Plotting the Open Plan moves

Operating the plan

Step 14 - Plot the animal moves

Step 15 - Make a final check of your plan

Step 16 - Operating and monitoring the plan

Step 17 - Keeping the record

Step 14 - Plot the animal moves

For most of the duration of an Open plan, you will find that moving at Fast speeds is the exception and not the rule.   I strongly suggest that you start planning the sequence of moves by using the calculated Slow graze period that you have previously calculated and placed into Column 4.

Use a pencil when plotting the sequence of moves, as you will almost certainly need to adjust the sequence until you are comfortable with the final pattern.

There is no ‘correct place’ to start when planning the moves, although it is unlikely you will begin on the first day of the plan and simply work to the right from there.  Doing that normally suggests a very serious lack of human creativity in the planning process!

It is much more likely you will start plotting the moves forward (and back) from some scheduled event during the term of the plan.  Typically you would plan from a point where you know the animals must be on at a particular date for a husbandry reason such as shearing, branding or weaning etc.

In this example, the two longest grazed paddocks will be grazed during the lambing period

Wherever you start, you should plan one full cycle through all paddocks.  

Once you have a full cycle mapped out, move to the left-most paddock you have planned for (which may well be somewhere in the middle of the chart), and, using the same sequence of moves you have already established, work ‘backwards’, towards the left side of the planning sheet until you determine which paddock you will begin the Plan in.  (See the Green marks on left hand side of the image below).

In this example, by working forwards from the starting point, for one full cycle, and then backwards, the starting paddock should be Creek paddock

If the pattern you plot conflicts with any of the planning factors, erase that pattern of moves and try again, till you get a pattern that encompasses every planning consideration.  You will have achieved a high level of human creativity!

Step 15 - Make a Final Check of your Plan

Calculate the volume of feed you are planning to remove from a paddock (in either Animal Days per Hectare-ADH, or Animal Days per Acre-ADA) per graze. You may use either a simple method or a more accurate method.

1. The simple method

  1. Calculate the total volume of feed that is planned to be removed from the paddock during the entire graze.  

Multiply the number of physical animals you will be grazing through a paddock by the Number of Days they will graze the paddock. 
In our example, 1,500 ewes will graze Creek paddock for 8 days.  The total volume of feed planned for removal is 1,500 animals X 8 days = 12,000 Animal Days.
  2. Reduce this volume of feed down to the amount that will be removed per hectare, during the graze period.

  In our example, Creek paddock is 34 hectares.  The volume of feed planned to be removed per hectare is: 12,000 Animal Days/34 Hectares = 352.9 (say 353) Animal Days per Hectare (ADH).
  3. Then reduce the thinking to the area for an animal for a day.  
Calculate the area (in square metres or yards) that must supply the forage required for one animal unit for one day.   In our example, each hectare must deliver up 353 of the 12,000 AD’s of feed planned to be removed during the grazing.  This means that each 1 AD must be taken from 1/353th of a hectare: ie 10,000 square metres (area of a hectare) ÷ 353 = 28.3 square metres.  Enter this number into a calculator and press the square root (√) key, which gives the result, 5.3.  That is, 28.3 square metres is a square 5.3 metres by 5.3 metres.  Repeat this process for every paddock in the cell.
  4. Go into the first paddock you plan to graze (in this case, Creek) and check if the feed physically exists.
This step is best done with two or more people.  Four is ideal.  Using one person as a fixed point, pace out a square 5.3 metres by 5.3 metres.   Then look inwards and 'eyeball’ the square it as though you were a ewe.   Ask yourself, "Will this square comfortably feed me for a day, leaving the soil surface covered in litter?"  If you are all confident, there is a high probability your plan is ok.

Things to consider

Remember, the shorter the graze period that is planned for a paddock, the greater the area that is available to an animal for a day.

Conversely, and importantly, the longer the graze period in a paddock, the less area there is available per animal, per day.

If, for the shortest graze period ie Fast moves, you are still concerned that the area available may not be adequate to feed the animal for a day and leave the land covered adequately covered in litter, then you are seriously overstocked.  You have allocated the largest possible area per animal, and it is still insufficient.  Slowing down makes the situation more difficult still, because the animals can access fewer square metres per day, 
Take immediate action!   

2. The detailed method
Calculate the number of Standard Animals in the mob.  
You can use SAU, DSE etc as appropriate.  Refer to your DSE or SAU Tables.  The DSE Table for Merino ewes is shown.

In our example the ewes are 55 kgs each, and are pregnant with a single lamb.  Their DSE rating in September, when Creek paddock is to be grazed, is 1.35.  One 55kg pregnant ewe is eating the volume of feed consumed by 1.35 50kg dry ewes.  
Therefore the feed demand from the mob is:
1,500 Animals X 1.35 = 2,025 DSE 
2,025 DSE x 8 Days    = 16,200 DSE Days.

Then, using this number (16,200), follow through Steps 2 to 4, immediately above.

Because the number of Standard Animals (eg SAU or DSE) in the mob is greater than the number of physical animals that are present in the paddock, the area available per Animal Unit is smaller.

Step 16  - Operating and Monitoring the Plan

You have created the best possible plan, but conditions will alter throughout its operation, and you must monitor these changes.

Monitor growth rates using either tagged plants or pasture cages as appropriate. If you observe that the paddock you are about to move into is not satisfactorily recovered, adjust your moves immediately.  Slow down!!

The paddock in the image below is fully recovered: the recovering plant material outside the cage looks approximately the same as the material inside the cage.   This indicates that the speed of movement of the stock is matching the physical rate of recovery of the plants. 

For more details on pasture cages, click here.

Things to consider

Take bold action and do not delay!  If you observe that the most severely grazed plant in the next paddock (or several) that you plan to move stock into are not fully recovered, Slow down!  

If the material outside the cage does not look similar in height to the material inside the cage, Slow Down.

If you cannot slow down, because you run out of feed in a paddock, reduce the number of animal units in the mob.

Remember, a more severely grazed plant takes longer to recover than a less severely grazed plant of the same species.  Severe grazing of a plant is not damaging to it, so long as it has adequate time to recover.  

Consider either:
  • Adjusting stocking rate downwards; and/or
  • Increasing the number of paddocks. (If applicable in your situation, you might consider doing this by strip grazing).
  • Raising the number of physical or virtual paddocks increases the Graze to Recovery Ratio and helps produce a greater volume of feed.  If using strip grazing, consider daily or more frequent moves under slow plant recovery conditions.
Remember that it takes one complete cycle at a new 'speed', in order for every paddock to have the benefit of that speed.  If in doubt, assume growth rates are Slow.

If you change speed, you must re-plot ALL future moves on your plan accordingly.

Step 17 - Keeping the Record

Your grazing plan has been written on a chart named a "Grazing Plan and Control Chart".  As in all things when managing holistically, it is important to monitor your actual performance, as even the best prepared plan could be wrong in some aspect.  Therefore it is important to record what happened against what was planned, in the following manner.

  • After the stock move out, 'ink in' on the chart the actual duration of the graze within the paddock, so that you have a pictorial history of what occurred.
  • Beside the inked in data, record the ADH removed during the graze (ie multiply Animals x Days in the paddock ÷ paddock size (in Hectares).  Also, note your assessment of the severity of the graze. Eg Light Medium or Heavy (L, M or H).

  • Record precipitation in Rows 21 or 22.

Enter your assessment of plant growth rates, eg Fast, Slow or No growth (F, S or 0) in Row 23.

Making decisions
Armed with all this important information you can make informed decisions about three important aspects of your plan:

  1. You can (and must) adjust the speed of moves to accurately reflect actual growing conditions
  2. You must Re-plan the sequence of future moves, if you have deviated in any way from the original plan
  3. If the season has become difficult, make adjustments to stocking rate.
If you don't do any of these things when conditions require them, you will be guilty of falling into a "rotational grazing' mind-set.  If adopted, this mind-set will end in tears (your tears) at some point.

At the end of the Open Plan

On the date you consider to be the end of the growing season, draw a brown vertical line.  This is important so that in future years you can ensure Step 6 is able to be carried out.

**  If you would prefer to learn via video tutorial please click next.**

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