Ranching for Profit Workshop
Two days before Earth Day, about 35 ranchers and community members came to a workshop to learn tools to help their businesses become more sustainable; the workshop was called "Ranching for Profit." The workshop had amazing sponsorship: Central Coast Rangeland Coalition, California Alliance for Family Farms, Marin Agricultural Land Trust, Marin Organic, Marin & Sonoma County Farm Bureaus, Marin & Southern Sonoma Resource Conservation Districts and the University of California Cooperative Extension, along with community partners: Bovine Bakery, Central Market and Taylor Maid Farms.
Ranch Management Consultants (RMC), owned and operated by Dave and Kathy Pratt, offered a condensed version of their full week course on Ranching for Profit. RMC was founded by Stan Parsons and was born from the relationship between Stan and Allen Savory as they experimented with a "holistic" approach to ranch management, combining grazing management and animal husbandry with business management. Stan established RMC and began teaching Ranching for Profit schools in 1983. They now have almost 40 years of data collected from participants on what it takes to be a sustainable ranch business.
With only three and a half hours to use, Dave Pratt managed to fit in some quality lessons. First he reminded us that this was "Ranching for Profit," not "Ranching for Breakeven." He taught the economics of running a successful business and how there are only three secrets to increasing profit: increasing turnover, decreasing overheads, and improving the gross product. He went on to discuss the concept of cell grazing: showing participants that eight paddocks are needed to stop the overgrazing, twelve to increase herd health, and a minimum of fourteen to improve the pasture. Dave addressed how cell grazing operates in a natural system and discussed seasonality and the growth pattern of grass. He continued addressing natural systems by offering an eye-opening lesson on aligning the calving season with the best grass. Most ranchers walked away a little lighter on their feet by the end of the morning.
“I think it was a great opportunity. To be sustainable in livestock production you must become your own soil scientist, we are really in the soil energy business. We need to learn to address causes rather than treat symptoms on the landscape. It seems simple but “cutting the dead wood” (reducing overhead costs) and taking a closer look at the economics of our “hobby” will help create a profitable business,” said Jim Jenson.
Beyond the week-long course, Ranch Management Consultants offers a variety of free tips and resources on their website, www.ranchmanagement.com, as well as a regular e-newsletter, free webinars, archived articles, and one-on-one consulting.
It was a sweet way to celebrate Earth Day – honoring the evolutionary relationship of ruminant animals and grasslands as well as encompassing all three pillars of sustainability: people, profit and planet.