Woody Lane from Lane Livestock Services in Oregon spoke to me in his article, “Let’s Take a Walk,” when he wrote, “The pasture is trying to tell you something; are you listening?”
When I participate in a public pasture walk, it’s generally a lighthearted affair that looks at a few specifics of grazing management or an infrastructure system from the host farm. Typically, my mind always wonders what the forage inventory is and what it might look like in the next 30, 60 to 90 days.
Here at our place I’ve come to know these weekly monitoring trips as inventory walks. Purposeful measuring of forage growth from where the cows are to where they are headed in the future is an integral part of planning for success and actually achieving it, and reducing the habit of Reactive Grazing Syndrome. As a seasoned practitioner, I’ll measure the daily growth rate, measure forage heights, densities and predict dry matter per acre using my boot, ruler or grazier’s eye. I’ll get in the ballpark (’cause nothing in nature is perfect) and see the trends manifest when I plot the inventory on my grazing chart.
I see knowing your grazing inventory is like knowing how many bales of hay you have on hand for winter. I can’t tell you how many times I see problems with not knowing or having enough inventory to make crucial financial decisions. It’s the Achilles heel of many graziers. Good news: You can start improving your situation today by implementing an inventory practice regime once a week. It’s habit forming!
It’s a must for me to predict what IS happening and what might happen in the near future, given weather events, stockpiling forage, increased livestock weight gain and planning for family time. Predicting the future resource can be precarious if you are starting out. That’s why I advocate for pairing up with a grazing mentor, consultant or agency professional. I’m generally confident in plotting a grazing course 30 to 60 days ahead. Most farmers that complete an inventory report are easily planning the next rotation. What would your life look like if you had a good handle on your feed inventory?
Here’s something else to consider when practicing an inventory walk that makes it even more important to our operations. During my “walk”, I also inventory cattle health, worm castings per foot, numbers of birds eating insects, tree seedling’s growth for the next shelterbelt, the fox to woodchuck ratio, a sip from the stream, weed concerns and the enormous amount of beauty I helped create with my management. We should really take stock of our work and relish the moments.
My weekly walk usually culminates with an emotional checklist where I try to inventory the work-life balance. Having plenty of forage has its benefits for extended camping trips with my wife and family without having to manage so intensively on the weekends. I wonder if we focused on inventory as a family attribute instead of a production regime, could we get more takers on this critical path?
I think the key to success, especially in the coming months, where planning for extended season grazing becomes paramount, is to manage like it really mattered and make inventory walks a part of the grazing culture.