We're Not Exactly Beef Producers

Beefs and Beliefs

If you think you're a beef producer or cattleman, here's your chance to change.

Published on: July 21, 2011

One of the biggest mistakes I think beef producers make is thinking of themselves as … beef producers.

Here's a different way of looking at ourselves. For fun, I'll present it to you in question-answer format:

Q: What do cattle eat the majority of their lives?

A: They eat forage; grasses and forbs.

Q: What is the most amazing thing plants can do?

A: Photosynthesis; they turn sunlight into various forms of sugars which make up all the parts of the plant.

Q: What can ruminant animals like cattle do with those plants?

A: Turn them into high-quality protein humans can eat.

So, in reality the vast majority of beef producers are people capturing solar energy with grass and then turning it into food – in this case the meat of grazing animals.

If then, we are sun farmers, we need to have the maximum possible amount of solar panels up and in good working order. For us solar panels are living, breathing blades of grass and leaves of forbs. The more we have out there the more sunlight we can turn into the sugar-based compounds that make up plant tissue.

In turn, the more forage we grow the more pounds of meat we can produce from our beef cattle.

As the drought gets worse where I live it's once again becoming painfully obvious to me how difficult that task can be. But it's also obvious how many beef producers I'm watching don't understand the real nature of their business and grub their plants into the ground.

Even without drought in the equation, I see far too many beef producers not managing their forage – meaning they don't control what their cattle graze and when.

Simply put, the point of good grazing management is to grow more forage, of higher overall quality, and to put cattle on it in a timely manner that provides the best nutrition and then gives the forage time to recover before being grazed again.

So think about that grass as solar panels and your cattle as harvesters. It's your job to put them together so you turn the most sunlight possible into good beef.