By Taylor Lenard, AAg, Range Management Extension Specialist, Tisdale
Creating the right grazing plan helps you set out your farm goals and achieve them in a timely manner.
It is important to remember that not all grazing plans are created the same and there is no best option. Every operation comes with its own successes and challenges. Each producer will have a customized plan, specific to their farm, that works for their herd and lifestyle. Take the time to sit down in the winter season and figure out what you have and what you need to improve/maintain your operation.
Some things to keep in mind when creating a grazing plan:
Set SMART goals
- SMART goals are those that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and have a timeline.
- Your goals can be based on many aspects of the operation which can include expansion, increasing forage supply, decreasing operating costs, improving animal performance, reducing soil erosion, etc.
Determine Your Resource Inventory (Labour and Financial)
- Some goals require a lot of work to achieve. It is important to recognize if you have the manpower to accomplish what you set out to do.
- Figuring out what your available funds are and how much you want to put towards your goals can help narrow down your options.
Take a Forage Inventory (Supply vs. Demand)
- Balancing what you have for forage and what your animals need is very important.
- Forage health is a good indication of whether your current grazing routine is working or not. Understanding why your forage health is declining will help highlight some changes that can be made. Lots of weeds and an increase in less desirable forage species can be a sign of overgrazing. Brush species can also take over and decrease your forage production if not addressed.
- Gaps in your feeding program such as a lack in spring or fall grazing options may be something to consider. Make sure you have enough pasture and feed to make it through the good- and bad-weather years.
Consider the Risk vs. Reward
- After you have figured out what your goals are for the operation, it is important to determine if the benefit is worth the additional risks, including financial risks, extra time investment, etc.
- Rewards can be an increase in production, benefit to the environment or save you time.
- Determining how long it will take for your investment to pay off may help with decision making.
Implement, Monitor and Update Your Plan as Necessary
- A grazing plan shouldn’t be a one and done process. Continuing to update your plan and make improvements will allow for success year after year.
A grazing plan takes a lot of factors into account and should be prepared in the winter months prior to the grazing season to cover all your bases.