Environmental Sustainability: How do I care?

Sustainable = The ability to endureDSC04814

While I believe with all my heart that our farm’s ability to sustain is intrinsically tied to its capacity to endure, I also recognize that good planning and an attention to detail is critical to our success.

Sustaining is not just something that happens if you get lucky—it is the result of careful planning and diligent implementation.  It is the art of taking what Mother Nature gives to you and turning it into a usable and beneficial resource.

Recent Sustainability research conducted by the Beef Check Off demonstrates that there are three components of sustainable beef production (raising cattle to grow beef): environmental responsibility, economic viability, and social diligence.DSC04451

Because I care, I have the responsibility to minimize the environmental footprint of my farm.

While every decision that Matt and I make on the farm affects its environmental footprint, the following list denotes the key concepts of how we practically care for the farm’s environmental sustainability.

  • A detailed manure management plan that includes both soil and manure sampling, and makes use of a computer program to help figure the healthy balance of nutrients on crop ground.  The plan also ensures the proper handling of the manure as it is transported from the feed yard to a neighboring crop field.
  • A lined holding pond allows us to use the water that drains off of the feed yard during a rain storm for both irrigation and fertilization on our crop ground.  The heavy plastic liner of the pond prevents the leaching of nutrients while the water is being stored.  This helps us to both recycle the liquid for later use, and to protect the ground water (Ogallala Aquifer) that is under our farm.
  • A careful rotation plan for our crop acres reduces erosion and helps to build and sustain soil health.
  • A careful pen cleaning schedule allows for timely and effective solid manure collection.  This helps to ensure good cattle pen conditions, and the effective use of the natural fertilizer that our animals produce.
  • The procurement of genetically high quality cattle which destines them to produce tender and flavorful beef while using fewer natural resources (feed) to make that beef.
  • The dedication to high quality holistic care practices which reduces stress and improves the comfort of our cattle.  Comfortable cattle make healthy and flavorful beef using fewer natural resources!
  • The use of technology to increase the efficiency of our animals.  For instance, I use both growth hormone implants and a beta agonist feed supplement at the end of the feeding period to help my animals maintain efficient feed conversion until the time of harvest.
  • The use of crop farming technology to increase the efficiency of our crop ground.  For instance, Matt’s tractors are equipped with GPS systems to ensure that seed is placed accurately into the ground at planting.  He also uses soil probes and other mechanisms to ensure that he is using irrigation water efficiently.DSC05079

Matt and I have many “tools in our environmental sustainability tool box”.  We believe that it is our obligation to both our farm and to you to use them responsibly and with diligence.  Our farm has sustained for more than 60 years.

It is our goal that our grandchildren will one day care for it with the same reverence that we do today.

8 Comments

Filed under Environmental Stewardship, General, Sustainable Spring

8 responses to “Environmental Sustainability: How do I care?

  1. Joan

    Anne,
    This is a very good post about environmental sustainability on a farm/feedlot. I wonder if readers believe that what you are doing is the only way it should be done. For example, we use a clay liner for our holding pond because the soil type allows that here. We buy cattle that are not at the top of the gene pool. The cattle we buy fit our ability to care for them properly and to meet economic viability.
    Our farm will celebrate 100 years through Steve’s side of the family next year. Although none of our five children are called to be cattle feeders or farmers we still take seriously our role in caring for what God has placed in our hands.

    • Hi Joan,

      I view each farm as a jigsaw puzzle with the farmer’s job being to put the pieces of the puzzle together in the best way. I certainly do not believe that the way that Matt and I do things on our farm is the only way to do it. It is simply the way that we think that the pieces to the puzzle fit together the best for our farm and our resources.

      The important thing is that the farmer always focuses on ways to protect his natural resources and attain sustainability over the long run. There are many, many farmers who do this in their own unique way.

      Thanks for stopping to read and comment.
      Anne

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  3. This caught my eye because I am in a sustainable ag class and we have been learning about everything that you said in your blog. I think a lot of people forget that we have utilize the land but also to sustain for future use. I have always used the term that we need to be good stewards of this land, and I am a firm believer in that.

    • Yes, I very much agree. Is that the consensus of your instructor and the class as well? I am curious to hear what you are being taught and would love to have you share!

      Anne

  4. Good tools = a job well done 🙂 We have cleaning scheduled for our animals, we use the manure for our garden, and other things on a smaller scale then you do. Good animal and land care takes smarts (which you defiantly have), good tools ( which you just wrote about) , and great care (which you show in all you do). 🙂 When you care about what you do and not just the bottom line things just fall into place for good all around care and a good product 🙂 I am so proud that farmers and ranchers like you still exist and care so much about what you do 🙂

    • Thank you so much! It really means a lot to have you write all of those wonderful things 🙂

      There are certainly always ways to improve, but Matt and I are dedicated to doing a good job and believe in what we are doing.

      We sure could use some of your warm weather around here—we’ve had highs in the 30’s for the better part of 10 days now. Today was that wet kind of cold with high winds that chill you to the bone…It is apparently still winter in Nebraska as we are supposed to get snow again tonight!

      Take care–thank you again for all of your wonderful support.

      Anne

      • Any time Ann… we are getting some rain and cooler weather today and tomorrow so I hope you get some warmer weather and it comes our way 🙂 – Kim

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