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A Prescribed Grazing Tool for the Pacific Islands Area

Publish Date
David Duvauchelle (left) and John Colon (right) evaluate plant growth for a rain-fed forage establishment study.

A new and updated tool that helps conservation planners assist clients with grazing management by determining a forage-animal balance.

A new and updated tool that helps conservation planners assist clients with grazing management by determining a forage-animal balance is now available.

John Colon, HIPMC Biological Technician (left), and Kawika Duvauchelle, HIPMC Manager (right) assess seedling development of the forage production plant study at the HIPMC.

The Hoolehua Plant Materials Center (HIPMC) serves the state of Hawaii and the Pacific Basin Area islands of Guam, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Republic of Palau by developing plants and plant technology.  Recently, the HIPMC was able to identify an issue with a Prescribed Grazing Tool used by NRCS Field Office staff to develop grazing plans in the Pacific Islands Area (PIA). The tool helps planners assist clients by determining a forage-animal balance. It is made up of three parts: 1) a forage production model that estimates the amount of forage available for grazing, 2) an animal demand model that estimates the amount of forage a particular sized herd of animals would consume, and 3) a forage-animal balance model that gave the planner freedom to adjust certain parameters for the herd and pasture to prevent overgrazing. The HIPMC was able to determine that the forage production model within the tool needed adjustments. With this piece of information, the HIPMC, in collaboration with State Rangeland Specialist, Carolyn Auweloa, and Rangeland Technician, Pila Young, sought to develop a new forage production model with improved accuracy.

Along with an overall goal to improve accuracy of the forage production model, the team worked with Field Office staff to establish four clear objectives to accomplish their goal. 1) Rebuild the user interface to be more user-friendly and intuitive, 2) Conduct a plant study that determines maximum annual forage yield for NRCS-PIA recommended forage grasses, 3) Conduct a plant study that tested the accuracy of five “off-the-shelf” forage production models plus an “Ensemble” model, and 4) Build the “Ensemble” model that combined all five “off-the-shelf” models and determined average forage production.

Nanea Babila, NRCS Conservation Planner (left), and Lexis Kalawe, Molokai Conservation District Staff (center), assist John Colon, HIPMC Biological Technician (right), with collecting monthly forage

Staff at the HIPMC developed studies and data collection efforts to acquire the necessary information. Forage yield data collected from contrasting environments was used to identify the most accurate model among the six tested and after more than three years from start to finish, the PIA Prescribed Grazing Tool was revised with a newly embedded forage production model. The revised tool was demonstrated to the Area Resource Conservationist Jedidiah Dunn and Assistant Director for Technology Michael Constantinides who both approved it for use. Training on the use of the revised tool was provided soon after, and now PIA Field Office staff have an improved Prescribed Grazing Tool that can help address feed and forage imbalances, conserve soil, and improve water quality. USDA-NRCS Field Office Planners and partners have access to the tool through the PIA Field Office Technical Guide.

For additional information on animal resource concerns, please see the NRCS website.  Additional Technical information from the Plant Materials Program is available on the Plant Materials Program Technical Documents repository or contact the nearest Plant Materials Center or plant materials specialist.