We just finished the last High Density Grazing School at Judy farms. Both schools were sold out and we had folks from 28 states attend. There were a wide assortment of folks that attended this years schools. We had seasoned ranchers, inexperienced folks that are looking at starting a ranching operation, father/son teams, single men, single ladies. The age group ranged from 83 year old man to a 10 year old boy with his dad. Sometimes the new folks are more open minded and absorb more readily new ideas in ranching. They have no preconceived ideas on how things must be done on the ranch.
Ian Mitchell Innes our Holistic High Density rancher friend from South Africa taught the classroom curriculum. Folks learned a lot of the important methods of implementing Holistic High Density Planned Grazing on their farms and ranches. Ian really made people aware of focusing on animal performance when starting out with HHDG. Folks lose sight of animal performance and get sidetracked on building soil, forcing animals to eat and trample instead of watching how their animals are performing. This can cause major health issues, breed back problems, etc. The most limiting factor we have in our pastures is energy. Watch what part of the plant the animals eat when you turn them into a new rested paddock. It will be the tops of the plants where the energy is located.
We took folks on daily pasture walks on our farms to physically show them the outstanding results we are having in our fourth year of HHDG. The proof that it works was seen by everybody. The biological activity in our soil is very high. Our energy cycle is improving each year. Our farms are covered with diversity of grasses, clovers, forbs and microbes. The soil surface is a maze of earthworm castings that are building new soil on our farms every day. The cattle are doing all the work and we are assisting them with timely moves to fresh pasture.
We added in a couple of extra events that we did not advertise as part of the school. The first event was Thursday night, we took folks over to our local abattoir and had a tour through the operation. The owner of the abattoir explained the important items of converting a live animal into a finished package of meat to sell to your customers. A lot of folks did not realize how much was involved in the conversion process. Our abattoir is KP Processing which is owned and operated by Larry and Missy Freeman. They built the whole thing by themselves and have a thriving business. The hardship they have right now is finding reliable help to work in the abattoir.
We give them all of our business and hope to build a future with them that allows us both to grow our operations. Our goal is to market all of our livestock direct to the customer and KP Processing is a vital link in our mission. We are very focused on keeping our business local and supporting our local community. Every dollar that you can keep in your community is circulated an average of eight times!
Friday night we had the whole school over to our house for the South African banquet. Ian and I grilled the Boerewors link sausages that we made ourselves at KP Processing. We ground up our beef and added some pork and South African spices. Wow, what a treat it was to eat. One fellow came back for 5 links, they were very tasty for sure! I think I ate 3 myself. Ian commented that in Africa, folks just stand around the grill, visit and eat the meat right off the grill. There are no other side dishes, just meat. Talk about getting your daily protein requirements. Folks visited throughout the evening and made new friends. I am always amazed at how many great optimistic and genuine nice folks we attract to our grazing schools.
Our second unplanned event was a presentation by Mark Bader of Free Choice Enterprises. Mark explained to folks how the cows body works with grass intake daily. Wow, Mark is the best I have ever heard on rumen function and all the other internal organ functions. What a treat and Mark did not try to sell anybody anything. As a matter of a fact he said if we do a good job with our grazing operations (getting plenty of energy into our cattle) we will not need many minerals for our livestock. Everyone commented on how good our catered meals were. Our local barbecue restaurant, Lonnie Ray’s did an outstanding job with the food. We had smoked pulled pork and brisket along with some really tasty side dishes.
My wife Jan, Ian’s wife Pam, our interns Steve and Tyler Westhoff and Dana Clark were a good team preparing the food, coffee, snacks, handouts and setting thing up. We covered a lot of data in the three days for folks to get their minds around . People went home with a whole new understanding and mindset that it is very possible to ranch without purchasing expensive inputs.
Wrapping up we will be holding another grazing school in the spring, no dates are set yet. We have the school half full and have not advertised yet. Folks with escalating input costs and lower beef prices you must change the way you ranch or you may be out of business. Thanks to Holistic High Density Planned Grazing, Judy Farms are thriving, our cow numbers continue to increase because we are growing too much grass for our cattle to eat it all. Nice problem to have if you are selling grass!
Greg and Jan