Ranching Operations

The 101 on Forage Budgeting + Rangeland Tools

If you’re not familiar with the concept of forage budgeting, think of it as a way of managing a bank account for your rangeland. When you forage budget, you estimate production yields on your rangeland and then you determine what your stocking rate is for the year. As the seasons progress, you adapt your operation to the rangeland’s actual forage production yields and make management decisions accordingly.

Forage Budgeting Is About Knowing Your Numbers

Just like running a business budget for your ranch, your forage budget requires you to know how much is coming in and how much is going out so that you net a positive return.

These are the principal elements of building a forage budget:

  1. Get an accurate estimate of the forage production on your rangeland. This means determining how much forage is available for grazing, by type and amount. The Rangeland Analysis Platform is a quality tool for looking at long-term forage averages and in-season forage availability. You can outline your property or upload the shape files and look at over 30 years of annual forage growth data.
  2. Determine your stocking rate and carrying capacity. Stocking rate is defined by the number of livestock per acre over a specific period of time. Once you know these numbers, you’ll understand the carrying capacity of your rangeland. You can use this calculator to help you out.
  3. Decide how to manage your rangeland throughout the year. Many factors will affect actual forage production, including lack of rainfall, overstocking, and understocking. To keep up with the changing range environment, you can use the 16-day growth chart available on the Rangeland Analysis Platform to monitor actual growth against your forage expenditures. This chart also shows you when forage growth starts, stops, and reaches its highest level.

Overall, forage budgeting involves a complex combination of inputs and variables, so it’s always wise to work with an expert to help you get the numbers you need to make sound management decisions. University extension agents, NRCS technicians, and local nutritionists are good (and often free) resources. In general, your goal should be to make educated decisions about stocking rates in an adaptive way that can stay ahead of the curve and avoid unintentional overgrazing.

More About the Range Analysis Platform

The Range Analysis Platform is a free tool that helps you gather vegetation data for US rangelands. It’s used by ranchers, scientists, conservationists, and resource managers to help make decisions about rangeland and analyze outcomes. You can use the platform any time to help you with grazing management and grazing strategies.

How PRF Insurance Helps Protect Your Forage Budget

Pasture, Rangeland, and Forage (PRF) insurance is a risk management tool you can use to protect your operation from losses in forage yield due to lack of precipitation. This coverage pays you a cash indemnity when rainfall on your land is less than 90% of the 70-year average. You can use it however you want—whether it’s to assist with forage budgeting, help with cash flow, or meet other operational needs. Coverage is available in two-month intervals, and you can insure for up to six intervals per year.

To learn more about how PRF insurance works, call Redd Summit Advisors at 1-800-825-2355 or fill out our online form.

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Jess McCartney
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