Bitter cold temperatures are apt to remind us of how little control we have over the natural systems that are so vital to grassland livestock production. Perhaps it reinforces the importance of making careful plans to manage what we can control and to be prepared with contingencies for what we hope won't happen, but is possible (bitter cold, blizzard, ice, flood, fire, hail, drought, disease, grasshoppers...).

Greg Lardy recently wrote of the value of looking ahead to calving season. “Being prepared,” not only facilitates the execution of our management plans, it contributes to peace of mind as we anticipate future work and activity. Making time to “pause and plan” may never be trivial in busy ranch life, but perhaps it's easier to work in the middle of winter.

I'd suggest that it's never too early to anticipate the upcoming growing season and develop plans for allocation of your grassland resources. Having the plan written (or recorded electronically) in time to review and revise it will contribute to its usefulness. Perhaps suggesting a sequence to consider would be helpful:

  • Review records from last year's grazing. When was each pasture grazed? How long? How much was harvested? What was the condition of the vegetation at the end of the growing season (grazed too hard, just right, abundant growth)? Any special problems that need attention (weeds to control, erosion to be healed, burned area to be rested)? No information is more valuable in planning grazing than your own records of carrying capacity supported. For your own use, determining cow days per pasture is the best information available. Rainfall records are equally important to interpret the “grazing yield.”

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