The central components of the Pasture Rule relate to grazing and pasture management. Ruminant animals must graze pasture during the grazing season for their geographic region, which must be at least 120 days per year. Over the course of the grazing season, the animals must obtain an average of at least 30 percent dry matter intake by grazing. Additionally, animals must have year-round access to outdoors, and roughages used for bedding must be certified organic. Temporary confinement is allowed for some management and health care procedures, as well as during inclement weather and to reduce risk to soil and water quality. Lactation is not an acceptable reason for confinement. In addition, producers must have a pasture management plan and manage pasture as a crop to meet the feed requirements for grazing animals and to protect soil and water quality.
Designing an effective grazing plan isn’t as daunting as it seems. Mostly it’s applying observation to management, observing some more, and then adjusting as needed. There are five areas to consider in developing a grazing plan. They are (1) Inventory, (2) Define Goals, (3) Determine Grazing Units, (4) Develop a Schedule, and (5) Development of a Monitoring and Evaluation Plan.
A grazing plan should be considered a dynamic document. Stocking rates, seasons of use, and forage utilization levels are designed to be flexible to meet resource condition goals and livestock productivity, and will change over time as incremental resource objectives are realized. Desired resource condition goals are designed to provide physical resources capable of realizing comprehensive farm or ranch goals. Monitoring of resource response to management strategies will be a key component to refining specific management actions.
Grazing plans, again, are flexible, and should be written based on the type of management and ecological constraints in a given region. A grazing manager in one region may calculate a stocking rate based on 50% forage usage, while another may stock the pasture much more intensely utilizing a Management-intensive Rotational grazing system. The increased forage productivity and quicker forage regrowth after defoliation in the latter example may allow the manager to take much more than 50% of the forage available at each grazing event. This is particularly important when we consider the requirements of the Pasture Rule and the necessity to document at least 30% dry matter intake from grazing.
The resources below were chosen based on their relevance for organic graziers and the requirements of the Pasture Rule.
Feed and Dry Matter Intake Worksheets