When I started at the Noble Research Institute in the late 1970s, agriculture in the Southern Great Plains was still dominated by traditional producers engaged primarily in forage-based beef production. Most operations were fairly large and run by experienced full-time farmers and ranchers. Over the last two decades, the number of these producers has declined. Being sandwiched between the metro areas of Dallas/Fort Worth and Oklahoma City, we've seen a tremendous increase in small, often novice landowners. What hasn't changed in 30-plus years is the fact that most producers seek our consultation services after they've been in business long enough for issues to arise that range from minor to critical.
Rarely do we get an initial request for consultation before someone has chosen and invested in an enterprise and has begun operation. When we can get in on the ground floor with a new producer, there are some basic concepts that we make sure are grasped immediately, and management of a livestock enterprise is at least third down on the hierarchy. First are the soils and forages on the property and realistic expectations of the amount of dry matter that can be grown. That number determines stocking rate, which must be appropriate for anything else to work. Once an appropriate stocking rate is determined, there are five basics I believe should be in place before a livestock enterprise is undertaken.
As livestock producers, it is our responsibility to contain our animals, be able to address problems as they arise, to know diseases and parasites that can harm them, to provide protection from those diseases and parasites, to know the nutrient requirements of all classes of livestock at all stages of production, and ensure they are receiving adequate nutrition. There are many sources of information and education for producers. Success depends on understanding that soil and forage management, health, nutrition, reproduction, and marketing are interconnected and interdependent. It is our job as livestock producers to use this understanding to care for our livestock.