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Systems thinking leads to higher efficiency, better performance on the ranch

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Sheridan − Systems thinking will lead ranchers to a number of different and sometimes out-of-the-box decisions that will result in improved land, cattle and people, according to Burke Teichert, ranch manager and consultant.

Teichert spoke to the Wyoming Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers conference covering various strategies to improve overall profitability on the ranch. 

Grazing management

“Grazing principles are the same wherever we go. We always accommodate for the environment accordingly,” said Teichert. 

He recommended a system of adaptive grazing in which cattle are grazed on a specific pasture for a short amount of time, and then the pasture is allowed a long period of time to recover. 

“The definitions of long and short will be different in each individual rancher’s situation, but this is why we call it adaptive grazing,” Teichert commented. 

Teichert noted systems that are drier or unirrigated need a longer recovery time than those that experience more rainfall or irrigation.

Fewer herds, larger 


In addition to adaptive grazing, Teichert recommended ranchers combine herds so they have fewer but larger herds, which decreases the need for fencing and water sites and decreases cost.

“When we think about grazing management, we have to keep in mind the relationship of the soil to plants, plants to animals and ultimately animals to us,” said Teichert.

In terms of how to plan for grazing, Teichert noted he is still an avid fan of old-fashion grazing charts completed by hand. 

“Grazing charts should have days of the year across one side and pastures down the other,” said Teichert. 

“A good grazing plan works by ultimately lengthening the grazing season and reducing the number of days necessary to feed, therefore reducing overall cost,” according to Teichert.

Improving cattle 

“To truly improve cattle, we have to select cattle that can withstand the rigors of our climate,” said Teichert. “They need to be able to graze most or even all of the year with little supplement.” 

Teichert noted there are essentially two parts to the environment – the natural environment and what managers add to it. 

“We don’t want to add much to it, just take off the rough edges of severe weather,” Teichert said. “Then, we have a cow who can stay healthy, conceive, deliver and wean a good calf with very little help and attention.”

“I have always been critical of too much size, milk and lack of heterosis in cattle,” Teichert noted. “We want to look for a crossbred cow of moderate to small frame and moderate milk production.” 


Another big factor Teichert discussed in improving cattle as a whole is learning to cull the correct cattle. The culling process should be careful and systematic.

Cows that are open, dry or wild; require individual attention; have poor calves or are just ugly by personal own standards can all be on the cull list,” said Teichert. 

Cows that aren’t being bred back or continuously have issues with birthing need to be culled, according to Teichert. 

“We have to exercise caution when choosing bulls, as well. We want to really consider their care requirements, mature size and cow fertility,” he said.

“If we constantly have to feed a bull to keep his condition, he needs to be culled,” Teichert said.

Improving people

“If we want people to improve, we must orient and train,” according to Teichert. “We can’t assume people understand the business and know how to do what we expect of them.”

Teichert stressed the importance of managers leading the creation of a shared vision and inclusive goals that everyone understands and includes input from the entire team.

“This vision needs to include the financial landscape and quality of life goals,” according to Teichert. 

Teichert defined a manager’s job as creating an environment in which people want to excel and provides the tools, training and resources to do so.

When it comes to empowering people, managers have to understand that while they can encourage, facilitate and reward, empowerment is personal and the individual has to want it, according to Teichert.

“At the end of the day, good leadership is best gauged by the voluntary responses of those being led,” said Teichert.

Tiechert commented, management of people on a team should be viewed as managing relationships, as opposed to managing individual people.

“We want to have good relationships with everyone on the team from the feed and equipment reps to accountants and lawyers,” said Teichert. “Managing these relationships instead of the people ensures the relationships on the team are good and productive.”

Callie Hanson is the assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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