestock numbers as forage production changes within and throughout years.

 

Cattle management

Fourth is the cattle management plan. The cattle management plan includes the breeding, nutrition, health and husbandry aspects of a cattle program, which ideally complements the land resources of the operation.

 

Marketing plan

Fifth is the marketing plan, which leverages the attributes of the cattle and management for optimum economic results. Typically, this means managing the ranch resources so there is an element of flexibility within the stocking rate for retained ownership of calves or other stocker cattle enterprises as well as timing sales with favorable cattle markets and market cycles.

 

Record-keeping system

The sixth component is a good record-keeping system for ranch operations. This is a record-keeping system that allows easy tracking and monitoring of critical production and economic information. It also provides managers the ability to conduct enterprise analyses, prepare financial statements, and develop monthly and annual operational reports.

 

Personnel management plan

Seventh is a personnel management plan, which allows a manager to intentionally develop the skills and knowledge of ranch staff to build competencies and enhance their value to the operation. A personnel management plan addresses the needs of the operation, from onboarding a new employee to rewarding valued and tenured employees. It also includes performance evaluations, goal-setting sessions, training and professional improvement. — Hugh Aljoe,

Noble Research Institute director of producer relations