At the recent Western Landowners Alliance Land & Livelihoods conference in Billings, Montana, Burke Teichert shared his thoughts and insights on what he calls the Systems Approach to land and cattle. In his words, systems-based management is an integrated and holistic approach that requires broad thinking. Practically speaking, this type of thinking means anticipating consequences and looking at whole ranch profit as profit per acre instead of profit per cow.

Within Teichert’s Systems Approach, there are four areas to manage in order to achieve integrated and holistic management:

  1. Production

  2. Economics / Finance

  3. Marketing

  4. People

Profit is a measure folks often focus on. The figures associated with each of the management areas impact profit. Though there are many moving parts, the major determinants of profits according to Teichert include:

  • Enterprise structure

  • Overhead

  • Stocking rate

  • Fed feed versus grazed feed

  • Calving season

  • Realized herd fertility

  • Wise input use for optimal production

  • Marketing

Considering the management areas and profit determinants, Teichert summarizes the way to move forward with tangible measures presented as the three key ways to increase profit. Each of the key ways provides a a way to quantify continuous improvement of the land, livestock and wildlife, and people, referred to as the “key resources”. They include:

  1. Increase turnover

  2. Decrease overhead

  3. Improve gross margin

Further, Teichert suggests that to most effectively increase profits, the management strategy should working to improve three key ratios:

  1. Acres per cow

  2. Cows per man

  3. Fed feed versus grazed feed

The rules of thumb and short lists provided by Teichert distill a complex subject and complicated processes down to tangible action items and measurable indicators of performance. All of Teichert’s tools and rules really speak to the larger topic of profitable decision making. Teichert asserts that becoming a systems thinker is the fundamental to being a profitable decision maker and that becoming a good observer is foundational to being a good systems thinker.