"Good Monday morning to all you critter and land loving folks..." is how the Working Cows blog starts off every week. At last, something to get you through every winter Monday this time of year.
Husband and wife team Emry Birdwell and Deborah Clark manage 5,000 head of stocker cattle in a single herd on the historic 14,200 acre Birdwell and Clark Ranch in north central Texas. Through Holistic Management and adaptive grazing planning, they’ve achieved a stocking rate nearly twice the average for their area and greatly improved soil quality, species diversity, water quality and pasture productivity on the ranch.
When it comes to planning for next grazing season, having a grazing plan is critical preparation. Everyone can benefit from grazing planning. You don't have to be a adaptive grazing expert to use a grazing chart.
But getting started with a grazing planning chart can be an intimidating project. If you're planning a grazing chart for the first time, all the cells to fill in with ADAs, ADs, rest periods, AUs can get your head spinning before you even begin.
A grazing chart is a living document. It's not a set-it-and-forget-it one time deal. Use the grazing chart as a guiding tool to think through key grazing decisions before cattle hit your pastures, and to make decisions during the season. This is the most powerful part of a grazing chart!
Use the grazing chart effectively, and it will make you better at grazing management every step of the way.
Five steps to planning with a grazing chart
When it comes to grazing management, the basic questions are always the same. How many cattle to stock? What's my stocking rate and carrying capacity on these pastures?
Many producers have been running a set stocking rate for years and never think about their stocking rate or carrying capacity. But when you start doing adaptive grazing or planning on a grazing chart for the first time, the grazing math can quickly feel complicated.
You might wonder: How long should I graze cattle in each pasture? How do I measure carrying capacity in adaptive grazing? What is an AUM? What is a Stock Day/Acre (SDA)? Is it the same as an Animal Unit (AU)? SDAs, AUs, ADAs....all these acronyms can be confusing.
Grazing management is a function of grass, cows, and time. Whether you're rotational grazing, trying out adaptive grazing, or into management intensive grazing, the basic grazing math is very similar.
How do I know how much forage I've actually got on my pastures? What should my stocking rate be? How do I estimate my carrying capacity?
While recording a pasture inventory is quick and easy in PastureMap, actually estimating the available forage inventory per acre or calculate carrying capacity for each of your pastures might seem a little more complicated. Here are four ways to estimate available forage inventory, ranging from a quick estimate to an exact measurement.