Rural System, Inc.
 Sustained rural lands; sustained profits

The Pasture and Range Group

Limestone pasture, Craig Co, September, 2002

This unit of Rural System, Inc. recognizes that all land is not best suited for growing trees. There are vast areas of pastures as well as small openings within forests. In much of the surface region, the rainfall is high but the amount of available precipitation during the growing season (due to rapid runoff, rapid soil infiltration, evaporation, and and runoff) is very small, almost "semi-arid." The unit creates a system that produces a written report (suitable for electronic transmission) for a landowner providing an analysis and description of a grassland and a user-readable, linear-programming and expert system report that prescribes how to manage early-succession ecosystems in the mid-Atlantic states to achieve owner's objectives.

A flock of VPI sheep, 1951. Giant trees were left from forest clearing and provided shade. There are few giant pasture trees or flocks remaining in Virginia
Widespread needs exist for managing pasture, prairie, rangeland, and wild grasslands or early succession plant communities (hereinafter "grasslands"). This project will list and describe such needs but move to describe how they can be analyzed, then develop a prescriptive system -- one that writes out a readable set of practical methods -- amounts, and sequences -- that, if implemented, will achieve landowner objectives. Simple rules like "raising one calf to a marketable weight requires 1 or 2 acres of productive pasture and supplemental feeding" are inadequate for sustained profits. Previous work indicates that for economical and efficient pasture management there must be sufficient acreages and herd-size must be large. The situation has parallels within forest ownership. Only when economies of scale are achieved can profits be made. There is no reason why the ownership cannot be the production unit, not simply forests ... any land on the other side of the fence. Such work does not exclude work with pet animals and individual animal-related hobbies. Our past work suggests the utility of pastures for productive wild turkey populations. The forest/turkey/pasture system is evident.

The work may include silvopastoral work - part of agroforestry.

A western scene, but there are local extremes like this showing differences in pasture management.

The staff operates a system that, among other things, produces a report like that from The Trevey. The report is created from two files, one a text file, the other a data file. This site information file is merged into the text file. The site information file (1) may cause select parts of the report to be suppressed, or (2) words to be inserted (e.g., county name, date, "high"-"low" etc.); graphs to be drawn; or numbers to be inserted. The graphs are drawn, for example, based on summary data from a GIS window from a database that includes the property. Models in ancillary programs (e.g., regressions) compute their dependent variable values based on field site inputs, then load them into the site information file.

The major optimization programs are linear programming, probably COPLAN with which we have worked, or LINDO. An alternative described in Giles' 1978 Wildlife Management will be studied for an alternative. EXSYS, an expert system shell will be studied for potential uses.

The new power that we bring, well developed in separate applications, are GPS-specific location of grassland units; 20 GIS factors (elevation, slope, aspect, slope position, distance from roads, distance from water, geology, temperature, precipitation, evapotranspiration, etc.) Work is grounded in extensive research and synthesis for the region.

We propose to provide the landowner with options for objectives but past experience (TVA) suggests this is difficult, so we shall present three likely objective formulations so that differences in prescriptions can be observed and evaluated.

A successful Goat System will depend upon a vital Pasture and Range Group. A cost-effective, multiple-ownership dairy goatherd may be the center of a cheese and other product enterprise. Membership will promote quality goats, humane treatment, nutrition, rational financial analyses, use of computer and GIS, herd management, and quality herd records. A newsletter and web site will be maintained. This is not a "brush goat" operation but one that emphasized pasture management and energy budgeting. It uses The Fence Group and The Products Group and shows the use of GIS in selecting grazing areas and optimum pasture management. A veterinarian or Ph.D. candidate in animal science may be recruited to assist in the start-up and design of the complex system. Non-violent wards of the courts, where feasible, may find time usefully spent in this enterprise. Facilities of the unified lab will be used for analyses of milk, blood, urine, etc. The goats may be a surrogate for some white-tailed deer and used to improve studies and lower their costs.

The project develops a demonstration of a prescriptive system (an element of Leopold's concept of land health). It opens the door to a region-specific service unit, one that will produce such reports, or a larger stable service center that may provide (electronically via the web) these reports to many areas (and continual improvements).

The above is only possible or feasible due to our previous work. After the prescriptions are produced, much in the pattern developed for The Trevey, then assistance will be provided for obtaining fencing, water management, access, lime, fertilizer, and labor to carry out the work. Contract work will be arranged with superior groups of workers or new services developed. Research opportunities (with financial overhead gains) will be explored. See the Rangelands article.

We can exploit the vast experience of the Bureau of Land Management now responsible for over 270 million acres of public lands, most in the west, by concentrating on principles and discovered plant-animal-environment relations. They have a policy (1991) of cooperation with private industry and special interest groups.

The needs are great; there are vast acreages of poor or slowly-eroding pastures and new un-managed pastures being created; the potential for a major synthetic breakthrough exists.

See preliminary work on sheep to be attached to his file.

See the work of The Land Institute (Kansas). Also NRCS Guides for Virginia.

Also see Web-Agri

Consider work with Prairie Biotic Research, Inc. is a nonprofit organization established in 2000. Its purpose is to foster basic biotic research in prairies especially to support independent researchers individuals lacking institutional support . It has a Small Grants Program, through which we fund grants up to $1000 for the study of any grassland taxa anywhere in the USA. In 2002, they funded two small grants, one to John Tooker (IL) and one to Kari Jacobson (MN). In 2003, they funded two small grants, one to Keith Summerville (IA) and one to Jeffrey Gruber (WI). In 2004, they will fund small grants anywhere in the USA, some extra for southeastern Wisconsin. Contact Andrew Williams at Prairie Biotic Research, Inc., PO Box 5424, Madison, WI 53705, or for a Grant Application Form.

While much has been published since 1969, start with
Lewis, J.K. 1969. Range management viewed in the ecosystem framework, p. 97-187 in G.M. Van Dyne, The ecosystem concept in natural resource management, Academic Press, New York, NY 383pp.

Significant changes have occurred in western US rangelands. Picture points help tell the story.

Use the Perdue forage field guide

The the hay and straw forage guidelines

See:Rotational Grazing Benefits Highlighted
Using rotational grazing can increase efficiency up to 75 percent over conventional grazing, according to an article in Southern Livestock Review. Rotational grazing that places animals in a small paddock for a short time encourages better forage utilization than selective grazing. Developing a system can be a challenge, but once fences are set up and water supplied, cows rapidly learn the routine of moving from one small pasture to another each day or every few days. Also see:

See ATTRA's Rotational Grazing publication.

Agricultural summary information for the entire state of Virginia is now available.


Development costs are estimated as $150,000. Profits

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