Jason Tyrell, Ag Resources Specialist
“If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.” That is a statement that perfectly describes the situation that many farmers find themselves in today. In many instances, farms have been passed down from generation to generation. The practices which were appropriate when Grandpa had the farm may not be as relevant in today’s standards.
The best way to see if your current practices are pertinent to the needs of your current pasture issues are to do soil tests and see where improvements can be made. After having soil tests, local Soil and Water Conservation Districts have the ability to come to your farm and administer a Grazing Management Plan or GMP. A Grazing Management Plan is one element to a large system that helps establish a farmer with the tools necessary to create a successful farm. Grazing Management Plans are first of all, free of charge. A GMP will help farmers see what they currently have existing on the farm and will assist in laying out a plan on what improvements they could implement to create a better and more manageable system. Having a GMP could increase profitability in numerous aspects. A proper grazing rotation in the GMP, could allow for an increase in the head of cattle present on the farm, which equals more cattle to sell; or allow for a longer grazing season, decreasing the amount of hay needed to be supplied in the winter. These are just some of the possibilities that may become available through creating a Grazing Management Plan.
Grazing Management Plans start when the producer calls and sets up a meeting at the farm. From that point on, the farmer and the GMP planner are part of a team. The planner will go to the producer’s farm and find what the landowner’s objectives and goals are for their operation. The next step includes the producer and the planner looking at possible resource concerns that could negatively affect the farm. They will look at soil condition and erosion possibilities, air and water quality, water quantity, plant and forage conditions and much more.
The producer and the planner will then take note of everything existing on the farm. The current number of pasture/paddocks, and the current grazing management system which is in place, the facilities located on the farm, water sources, fence, the number of livestock, types/age/weight and breeding program will all be listed. Anything that could be beneficial information, such as the herd health program, the current condition of the pastures using a pasture condition score sheet, the supplemental feed program and the management plans implemented during different weather situations, all need to be applied to the plan.
The producer and the planner will then sit down and talk about the possibilities of where improvements can be made. These improvement or additions can be anything from installing fence which will create new paddocks so the farmer may implement management intensive grazing, to installing spring developments or heavy use pads so the farmer may supply water to the cattle or protect heavy use areas. All aspects that could improve the grazing management system will be considered. After the improvements have been recorded, a realistic timeline will be put into place.
The planner will then create an official plan from the information taken from the visit and submit it for approval. All of the plans and suggestions are beneficial to the producer; however implementing those new plans and suggestions are completely the decision of the producer. The GMP is primarily a source of information for the producer, so that they can assess their current position and see what steps they could take to reach their destination of creating a better and more manageable grazing system. The planner will do everything it takes to help or guide the producer to their desired destination. All it takes is an open mind and a producer willing to implement the necessary changes to create a successful and prosperous business.
Remember, “If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.”