How variable has the weather been in your region so far this summer? Are you looking for ways to cope with this uncertainty and manage these variables more effectively to create positive business outcomes while building the resilience and health of the ecosystem?
For graziers weather variability means a high level of uncertainty on a wide range of management considerations, particularly how much forage you will be able to produce from the rain you will receive. Graziers also have to manage for the quality of that forage and consider what level of supplementary feeding is it going to take to optimize their animals’ performance in terms of the growth or reproductive milestones in a given season.
If your intention is to be adaptive and responsive to your land’s and your livestock needs, there are few better management tools than the Holistic Planned Grazing process. It is far more than simply rotating animals between paddocks to achieve plant rest and periodic fresh grazing for livestock.
The Holistic Grazing Plan allows a manager to simultaneously plan and monitor animals’ growth rates relative to key reproductive milestones across the animals’ reproductive cycle. With the changes in dietary needs relative to reproductive stage, animals can be used as landscaping and ecosystem management tools at specific time, or the animals can get priority nutrition attention by planned forage quality or increased plant selection to achieve body condition milestones, that if missed, could cause economic havoc for the business.
Holistic Planned Grazing enables the manager to alter plant recovery times relative to plant growth rate. This translates to significant savings on feed costs in both wet and dry years. In dry years the Holistic Grazing Plan will quickly indicate when the property is overstocked. This rapid feedback enables the manager to respond quickly to the evolving situation. With early knowledge of the problem in a quantifiable way, many possible solutions can be considered. Alternatives include early destocking to enable retention of more efficient and profitable animals through to the next reliable rainfall event and accessing alternative grazing or forage sources before there is a mass response to drought.
In wet cycles, the Holistic Planned Grazing process enables the manager to save significant money on supplementary feed costs because the rapid feedback loop shows the manager that she must respond to the risk of all the plants maturing into reproductive state, and possibly becoming un-digestible. Managers know that it is challenging to keep animal performance optimal in wetter years because forage quality declines rapidly once plants mature. Rain leaches out nutrients, too. But, using the Holistic Planned Grazing process enables managers to keep swathes of the property in vegetative growth by shortening plant recovery times. The advantage of higher quality forage is better animal performance and lower overall feed costs.
Since ranchers make money from harvesting forage using their animals, wet years create opportunities to increase stocking rate. More harvested forage translates to more pounds of meat to market, and increased profitability. By tracking and measuring actual forage production it becomes possible to manage forage to optimize profitability and minimize risk.
The above are some of the ways the Holistic Planned Grazing can contribute to reduced business risk and improved profitability.
It is the speed of reaction and degree of adaptability that the planning process allows that enables the manager to respond quickly and appropriately. But the plan is only as good as the attention to details and the responsiveness of the manager. Monitoring is vital and response to the monitoring data is essential. The Holistic Planned Grazing process is an effective tool to put the manager in the driver’s seat.
Many people are drawn to Holistic Management because of the ability to increase carrying capacity. Because of the adaptability of the planning and implementation linking lead-indicator monitoring of ecosystem function, managers are able to plan for individual paddock and/or ecotype for very specific outcomes and needs. The details and granularity of the planning process are extremely flexible – problem plants and animals, brush fire mitigation, predation issues, neighbor management challenges can all be considered and addressed in the planning process.
Additionally, the Holistic Grazing Plan Chart records forage yields, utilization levels and management concerns as the current reality of the growing season unfolds. This data now becomes the information used to produce subsequently more accurate and more refined grazing plans. Good planning and good execution beget better planning and execution.
By including family vacation, kids’ events, birthdays and anniversaries on the grazing plan these important social events are catered for in the planning process.
By using key treatment and herd requirements in the plan, the manager can plan to have animals in particular places at crucial times to account for treatments, vaccinations, to avoid predation or toxic plants, or cater to specific wildlife needs or weather risks.
The management of catastrophic events like wildfires, floods, or pests can be much more effectively dealt with using Holistic Planned Grazing. Because the plan shows each paddocks yield and utilization level, residual forage estimates can be accurately estimated, allowing the manager to make rapid destocking decisions.