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How can I develop a grazing schedule?

Answer: There are many benefits to having a grazing plan and schedule. They allow a producer to balance forage productivity with animal intake requirements, plan pasture use before the grazing season starts, and obtain accurate information on forage productivity and use. They also provide documentation for programs and certifications, such as NRCS conservation programs and organic certification requirements.

A grazing schedule allows you to chart the grazing events visually for each management unit throughout the season and over the years and, when used with a monitoring plan, can assist in refining and adapting the grazing system over time. As well, a grazing schedule can serve as a summary of all management activities and monitoring conducted on each pasture.

Some of the items you might incorporate in a schedule include the following:

• Forage production values for each unit
• Forage use in each unit for the class of livestock grazing
• Forage balance, or the prospective surplus or deficit of forage after the grazing event
• General observations, such as how long animals should graze a particular pasture, rainfall, calving dates, etc.

The ATTRA Grazing Planning Manual and Workbook provides all the resources you need to write your own grazing plan, monitor its efficacy, and adjust your management throughout the grazing season. Periodically reviewing your plan and records will help you assess how well you are working toward your goals, and will suggest ways to improve the next season. The manual starts with a discussion of grazing principles and how to conduct a resource assessment, followed by a step-by-step process for writing a grazing plan. A template and instructions are provided. This manual covers the importance of developing a simple pasture-monitoring system and provides further resources to assist producers with planning, charting, and recording grazing throughout the season. Additional resources help you understand grazing concepts, as well as obtain access to some good, online tools for recordkeeping and monitoring.