#139, In Practice, Sep/Oct 2011

Page 8

Grazing Planning for the Farmer/Rancher HMI Grazing Planning Software by Randy Holmquist


ick up any current farm publication today and most articles are devoted to new technologies that can help increase yields, increase efficiency, cut production costs and maximize production. Some of the tools that farmers use are gps technology, auto steer on their equipment, soil tests, satellite imagery, genetically modified seed, crop consultants… the list is endless. It seems as if farmers are willing to adapt any new technology that will increase production and profit. The same farmer that has used the technology to grow 200 bushel per acre corn may have a small beef herd right across the fence continuously overgrazing the same pasture, at the same time of year, with no understanding of how to manage this pasture for maximum health and production. Lack of diversity, poor water and mineral cycling, one or two species of introduced grass interspersed with undesirable forbs and noxious weeds are typically the result of this type of management. How often do you hear ranchers and farmers brag about pounds of beef or forage per acre or how they have managed their land in a way that increased their stocking rate due to increased forage production? I do not blame farmers and ranchers for not focusing on managing their rangelands; the tools are available but not widely advertised. My question is not whether the tools of technology are good or bad for crop production, but why are the tools for managing our grazing lands so misunderstood and underutilized? The mismanagement of our ecosystem around the world has exacerbated the problem of desertification, erosion, droughts, floods, erratic weather phenomenon, far more than the burning of fossil fuels. Fossil-fuel burning contributes only about 3% of the annual global flow of carbon dioxide into the environment. Carbon is not a problem. It is a biologically driven cycle using green plants to sequester carbon from the atmosphere. We often hear how the burning of fossil fuel is causing global climate change due to green house gases, but seldom is the mismanagement of our crop and rangelands

around the world blamed for the increasing desertification of once healthy savannas and grasslands. Nearly 75% of the earth’s land surface consists of a brittle environment. Yet, the solution to this seemingly difficult problem lies in a relatively easy and inexpensive solution. Holistic Management® Grazing Planning can help minimize overgrazing of plants, reduce or eliminate overrested plants and soil surfaces, speed the essential biological decay of dead and dying plant material and the cycling of mineral nutrients into the soil to promote the buildup of carbon. Because the human brain can only concentrate on one thing at a time, the step by step process recorded on the grazing chart builds confidence and peace of mind. Unfortunately, in the farming and ranching community there seems to be an adversity to planning. Most farmers and ranchers want their land managed in a way that is financially, environmentally and socially sound, but when confronted with the tedious and time consuming chore of creating a grazing plan, they often fall short in accomplishing this important task. After all, there are numerous calculations required to determine animal units, animal days, animal days per acre, grazing periods, recovery periods, drought reserves, stocking rates, and the list goes on. I have seen eyes glaze over and minds go numb during a two-day grazing planning class. The fact that there are so many factors to consider reinforces the rationale for creating and implementing a grazing plan.

Planning Made Easy Ralph Tate, a Holistic Management® Certified Educator from Nebraska, has developed software based on the Holistic Management grazing planning and control chart form. The software uses an Excel format and is very simple to use. It allows land managers to spend more time actually planning and less time doing all the calculations since this is done for you as you enter in the data. Another important advantage is that it eliminates errors that can easily

Planned grazing is marked with the dotted green line and the actual grazing in red plotted with the total SAU’s for each day. The actual ADA figures are automatically totaled and recorded in column 1 of the grazing chart.


Land & Livestock

September / October 2011

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