Wednesday, April 17, 2024
HomeGrazing ManagementGet Your 2024 FREE Grazing Charts Here (with some instructions)

Get Your 2024 FREE Grazing Charts Here (with some instructions)

Troy Bishopp is out standing in his field!

It’s that time of year again when we post links to this year’s FREE grazing charts. They come to us courtesy of Troy Bishopp. Over a decade ago he worked with a team of farmers and graziers to create a set of charts that could work for both large and small operations, for those grazing year round, those working with shorter seasons, and for plain communities in their region who don’t used technology. Troy updates the calendar dates on the charts every year and posts them at his office’s website here. Thank you Troy!

Troy has successfully used this grazing chart and its holistic foundation to get through drought and to extend his grazing season. Pre-grazing chart days, there were years he was out of grass by October but since he started charting his management, he’s been able to extend his grazing season into December. The grazing chart has been important in emergencies, making it possible for Troy’s family to keep everything up and running when he was recovering from heart surgery. It has also given him more time with his family and friends. It’s no wonder he’s such a proponent for the charts – or for any planning tool, no matter the style.

If you’re ready to get started, here are the steps you can take:

1. Set your expectations. Remember that anyone can do this!

If, like other folks we’ve heard from, you’re hesitant because you don’t know the right way to use it, put that worry aside. There is no wrong way to use the chart.

If you’re thinking, “But how can I plan an entire season of grazing?” put that aside too. Most practitioners are using the chart to plan out 1 to 2 rotations ahead.  If you’re just starting out, try a 10 day plan and gain confidence in reading your land and seeing how planning works for you.

If you haven’t done this before, you won’t be perfect. That’s ok. No one’s going to grade you on how you use your chart. Start by pre-loading your chart with items you want to achieve for the season. Then use it in a way that’s comfortable for you and meets your goals.

And if there’s some other tool that works well for you – use that one! We’re all for planning, no matter how you do it!

2. Pick out the chart that works best for you, then click to download it.

Normally I download all the charts and post them at On Pasture for you. But this year, I’m just sending you directly to Troy’s grazing chart page at his office, the Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District in New York. Why? Well, some day, I’ll be gone and you’ll need the link. Also, I’m not sure the folks Troy works with actually understand how valuable we all find these charts. An increase in web traffic there should help with that.

Click to head to the website to download your grazing charts.

Troy offers charts that run from April to January and from April 1 to March 31. Choose the time frame that works for you. Just pick the one that has enough paddocks to work for your operation, then click to download it. Ta Da! Not sure what you want? Download them all! They’re free! 🙂

The charts are Xcel spreadsheets. That means you can use them right on your computer. However, lots of folks prefer paper copies. I’ve found the easiest way to get a printable copy is to follow these steps:

1) Save the spreadsheet as a PDF.
Open the file in Xcel or in Numbers if you’re on a Mac.
Click on “File” in the menu bar.
Click on “Save As” in the drop down menu.
Choose “PDF” from the File Format box.
Click on the “Save” button and you’re done.

2) When you open the PDF document, you’ll see that the chart has been turned into a number of pages. Just print them out, then get out your scissors and some tape, and cut and tape until you have your complete chart. Or, you can just leave it in separate pages and put it in a three ring binder as some folks do.

Didn’t find what you need? Pick the Excel version that is closest and then make your own modifications. This is a good skill to acquire and with a little help from a friend or young person, you’re sure to figure it out.

Click here to download your grazing chart questions worksheet

3. Answer some questions about your operation

A blank grazing chart can be a scary thing if you don’t know where to start. So Troy also created a worksheet with questions to get you thinking about your operational needs and how to schedule your grazing moves to meet livestock, forage, soil, wildlife and personal needs. Let’s take a look at the questions and how they help you figure out what to put on your blank grazing chart. Then you can download the full worksheet here.

The first set of question gives you an idea of how you’ll manage your paddock sizes and when you move livestock.

• What are the species, weight and number grazing?

• What are their daily dry matter requirements?

• What is estimated forage production per acre?

• How are you adjusting to animal bodyweight increases?

If you need some help with answering these questions, here’s a walk through with Troy along with some links to articls that will help you with your estimates and a helpful worksheet from Troy.

Based on your answers, you’ll be able to estimate the number of acres needed to feed your stock. You’ll also be able to decide on paddock sizes, and how long animals will spend in each paddock so they get the food they need while also making sure the forage in your pastures has adequate time to recover.

With all of this, you have what you need to begin penciling in a schedule on your grazing chart to show where animals will be when. But before you start, let’s develop a little more context with some more questions.

• What is your typical grazing start date?

• What is your average killing frost date?

• What is your general stockpiling timeframe?

The first and second questions give you a kind of boundary for when grass is actively growing. The question about stockpiling helps you think about paddocks you may want to skip, or how quickly you move your herd to allow grass to grow and provide winter grazing stockpile. The questions below help you think about challenges that might come up, and wildlife needs you might need to adjust around.

• Do you have drought prone times? Pugging times?

• What fields are being deferred for haying or emergencies?

• What paddocks are used for sacrifice or emergencies?

• What paddocks may you want to winter on?

• When are you birthing, breeding? What fields?

• Do you have hunting season timeframes?

• What are your wildlife needs?

• Is a bird fledging date important to you?

• What fields may need renovation, frost-seeding etc?

4. Don’t Forget to Have a Life!

Troy and two of his grandkids on one of his planned weekend getaways. The bonus is that fun time together also helps future generations see that farming can be fun so they’ll consider it as a career option.

By now you may be sketching out an idea of where you want your livestock when, and what kind of work you’ll be doing to make it all happen. But before you get to busy with that, remember Troy’s motto: “If you want to have fun, you have to plan for it, or you won’t have any.”

Right now, before you write in anything else on your grazing chart, write down your vacation plans, 4-H trips in the works, the county fair, concerts, and anything else that makes life worth living. Those are the things you’re going to plan everything else around. It might mean that you create a larger paddock for a few days while you’re gone for the weekend. Or you might include reminders to coordinate with neighbors or the folks who work for you so everything is covered while you’re away.

Take a Look at the Grass Whisperer’s actual 2013-2014 grazing chart example.

It’s always helpful to see how it works for other graziers. So, Troy shares this example of his 2103-2014 grazing chart to give you an idea how he uses it.

Here are some highlights of what he does with 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.

• Notice that he is also tracking his organic matter in each paddock so he can see how his grazing changes this over time.

• 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. Because he has a nutrient management plan for his farm, the chart allows him to capture data as he goes which helps him make better decisions.

• Here, Troy tracks when he moved animals to other pastures, when he spread compost and stockpiled pasture for the herd’s return. You can see his expected frost date in red. In the last column you can see him tracking the number of days of rest each pasture has had before the animals return. This helps him ensure forage has adequate recovery time.

Enjoy Your Homework!

And hey – why not let Troy know that you appreciate his efforts. He does it out of the goodness of his heart and I know from my own experience that folks supporting graziers often feel taken for granted. Saying thank you would help him know it’s worthwhile. You can also visit his website where he shares his “Cowpie Commentary,” some great photos, and even a virtual hug. There’s always something there that makes me think and/or smile.

P.S. If you find that the free grazing charts Troy provides don’t quite work for you, there are alternatives. Maybe the ones at Holistic Management International, Ranch Management Consultants, or the Savory Institute suit you better. You can even make your own, or hire someone to do it for you.

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Kathy Voth
Kathy Vothhttps://onpasture.com
I am the founder, editor and publisher of On Pasture, now retired. My career spanned 40 years of finding creative solutions to problems, and sharing ideas with people that encouraged them to work together and try new things. From figuring out how to teach livestock to eat weeds, to teaching range management to high schoolers, outdoor ed graduation camping trips with fifty 6th graders at a time, building firebreaks with a 130-goat herd, developing the signs and interpretation for the Storm King Fourteen Memorial trail, receiving the Conservation Service Award for my work building the 150-mile mountain bike trail from Grand Junction, Colorado to Moab, Utah...well, the list is long so I'll stop with, I've had a great time and I'm very grateful.

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