Guest blog by Don Campbell
Greetings Friends and Welcome,
Allow me to introduce myself. I am Don Campbell. I live at Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan. I have used Holistic Management principles on my ranch and in my life since 1985. I have taught Holistic Management since 1990. Since 1997 my wife Bev has taught with me. We retired from teaching in 2016 due to my age. I was born on May 11th, 1944. I am 77 years old.
I am starting this blog to share some of my experiences and knowledge about Holistic Management. Holistic Management has helped me and Bev live an absolutely wonderful life. We are living our dream and have been for many years. It is my hope that this blog will help you live your dream. Goal setting and better decision making (the basis of Holistic Management) may help you live your dream.
Please feel free to contact me with questions and concerns. I feel the blog will be more effective if I am answering questions & responding to your concerns.
Today I want to talk about drought. Drought was widespread in North America last year. Quite likely drought is your number one concern as we enter 2022. I think this is likely true whether you think about and plan for a drought in 2022 or ignore it and pretend the possibility isn’t there.
Drought is real. It needs to be addressed. I was friends with Bud Williams. Bud was one of the early promotors of low stress livestock handling. He also promoted a marketing program. Bud is deceased but his daughter Tina and her husband Richard McConnell still teach Bud’s principles. They can be contacted at Hand ‘n Hand Livestock Solutions. Bud used to tell me: “In the cattle business you have grass, money, and cattle. You will never have too much grass or too much money.”
YOU CAN HAVE TOO MANY CATTLE. As managers of our businesses, we need to ensure that our animals match our grass. It is never wise to have more animals than you have grass.
Each one of us is unique and we all live in unique areas. Assess your strengths and weaknesses. How common is drought in your area? How well do you handle stress? How financially stable are you? As you ponder these and similar questions you will be able to come up with a plan for 2022.
The Principles of Drought Management in Holistic Management are:
- Combine your herds. Fewer herds is always helpful. One herd is ideal. How close can you get to the ideal?
- Slow down your animal moves. This will increase your recovery time & hopefully allow time for rain. As you slow down you will be increasing the severity of your graze. This is not ideal, but it may be necessary in a drought. Yes, you may remove some litter, but if the plants are not growing due to the drought you will not be overgrazing. A friend once told me “remember you can’t kill a dead man.”
- Supplemental feed. Often people will say you can’t feed through a drought. I believe this decision is best made on an individual basis. Do what you feel is best for you and your unique situation. If you choose this route, I suggest you would start feeding early in the cycle. Don’t start to feed when your grass is gone. Feed to increase recovery. For example, if you can stay 2 or 3 days in a pasture you would do that and then supplemental feed for a day or two to increase your recovery.
- Destock. At some point it may be wise to reduce your animal numbers. I would suggest setting a date ahead of time. For example, you might say by this date (your date, example June 15th) I will sell this many head (your number) unless I have received this much rain (your number, example 2 inches). Having clear dates like this and sticking to them is a great way to reduce stress.
The earlier you destock the less you will need to destock.
Serious challenges like drought often lead to inaction. The process goes something like this. I am not sure what to do, therefore I will do nothing. No decision is a decision. I encourage you to think, plan, and act. You are in charge. You are responsible. You can handle the situation. Make a plan and implement it. I remember Allan Savory telling us that uncertainty is often used as an excuse not to plan. Allan said that the reality is the exact opposite. The more challenging the situation the more important it is to plan.
An effect of drought that is often overlooked is the emotional stress that drought brings. I encourage you to address this. Stress is real. Don’t ignore it. A dear friend of mine David Irvine told me “Remember it is OK not to be OK.” I agree with David. We all know that there is a stigma attached to mental illness and depression. Each one of us has the power to ignore this stigma. Mental illness is no different than having a broken leg; see a doctor or a counselor. Get the help you need. Do it now.
It is strange how our first response as people is often not the most useful. When times are tough, we tend to withdraw. This is the exact opposite of what we need. Reach out, confide in someone. Remember that reaching out is a sign of wisdom and strength. Reaching out is not a sign of weakness. Do whatever it takes to maintain your mental health. I believe in you. I encourage you to believe in yourself. I encourage you to believe in your spouse or significant people in your life. One of the most powerful things we can do is to confide in our loved ones. We can all become more loving and more loveable. Gary Gregor told me, “You never achieve more than your significant other believes you can.” I think Gary is correct.
Another side effect of drought is financial stress. Here again I encourage you to meet it head on. Do a financial plan. Do whatever it takes. Remember you are talented; you will get through this. Once again this is a great time to reach out to a friend, get the help you need. Remember, “life’s challenges are meant to make us not break us.”
We are in the first month of a New Year. I am going to share a poem. I hope it is helpful.
Excerpts from the poem
“This Year” by Steward St. John
This year will be the best year of my life.
It will be a return to enjoying the simple things like family & friends.
It will be the year of less complaining & more appreciating.
This year I will dance more, laugh more & love more.
And be healthier than ever because of it.
I will live more consciously, deliberately, joyfully.
THIS YEAR IS MY BEST YEAR BECAUSE I CHOOSE IT TO BE.