These traditions require practitioners to live extremely close to nature. By necessity, we must watch the health of the land and of our animals. If the grass is too short, the animals need to move. If the animals are in need, we must care for them. If the rains don't come, we must adjust our management.
In our own sheep operation, and in my new job, I've embraced modern technology. I have an iPhone. I'm writing this piece on my iPad. I use a laptop computer. All of these have made my job as a stockman and a grazier more efficient and effective. But I've also embraced traditional tools. Without my dogs and without my desire to understand livestock behavior, I couldn't manage rangeland. Without the horse that I ride at the Sierra Foothill Research and Extension Center, I couldn't get a true picture of rangeland condition and forage growth. Many of the physical (as opposed to virtual) tools and techniques that I use are hundreds (if not thousands) of years old.
As we completed our mini cattle drive this morning, I was able to talk stock dogs with one of the riders who joined us. My dogs are used to working sheep, but we're learning how to transition to cattle. I realized, as we rode and talked, that I have a lifetime of knowledge to gain about my profession. I'm thankful that there are still people to learn from! I'm thankful to be part of a herding culture!