Veterinarian Gordon Hazard has been raising cattle for over 75 years, and has learned that common sense is the basis to producing cattle for a profit.
And yes, things might be a bit different in Hazard's home state of Mississippi, where they got 55 inches of rain this year, but Hazard, now in his 80s, says the principles are still the same.
"It's sustainable agriculture — that's the buzzword you hear now," said Hazard.
It's about increasing income and decreasing overhead.
"It's not putting some cows out on a great big ranch, and then catching some when you need some money. We've done that. It doesn't work anymore," he told the crowd. "It's more beef at less costs. That's what I've been working on in my operation in Mississippi, and I still think I have a long way to go."
He said in order to talk about what to do; they first needed to go over what they know.
"First, we know that the cattle are business. This business was built on cheap energy, cheap corn, cheap feed, but we also know we can't count on that in the foreseeable future," he said. "Prices have gone out of sight."
"We know that a bovine is a herbivore, and we know that a cow can live her whole life on the grass, if she can get to the grass. We also know that if land is not being used, it doesn't grow as properly as grass that is being used properly."
Since grass grows from photosynthesis, grazing has to leave some leaf for the plant to come back — about four inches is the limit.
"Another thing we know is that a large amount of debt lessens the chance of having sustainable agriculture. We need to watch the inventory of our cattle against the inventory of our equipment, and not let them get out of whack. Right there is where the profit is," he said.
He also noted that in cutting hay, taking the hay away from the field lowers the nutrition levels in the pasture, but if its left there, it will be recycled, and the land doesn't lose anything."I began to get serious about making a profit about 60 years ago. I began to try to start to cut expenses about 40 years ago," he said. 'For the past 40 years, I have paid attention to eliminating debt, equipment and hay; training cattle to follow instead of driving; buying cattle that will upgrade; and stopping to think before I spent a dollar."
He said it's a mindset change that needs to happen.
He jokes about how every guy with one or two cows has got a Dually truck, and then a huge stock trailer to pull behind it.
"When you make a decision, you have to decide if this is going to make me a profit, or if it's going to make me look bad. You look a lot better if you make a profit," Hazard said.