Embracing Technology to Enhance GrazingMon, 14 Jun 2021 13:29:32 CDT
Coby Buck writes in an Article for Agriwebb about how producers can enhance grazing..
With so many different geographies and environments at play regarding grazing, effective agriculture management has become critically important. Ranchers require access to an integrated solution that can link their knowledge and experience to data that combines the likes of soil management, forage capacity, and rainfall, to name just a few.
A holistic approach that scales becomes an invaluable management tool to protect the financial viability of the ranch without sacrificing the health of the grass or the soil.
Most ranchers still have limited internet access, so technology that is mobile and works offline is paramount. Our red calving books are tough to replace, but if lost or ran through the washer, those books and the data stored within are impossible to recreate. Technology gives ranchers a single entry solution that preserves records in perpetuity.
Grazing entails three key pillars – animal management, pasture management, and business management. If one of these is not given the attention it deserves, the entire value chain gets placed at risk.
This is where a platform like the NRCS Web Soil Survey (WSS) is an essential tool of the trade. Personally, it is something I work with on a weekly basis, whether helping family ranches with AgriWebb or simply improve our own cattle ranch. This free database has been compiled over decades and provides users with a valuable way to benchmark forage based on year and precipitation. And when it comes to analyzing the forage capacity of an area before potentially signing a new lease, the WSS must be the go-to resource.
For example, users can examine the soil design in a particular area of interest. Once an area of interest is established, you can simply toggle to vegetative productivity. This is where you will find Range Production for native grasslands and various forage estimates for below average, average, and above-average precipitation regimes. Of course, we all know that normal years are few and far between. But this provides a good indication of what to expect from an area. The WSS is an excellent benchmark, especially if you have not recently done soil and forage tests.
Mobile apps allow ranchers to synthesize the grazing analysis conducted with tools such as WSS with day-to-day events that are actively occurring in the pasture. It is fascinating to see data come to life, curiously watching the number of days grazed, the long-term forage capacity of an area, or even the overall stocking rate.
A great foreman or ranch manager is impossible to replace, but technology enables ranchers to be more efficient and analyze their operation's sustainability from a multitude of purviews. And it is not as complex as it sounds.
Rule #1 for Profitability (and Sustainability for that matter): Mitigate Disasters. This means ensuring the cattle always have water and grass and have a strategy if the ranch manager can't work for weeks on end. Simply having a detailed infrastructure map can prevent an impending crisis from happening.
Taking that forward, as we look to improve our grazing protocol, mapping technology allows us to plan out a new fence subdivision or new water tank and estimate its ROI before writing the check for the supplies.
When it comes to rotating our herds, the first questions that we ask ourselves are: How many head? How long were they in that pasture? How long should they be in this pasture? When it comes to the day-to-day, mobile technology can marry forage measurements with ongoing cattle records so that you can capture and answer the need to knows as soon as you close the gate.
A matter of monitoring
By entering the baseline forage and minimum forage estimates before the growth season and adjusting as required according to current precipitation, ranchers get critically important insights to identify the grazing days remaining in any area or their ranch as a whole.
At the end of the day, we are simply just grass growers. Drought is inevitable in this industry. However, technology allows ranchers to mitigate the drought's impact on their operation from a sustainability and profitability perspective. Ranchers can now accurately forecast the date in which they will run out of grass and adapt. This will prevent you from sitting in line with your neighbors waiting to unload cattle at the sale barn during the apex of a cattle liquidation event.
It is an exciting time for livestock producers. The wealth of knowledge sitting within generations of ranchers can now be preserved through simple to use online tools, mobile applications, and other such modes of technology. I believe in simple yet powerful solutions that complement the hard work done on the ranch every day. The tools that we’ve needed are finally here, so why not grab them by the proverbial horns and seize the day.
Coby Buck is account manager for AgriWebb, a ranch management software company serving thousands of livestock producers worldwide.
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