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Tips for grazing management and New Year’s resolutions

University of Arkansas cattle-grazing
An outline for grazing system a good plan to follow in life.
How a grazing management program can help us keep our resolutions and teach us about ourselves.

A few weeks ago, I attended a Fall Forage Conference hosted by the Arkansas Forage and Grassland Council. One of the speakers was John Jennings, professor and Extension Forage Specialist with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. Jennings is considered a leading expert in the development of a 300-day grazing system. One of his fellow conference speakers even referred to him as the “Godfather of 300-Day Grazing.” 

Jennings’ program has helped producers across Arkansas and the Midsouth improve their forages, extend their grazing seasons and reduce hay feeding. During the conference he outlined five steps for getting started with 300-day grazing. 

  1. Inventory what you have. Determine what forages are currently available for each grazing season. 
  2. Manage what you have. Before adding any other forage species, improve management practices for existing forages. 
  3. Fill the gaps. Add complementary forages to fill in seasonal gaps as necessary. 
  4. Plan one season ahead. Make a schedule and put it on the calendar. 
  5. Keep records. Monitor practices and adjust as needed. 

That’s an incredibly brief summary of Jennings’ program, and if you’d like to dive deeper, there’s a great Extension publication online.

I ran across my notes from Jennings’ outline as I prepared to write this column. Maybe it’s end-of-year introspection, but I couldn’t help but think these five steps are good advice not just for forage management, but for business management and even personal development. An agricultural take on The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, if you will. 

As we begin the new year, many of us are thinking of new goals or ways to make improvements in 2021. Perhaps these five steps could keep us on track. 

  1. Inventory what you have. Reflect inwardly and take stock of what makes you, you. What are your strengths, your weaknesses? Identify areas in your career, relationships or finances that are already strong, and where you’d like to improve.  
  2. Manage what you have. Before making big changes, be sure you’re being a good steward of the skills and resources you already have.  
  3. Fill the gaps. Once you’re aware of areas that need improvement, take the necessary steps to fill the space between where you are and where you want to go. 
  4. Plan one season ahead. Make a schedule and put it on the calendar. 
  5. Keep records. Write things down. It will help you keep track of big decisions and is an important practice for monitoring what works and what doesn’t. 

Just as producers may not reach a 300-day grazing season in the first year, we probably won’t achieve every goal we set for 2021. The key is continually moving closer to the target. 

Best of luck to all of you in the New Year! And, of course, my thanks to Professor Jennings for the inspiration. 

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