The new database being
developed at Fort Collins will help ranchers decide how many animals to graze
on native range. Click the image for more information about
Non-Risky Business: New Technology Improves Ranch
Management By Laura McGinnis January 24, 2006
Does the grass seem greener on the other side? That may change soon,
thanks to new technology developed by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) that predicts forage growth, allowing
ranchers to make more-informed management decisions.
At the ARS Great Plains Systems Research Unit (GPSR)
in Fort Collins, Colo., soil scientist
Dunn and range systems modeler
A. Andales are developing a database that will analyze historical and
simulated data. The database will predict future forage growth and help
ranchers decide how many animals to graze on native range.
The new database is based on
GPFARM, a computer
simulation model developed at GPSR to help central Plains farmers and ranchers
make management decisions. GPFARM interprets data and predicts the outcomes of
various management strategies. But its complexity intimidates many farmers and
ranchers, decreasing its efficacy.
According to Dunn, ranchers, in particular, were missing the
programs benefits. So he submitted a proposal to the
U.S. Department of Agricultures
Risk Management Agency and received
$570,000 to develop and deliver a database to help ranchers manage range and
livestock production systems. The program, currently in the early developmental
stage, will predict the effects of drought on range, forage and livestock
This new system, developed in cooperation with agricultural consulting
firm Agren, Inc., will be simpler than
GPFARM, according to Dunn. Instead of running a simulation model, the rancher
will only need to submit simple questions to the database, which will be
displayed on a basic spreadsheet. The program also will cover a wider
ecological area than GPFARM.
Incorporating 50 years of historical climate and soil data from
several ARS Great Plains research locations, the new database will be able to
assess forage productivity of different locations during drought and wet years.
With more-accurate predictions about forage growth potential, ranchers can
adjust their management practices to reduce the impact of drought-related
losses, minimizing the risks associated with soil and climate variability.
ARS is USDAs chief scientific research agency.