Creating an Open Plan

Establishing the plan

Step 1 - Opening Decisions

Step 2 - Set up the planning chart

Step 3 - Record management factors effecting the whole cell

Step 4 - Record herd or flock information

Step 5 - Record livestock exclusion periods

Step 6 - Check for unfavourable grazing patterns

Step 7 - Record paddocks available

Step 8  - Note special management needs in particular paddocks

Things to consider

Grazing is a ‘planned event’, even if the plan is to set-stock animals for prolonged periods, such as during lambing.  Grazing planning is also a planned event, and should be allocated the time required, usually only a few hours, plus daily maintenance time.  

At every step of this planning process you should involve all the people who will take part in making the plan work.  If this doesn’t occur the risk becomes lack of ownership of the finished plan.  I have observed situations where people were not sufficiently involved in developing plans, and as a result I have witnessed people unintentionally (and at times, deliberately) sabotage plans.  Dealing with the animals is always relatively straightforward compared to dealing with the humans, especially when everything is new and challenging for them, so always take the time to bring people along.

Before you start
Make sure you have a Holistic Grazing Planning and Control Sheet available for each Grazing Cell 
you will be creating a Plan for.

There are some calculations involved in this process.  I strongly recommend you download this 
spreadsheet to help you with the mathematics.  Select the tab - 'Open (growing season) calcs'.
As you work through the process on this and following pages, information beside this logo will assist you enter data on the spreadsheet.  


The four phases when preparing and operating an Open plan

There are four distinct phases in preparing and operating an Open plan:
  1. Setting up the planning sheet
  2. Calculating the graze period
  3. Operating the plan
  4. Recording "plan verses Actual" performance

Step 1 - Setting up the Planning Sheet

Opening Decisions
Think of ALL the factors that might either effect movement of the stock, involve people, or have an affect on the land in some manner.

Use butchers paper to make your list, so each item can be checked off as you enter it on the plan.  Listen to the audio, it provides tips on the things you should plan for, and will include things like:

Calving    Lambing   Lamb marking/tailing    Bulls into the herd   Bulls removed   Fire risk   Water issues   Family holidays   Paddocks not available because of crops

Audio Clip

To play Audio Click, just click once on the play icon. (If you have slow internet connection such as Satellite or dial up then you may need to press pause for a minute to allow streaming of clip for continuous listening)

Step 2 - Set Up the Planning Chart

Fill in months, and using a pencil, block out 31st days as applicable. Don't forget February!

Record Paddock names and sizes in Column 3, and enter the total cell size in Row 35 (Note:  There is a Column 3 on both sides of the Planning Sheet).



When you are using the Excel model to assist your calculations
In Section B of the Worksheet enter the name of all the paddocks you will graze within this cell at any time during the plan.  If some paddocks will be unavailable at any stage, don’t worry, include them on the spreadsheet now.




Video Clip

To play Video Click, just click once on the play icon. (If you have slow internet connection such as Satellite or dial up then you may need to press pause for a minute to allow streaming of clip for continuous listening)



Step 3 - Record Management Factors Affecting the Whole Cell

Colour code factors such as calving/lambing, joining/tupping, weaning, holidays, major farm activities etc.  Use vertical lines with a horizontal line across the top.  



Audio Clip

To play Audio Click, just click once on the play icon. (If you have slow internet connection such as Satellite or dial up then you may need to press pause for a minute to allow streaming of clip for continuous listening)

Step 4 - Record Herd/Flock Information

In Row 25 record in each month the classes of animals to be grazed within the cell and their numbers. You might use abbreviations such as: C&C/300 (Cows & Calves - 300) or E/2,000 (Dry ewes - 2,000).  In the example below the single mob contains 1,500 ewes.  In Month 1 they are classed as pregnant, but during Month 2 they all lamb.  Sometimes the animal class(es) within a cell will change: for example, for practical management reasons you might wish to remove ewes and replace them with cows.




Step 5 - Record Livestock Exclusion Periods

An exclusion means you will completely prevent animals being in a paddock  during certain times, and are normally due to some physical impediment like cropping, flooding, or snow risk.  The Exclusion period shown below is 71 days.  

If there are places you would prefer animals not to be, you will note these shortly (at Step 8).  Depending on the length of the exclusion period, and the likely range of recovery periods that you will shortly decide upon, your decisions here may significantly effect a number of future decisions. If you absolutely cannot allow animals to enter a paddock for a period of time: whether weeks or months, exclude it.  Otherwise, pass over this step.
Use a different colour to show why each exclusion is required, and in the legend at the foot of the sheet, note the reason.





Step 6 - Check for Unfavourable Grazing Patterns

The purpose of this Step is to use hindsight to avoid a future problem.  It is essential you perform this Step once you have been operating for several years.

Go back to previous Open plans, and lay them out.  Paddock by paddock, check for repeated occasions when the same paddock was inadvertently grazed just before the onset of a non-growing period (Closed plan), and then again early in the next Open plan.  Remember, plants do not recover when dormant, so although in each year (below), there was a long interval between grazings, there was little time for active plant recovery between grazings.

Note also that in each year the last grazing occurred not only just before the onset of the non-growing season, but in each year it occurred in a different month, such is the effect of seasonality.



Audio Clip

To play Audio Click, just click once on the play icon. (If you have slow internet connection such as Satellite or dial up then you may need to press pause for a minute to allow streaming of clip for continuous listening)

Step 7 - Record Paddocks Available

By now you will be starting to think about likely recovery periods during the period of the Plan, particularly if there are paddocks with planned exclusion periods.  If the expected recovery period during the period an exclusion is in place (Step 5) is greater than the period the paddock is to be excluded, the paddock can be counted as 'available'.  This is because it is possible to graze the paddock before the exclusion period begins, and again after the exclusion ceases, as the drawing below shows.



If the period of exclusion is greater than the planned recovery period, this can't be done, and the paddock must be considered as unavailable.  You must reduce the count of available paddocks accordingly.  In the example being worked on, it is expected that the recovery period under rapid growth conditions will be 75 days, and under slow growth conditions, 150 days.  As the exclusion period is expected to be 71 days, Wombat paddock can be included as available in every month.

If paddock numbers will change during the period of the plan, then the actual count must be shown, month by month.  Every time the Paddock count in Row 26 varies, a complete new set of grazing period calculations must be calculated, so if possible, it is wise to keep paddock numbers constant during the planning period.  Use your human creativity in attempting this!  For instance, if a paddock is available for more than half a month, count it as available for the month.
 
Record the answer in Row 26




Step 8 - Note Special Management Needs in Particular Paddock

Where it has been decided that animals will be run, they must do much more than graze.  This is particularly so in brittle-tending environments.  Here they must also create disturbance and break partial rest.  Apart from making money for the economic whole, their real job is creating the ‘landscape’ part of the Future Resource Base described that is described in the holisticgoal.  

This step identifies factors effecting individual paddocks, such as

  • Erosion Treatment that you plan the animals to carry out (when appropriate)

  • Avoiding contact with other classes of stock on your own or neighbouring properties
  • Special grazing treatments you may wish to use
  • Wildlife considerations, such as avoiding being in specific paddocks during nesting, or during duck hunting season and so on
  • Avoidance of problem weeds or other organisms
  • Special water supply considerations
  • Bush fire risk considerations
  • Multiple use requirements.  This may be very important when the title of the land is some form of leasehold that involves certain cultural obligations, or gives other people some form of access at certain periods of the year
Using a ‘highlighter’, run it through the upper half of the row of the paddock under review, for the planned months of treatment.



Ensure that the reason for the special treatment is noted in the legend at the bottom of the planning sheet.




Audio Clip

To play Audio Click, just click once on the play icon. (If you have slow internet connection such as Satellite or dial up then you may need to press pause for a minute to allow streaming of clip for continuous listening)

Next Calculating the grazing periods.

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