Dr. Gary Bates
Department Head and Professor, Plant Sciences
Director, UT Beef & Forage Center
As I have gotten older, there are a few aches and pains that show up every now and then. After years of playing sports in my younger days, I expected my biggest issues to be knees and ankles. But the last year or two have shown me the biggest issue I will have going forward is my back. A couple of years ago I strained a muscle in my back working on an outfield fence at my son’s high school field. A month or so ago I tried to put on socks while standing up and felt a twinge in my lower back. I felt a little twinge, but it wasn’t a big deal. Two days later, after getting dressed to go to church, I had a back spasm that almost put me on my knees. I got over that, then a few days ago I had to put a new battery in my tractor. Lifting that heavy battery, then leaning over to get it into position resulted in a slightly strained back for the next couple of days.
This has led me to start doing exercises to strengthen my lower back. The exercises aren’t terribly difficult, but they focus on muscles in that area, which will hopefully prevent issues in the future. At some point in the future I will retire, and want to be able to travel, hike, and play with grand kids. I don’t want the back to limit my fun.
The principle of identifying a weakness and working to strengthen it applies to a lot of areas of our lives. Maybe you don’t have a physical issue like mine, but I bet you can think of some things in your cattle operation that are weaknesses that could be focused on and improved.
It might be weeds, or overgrazing during the summer, or poor hay quality. Often cattle operations have problems that show up year after year. We can often reduce the issue if we have a specific focus on solving the problem. We may not eliminate the problem, but we can minimize its impact.
The first step in this process is identifying the problem. With my back, it was easy. My cries of agony let everyone in the house know there was a problem. For your operation, it might not be quite as evident. You may need to spend a little time evaluating where the weaknesses are. Keeping records and notes are a good place to start. Do you know what quality of hay you are producing? Do you have any idea what your forage yields are? Do you watch your pasture height during the year? Information will help you identify areas that could be improved.
After identifying the weakness, then you can begin to work to improve the area. If you don’t know what to do, contact your local extension agent for help on recommended practices. We can help you figure out the best methods to strengthen your program.
Often this area you have to work on is not a one and done deal. It will be something you will always need to keep in mind, otherwise the problem will show up again. It will be similar to my back – I will always need to keep doing my exercises to prevent future back issues. But be encouraged, it’s a lot easier to maintain something than it is to recover from a mess.
I guess I should stop writing now. I need to check and see how my wife is coming with the firewood.