by Ken Root & Whitney Flach
When people think about sustainability, they often have different interpretations from others. That is what makes grasping the concept of a sustainable beef operations so difficult sometimes, according to Dr. Sara Place of Oklahoma State University’s Animal Science Department. She spoke to Farm Broadcaster Ron Hays of the Rural Oklahoma Network.
“The way I always like to define sustainability, if you are an individual beef producer,” Place said, “is that you’re going to be paying attention to long-term business viability, stewardship of the natural resources you’re taking care of, and thinking about the responsibility to your family, to the bigger community and of course to the animals.”
Dr. Place says that like any business that wants to accomplish anything, your first consideration has to be the economics; you have to stay in business to do anything, including being sustainable. Stewardship of your resources, she says, could entail how you manage your forage program or what steps you take to create wildlife habitat on your property.
The trickiest part she says though is the social aspect. For your family, Dr. Place says sustainability in your operation means it has the potential to remain economically viable and is able to be passed down to your children or heirs. Dr. Place says too, that we must consider the larger community and society as a whole for that matter. This is where confusion often manifests about sustainable agriculture because producers have to understand all the differences in expectations that people in society have about it. The final part is your responsibility to care for the animals you raise. Dr. Place says that when it comes to the social factor, you just need to be open and share the good work you are doing on your operation.
“Stay in business, take care of your land, take care of your animals and your family,” Place said, “that’s what sustainability is.”