Many livestock producers are faced with some short-term decisions that could impact their operations for years to come. Reducing breeding stock numbers, buying seemingly expensive feed, holding onto their herds by feeding unfamiliar feedstuffs are a few of the decisions that many producers are making. Many will get caught up in just the current effect of the choices they make. How do I feed the cattle this week, or the next month? Chop silage or harvest what little corn is there? Make cornstalk bales? Buy hay/feed or sell cows/sows/ewes? In most cases the pros and cons have been determined to answer these questions for the short term. But what are the long term effects of these decisions? Yogi Berra approached this as; When you come to a Y in the road, take it.
As long as I looked up Yogi, here's another good one from him; In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is. To theorize, systems thinking is the process of taking a broad view of your decision making on other aspects of the operation, and evaluating the long term implications. Changing one aspect of a ranch (such as cow numbers) also affects labor efficiency, heifer development, feed and forage enterprises, the ranch environment and ecosystem, cash flow, future gross income, etc. This all seems like common sense, but decisions like these can -- and often are necessary to -- be made quickly in times of despair and/or opportunity. Practice your theory, or analyze its' potential effects, so when the game is on the line there will be no difference! The decisions related to the drought of 2012 will linger for some time. If you need assistance in these matters don't hesitate to utilize the resources available to you, i.e. Extension, FSA, your farm businesses' financial/legal team, or of course, the SD Center for Farm Ranch Management. Following the trends in your financial and enterprise analysis will give you the information needed to make decisions based on systems thinking.