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The Importance of Graze Plans, and How to Prepare Them

The Importance of Graze Plans, and How to Prepare Them
Written by
Amanda Young
Published on
July 7, 2023

Looking for a better way to manage your grazing operations and achieve your goals? If so, graze planning might be one of the things that you might want to look into or improve on.

Find out more about graze planning from our team member and grazier, Amanda Young. Initially starting out as our customer, Amanda then joined the MaiaGrazing team whilst also running Three Leaf Pastoral, a cattle trading enterprise in NSW, Australia, with her partner Rafe.

What is a graze plan?

A graze plan optimises grass production and grazing efficiency while maintaining or improving the health and productivity of the land. A well-designed graze plan also helps you calculate whether you have enough grass for the livestock on hand to reach key dates, thereby helping prevent overgrazing and the need for supplementary feeding. In the growing season, a grazing plan is used to ensure an appropriate rest period is maintained and the grass is kept in a vegetative state, allowing you to maximise production and carbon sequestration.

Why is graze planning important?

Many farmers have never used a graze plan, instead relying on historical stocking decisions and data, or being guided by observations of the current condition of their animals and their paddocks to determine, as time and seasons progress, which animals graze which paddocks and for how long. These approaches can suffice at times; however, successful graziers who run profitable and sustainable businesses regardless of the season tend to have one key thing in common: They understand, value and implement graze plans. Let’s take a look at some of the tangible and intangible benefits of using graze plans:

Avoid running out of grass

Most livestock producers have, at some point, found themselves in the unfortunate situation of needing to sell animals or buy feed because they simply did not have the pasture on hand to maintain their livestock. This forced decision usually occurs when other farmers are going through the same process, and tends to also coincide with a drop in livestock prices as the market is flooded, meaning supply outweighs demand. By using a graze plan, it’s possible to ascertain whether you have sufficient grass on hand to carry your livestock through to a key date without overgrazing your paddocks, thereby allowing you to make early decisions to reduce stocking rates if the plan indicates you should.  

Avoid under-utilising grass

While under-grazing is unlikely to cause the ecological and financial damage that over-grazing can, it does negatively impact upon production and can result in unrealised potential from both a financial and ecological perspective. A grazing plan helps identify the stocking rate that could be achieved, and helps you to maintain a rest period that will keep grass in an active growth stage.  

Improve livestock performance

By providing a consistent and high-quality source of forage, a graze plan can improve livestock performance, including weight gain and reproductive success. 

Ensure sustainable land use

Graze planning is a key aspect of managing grazing lands in a sustainable manner. Sustainable land use boosts the long-term productivity and health of the land, while also minimising negative environmental impacts.  

Get peace of mind with graze plans

Not all graze plans are adhered to – in reality, plans change! The value of graze planning often lies as much in the planning process as it does in the actual plan. During the graze planning process, you are accessing and analysing dynamic data about your farm, considering different scenarios, and in so doing, familiarising yourself with and preparing yourself for a range of outcomes that could eventuate. As farmers know, by the time we arrive in tough times such as a drought or a flood, we are often engulfed and overwhelmed by the sheer weight of what we’re going through, and it’s too late or too exhausting to start planning. Having a graze plan, which can be changed or modified as needed, brings peace of mind and confidence.  

How does MaiaGrazing help you prepare a grazing plan?

MaiaGrazing’s graze planning tools are simple and intuitive to use, with both growing and  non-growing season plans able to be developed, edited, and shared in a fraction of the time that it takes to create a graze plan using a paper chart. The thought of using graze planning tools in MaiaGrazing for the first time can be daunting, however our Customer Success team members are on hand to guide you through the process; being graziers themselves who use MaiaGrazing’s graze planning tools in their own businesses, they understand the questions and challenges that can arise during the graze planning process.

MaiaGrazing makes it easy to develop, edit, and share graze plans in a fraction of the time that it takes using a paper chart

Non-growing season graze plans

In simple terms, the non-growing season plan is used to calculate whether you have enough grass on hand in the paddocks you intend to graze, for the animals that will be grazing them, to reach a key date. In order to develop such a plan, you first need to assess the average amount of feed on hand in each paddock. For those that are not confident in their ability to make accurate pasture assessments, accessing data about previous grazes in the MaiaGrazing chart and graze history reports are great ways to calibrate visual observations with the graze yield data captured against each graze. This data is automatically calculated and stored in MaiaGrazing every time animals are allocated to a paddock for a graze period, and is valuable information when it comes time to make plans for future grazes. Once you have selected the graze plan end date, the mobs and paddocks that will be involved, and the average amount of feed per paddock, MaiaGrazing’s non-growing season plan will quickly show whether you have enough grass on hand to make the plan work! If the graze plan shows that your stocking rate will exceed your carrying capacity, the plan can easily be refined; you may choose to modify the end date, add more paddocks, or look more closely at the average feed estimates per paddock, before saving and following the plan.  

Growing season graze plans

Creating a growing season plan in MaiaGrazing is equally as straightforward and insightful as creating a non-growing season plan. As graziers, our goals in the growing season are generally to grow as much grass as possible, have our animals consume it while it is in its peak nutritional state, and allow paddocks an adequate rest period to recover and once again grow productive, vegetative grass before we graze them again. As such, the focus of the growing season plan in MaiaGrazing is not on whether you have sufficient grass in your inventory to reach a key date, rather it is designed around the rest period you will adopt to achieve the goals outlined above. The rest period you choose will depend on factors such as the season you are experiencing; MaiaGrazing’s tool allows you to create multiple options to reflect this as the season progresses. When designing growing season plans in MaiaGrazing, the graze plan start date, intended rest period, and the paddocks and mobs to be included are entered and selected, before a ranking is applied to each of the paddocks included in the plan. This step results in more grass being consumed from your most productive paddocks, and lighter grazing pressure being applied to less productive paddocks.   Both the growing season and non-growing season plans allow you to override the days in each graze if you wish, and to make changes and edits to future grazes once the plan is in play. They are designed to reflect the realities graziers face; seasons change, plans change, and we need to be nimble as we respond, with the right data at our fingertips to help us make good decisions. With the help of our Customer Success Team, learning to use MaiaGrazing’s graze planning tools is an easy process, and will ensure you can tackle the seasons ahead with sound plans in place.  So, if you'd like to find out how you could apply MaiaGrazing to your business today, choose a time to speak with one of our product consultants or ask for a short overview video to be sent to you:

Talk to us to find out how you can improve your grazing management through planned grazing.

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