Dr. Gary Bates, Director and Professor, UT Beef & Forage Center
I remember getting my first pair of cowboy boots from my grandma. She worked at a dry goods store, and when we went to visit one time, she told me to pick out any pair of boots they had, and it would be my birthday present. I picked out a pair of dark maroon Dan Post medium toe boots. I still remember how proud I was to wear those boots. After those wore out, I remember getting a pair of black roper-style boots out of the Sears catalog. It didn’t matter to me if people at school joked about them. I did not care because that was what I wanted to wear. I have been wearing boots ever since. Maybe the style has changed slightly. I have gone from pointed toe to ropers, and now wear square toe boots.
The same story can be said of my clothes. I never have been much on wearing the latest styles. Look at pictures 30 years ago and I pretty much dress the same now. Nothing much has changed except the color and amount of my hair. I have a certain way I like to dress, regardless of whether it is in style or people’s opinions. Comfort and functionality are my guides, not the latest style.
I would expect many of you are the same way. There are certain things you like, and certain things you do not. It may be clothes, it may be certain food, or it may be some of the things you do in your forage operation. You use certain forage species or practices because it fits well in your operation, even if no one else does the same thing.
Just because you are the only one doing something does not necessarily make it wrong. But you always need to evaluate ideas or practices if you are the only one doing it. Maybe there is a reason you should consider changing. But if the practice fits well in your operation, maybe there is no reason to change.
Questions to ask yourself
If you find yourself doing something contrary to most others, you should evaluate the practice with a few of the following questions.
1. Is the practice making me money or losing money? The goal of your operation should be to make money. If you are losing money, then evaluate each of your practices to see if they are contributing to the loss. For instance, you may love to put up hay. But if it is costing you more to put up hay than it would be to buy it, maybe you should think about a change in your hay system.
2. Does this practice save time or make things easier? Evaluate everything you are doing to see if there is an easier way to accomplish a similar task. Time is too valuable to be wasted. For instance, you may be mowing pastures each summer once or even twice, trying to keep various weeds down. But you could save time and money if you used a herbicide to kill them early in the summer instead of having to mow when they are head high.
3. Does it fit well into my production system? There may be practices that work well for some producers, but your system isn’t set up for it. For instance, you may read magazine articles about producers that use rotational grazing, moving their cattle to new fields every day. That may not fit your schedule. Maybe you decide to split pastures so that you move once a week instead. A slight change may help you use a new practice without major changes in your operation.
The point is to take time to look at various components of your operation. There may be things that you want to keep doing because they work in your operation even if no one else does them. But there may be things that you might need to change which could improve your bottom line.
Article & photo source: https://utbeef.tennessee.edu/forage-management-everybody-has-their-own-style/