My View From The Country

Expert Advice Doesn’t Eliminate Learning Things The Hard Way

With expertise comes a lack of understanding or appreciation about exactly what it took to get to that level of expertise.

Have you ever attended a meeting and heard a producer talk about his branded-beef program, rotational grazing system or planned breeding system that utilizes artificial insemination, etc.? These folks usually have incredible data on the gains they’ve made and such claims are almost universally correct. It truly is amazing what they’ve achieved.

These folks are usually asked to present their story not only because of their successes in implementing these strategies but also in their long-term experience in these areas. It makes sense, as they are the experts, but I’ve come to believe that with expertise comes a lack of understanding or appreciation about exactly what it took to get to that level of expertise.

These presenters almost always make it sound easy. As an analogy, I know horse trainers who can describe in two sentences how to get a horse to do a sliding stop, but for anyone who listened closely and tried to go out and execute that move, it’s never quite as simple as it sounds. 

The problem with experts is that they’ve learned so much about the subject of their expertise that they can’t relate to a person’s lack of expertise and remember to tell you everything you need to know. I experienced this first hand this summer as we have attempted to implement a more intensive grazing management plan. I just hope the experts are right and that it gets easier over time.

I try to learn as much as I can from experts, but the one thing I admit that I always ignore is when they say it is easy and no big deal to implement x y or z. That’s because I usually find they have forgotten to mention about 40 things that I will be forced to learn the hard way.  

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Discuss this Blog Entry 5

CalfDoc (not verified)
on Jul 18, 2014

Another thing I have found is what works on an experts farm may not work on my place. Some of my best successes were mistakes the experts would have kept me from doing. So I have decided listen to everyone, be my own expert, and most of all don't be afraid to fail.

W. E. (not verified)
on Jul 18, 2014

CalfDoc, this is a great response. I think folks who talk about grazing management may tend to emphasize the positive, remembering the years when weather, grass and animals work in harmony. Nothing humbles a grazier like weather extremes. Those who claim grazing management is easy have lost the perspective of what it is like to try to graze after a late freeze, an early blizzard, an extended drought, or a record-setting flood. For the handful of commonalities between each farm, even in a given locale, there are multitudes of differences. What gets easier over time is learning the possibilities and limitations of your particular place on earth. Hearing about someone else's experiences can rejuvenate our own approach sometimes, but our own past experiences are far more valuable. One of the best tools I own is a digital camera, which I use to record pasture moves, forage condition, and yes, weather extremes.

on Jul 18, 2014

"Every expert was once totally ignorant on that subject."
I have learned much more from my mistakes than from my successes. The best advice I can give is to try something new on a small scale first to see how it works. Then you can decide whether to make a major change in your entire operation, incorporate it into a portion of your plan, or forget it entirely.

ian mitchell-Innes (not verified)
on Jul 18, 2014

Most of the time the problem is not with the "expert" explaining what should be done. It is with us and the way we have been taught to learn from the time we go to school. We have been taught to learn in parts, instead of looking and understanding the whole. If you have a problem, look in the mirror.

John R. Dykers, Jr (not verified)
on Jul 18, 2014

The hardest part of learning is modifying or discarding what I used to think was so! The valuable new knowledge comes from (a) a change in circumstances or (b) new eyes to see with.
I still remember how difficult it was to STOP vaccinating infants for smallpox when it was eradicated.

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What's My View From The Country?

As a fulltime rancher, opinion contributor Troy Marshall brings a unique perspective on how consumer and political trends affect livestock production.


Troy Marshall

Troy Marshall is a multi-generational rancher who grew up in Wheatland, WY, and obtained an Equine Science/Animal Science degree from Colorado State University where he competed on both the livestock...

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