Category Archives: Stewardship

Reason for a blog

I am not much of a marketer of my stuff.  While in the horse industry it seemed to me that it was more about the marketing than the horsemanship.  I never sold one piece of training equipment. I did write a book and made some videos but I never marketed them; nor did I take any profit from them.  It was always a challenge for me to give folks their money’s worth in a clinic.

My favorite thing to do has always been demonstrations.  Whether it was starting a colt, roping, horsemanship, or cattle handling, it was a short time for someone to hear and see my point of view.  If they did not like it they could leave or criticize it to anyone they wanted to tell.

Hopefully this blog will serve the same purpose.  I have had so many great learning experiences from my childhood and onward – some from mentors, some from paying people to learn from them, and many more from making mistakes and learning from them.

One skill that is a must is the ability to communicate effectively.  I have always felt at ease and confident in live demonstrations. Only time will tell on how I communicate through written words.

So here we go.  My goal is to provoke thought and to hopefully improve quality of life for humans, animals, and the environment.  I will present positive thoughts and ideas that have worked for me, and you can take them or leave them.  If something offends you I apologize, but to be honest it’s on your shoulders. Because in the end, it is simply my opinion, and it will probably change in time anyway. I truly hope you find it worthwhile.

This was what I wrote in my first blog, which I later renamed “Scoop Loop.” I feel like I have kept my word and added even more to it.  I never once tried to sell anything to anyone except ideas to think about.

I added Monday Morning Photos and Friday feel-good music.  It was real fun for me to do and hopefully enjoyable for you.

The reason I started writing was to promote NCBA’s Stockmanship and Stewardship program and the ideas I promote .  I am not sure I did that, but I sure put ideas I believe in out there.

If you have been reading these posts you know I am an avid environmentalist who is passionate about grazing animals being used to improve the environment and consume excess production from farming.  I like animals and people and feel they need to be treated properly.

Honesty is such an important thing in this life.  Most important to yourself and then to others. 

I am going to stop writing on the Scoop Loop for a while.  I thank you for letting me throw my opinion at you.  I hope it got you thinking.  I thank Jesse Bussard for making me look like I paid better attention in school, and for doing more than she was paid for.

~ Curt Pate

Manage the world like a ranch

My son, Rial, and I are in Hawaii riding some horses for our friend, Nancy Jones.  We had a nice discussion at supper and Rial expressed concerns about the world’s future. This got me thinking about solutions to the world’s challenges.

I wonder if the world leaders were all ranch managers if we could manage it for maximum production and maintain it for future generations.

The first thing we would need to figure out is available resources.  The next thing would be to figure out how to manage those resources in a way that will create profit, investigate ways to increase resources, and decide the best methods to harvest those resources.

If I purchase a 1000 acre ranch it comes with a history.  Its resources were managed in a way that those in control decided they wanted.  When I take over I make the decision to keep operating in the same manner or to change it to what I want.

If I am going to raise livestock without any inputs from anything but this 1000 acres, I will need to be very careful about the number of animals I run on the ranch.  In some cases it may be better to operate with a certain number of animals and bring in some outside inputs that I can purchase from another source with some of the profit I take in from selling my resources off the 1000 acres.

The previous management may have only ran 50 head of cows, did not manage grazing, did not irrigate, never made any repairs to improvements, and did not spend any money because they did not make any.  They got along fine, but had a very hard life because there was not any money to purchase things that made life easier and they could never save enough to be secure.

I could possibly take this ranch and increase production dramatically.  I could develop and improve the soils to create great forage with improved management and utilizing irrigation.
I could manage the grazing in a way to quadruple production.  If done properly  this could really make this a ranch that is going to improve soil fertility, ensure a high quality of life for the people involved on the ranch, and create an environment on the ranch that is comfortable in the present and will be improved in the future. The profit from the resources are split up into maintaining and improving infrastructure, creating a high quality of life for those involved with the ranch, training new help for the ranch, taking care of those that have worked on the ranch after they retire, and some of the profit should go to stockpiling resources for future use.

I could also take this same ranch and only think about taking as much as possible with no regard to what effect it is having on the soil or surrounding ranches.  I could use as much fertilizer and chemical as possible, run as many animals as possible, only trying to get as much as I can as fast as I can.  I may more than quadruple production and take as much profit as I can so I can live an extravagant lifestyle.  I am not sure how long it will last, but I am going to get the most out of it I can.

From what I can tell, the Earth ranch is either the first or the third scenario.  What I think we need to do is get to the second scenario.  We need to utilize the world’s resources in way that works like a good ranch, combining Mother Nature with technology, then adding common sense and integrity.

The Earth is a big place.  If there is a worldwide drought or if the animal units get to be more than capacity, we can’t haul in more feed or ship units off to another earth.

The Earth is only so big, and there are only so many resources.  We can’t expand this ranch unless we go to space.  We must manage with what we have.

I have seen many places with the same resources in which one outfit improves and prospers, and another beside it goes bankrupt.  It is all about the management.

I think all the world leaders should go to a Ranching for Profit School.  I and Jesse have both attended this school and many people I know have as well.  It lays it out how to work with available resources to improve and prosper in many ways.  Isn’t that what the world needs?

We need to be realistic with how we manage. Before ranching came along Mother Nature kept things in balance for the way the world worked.

I am not sure everyone on Earth will ever work together to make the ranch run smooth, but you and I can work on our division to make it the best, and just like on ranches I have worked on, this creates desire to improve from other ranch workers.

~ Curt Pate

Nevada “Range War” Seems A Tough Story To Unravel

Image via The Dana Show

Sharing at Curt’s request:

By now most of the nation is aware of the self-proclaimed “range war” brewing on the ranch of Cliven Bundy in Clark County, Nevada. The situation is complex, and like most complex issues it’s hard to pinpoint who’s in the right and who’s in the wrong on this one. Throw in the various spins the talking heads of the media are taking on the story and we will likely never get a straight answer.

If nothing else, the Bundy ranch difficulties show how difficult it is to ranch in the West under the supervision of bureaucrats.

Click here to read more in my latest Beef Producer blog on Fodder for Thought.

~ Jesse Bussard

Sustainability: My point of view

I am going to explain this word from my point of view.  Many things have led to my definition of it like the way I was raised, the environment or area of the country I have lived in, the places in the world I have traveled to, and most importantly the different ideas people have shared with me on how to live and think.

For some reason I have a huge desire to learn and develop knowledge and skill, then try to take this even higher. I feel the only way to do this is to is let your ego take you where you need to go, then overcome the ego to learn even more, and allow your skill to improve to the point your ego shows up again to start the whole process over again.

When you get satisfied and think you are as good as it gets, you are right.

To me this is really dangerous not only on a personal level, but also on the world level and industry level as well.

On the subject of the sustainability of beef, ego is playing a huge part.  It has become us against them.  The problem is there are not many of us and a whole bunch of them.

As I said before many things have influenced the way I feel and think.  I am exposed to more opinions from all sides than most folks.  The hard part is getting the facts and not opinions or wishes from both sides.

The place I grew up on in the Helena, Montana area is now a housing development around a golf course.  There are many huge homes and paved streets.  The golf course has a fancy clubhouse, restaurant, pro shop and a very large paved parking lot.

The shop, hog barns, and slaughter house are used for golf cart storage and to keep all the equipment it takes to operate a golf course stored or worked on.  The corrals, feed lot and the fences are all gone.  No animals or crops are raised on the place any longer.  Just big expensive houses and a golf course.

I am sure many of the people that live and play on the place believe beef is bad for the environment.  I beg to differ.  It seems to me we were operating a sustainable operation.  We grew hay and grain to feed the cattle and hogs.  The manure from the cattle and the hogs was used to fertilize the soil.  We rotated crops with alfalfa to put nitrogen back in the soil. We were a part of the community and provided a service with our slaughter house for folks to harvest their own food.

My grandfather’s place bordered the place with the golf course.  We ended up buying the place.  The creek that ran through the golf course came through our place as well.  The plant life in it was so thick that you could hardly ride a horse through it and the flow really slowed. It was much different than before the golf course.  We had real big trout in it before, but I think they have all disappeared.

With so many houses and sewers the ground water contamination was getting to be a concern.  Most of the people had dogs and that was always a concern to have them chasing stock and I would sometimes see the cattle running.  I think it was a fun pastime for some golfers to see if they could hit a cow with a golf ball.  We also got a lot more traffic on foot and in cars.  The golf course and subdivision really changed everything.

My definition of sustainable is this:  Using something in a way that maintains or improves quality.

That’s it.  Producing beef, pork, and growing crops on that land was sustainable.  Not only for the land itself, but it was not hurting the surrounding area, and was creating protein for humans while improving the land.

Something had been grazing and  putting manure and urine on that few hundred acres for thousands of years.  Grazing had made it sustainable for all those years.  From the way I see it, our farming and ranching enterprise was as good or maybe better than the previous use, and I am certain it was much better for this land than a housing development and a golf course. I guess I can see this because I was there.  I am proud of the way it was taken care of by my family.

Mother Earth is what is important.  We need to sustain her.  I truly believe grazing animals must be a part of that.  It’s not about the beef, it’s about what the cattle can do to improve and sustain the soil and water.

Big companies like Walmart and McDonald’s may not know what they want from those of us raising beef. The customer may be unreasonable in their desires. It may be a conspiracy theory by the United Nations. We may not be able to feed the world because of it, or one of the many other reasons I have or haven’t heard.

It’s really about figuring out what is right for everyone and then doing it.  If the consumer doesn’t approve they will change their consuming habits.  If the producer can’t make a profit long term they will change the production model or stop producing.  The government can regulate us out of business, or subsidize to keep us in business, or stay out of it and let supply and demand control it.

I don’t care what you call it, but it has to be right for two reasons, first to be able maintain or improve soil and water in a profitable manner, and second to produce a product the consumer wants.  That is sustainable beef.

The way I see it sustainable beef is the best term for it.  If you have a better term, let’s hear it. I would really like to here what you have to say about this, and how you would label it.

Watch this YouTube video and it will show how I feel every time I go by the old place.

~ Curt Pate

This is the place I grew up on.  It is presently a golf course and a housing development.  You can see the property to the left is still producing agricultural products.  The property on the right is dry land grain but has never produced much.  It looks like the golf course and housing development would have been better placed across the road.  This week I will use this place as an example of “sustainable” agriculture.

~ Curt Pate

google earth map of curt's home place

Sustainability and the customer

Last week was the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s annual convention.  It’s a big time deal and I am proud I got to be a part of it. I had lots of good experiences, met lots of good folks, and got some new things to think about.

A man from McDonald’s gave an interesting talk on the sustainability commitment that the company has made.  The most interesting thing that I found was that favorable public perception for the fast food giant was very low.  The customer has spoken and they are trying to do something about it.  They may not know exactly what to do, but they are working on it and I bet they will figure it out.

The A&W burger joints in Canada have gone to all natural beef.  They even go so far as to feature the main suppliers and the sustainable practices they use. To learn more about what they are doing check out: www.awbetterbeef.ca

Several companies have been able to already convince or capitalize on the more affluent members of society about sustainability and create or satisfy a customers needs for organic or natural labeled foods.  I did not know if this was a trend or a fad, because it was a pretty niche market.

I used to get kind of a big kick out of going to the natural food store in Helena, Montana to shop with my wife.  We had a big old diesel pickup with a bale bed and brush guard and it would really stand out in the parking lot full of Subarus.

You are supposed to bring your own bags to these stores and I had lots of them from all the cattle trade shows I was involved in.  The trouble was they had been given out by all the drug companies. You will get some looks in the natural health care isle if you are putting natural cold remedies in a bag with a cattle vaccine logo on it.

Just me being in the store with a cowboy hat on created quite a lot of stress.  I would seek out the folks that seemed to be the most opposite of me and ask them questions or try to get them to help me.  Some would be a little hard to catch up with.  At the check out line it was really interesting because so many of the folks had to stay there with me and felt uncomfortable knowing I was a rancher and just maybe a republican.  Most of them had a brace up against me, but if I smiled and asked them some question or complemented them on something they would talk to me, and a few of them would even look at me.

My point is that I was very different in my lifestyle from the people that chose to shop in this store.  They were skeptical of me and I had to make a big effort to change the way they perceived me.

The reusable bag with a medicine bottle and a syringe picture carried by a guy with a cowboy hat and manure on his boots was just as sustainable as the the guy with the tattoos and nose rings and the hemp bag.  I was reusing a bag and expressing my lifestyle through my appearance the same as him.  We may have been more alike than either of us thought. Or maybe not …

It sure looks to me like the sustainable movement is not only here to stay, but is growing at a very rapid pace.  When Walmart and McDonald’s are marketing to the customer as sustainable it’s pretty hard to deny it.

The funny thing is after the seminar I heard lots of negative talk about this whole sustainability thing.  It confuses me as to why beef producers don’t understand that we produce a product for a customer.  Most of us don’t sell directly to to the consumer so we hire someone to do it for us (i.e. Walmart and McDonald’s).  I am pretty sure they know what the customer wants but we don’t seem to want to listen.

Most people don’t see when a bull is on the fight or a horse is going to buck them off, until they have been run over or bucked off a few times.  They just could not see it shaping up.

I don’t know how it’s going to shape up, but sustainability is an important concept for our consumer of beef. If we can’t see this by now we are about to get run over and bucked off hard.

My grandfather always said we need to “separate our wants from our needs.” People don’t have to or need to eat beef.  We in the beef industry “need” to get consumers to “want” to eat beef.  They are telling us what they want and we need to listen.  Enjoy it and profit from it.

~ Curt Pate

Ron Gill and I presented demos at the NCBA Trade Show on working with younger calves. We tried to show several styles with proper Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) protocols and animal welfare the priority in all of them. We had lots of good help.

Todd McCartney and Tom Curtin are horseback in the photo. Ron Gill and Chuck Cogsgrove of Anitrace are doing the tagging. Dean Fish and myself are doing the real work on the ground crew.  It all went pretty good, there were a few times when things got a little out of hand but that is real life, you should always learn from each situation.  The cattle and horses were real good to work with.

~ Curt Pate

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