The start of the growing season is a good time to reflect on the characteristics of successful graziers. Recently, I was asked to do a presentation on this exact topic.
In preparation I thought of those livestock producers I’ve met who always seem to be doing well. By the time I had finished writing notes and organizing my thoughts into some kind of logical order, I realized successful graziers are very much like successful people in any profession.
The basis for all farm decisions relates back to our mission, vision and goals for the farm. Successful graziers, their family members, helpers and workers are all on the same page — that is, they all see in their mind’s eye the same picture of the operation, where it is heading and are focused on the next series of goals.
Each person involved in the operation reflects a sense of purpose, appear team oriented and empowered. These farms take time to set down together on a regular basis, plan the next move and all have input.
Farms that do this also seem to have less internal conflict between family members and have a positive attitude in regards to the future of the operation.
Successful graziers know the cost of production. Understanding costs helps these farms make decisions that make good economic sense. For instance, what does a bale of hay cost to produce and bale? Is it possible to buy hay for less than the cost? Knowing the cost of each production practice enables these producers to weigh the economic options.
Related to the cost of production is marketing and how successful graziers market their animals. They look at their farm as a business, not as a hobby. Business-related decisions are much different than passion- or hobby-related decisions and produce results related to financial perspective.
Changing, adjusting, responding are all activities of successful graziers. They make adjustments in feeding practices, supplementation programs, marketing and even grazing responding to changing prices, market influences and growing conditions.
Working facilities make the necessary animal husbandry practices simple, convenient and safe. Successful graziers have a practical livestock working facility. In addition, these graziers have a plan for loading and unloading animals.
Successful graziers have a map of the farm and plan where animals will be each season. This sounds simple, but the process of animal placement in the appropriate grazing paddock requires farm managers understand how forage variety, slope, aspect and stage of animal production dictate the most practical and productive area.
They have good water distribution to all paddocks and a planned winter grazing system. These farms also have a contingency plan. They plan for unfavorable incidents such as flood, drought and snow and implement a practical strategy to deal with these events.
Successful graziers utilize tools such as soil testing, forage testing and postmortem exams.
These farms also have a relationship with a veterinarian and other agriculture professionals who advise and help diagnose production difficulties. They have a plan for newly introduced animals and are careful not to introduce disease. They work with their veterinarian to develop a health plan and follow the program.
Successful graziers recognize what is important, manage what they have and invest in what yields a return. However, they enjoy what they do and have a little fun as well.
Successful graziers are students of agriculture, always learning, attending educational events and willing to share ideas with others. They are not islands and realize they have attained their level of success in part due to the help of family, friends, agriculture professionals, veterinarians and others.
They are secure enough in who they are to give credit where credit is due and do not need the spotlight. They are conscious of their own limitations and surround themselves with people who complement their weakness and challenge them. They are humble.
In conclusion, the kind of farmers I have described would be successful at many ventures because they possess attributes in common with high-achieving people.
It is the most difficult job of all, evaluating our own actions, behaviors and the impacts these have on others and our business.
To improve we must see the need, recognize our imperfection, and reflect on our actions.
(The author is an OSU Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator in Guernsey County. Questions or comments can be sent in care of Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem OH 44460.)