Why we make the decisions we do

It is natural that the way somebody sees the world, influences the decisions they make. So, achieving change comes down to helping people see the world differently. We all want to help producers increase profits so we have to concentrate on changing how they see their paddocks by broadening their knowledge base.

My journey of seeing things differently

When I started as a producer in the 1970’s, I saw sheep and cattle as my source of income. That’s what I sold. 

Then I decided that the pasture they ate was the source of my income. I decided the sheep and cattle were really factories and the better the inputs (pasture), the more productive my living factories would be.

Then I decided that the soil was my source of income as that is where the pasture grew and the performance of the pastures was set by how well the soil let in water, stored it and how fertile it was.

Finally, I realised that flowing carbon was the source of my income. It is flowing carbon that feeds soil life necessary for improved soil structure and fertility. Also, cattle are 18% carbon and pasture is 45% carbon which further links flowing carbon to income.  After focusing on flowing carbon, I came to understand that the quality of the pasture is better with higher carbon flows over time because the carbon:nitrogen ratio of the pasture is better.

Thinking at another level

Discussing carbon flows is a different way for graziers to look at the landscape and understand how it functions. The paddock with the highest flows will be the most productive and more resilient, therefore producers need to operate with a new paradigm, a different function in their brain. They have to be able to imagine what is happening on a multitude of levels and time frames. At the moment, most producers can see only the outcomes, but don’t understand how they occur. They need to be able to visualise the processes they can’t see happening.  

Think carbon flows and you will see paddocks differently

With carbon flows, once you visualise the flows, you see the dynamics of the whole system and how it functions.

When producers get their head around the flows way of thinking, they focus on management that will maximise flows. This will be discussed in a later column.

Extension has explained the concept of carbon stocks to producers and why they are a resource to the business. However this is not the full story. I quote what Will Robinson wrote in a recent email, “I have got my head around the Carbon Flow rather than the Carbon Bank! It makes it so much easier!”

During a presentation attended by top management of Queensland DAF in October 2014, Stephen Martin documented his increased production by changing management after seeing his paddocks differently. He concluded with the comment, “The light bulb moment for me was visualising the flow of carbon through the landscape.”

Producers have no control over how much rain arrives but they do have control over the level of carbon flows generated by what rain does arrive.

Alan Lauder

Next week’s discussion: “Why paddock carbon needs ongoing replacement”.