With so many different regions and environments involved in grazing, effective agricultural management has become critical. Ranchers need access to an integrated solution that can combine their knowledge and experience with data combining, for example, soil management, forage capacity and rainfall, to name a few.
A holistic approach that scales becomes an invaluable management tool for protecting the ranch’s financial viability without compromising the health of the grass or soil.
Most ranchers still have limited internet access, so technology that is mobile and works offline is of paramount importance. Our red calf books are difficult to replace, but if they are lost or have been washed through the washing machine, these books and the data stored in them cannot be recovered. The technology offers ranchers a single entry solution that keeps records forever.
Grazing encompasses three main pillars – animal management, pasture management and business administration. If one of them is not given the proper attention, the entire value chain is in danger.
Here’s a platform like that NRCS web soil survey (WSS) is an essential tool of trading. Personally, I work with it on a weekly basis, whether I am helping family farms with AgriWebb or simply improving our own cattle farm. Compiled over decades, this free database provides users with a valuable way to compare forage based on year and rainfall. And when it comes to analyzing the forage capacity of an area before possibly signing a new lease, the WSS must be the first point of contact.
For example, users can examine the floor design in a specific area of interest. Once an area of interest is established, you can simply switch to vegetative productivity. Here you will find range production for native grasslands and various forage estimates for below average, average and above average rainfall regimes. Of course, we all know that normal years are rare. But this gives a good indication of what to expect from an area. The WSS is a great benchmark, especially if you haven’t done soil and forage tests recently.
Mobile apps allow ranchers to combine pasture analyzes carried out with tools such as WSS with everyday events that are actively taking place in the pasture. It’s fascinating to see data come to life by curiously observing the number of days of grazing, the long-term forage capacity of an area, or even the overall stocking rate.
There’s no substitute for a great foreman or ranch manager, but technology enables ranchers to be more efficient and analyze the sustainability of their operations from a variety of areas. And it’s not as complex as it sounds.
Profitability (and sustainability) rule # 1: Mitigating disasters. This means that the cattle always have water and grass and have a strategy if the ranch manager cannot work for weeks. Even a detailed infrastructure map can prevent an impending crisis.
To move this forward and improve our pasture log, mapping technology allows us to plan a new fence subdivision or water tank and estimate the ROI before we write the check for supplies.
When it comes to the rotation of our flocks, the first question we ask is: how many heads? How long were they on this pasture? How long should they stay on this pasture? When it comes to everyday life, mobile technology can combine feed measurements with ongoing cattle records so that you can identify and respond to needs as soon as you close the gate.
A question of surveillance
By entering the forage and minimum forage estimates prior to the growing season and making the necessary adjustments to reflect current rainfall, ranchers will gain key insights to identify the remaining days of grazing in an area or their ranch as a whole.
At the end of the day we’re just grass growers. Drought is inevitable in this industry. However, the technology enables ranchers to mitigate the impact of the drought on their farm in terms of sustainability and profitability. Ranchers can now predict exactly when they will run out of grass and adapt. This prevents you from sitting in line with your neighbors waiting in line to unload cattle at the sales pen during the height of a cattle liquidation.
It’s an exciting time for ranchers. The wealth of knowledge that has resided in generations of ranchers can now be preserved through easy-to-use online tools, mobile applications, and other such technologies. I believe in simple yet powerful solutions that complement the hard work on the ranch every day. The tools we needed are finally here, so why not grab them by the proverbial horns and seize the day.
Coby Buck is an account manager for AgriWebb, a ranch management software company that serves thousands of ranchers around the world.