Everyone is different and likes to think about and focus on different aspects of life. “Variety is the spice of life” isn’t it? Since we are farmers and ranchers we probably focus on farming and ranching. However, within farming in ranching there are many places that can attract our attention. Tractors, trucks, soil health, litter, livestock genetics, water, worming, stocking rate, stocking density, hay, horses, stockmanship and the list can go on and on.
It can be dangerous and hurtful to you, your business and your family if you are focusing on the wrong things. What am I referring to? It could be anything. Lets say that you really love soil science and you are always looking at and reading about the soil. That is great! However, have you thought about your animals today? What about the balance in the checkbook? How about the happiness and health of your family? How is the water quality in the new paddock?
While these subjects may seem weakly related, they are all related and equally important. I’ve seen this syndrome of hyper focusing in myself and more recently in the agricultural publications. Even in Holistic Management’s wonderful In Practice journal.
I read an article written by a guy who runs a grazing operation. He was talking about soil health and litter and how we need to restore our degraded soils and the way to do that was to look at the land. Longer recovery periods, more litter, monitor for biodiversity and stock density were the words and phrases used. There was only one sentence about animal performance in that article and it provided you with no metric of what to look for when monitoring animal health and performance. How are you supposed to know how to monitor for animal performance? Saying “We also monitor for animal performance” provides no real world explanation to the reader of how to go about doing it. But I degress. Last time I checked the animals are how we turn solar energy into biological energy and then into wealth. It’s how we make a living. Wouldn’t it make sense to always be sure that our animals are happy, healthy and performing well? This should be our first priority, but not our obsessive focus.
Yes, we should focus on animal performance as our first priority. That doesn’t mean we don’t monitor for things like litter covering the soil and the stage and vitality of our grass growth. We also don’t ignore the balance sheet on our financial accounts or the amount of time we spend with our family. Farming and ranching just like life requires balance. We refer to everything within our lives as “the whole.”
The whole is the world at large and is scaled down from there. On a more practical level the whole is our community, our house, our family, our land, our livestock, our water and our ecosystem. Nature functions in whole and patterns. When we focus too much on anything, like soil health, even though that is a good thing, we can easily lose sight of the whole.
I’d encourage you to look at your own lives and ranching/farming operations or dreams of having a farm/ranch and examine what you might be focusing too heavily on. The lesson is don’t lose sight of the whole.
For a more detailed explanation of “the whole” I’d highly recommend Allan Savory’s book Holistic Management.