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My First Six Months as First Vice-President

By: Poncho Ortega, 1st Vice President of SRM

My year as Second Vice President of SRM went fast. Appointing members to work on SRM Committees was my major responsibility during my first year on the Board, in addition to learning other officers’ responsibilities and preparing to begin my activities as First Vice President. One of my major responsibilities this year is to work with the Executive Vice President and the Budget Committee on developing the budget for next year. I plan to make some changes to provide a better service to members and offer students and young professionals more opportunities to become active members of SRM. Even under the current conditions of the stock market and all the changes needed to be made because of the COVID 19 pandemic, I am hoping to be able to make some changes that will result in a higher relevance of SRM to our membership. I have submitted a proposal to increase and/or establish cash awards for all the student competitions. My goal is to incentivize students to prepare a poster, or to learn the 200 range plants for the plant id competition, for example. The idea of creating additional incentives for students and young professionals has been well received by the Board of Directors who provided positive feedback and also several good ideas on their part.

After a very mild winter in south Texas and a late start of the spring rains that didn’t come until the second half of May, now is a difficult time for ranchers; it is time to make adjustments to the grazing program. About 43% of the forage growth of the year in this region occurs in the spring. Therefore, when we have a late start of the rains, the accumulation of forage does not occur. In several of the common ecological sites in south Texas it is possible to accumulate 4000 lb/acre by the end of June when spring rains are timely. At this point, even when everything is green and beautiful in most cases, we only have about 3000 lb/ac. Under these conditions, timely adjustments in the stocking rate are critical; waiting until the fall may be too late. In our cattle operation, we are downsizing our herd by 35%. We have already sold all the replacement heifers and we have the list of mother cows that will be culled by the end of July. With these actions, we are making sure our pastures will not be overgrazed and will maintain a strong root system that will allow a vigorous growth if moisture is available in the fall. Abusing rangelands in this region may take longer than five years to recover. With timely adjustments in the stocking rate we may be able to be at 75% of carrying capacity in one or two years, depending on moisture. In our management program, maintaining the integrity of the rangeland is the primary goal. By accomplishing that, cattle productivity and the profitability of our operation can be guaranteed.

As we approach the Board of Directors summer virtual meeting the memories of our Annual Meeting in Denver in February start to become blurry, and a sentiment of frustration begins to prey on me knowing we will not have a regular in-person meeting in Boise next year. However, just like in grazing management, the flexibility to adapt may be more important than anything else in a successful program. We have to adapt and make the virtual meeting of 2021 a positive and successful experience, and I would like to thank the Organizing Committee for all their efforts. I encourage everybody to actively participate in SRM activities and please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any comments, suggestions or ideas to enhance the Mission of SRM. As your First Vice President, I am grateful for the opportunity to be involved and I pray to God to guide my decisions and actions.

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