Appalachian Grazing Conference, update

On March 4th and 5th I had the good fortune to attend the Appalachian Grazing Conference, as I related in a previous post.  What a great time.

I have to say Greg Judy’s presentations and those of Kathy Voth were standouts, but I also learned a lot and was impressed by the Extension presenters from West Virginia University, who happened to be co-hosts of this big event.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

Aside from the Holistic Planned Grazing emphasis of Greg Judy, and the Cows as Weedeaters emphasis of Kathy Voth, I was encouraged by the research currently under way and some that has already been done there at West Virginia University.

For instance, one study looked at “optimum cow size” for a commercial beef operation.  This was a study done on a 200 head commercial cow/calf herd and conducted over three years.  A similar study had been done out in North Dakota by NDSU and Dickinson College.  The findings of the North Dakota study were corroborated by West Virginia’s.  Obviously these are two quite different climates, and yet the optimum cow size in terms of inputs vs. outputs (read as profitability) came out the same or pretty close to it.

For some time now ranchers like Kit Pharo and Mark DeBoo, as well as people like Allan Nation (editor of The Stockman Grassfarmer Magazine) have been making statements to the effect that an 1100 to 1300 pound cow is about ideal in terms of weight.  The studies in both North Dakota and West Virginia come to the same conclusion.  North Dakota’s cows came in right around 1250 and West Virginia’s were right about 1270.  While I have personally accepted and believed what Kit and Mark have been saying, it is nice to have a little confirmation from not just one, but two scientific studies.

What that tells me is our cows are about right on for making more just like them on the registered breeding stock side or the commercial side.  Also, they are the right size to use in a terminal cross-breeding program to generate more pounds of beef, so long as we don’t keep replacements out of the terminal crosses.

In any case, if you were wondering how the Appalachian Grazing Conference went, that is what I got out of it.  In other words, keep at the current program we have and tweak it here and there in terms of animal/pasture management.  I know we can all stand to become better pasture managers, so let’s get down to it and also don’t be afraid to take some chances in making decisions that run counter to the “bigger, better, faster” mentality .

Take home:
1250 pound cow at 4 frame (+/-) is optimum for return on investment/inputs.

Holistic Planned Grazing or Mob Grazing, when managed properly, will not only enhance herd health and gains, etc. but is absolutely one of the best ways to build soil and soil health.  Caveat; any paradigm such as Management-intensive Grazing or Holistic Planned Grazing is inherently management-intensive and requires some attention to detail as well as getting one’s hands dirty by going out and doing in order to make it work.

Both conventional beef producers and the “grass-fed only” communities have a lot to learn from one another.  In the end it all comes down to the eating experience of the consumer and the producer being able to make a living being a producer.  In other words, relationships and relationship marketing aren’t just for the producer to consumer chain, but across the perceived boundaries between different production paradigms.

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