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.)
10 paddock chart, April – January
20 paddock chart, April – January
30 paddock chart, April – January
40 paddock chart, April – January
If you want to plan for an entire year these charts run from April 1, 2017 through March 31, 2017:
10 paddock chart, 12 months
20 paddock chart, 12 months
30 paddock chart, 12 months
40 paddock chart, 12 months
50 paddock chart, 12 months
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 Gilley’s Notebook Size Grazing Chart – 2017
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:
Lawrence Gilley’s Notebook Size Charts in Xcel
2. Take a Look at the Grass Whisperer’s actual 2013-2104 grazing chart example.
A blank grazing chart can be a scary thing if you don’t know where to start so Troy shares this example of his 2103-2014 grazing chart to give you an idea how he uses it. You can download it here.
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 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.
A couple of other things: I get my charts printed at Colgate University and at our Madison County Planning Department where I have built relationships with awesome people that are willing to work on various sizes to fit our customer’s needs. I have been told countless times that big box printing stores look at you cross-eyed when you bring a CD/travel drive with a template on it. One guy I know spent 40 bucks to “get” the size he needed. Generally conservation agencies have plotters but they too have been reluctant to experiment because they will ask, “who’s paying for this”. I suggest working with someone who gets it and doesn’t mind helping you create something that works and isn’t afraid of wasting a few pieces of paper trying. We do pay for this service and some initial set-up. Now it works like clockwork.
Another related interest of mine is using OnPasture to tell your story of how you use the grazing chart to your benefit and showing us how you laid it out. Also it would be nice to showcase the other planning/monitoring grazing management tools like the grazing wedge, HM chart, PastureMap and others, homemade or not, so others may learn the decision-making “process” in how you battle the grazing season challenges. Thanks, GW
Thank you Ladies for telling folks about this fairly simple tool, slash calendar.
The good news is there are many ways to approach using this and or customizing it to fit users needs. Lawrence is happy using “his” version. I have a very detailed one from Fred Howard with a written narrative. Many Plain community farmers use them with colored pencils. Some use it for all field activities (row crops and pasture) on the farm. I see gardeners use each line for a particular veggie and track harvest and planting.
There are many tracking tools like homemade journals, the grazing wedge, computer generated reports, HM’s chart, phone Apps to everything in between, that can and should be used to make decisions toward your goals. The point is to use something to plan, monitor and improve your operation. Don’t always keep it stored in your noggin as others may need to know.
This chart, whether in paper form or excel form can bring agency generated plans to life instead of collecting dust on a shelf. This tool has allowed me to cut hours off my organic/nutrient management inspections by verifying what happened and what will happen which is great for the inspector and adds street cred when you’re talking to a consumer and showing them how detailed your management is in producing their product.
The best part for me is this practical tool continues to gain traction because people are making it their own and taking pride in their thinking process. This has led to personal success stories by the hundreds with real consequences. From gaining a vacation to adding 10 more days of grazing worth 1000 bucks. And even cooler, someone comes up to me at an event and says, “Hey look at my grazing chart”. That is awesome and then I can learn more.
As agency grazing planners/technical help dwindle because of funding cuts, we as customers must find ways to help ourselves and become more resilient. I’m convinced that these kinds of tools help with management intensive decisions. The cows already know what to do. It’s our job to provide the palate that respects the land, the critters, the next generations, ourselves and our financial well-being. Think more, linger more and enjoy life more in 2017.
Thanks for allowing me the opportunity to share the realities of grass farming. GW
Troy, thank YOU for sharing this valuable tool, and your experience with it. We are so very excited to start off 2017 with the grazing chart! It’s been a great help to so many OP readers – THANK YOU!
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