Scanning through my Twitter feed on Thursday afternoon, a tweet from Ron Hays of the Oklahoma Farm Report caught my eye.
This tweet highlighted a statement made by Oklahoma State University ag economist Derrell Peel at the recent Texoma Cattlemen’s Conference hosted by the Noble Foundation in Ardmore, Oklahoma.
Peel's quote: "Ranch owners are not in the beef cattle business - you are in the forage business."
Peel is right. This makes complete sense to me.
However, I feel we need to take this statement one step further. Ranchers ultimately are in the solar energy business.
Ranchers who are the most profitable are simply maximizing their land’s ability to capture, convert and sell sunlight in the forms of food, be it plant or animal, fiber or fuel.
There are many ways to profit from solar energy but all methods rely on one single and vital component – the plant. Plants are the solar collectors. The more leaf surface area you promote, the greater the ability of the plant to harvest more sunlight. In turn, the more potential energy you have available to sell.
However, in order for any of this to occur, a healthy soil system and a diverse biological community of plants and animals must first exist. All wealth, all prosperity begins on the land and as is mentioned many times in presentations given at Ranching for Profit Schools, “Ecological health is the foundation for optimized economic health.”
Managing land in a holistic manner is a means to ensure this improved ecological health. It is also a way to get the big-picture view necessary to effectively manage a complex and changing biological system like a ranch.
With the growing concerns of climate change and continued desertification of grasslands across the globe, now more than ever, we need a paradigm shift on the way the practice of ranching is viewed.
Ranchers do not just raise cattle or beef like so many mainstream industry pundits proclaim. They are first and foremost solar energy engineers and grass farmers managing complex and constantly evolving ecosystems with a strategic and adaptive approach.