Farm management requires teamwork

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cow grazing

The winter in a farm operation is a time of hasty repairs and reflection on what you have. Farmers across the country literally “reap what they sowed” before the winter and must live with it during the winter season.

If there is something most successful people learn in life, it is that one of the keys to success is not just hard work, but it is also teamwork. I honestly believe this is one of the reasons most families can no longer farm. It has become more difficult for families to stay home and even more so to have time at home together.

Group planning

When I was in the military, we would say that we were one crew and would come up with a plan before we did anything. Sometimes it seemed excessive, but at the end of the day, it was the best weapon we had to stay focused and mitigate problems.

When a group discusses and lays out a plan, the key ideas and pitfalls come easier. If there is one thing we cannot waste away, it’s time. Having a plan and working together toward that plan is the fastest and most effective way to achieve the goal.

Grazing practices

Let’s examine it from a grazing perspective: What should I/we do to improve our grazing practices? Sometimes we might not be available to move our animals as much as we would like to new paddocks. In a continuous grazing system, livestock graze selectively and unevenly.

The more room and time they have like this, the more selective it becomes. This will cause undesirable plants to grow to the point of maturity and be of even less value; meanwhile the more desirable plants never get established and/or are smothered out. This will decrease quantity and will eventually decrease quality, causing you to work harder for less success.

Healthy soil

It still all starts with healthy soil. Healthy soil with the proper chemistry (pH) and nutrients will maintain the growth. The management of the forage will keep it at its peak growth rate while maintaining desirable plants.

Remember that perennials maintain nutrients in the roots. If a plant must tap into those nutrients to regrow due to lack of photosynthetic ability (little leaf mass), it will slow the entire system down.

This is the principle of management intensive grazing. Personally, I think it could have a better name. The word “intensive” is very misleading. It refers to the management of the livestock and less on the grazing part.

Severity of graze

The severity of the graze can vary. Different fields can be grazed to different residual heights as long as it stays in that exponential growth phase. The exponential growth phase is maintained by adequate leaf surface area and not allowing plants to over-mature.

That duration of grazing and residual height will vary depending on how much land, type of grass, and animals you have. As an example, its published to graze cool season grasses anywhere from 5-10 inches and stop grazing around 2-4 inches.

Figuring out the best way to utilize the pasture fields is the difficult part. To manage without a team makes this method incredibly more difficult. It takes eyes and persistence to properly move livestock.

This is also when most of these operations tend to fall apart. You miss two or three days and the field is a mess. Things get out of hand and then cost money to fix, but the farm does not produce what it used to financially, and so on and so forth.

Teamwork

One person cannot do it all. There is a reason why people call it “the family farm.” There is a lot to manage and for only one person, it will most likely be too much. Farming is hard work but farming alone is almost impossible.

As we used to say in my military days, we can only succeed as a crew; always remember that. We are social beings and thus work better and feel better working as a group no matter what we are doing. It seems like an easy concept, but it’s easily forgotten.

Think of this as a reminder of that — no matter what you do.  Working together will probably yield better results than any technical advice can give.

It can be bittersweet when a farmer says, “when I’m gone, this farm will retire with me.” Meanwhile, he is thinking about his children and their successful careers and healthy families that have moved away. Hard work pays off, but teamwork pays overtime.

Take some time during these cold days to discuss plans on how to improve things around the farm over a hot beverage with your family, farmhand and neighbors — involve everyone.

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Daniel Lima is an OSU ANR Extension educator in Belmont County, Ohio. You can contact him at lima.19@osu.edu or 740-695-1455.

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