To Kathy Miles Burnham, profitable grazing encompasses much more than putting cattle on an empty pasture.
"I've heard graziers say, 'We're going to increase our herd size by 40% and make 40% more money,' but it's not that easy," says Miles Burnham, a range management specialist with Agri-Plan, a Marietta, GA, farm management company.
>From her office in Omaha, NE, Miles Burnham manages her family's >1,000-head grazing operation and heads Agri-Plan's newest division, >Precision Grazing Systems. Using maps, surveys, livestock inventories and >other information, she develops detailed grazing plans for large and small >operators.
"Whether producers are practicing intensive rotational or continuous grazing, our goal is to give each one a detailed plan to follow," says Miles Burnham.
While the plans she develops and the information she requires from clients are extensive, the work pays off in the long run, she says. She recently completed a grazing plan for a 2,500-head operation in southeast Wyoming.
"With the plan, they were able to increase their stocking rate and use their land more efficiently."
To get started, she asks clients for copies of their county soils surveys and maps of their farms or ranches. A U.S. Geological Survey topographical map, aerial photo or plat map works.
"If a client's unable to obtain a map, we can create one," she says. Clients also need to supply livestock inventories and management schedules and provide information on their water sources and hay-making capabilities.
Using the data provided, Miles Burnham and Tom Hogan, Agri-Plan's founder, estimate the property's grazing capacity. It's calculated in animal unit months, which is the amount of forage required to sustain one animal unit for one month.
The above information is then matched with livestock inventory to determine if a farm is adequately stocked.
Additionally, the map, survey, grazing capacity and livestock inventory are combined to develop a grazing schedule. It includes the number of days each pasture is grazed, the dates cattle are moved into and out of the pastures and the amount of forage grazed.
Miles Burnham stresses that producers need to be flexible with their grazing plans.
"When we develop a grazing system for someone, it's always subject to change."
For more information, contact Hogan at 800-793-1671 or visit the company's Web site at www.Agri-Plan.com.