Farm Progress

The benefits of controlled grazing are vast. Maybe it's time you make the change.

R. P. 'Doc' Cooke, Blogger

December 7, 2016

3 Min Read


Last spring I phoned an old Oklahoma buddy of mine who was in the midst of calving more than 125 heifers. I made the mistake of asking how everything was going.

He said his baby girl had run off with a snake-oil salesman, the bank had called in his note, a heifer with a dead newborn was his first greeter of the morning, they had a 100 acre “hay stack” pasture get matched, his best girlfriend had kicked him to the curb, but late in the afternoon he’d killed an armadillo and figured it was a pretty good day. Seems that the little imports are the only hole diggers and horse tumblers in his pastures. The wrecks have built deep prejudices. It’s just a matter of keeping our attitudes in perspective.

About that same time I had the opportunity to go to grazing conference featuring Missouri grazier Greg Judy. He was wide awake and at the top of his game. I met several producers that have been reading Beef Producer. They had many good comments and though most were about Walt Davis, I picked up some good thoughts.

I learned that a couple of friends, Teddy Gentry from Alabama and Allen Williams from Mississippi, had written a cattle book. I got my copy in the mail and made a three-sit-down read of Before You Have a Cow. The book covers soil health and fertility, plant health and growth, cattle environmental genetics, and grazing. Greg Judy authored a chapter on high-density, planned grazing. They covered much of what it has taken several of us 30-plus years to learn.

I sure wish the information, teaching and fencing technology had been out there 35 or 40 years ago when I was trying to get a handle on our business.

Nowadays a critical and observing eye will still have to drive dozens of country miles to eyeball a really smooth operation. But there are “movers and shakers” out there in every region and part of the country I am aware of. If you come up with a copy of the book by Gentry and Williams, read it at least twice and then place it in the hands of some interested young person. We need them and they need our support.

Movers and shakers are consistently taking worn-out, old farms and utilizing management practices with cattle to transform these near-worthless sites into viable cattle production. Hunting leases are paying good dividends as the wildlife has exploded behind the institution of holistic planned grazing. We have witnessed the results of moving into sync with nature and working with His model rather than fighting battles we could not win.

I have made reference to the “two-to-five year plan” in the past. Now there are a handful of producers seeing a transformation into profitability that is highly sustainable after as little as 18 months of planning and execution.

If you haven’t attended a holistic conference and/or pasture walk in a couple years, consider the options:

• If your land is not quickly transforming in a positive way, then why not?

• If you are not making positive differences in the lives of young people that have true interest and energy, then why not?

I am of the belief that the future holds great opportunities for grazing cattle. Think about it. This might be the time to recharge your battery.

About the Author(s)

R. P. 'Doc' Cooke


R. P. "Doc" Cooke, DVM, is a mostly retired veterinarian from Sparta, Tennessee. Doc has been in the cattle business since the late 1970s and figures he's driven 800,000 miles, mostly at night, while practicing food animal medicine and surgery in five counties in the Upper Cumberland area of middle Tennessee. He says all those miles schooled him well in "man-made mistakes" and that his age and experiences have allowed him to be mentored by the area’s most fruitful and unfruitful "old timers." Doc believes these relationships provided him unfair advantages in thought and the opportunity to steal others’ ideas and tweak them to fit his operations. Today most of his veterinary work is telephone consultation with graziers in five or six states. He also writes and hosts ranching schools. He is a big believer in having fun while ranching but is serious about business and other producers’ questions. Doc’s operation, 499 Cattle Company, now has an annual stocking rate of about 500 pounds beef per acre of pasture and he grazes 12 months each year with no hay or farm equipment and less than two pounds of daily supplement. You can reach him by cell phone at (931) 256-0928 or at [email protected].

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