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Good Management Forms Great Habits

Posted Jun. 4, 2007

In this age, we are all bombarded with a large amount of information every day. How you filter for the good information, and then decide what to do with it, is the key to making the information work for you. There are three things you can do after you are confronted with something new. First, you can ignore it. Secondly, you can process the information and maybe use a few highlights at a later date. Finally, you can take the information and apply it.

All of us can attest to the fact that something is never really learned until you go through the trial and error and repetition of doing it yourself. After you try something for the second and then the third time, you get better at the task. If the task offers rewards, then the repetition can lead to forming a habit. I firmly believe, however, that for a good habit to become entrenched in your life, the process or task needs to be something that you do at least every week. This is why some people have difficulty taking soil samples or calibrating spray equipment. It's not that the task is difficult to understand or that people don't believe in the benefits - the infrequency of the task makes many people forget or bypass it.

If a task is something that you do the same every day, such as feeding cattle in the winter, there is a danger of losing perspective. In other words, you don't want something to become so familiar that it becomes a mindless habit - like brushing your teeth. If you get stuck in the rut of running the same number of cattle on your property every year, you may miss some of the early signs of drought. You then can be stuck with too many cattle and overgrazed pastures, while others have already reacted to drought indicators and reacted appropriately.

Habits can eventually evolve into a positive addiction. For this to happen, a task must result in some form of significant and measurable benefit. The best agricultural example I can think of is watching people getting interested in electric fence. Once they put it on their property and have success with it, the number of pastures with it starts multiplying. Producers begin to use temporary fences to flash-graze or stockpile pasture, and then they come up with all kinds of innovative adaptations. Benefits come in the form of faster, easier, cheaper fence construction, and the habit transitions into a positive addiction. In the process, these producers become better grass and cattle managers as they have more frequent contact with their cattle and more opportunity to monitor their grass conditions.

I am not advocating that everyone go out and string electric fence, but I am challenging you to find something that you can make a good habit of and do it at least every week. Start with something simple, like identifying five grasses or forbs on your property every week, or check forage utilization by livestock in a different part of each pasture to give you a better overall perspective of what is happening on your property. Who knows, you might become addicted.