In ranching, no matter how carefully you plan to reduce risk, you answer to the weather first. That can be an extremely stressful reality. In addition to taking a toll on landscapes and livestock, drought is hard on people.
But it really doesn’t have to be that way. Obviously, Laura Jean and Sam need a crash course in planned grazing. Sigh…
Dry spells take a toll on landscapes and livestock, but are also hard on people.
Ranch Diaries is an hcn.org series highlighting the experiences of Laura Jean Schneider, who gives us a peek into daily life during the first year of Triangle P Cattle Company, a new LLC in southcentral New Mexico. Installments are every other Tuesday.
With all the current conversation about drought, it’s been a relief to see the U.S Drought Monitor map of southwest New Mexico transform to drought-free. This year we had rare spring rains, which jump-started the dormant grass. Even though the usual monsoons weren’t as generous as last year, there was strong, early forage growth. And a second growth is popping up in some areas from the recent fall rain — also unusual. The pastures we’ve rotated through have well over 50 percent of the forage base remaining. In fact, Mescalero Cattle Growers has asked if Triangle P could possibly increase stocking to help remove some of the decadent forage.
Our steers gained an average of a pound per day the entire time they were here, and the heifers raised calves that, even when weaned early, weighed from 400 to 425 pounds. We’re heading into winter feeling pretty optimistic. Unlike the West Coast, most of New Mexico has had above average precipitation. For the first time since Sam and I started ranching, we officially live in a drought-free area.
But what if that trend reverses next year? In ranching, no matter how carefully you plan to reduce risk, you answer to the weather first. That can be an extremely stressful reality. In addition to taking a toll on landscapes and livestock, drought is hard on people. When cattle have lived their entire lives on one ranch, it’s difficult, emotionally and financially, for ranchers to downsize their herds. In droughts, the market is often flooded with cattle, and it’s optimistic to hope to break even. It’s heartbreaking to watch once lush areas dry up, dirt tanks shrivel to cracked earth, and ribby cattle attack expensive supplements that are only a short-term fix. It’s hard to watch wildlife suffer too, knowing that they don’t have the emergency option of being gathered and shipped out on trucks to somewhere more verdant.
One year, after assessing what was generally a very productive Forest Service permit on the Gila, Sam and I made the decision not to stock it at all. Not because we were forced to make that choice, but because it was clear that without sufficient moisture, that ecosystem was threatened. Had we been greedy or overly optimistic, the landscape and the cattle would have suffered. While it’s necessary to take risks in ranching, it seems unwise to do so at the expense of the range that makes ranching possible.
Checking reliable data and getting out horseback or afoot regularly can help us monitor and anticipate potential drought issues. Sam and I will continue to do what we can to make savvy choices on behalf of the Triangle P. Yet no matter how muddy the road to camp or how full our rain gauge, at the back of our minds niggles the hard fact that the one element we have no control over dictates if we make a living — or not.
Murray N. Rothbard was the father of what some call Radical Libertarianism or Anarcho-Capitalism which Hans-Hermann Hoppe described as “Rothbard’s unique contribution to the rediscovery of property and property rights as the common foundation of both economics and political philosophy, and the systematic reconstruction and conceptual integration of modern, marginalist economics and natural-law political philosophy into a unified moral science: libertarianism.”
This book applies the principles of this “unified moral science” to environmental and natural resource management issues.
The book started out life as an assigned reading list for a university level course entitled Environmental and Natural Resource Economics: The Austrian View.
As I began to prepare to teach the course, I quickly saw that there was a plethora of textbooks suitable for universal level courses dealing with environmental and natural resource economics. The only problem was that they were all based in mainstream neo-classical (or Keynesian) theory. I could find no single collection of material comprising a comprehensive treatment of environmental and natural resource economics based on Austrian Economic Theory.
However, I was able to find a large number of essays, monographs, papers delivered at professional meetings and published from a multitude of sources. This book is the result. It is composed of a collection of research reports and essays by reputable scientists, economists, and legal experts as well as private property and free market activists.
The book is organized into seven parts: I. Environmentalism: The New State Religion; II. The New State Religion Debunked; III. Introduction to Environmental and Natural Resource Economics; IV. Interventionism: Law and Regulation; V. Pollution and Recycling; VI. Property Rights: Planning, Zoning and Eminent Domain; and VII. Free Market Conservation. It also includes an elaborate Bibliography, References and Recommended Reading section including an extensive Annotated Bibliography of related and works on the subject.
The intellectual level of the individual works ranges from quite scholarly to informed editorial opinion.