Tag Archives: farming

Waiting

Whilst waiting for my next flight out of Santiago and no internet the next couple of days, i’ll post a quick blog that is a reminder that farming and ranching is not the glamorous career choice some think.  Now, my photos are tiny inconveniences.

 

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Scooping out a water tank that filled with mud

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170 cows with calves can make a quick mess even on top of the hill after only a 2 inch rain when there is frost in the ground.
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The cows rolled a small bit of hay over the fence and smashed it – Unfortunately, one of these posts broke at ground level, so i had to replace it.
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But with a viewshed like this…..
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And evening sunsets like this….. i have no reason to complain.

Cheers!

tauna

RMC’S Sustainable Management

You  may not agree with every precept promoted by Ranch Management Consultants (Ranching for Profit) or those of any expert in the ranch/farm management or sustainable/regenerative camp, but fundamental thoughts work for nearly any endeavor.

RMC’s Ten Fundamental Truths of Sustainable Ranching

  1. TRANSFORMING your business BEGINS WITH TRANSFORMING yourself

    Transforming your ranch into an effective business involves changes in land management, animal husbandry, money management and in the way you interact with the people in your business. But the biggest change isn’t to the land or the animals. The biggest change is in you.

     

  2. IT ISN’T SUSTAINABLE if it isn’t  PROFITABLE

    Profit is to business as breathing is to life. A ranch that doesn’t produce an economic profit isn’t a business. It’s a hobby … an expensive hobby.

     

  3. FOCUS ON effectiveness NOT EFFICIENCY

    Efficiency and effectiveness are not the same thing. It doesn’t do any good to do things right if you are doing the wrong things! If something is efficient, but not effective, stop it immediately!

     

  4. GET IN SYNCH with nature

    Most ranch businesses are structured to fight nature. That’s expensive and exhausting. Businesses that match enterprises and production schedules to nature’s cycles are more profitable, less work and more fun!

     

  5. YOU DON’T GET harmony WHEN EVERYONE SINGS THE SAME NOTE

    In any business, especially family businesses, there are bound to be differences of opinion. Our decisions are improved when we bring different perspectives and ideas to the table and engage in constructive debate, as long as we agree that, at the end of the day, we all ride for the brand.

     

  6. WORK LESS and  make more

    Unsustainable effort is unsustainable. Period! Planning is the key to simplifying enterprises, increasing profit and reducing labor.

     

  7. RANCHING is a business

    We often act as though we have a choice between ranching as a lifestyle or a business. The lifestyle of ranching improves when the ranch is a successful business first.

     

  8. WORK ON YOUR BUSINESS two mornings a week

    It’s not enough to work IN your business, you must work ON your business.

     

  9. WEALTHY on the balance sheet & BROKE AT THE BANK

    The misallocation of capital is the biggest financial problem in ranching. At the Ranching For Profit School you’ll learn how to capitalize and concessionize assets to increase profit and improve the financial health of your business.

     

  10. RANCHING FOR PROFIT is NOT an oxymoron

    Many ranchers seem to think that profit is dictated by prices and weather…two things beyond our direct control. Ranching for Profit graduates prove every year that the key to profit is management.

    Blessing!

    tauna

Cover Crop Considerations

A hot topic in regenerative farming circles these past few years is the use of cover crops.  Do they have a place in ‘modern’ farming practices.  Modern mostly meaning supply/demand/government subsidies/market considerations.  Modern farming practices currently are very hard on soil health and microbes.

Nevertheless, there are some farmers who had embraced cover cropping decades ago with huge successes in improving soils and yields, some are just now dipping their toes in the ‘new’ (actually ancient) practice, and still others staunchly refuse to consider them.

These principles have been around for centuries, but more recently promoted by Ray Archuleta, Gabe Brown, Jay Fuhrer, Jon Srika, and others

Five Principles of Soil Health:

  1. Limit Disturbance – limit mechanical, chemical, and physical disturbance of soil.  Widespread tillage destroys soil structure and function.
  2. Keep the Soil Covered – maintain an armor of plant residue on the soil surface.  Residue can inhibit weed growth, moderate soil temperature, reduce erosion, reduce evaporation, and provide organic matter for soil microbes.
  3. Promote and Build Diversity – incorporating cover crops or diversifying your crop rotation or both!  The synergy of diverse root exudates improves soil health.
  4. Keep Living Roots in the Soil – keep living roots in the soil for as many months as possible.  Converting solar energy to biological energy feeds mycorrhizal fungi.  Miles of roots hold soil in place and increases water holding capacity.
  5. Integrate Animals – Properly managed grazing animals taking a bite of grass pumps more carbon back into the system.  Slobber, urine, manure, biting and ripping grasses, all add so much to the system, it’s impossible to discuss in this short blog.

For full stories and explanation of these five principles, i highly recommend Gabe Brown’s excellent book, Dirt to Soil.  

Shalom!

 

Top 5 Business Management Actions on the Farm/Ranch

This reblogged from Ranch Management Consultants.

Top 5 Business Management Actions on the Farm/Ranch

by Dallas Mount

As we wrap up 2019, I want to share with you what comes to the top of my mind as actions that farms and ranches take when they are serious about their business management. If you are hitting the mark on these, well done! If not, then what will your strategy be to improve in 2020?

1.Effective Communication –
Have regular WITB (operational) meetings and WOTB (strategic) meetings. For WITB they should be brief, focused and end with something written down in a visible spot, listing who is doing what by when. For WOTB meetings they need to be focused with limited distractions, allow for creative thought, be inclusive and also end with an action plan.

2.Clear Roles and Accountability –
Are all the roles of your business being filled? Is ownership clearly setting the mission and vision? Is management developing plans that include strategies with contingencies and communicating those to everybody? Is labor effectively balancing all the duties and working with the end in mind? Most farms and ranches are owned and labored while few are effectively managed.

3.Plans Developed and Communicated –
Does your business have the following plans written down:
Economic plan showing the projected profit for the coming year.
Financial plan which shows the projected cash flow for the coming year.
Grazing plan that shows where the animals will be, for how long, planned rest periods and planned stocking rate.
Disaster plan for drought, fire, blizzards, or floods.
Organization structure listing who is responsible for each aspect of the business.

4.Professional Development – What is the plan for the coming year? What areas does the business need training in? Each key person should develop their own professional development plan for the coming year and get buy-in from the business leadership.

5.Healthy Balance of Work and Life – If you are spending all your time putting out fires in the business something has to change. Sure, we all go through periods of super-human effort, but if this is the norm it isn’t sustainable. If you want different results, you must take different actions.

From all of us at RMC, thank you for your support over this past year. We are so blessed to get to work with some of the best people in the world who are taking care of God’s creation and feeding the people.

Best wishes for a joyful and prosperous 2020!

 

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Timing the Cover crop seeding

Another piece of the puzzle of enhancing soil is planting those covers!  Farming and ranching are not independent components, but an intricate web of practices that are critical to the whole picture.  Back to the old way of farming now realizes that keeping roots and living organisms in the soil year round enhances soil quality and reduces or eliminates erosion.  Keep the soil covered!!!

Here’s an excellent idea-generating article by Amanda Kautz as published in the August 2019 issue of Missouri Ruralist.

high-clearance sprayerTom J. Bechman
GET A JUMP: There are farmers who are turning custom-seeding cover crops into a side business. They use a high-clearance sprayer equipped with a cover crop seeder.

3 ways to seed cover crops sooner

Here are three options for getting cover crops seeded earlier this fall.

Aug 07, 2019

By Amanda Kautz

Corn and soybeans were planted later than normal this spring. That means harvest will likely run on the late side as well. All this means your cover crop seeding method and choice of species become even more important.

If you intend to plant anything other than cereal rye, triticale or winter barley, you must consider and use seeding methods other than drilling after harvest.

Also, if the main purpose of your cover crop is to control soil erosion, you need to increase seeding rates of cover crops drilled after harvest. If fall 2018 taught us anything, it’s that late-planted cover crops provide little to no protection from soil erosion due to negligible growth in cold, fall conditions.

If you need a cover crop seeding method other than drilling, here are three options. Each has pluses and minuses. Also, remember that before choosing to seed cover crops before harvest, check plant-back restrictions on herbicide labels for products applied in crops this summer.

1. Aerial seeding. Aerial seeding is great if you’re dealing with a late harvest, especially if it remains wet. You may sacrifice some seed loss for earlier establishment, but in return, there’s no soil disturbance at all. This seeding method is also done while the corn and soybean crops are still in the field, allowing for more choice of cover crop species for your mix.

Aerial seeding does come with a higher price tag for application costs and for using a higher seeding rate. Another downfall can be more variable stand establishment if moisture isn’t available. Less consistent seed-to-soil contact can lead to less-than-desirable cover crop success.

2. High-clearance seeder. The main benefit of applying with a high-clearance seeder is being able to seed earlier in the season. The application occurs while the grain crop is still standing.

The seed loss is minimal, but the seed-to-soil contact isn’t as great as using a drill, planter or vertical-tillage tool. This method also may result in some crop damage due to preharvest application.

3. Combine seeder. What better way to seed cover crops than to do it during harvest? Seeding and harvest is all done in one pass. Seed loss is minimal, and timing is normally good.

However, with later combining dates this year, it may still be too late if you’re trying to establish species that need to be seeded earlier in the season to get good growth.

The other downside of this method is that refilling the seeder frequently may slow down harvest. This isn’t always something a producer wants to do. Finding the right seeder for your combine may be a challenge as well.

If you have questions about what would work best for your operation, contact your local conservation partnership office. They’re available to help with seeding rates, dates and other useful information.

Kautz is a district conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. She writes on behalf of the Indiana Conservation Partnership.

Debt Free Education

Dave Ramsey is on a rant, but worth considering!  This video is an ad for a new product designed to give you ideas on how to get an education without incurring student debt.  I have not ordered or read the book yet.

Can a debt free education be had?  Yes, I personally know a young man who is my son’s best friend who has done just that.  He started working as a young teenager on the farm and by the time he could legally work for other people (14-16 in Missouri, depending on the job), he knocked on doors and worked.  Additionally, he started his own lawn care business and by the time he graduated high school, he had enough money to pay for a 2 year associates degree at a local college while simultaneously attending and graduating from Grand River Technical School as a welder!  Now, the next smart move, though his dream is to farm full time, he got a full time position as a welder at a shop which is allowing him to replace the savings he spent on his education.  Now, a year and a half into that, he was able to purchase a portable welder/generator so he can start his own business.  Yeah, he’s still working full time until he builds a good customer base and he is farming alongside his dad at Sycamore Valley Farm.  WOW!

North Missouri is an economically depressed area of the US, but financial success can be had with good decision-making and hard, but smart, working ethic.

Dave Ramsey “America is Being Harmed By Its Own Government

 

 

Thoughts on Lease Cropping vs Grazing Your Own Stock

There is something wrong with me that leasing and renting properties never seems to work out.  Even when there is a contract with goals and procedures laid out life, weather, resources change and stuff just doesn’t happen as plan.  But, by and large, my disappointments seem rooted in being too accommodating.  Or maybe it’s a lack of communication though for sure i don’t hold back giving my opinions and expectations – to a fault, i’m afraid.  Nevertheless, things never turn out quite the way i want.

Currently, i’ve leased 120 acres for organic farming for 4 years.  My goals are to eliminate or drastically reduce endophyte infected toxic fescue and build organic matter through the use of cover crops.  I knew going in that my renter has no intention of ever letting cattle graze the cover crops, so i can’t be unhappy about that, yet, the more i see happening and the more i read, it is clear that my soil is lacking due to the removal of animal impact.

Our contract was spelled out and ends after next year’s crop (it was a 4 year deal).  I had hoped that it would be successful and that then we could move forward with working another piece and removing more fescue, but it doesn’t work.

Here are some bullet points i have:

  1. animal impact is essential to making cover crop and soil improvements financially viable as well as building organic matter and tilth.
  2. in a lease situation, the owner doesn’t have the power to make certain that soil is covered.  This past year, the soil did not have anything in it from November until June (except volunteer ragweed growing in the spring) and now that it’s been worked and readied for more soybeans, it still lays open to the sun, wind, and rain with prevented planting.  (it’s now October 2019 and covered with weeds again). Cover crops simply don’t get planted even though that was the written goal.
  3. I knew going in that i was incurring some opportunity costs by leasing vs grazing my own cattle on the property.  I weighed that against the possibility of getting better control of the toxic fescue and giving my friend an opportunity to expand his organic cropping endeavor.  Bottom line, from a purely income/expense perspective, I make more money with grazing vs leasing the property for row cropping.
  4. Lessees do not care for your property as you would.  Trees and brush are growing rapidly in fence rows and untilled portions of the land.  I still do the labor of keeping them under control and since the crop is organic, i must follow the rules of how to manage.  In other words, i can’t chemically treat the plants or stumps if they are within 20 feet of the crop – So they grow and grow.  It will be 7 years from the time i cut brush and treated and the time i regain control of my property.  A lot gets big and away.  More work at the end of the organic regime.
  5. This experiment was worth the pain since i now know that it simply is not the way i would ever do this project again.  I’m especially glad I went with the organic approach despite the stumbling blocks since a conventional farmer would have slathered the soil with toxic chemicals year after year and farmed fence row to fence row and through the waterways.  My friend is careful to leave ample grass strips in waterways and leaves 20 foot buffer from the fences (organic rules).  At the same time this leaves at least 20 acres that is not be utilized for any purpose since he won’t allow grazing at any time.
  6. The weather immediately turned into drought mode for these 3 years and I’m having to downsize my cow herd drastically to accommodate since my acres for grazing is reduced.  Incredibly, this has turned to be a blessing since i’ve culled deeply (after this fall, it will have been about 40%!), no cow gets a second chance and i’ve sold a lot of older cows that i would typically try to ‘get one more calf out of.’  This year’s calf crop is the best I’ve ever had.  Now if only market prices weren’t in the tank.
  7. If i had my own farming equipment and the desire to run it, i think there is opportunity to improve the soil, increase tilth and organic matter, create better wildlife habitat, create another employment opportunity, and increase profit with combined cropping/grazing especially if a value added food crop market is developed.  We actually do have all the equipment, but not the time or energy to develop the plan, work the plan, and market.  The equipment mostly sits in the barn and serves as depreciating assets against income.
  8. At the end of the day,  we do the best we can and then we die.  The hope is to leave a legacy of some sort – be it a physical asset, money, or wisdom.  A friend recently sold his rather large farm he had promoted, taught, enjoyed, and improved with holistic, organic practices for all his life yet it sold to conventional farmers who are likely to plough it all under and row crop until it is degraded. That is sad, but life goes on.

At the end of the day, I’m looking forward to bringing the 120 acres back under my management even though i will only graze it once i get it seeded back down.  With managed grazing and some brush/tree removal, the pasture will be back hopefully making money for me soon.

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You can see the worked field which has now been bare soil since harvest of soybeans last November.  That means 10 months and counting of open, unprotected soil.