Agriculture and lifelong learning

Farm Forum

Being raised in a family where books and education were held in high regard has influenced how I look at life. My father was a person that would read about a new idea in the world of agriculture, and would start researching how it might affect his profit margin. If he felt it would increase his profits, he would incorporate it into his dairy operation. The day my dad came home with a minimum till planter, in the early 70’s, the neighbors probably thought he was losing his mind. After the first growing season, those same neighbors decided maybe he was on to something that would work. Why do I bring this up? I feel learning and using new information is one of the keys to success in a business where it is a fine line between profit and loss, such as agriculture. Agriculture is constantly in a state of change and producers need to keep up with those changes.

There are many opportunities where farmers and ranchers can receive innovative information; including farm magazines, breed journals, iGrow publications, and many other published resources. One area not to overlook is workshops sponsored by organizations around the state. Recently, I attended the “Winter Road Show” put on by the South Dakota Grassland Coalition. It was one day of presentations on intensive grazing and cover crop usage, with the presenters being active producers that have used the discussed practices for a number of years. One area of discussion at the Road Show was the management of planned intensive grazing systems and how important the resting phase is to the success of the operation. The first presenter, Gene Goven from Turtle Lake, ND, felt it is more important to know the pounds of beef produced per acre than the number of head that can be run per acre. Gene also stressed that invasive species in a pasture are a symptom of a problem, not the problem itself. If the grass is managed properly, invasive species cannot establish themselves. The second presenter, Jerry Doan, from McKenzie, ND, stressed knowing the type of cattle you are going to use in the grazing system. Some types of cattle are more productive on intensive grazing systems and a producer needs to pay attention to this. Both gentlemen emphasized the need for a long rest period after an intense, short duration grazing time, as well as offering the pros and cons of using cover crops and some of the management adjustments required. The cost of this workshop was twenty dollars (the membership fees for SD Grassland Coalition). As an educator, this was probably the best workshop I have attended in a number of years and, by far, the cheapest.

This is just one example of what is available for producers to advance their knowledge base. There are many of these types of workshops offered throughout the state through breed associations, extension, and agriculture businesses. If a producer wants to incorporate some of these new ideas, the S.D. Center for Farm and Ranch Management can help track the success of the change in an operation. To contact the SDCFRM office or any of our instructors, call 1-800-684-1969 or email us at