By Nadia Mori PAg, Range Management Extension Specialist, Watrous
With the beginning of a new year, many of us like to set intentions, goals or maybe even a good old resolution. But, what about your pastures? What intentions, goals or resolutions have you made regarding pasture management? Taking a page out of business success models, here is a key strategy on how you can keep your pastures on target to be healthier and more productive.
Did you know that when a plane travels from point A to point B it is generally off course 90% of the time? Despite that fact, most planes arrive at their intended destination successfully. The plane does so by making constant small course corrections as it goes. In pasture management, you can apply the same principle of using performance feedback to adjust the course of how things are developing on the landscape.
The trick is to schedule time regularly, once a month rather than once a year, to do a quick performance review and assess what course corrections may be necessary to keep on target. For example, you might start out the year with strong intentions of rebuilding your pastures following two years of low moisture conditions. Your overall goals are to shift the plant community back to more productive grasses and to increase the litter layer to help protect dwindling soil moisture. Taking just an hour each month, maybe on a Saturday morning, to sit down and go over key pasture management areas could make the difference of whether you move closer to those goals or further away from them.
A performance review does not have to be complex or high tech. Capturing your observations in a notebook at the kitchen table is all you need to get started. The areas that you review could include animal movements, day-to-day monitoring, water quality, and status of forage quality and quantity. For each area, write down one thing that works and one thing that doesn’t. For example, for forage quality you might take note that it worked well for you to delay turnout on a pasture because you noticed an increase in available forage but you also noticed that it didn’t work for you to start grazing in the same field as last year because there wasn’t enough good quality forage available yet.
Next comes the course correction to support continued movement towards your management goals. Take advantage of what you notice is working for you and try to find ways to incorporate those actions or strategies more often on your pasture. For the things that aren’t working well at the moment, brainstorm 10 ideas on how you could improve that area. For example, if the amount of forage produced is not working for you at the moment, some ideas might be to add cross fencing to create more paddocks and more opportunity for rest, use a deferred rotation or a rest rotation, consider early take-out or later take-in or for tame pasture, to consider a rejuvenation method. Then use the following month to work on your noted course corrections.
Spending just a few hours each month evaluating your current trajectory and implementing small course corrections, can help you steer your pasture management to the outcomes you intended.
For more information, please contact Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377.