Our native grasslands generally evolved with the three major influences of climate, grazing, and fire. While the impacts of climate can be somewhat mitigated, your operation is largely at the mercy of the weather.
When controlling grassland weeds, the mindset of row crop weed control may be put into practice too often. In most cases, broadcast control of weeds in grasslands is rarely necessary.
A drought plan will be an essential component to your overall grazing plan as it provides guidance in making decisions during critical times when forage may be lacking. Generally, a drought plan will identify certain 'triggers', including calendar dates (that you determine) when critical management decisions are to be reviewed.
Proper placement of water and salt/mineral blocks can aid in distribution of livestock within a pasture. By controlling placement of these resources, you control animal behavior and patterns, reducing trampling due to congestion.
While producers have long acknowledged that access to water makes the difference between a profitable or unsuccessful operation, they are beginning to understand that water quality may be as important as water quantity.
When planning a grazing strategy, it is important to carefully assess goals and objectives and then match those goals and objectives with the appropriate livestock. It is critical that the manager understand that not all livestock are created equal.
Assessing pasture forage production is a key step in planning harvest strategies and can also inform the manager on the status of wildlife habitat or other grassland values. Online resources, such as the free USDA Web Soil Survey, allow landowners to input the perimeters of a pasture or ranch while the program outputs production estimates based on soils and typical vegetation for the area.
Healthy grasslands are generally identified by the plant community. At the core of any plant community assessment is an inventory of native plants. When assessing a native plant community, you must consider both the number of native plants and the diversity of native plants.
While periodic monitoring is necessary for continued success, a thorough evaluation in the first few months will tell you a lot about grazing levels, benefits to livestock and livestock-to-acre ratio. By completing an early assessment, you'll be able to adjust necessary variables before getting too far into your program.
The predominant factor in winter grazing is ensuring adequate forage availability while considering overall long-term range health and maintenance. When managed correctly, grazing winter range can be a viable option for controlling feed costs and ensuring herd health without negatively impacting rangelands.