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The Grazing Manager, a computer-based, decision-support tool, helps graziers budget forage demand against forage supply by using demand days as the measure.
With traditional stocking rate management, annual adjustments are based on the previous year’s forage use, range conditions and trends,” says Mort Kothmann, Texas A&M University professor of range management science. “That’s like driving your car by looking in the rear-view mirror.”
Looking backwards, if a bad year follows a good one, you’re overstocked. If the opposite occurs, you’re under-stocked.
As for the historic stocking rates some use, Terry DeGroff, who owns and helms Management Information Systems in Burwell, NE, says they don’t account for how cattle size and genetics change over time.
Even when such projections mesh with reality, Kothmann explains traditional estimates of carrying capacity usually represent a static process relying on animal units (AU) as the unit of measure.
“Applying the concept of carrying capacity as a fixed stocking rate for livestock has been shown to be inadequate for sustainable management of rangelands in highly variable environments,” Kothmann explains. “Traditional approaches to analyzing stocking rates (the number of animals on a specific land area for a specified period of time) use static models and don’t explicitly consider the current year’s forage production. Grazing managers need dynamic models to project and analyze the balance between forage demand and forage production over the grazing season to determine optimum stocking rates.”
The Grazing Manager has been tested, evaluated and used by commercial ranches across the U.S. and in Mexico for more than 20 years. It’s regarded by those who use it as the best kept secret in the business.