From the June/July 2016 issue of Drovers.

In the May issue, I shared how innovation is the key to progress. To further illustrate the importance of creative thinking, I’d like to share another example of young producers embracing new technologies on their cattle operations, even if they were not originally designed for beef production.

Brothers, Jake and Blake Drenon of Windsor, Mo., are using grid sampling technology to enhance productivity and economic efficiency within their grassland cattle operation. Designed primarily for the row crop industry, grid sampling can be used by any producer who wants to know more about their No. 1 resource—soil.

A detailed profile shows soil’s fertility strengths and weaknesses. A typical grid is approximately 3 square acres. However, the grid size, density of samples taken per acres, and the methodology of collecting samples can be adjusted to increase profile mapping reliability and decrease sampling bias.

The comprehensive soil profile created through this process can be merged with modern GPS guidance technologies to perform variable rate fertilizer application.

Farmers and ranchers can save money by moving away from a shotgun approach to fertilizer application. Simply spreading nutrients in an unvaried pattern to match the needs of the average acre of the farm is a thing of the past. Variable rate application offers a precise way to apply plant nutrients to each grid area based on need and desired production output.

In essence, you have created a highly accurate map of your battlefield. Now, you can strategically attack areas of weak production through automatic adjustments made by the spreader truck during the application process. You will also reap the benefits of increased cost efficiencies by eliminating wasteful, over-application by shifting excess fertility to the areas that truly need it. This highly effective combination of technologies can increase the total production capacity of the entire farm or ranching system.

Both brothers credit their father for starting them down the path toward using new technologies.

“You have to be creative with your approaches to production if you are a young guy starting out,” says Jake Drenon. “It’s hard to find grass to rent or buy. More established producers have a clear advantage in overhead. To reach sustainable profit margins we have to squeeze every ounce of production we can out of our land.”

The Drenon brothers say this technology has noticeably increased the carrying capacities of their pastures by an average of 20% and in some cases 30%.

Grid sampling and GPS assisted variable rate application is an ideal tool for young beef producers to get hold of to increase profitability now and for years to come.

Overcoming challenges such as variable or inconsistent soil profiles and degraded nutrient retention is not isolated to crop production. It is applicable to all agriculture production systems that depend on land as the primary resource.

Every year, new technologies in equipment and processing make variable-rate application easier and more accurate. Don’t hesitate to evaluate the feasibility of grid analysis as a short- and long-term investment into your business.