Our Grass Whisperer, Troy Bishopp, is enthusiastic about grazing. He knows that with a little planning we can all extend our grazing seasons, take better care of our forage, improve our soils and, best of all, improve our lives by making more time for family and even a vacation here and there. He also knows that planning doesn’t come easily to all of us, so every year he updates the original charts he put together as part of a Northeast SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) project so you can use them as planning tools to make good grazing and good times happen at your place. Finally, because he knows that graziers come in all shapes and sizes, so do Troy’s grazing charts. We’re sure you’ll find just what you need below.
Let’s take this step by step.
1. Pick out the chart below that works best for you, then click to download it.
Some folks only need a grazing chart that runs from January to April. These charts are for you. Just pick the one that has enough paddocks to work for your operation, then click to download it. (You’ll need Xcel or Numbers to be able to use the charts.)
If you want to plan for an entire year these charts run from April 1, 2017 through March 31, 2017:
If you’re planning to move animals morning and afternoon like Dwight, one of the farmers who works with Troy, here’s the chart he uses for his 25 paddock operation:
You can fill in your grazing chart on your computer or you can take it to your local printer and have it printed at a large enough size so you can put it on a wall and write on it.
Notebook size charts:
The most important thing about grazing charts is that you adjust them to fit your needs. One of our On Pasture readers, Lawrence Gilley, sent us this note last year saying:
“My good neighbor, Troy Bishopp, likes his charts big and with the whole grazing year laid out for him.
Troy inspired me to try the charts and I find them helpful even with my little herd of Milking Devons on a dozen acres. However, I prefer to carry my grazing charts around in a loose leaf three ring binder. I can review them in the barn, in the pasture or at the dining room table. If you think that other On Pasture graziers might be interested in this convenience, please feel free to share the charts which I prepared.
He sent along his version to share with those of you who like that idea:
Lawrence set up his chart for 21 paddocks. If you have more, or you’d like to modify his version of the charts, here’s an Xcel version for that:
2. Take a Look at the Grass Whisperer’s actual 2013-2104 grazing chart example.
Here are some highlights of what to look for as you’re learning to read his grazing chart:
Troy adds events, like the organic inspection and his annual participation in the annual Daniel Barden Highland Mudfest (in memory of one of the Sandy Hook victims). Look for other events he added to the calendar, like his anniversary and a family vacation. Those are the things that make life worthwhile, and by including them in his grazing plan, he’s made sure that he can get away for them. Notice that he is also tracking his organic matter in each paddock so he can see how his grazing changes this over time. Last, at the bottom of the picture you can see that he planned to graze (black Xs) but fed instead. The green Xs show when he actually grazed. Tracking the difference between planned activities and what really happened can help you improve your planning as you go.
Troy also tracks rainfall and snowfall to track how much precipitation he’s getting along with the temperature, how many animals he’s feeding and the dry matter they’re consuming. Hot days are highlighted in red.
Here, Troy tracks when he moved animals to other pastures, when he spread compost and stockpiled pasture for the herd’s return. He knows how many days of rest each pasture has had before the animals return so that he can be sure forage has adequate recovery time.
3. Check out other On Pasture articles from Troy to walk you through how to use a grazing chart.
You can start with this week’s Classic by NatGLC: “Free Grazing Chart Makes the Difference in Drought,” where he describes how it helped him survive the 2012 drought. Troy also put together a grazing chart tutorial in a series of articles for On Pasture. You can see them all here.
Better yet, you can learn from Troy himself at one of his upcoming presentations:
January 20 – 21, Vermont Grazing conference
February 17 – 18, Southern Iowa Grazing Conference
“32 Years of Linger Grazing and What Mother Nature Showed Me”
“Pasture Fertility – My Approach to Figuring Out a Complicated Issue Without Going Broke”
“Extending the Season: Fall and Winter Grazing and the Economic Realities From the Snow Belt”
March 2 – 3, Northeast Pasture Consortium meeting in Hagerstown, MD
“The Grazing Chart: A Practical Management Tool to Improve Decision Making”
4. Got Suggestions/Questions? We’re here to help!
You may have some experience that your fellow readers could benefit from. Or you may have questions that we haven’t answered yet that are preventing you from getting started with your planned grazing. Share them below, or drop us a line. We want to do whatever we can to help you be successful.