Burning Every Year In Africa and Cultural “Norms” 

I learned so much about life, ranching and human relationships during my time in Africa. One of things that I took notice of early on was the cultural “norms” that people have there. In this case, the cultural “norm” is the mentality that 99% of the farmers/ranchers have about burning grass. This realization also made me understand that people will do things because “it’s just what you do.” You know the old “My daddy did it, his daddy did, so I’m going to do it!”

To illustrate this, I want to talk about fire. As I’ve said, 99% of the farmers and ranchers I talked to in South Africa honestly believe that you need to burn your entire farm every year in order to get good grass growth in the spring. They also say “I can’t get any animal performance from my animals unless I burn!!” None of these farmers question their practice, except Ian of course. It’s just what you do. They all think Ian is crazy because he doesn’t burn his land. They also fail to see that he is running probably 5-10 times the amount of cattle they are on the same amount of land. Got Carbon?

This reminds me of a time when we went to a private game reserve that had elephant, lion, zebra, giraffe, hippo and all sorts of wonderful animals. Even this game reserve who is 100% dependent upon the land for their well being is burning every year. Where in nature do you see the same piece of land being burned year after year after year!? You don’t! But, this is human nature I think. A cultural “norm.”

Then I come back to America and I see and hear no one talking about burning. Ever. Isn’t that interesting? But I’m sure we have some cultural norms that we “just do” here in America in our farming and ranching communities. What are those? I don’t know it probably depends on your area. I think one of them is buying stuff. New trucks, tractors and ATV’s. Maybe this is just universally American, our consumer culture. Some of these purchases are completely valid depending on your operation. Others are unnecessary.

This post is fragmented and unorganized, I apologize for that. I’m still adjusting to the time change. However, I want you to think long and hard about “norms” that you might be doing right now and questioning whether or not you need to be doing them. Just because someone around you tells you “you better do X, Y and Z this year!” doesn’t mean crap.

Humans are naturally lazy and I include myself in this category at times. However, if we want to be successful, innovative and happy we need to be extraordinary. We need to be the exception to the rule that says “You can’t do this because.” Anyone who tells you that you can’t do something “because this is the way it’s done” is an idiot and you need to remove them from your life immediately. This is something Ian has taught me, he gave me the confidence that I can do anything. So can you. It comes down to creativity. We all know the stories of people who said the world was flat. Turns out it’s not. There are also people who say “this high density grazing and holistic management stuff doesn’t work! “ I prove those people wrong everyday.

Will you swim upstream against the current of the river or float down with the rest of the crowd?

Chris Stelzer

Chris Stelzer is a published Author, founder of Agricultural Insights and creator of many resources that help family farmers and ranchers grow their businesses. His flagship courses are the Grazing Mastery Program and The Farm Marketing Mastery Program. 

Chris Stelzer

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