As a grass manager, you should be proud of the fact that you’re helping the environment. Grass sequesters carbon into the soil, and the grass releases oxygen into the atmosphere. Properly managed grazing lands trap even more carbon and release additional oxygen.

Climate change has become an important issue for American agriculture, albeit a controversial one. Most scientists agree that Earth’s climate is warming, but there remains a debate over the causes. Some believe humans are the primary culprit, while others believe warming is a naturally occurring climate cycle.

The purpose of this column is not to weigh in on the debate over the causes of climate change. I, for one, believe we may be seeing climate variations, but believe it is more natural and cyclical. But the national media would have you believe that the world is coming to an end, as we know it, within a few decades. Therefore, the politicians in Washington are going to take care of it for us. Isn’t that scary? But we must be ready for policy changes.

Despite what you may or may not believe about climate change, one thing seems certain: The perception among many Americans is that we have a problem. Some believe we should stop doing anything that emits carbon, while others have a wait and see attitude. Either way, perception or reality, will affect agriculture.

Those of us in the beef industry have a great opportunity. We can be proud of how we raise our stock for food and the benefits we provide to the environment. Planned rotational grazing that takes into account the growth and rest needs of forages has many benefits. Those benefits include less methane production from grazing animals and more organic matter returned to the soil, which then takes in and stores more carbon.  A healthier soil provides a more balanced ration of grass for higher performance and production off the land. Research has also shown feeding certain vegetable oils in feedlot rations can reduce methane output.

Nearly 15 years ago, I read an article from a meteorologist that said the last 40 to 60 years of weather were not normal. He indicated from a historical perspective over the centuries that we would see more extremes in droughts and wet cycles. With that in mind, do you have a plan for changing weather patterns?

Consumers are becoming more informed about the food they purchase and interested in the environmental implications. This can be a marketing advantage for those ready to respond to the consumers’ wants. You don’t have to agree with the consumers’ reasoning, but you better be ready to respond with a production protocol that will keep you out in front of the pack.

We as producers must stay alert to changing conditions of our physical environment, governmental policy changes, consumer perceptions and attitudes, and our fiscal environment. Putting this all together in a balance between environmental stewardship and economic profitability is no small task, but we must do it enthusiastically. 

To reach Pete Talbott, call 541-947-3482, or John Nalivka at 541-473-4170, Land and Livestock Advisory Service, www.land-livestock.com.