Video: Creating a Grazing Map in Accordance with the Access to Pasture Rule


In this eOrganic dairy video, grazing and certification specialist Sarah Flack demonstrates how to develop a grazing map now required by the USDA National Organic Program, outlined in the Access to Pasture rule's Pasture Practice Standard.

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My name is Sarah Flack and I work as an organic inspector and I also do grazing consulting for farmers. I am going to talk a little bit today about the new access to pasture requirements in the new pasture rule. In February of 2010, the National Organic Program released the new access to pasture rule and this rule has some new requirements and some new record keeping requirements for organic farmers in the US.

Today I want to specifically talk about just one part of the new access to pasture rule which is 205.240. This is the Pasture Practice Standard and is actually a whole new section in the organic standards. This requires that every year, you have a pasture plan in your organic system plan (that's the application that the certifier has you fill out every year). This has to be updated annually. I'm just going to talk about one little piece, the pasture plan requirement. You should definitely read the pasture practice standard section 205.240 so that you know all the different pieces of it.

Today we are just going to talk about how to set up a map which is part of the requirement. This new pasture practice standard requires you to have a map of all of the pastures on your farm, and each pasture needs to have its own identification on the map. The standard also requires that you show the number of acres of the different pastures, also the location of the fences, where the sources of shade are, and also where the water is.

One of the easiest ways to do this is going to be to draw all of this right on the map. There are a couple of ways to do this. One is if you have an NRCS grazing plan, this will all get drawn for you on a map as part of the planning process. If you need to draw it yourself, you can go get one of these maps at your local NRCS office and have it include all your pastures and then you can start using colored magic markers and just draw everything right on this map.

This is a farm where there is one large pasture that has been divided into smaller areas and we are going to use this as our practice example and draw their pasture map.

This is a large field, it has a perimeter fence around it, so we are going to draw that on first in green. You don't need to draw on the temporary fences, you only need to draw on the permanent fences. This is where the perimeter electric fence goes around the whole large area that gets grazed. If you want to draw a straighter line, you can use a ruler. That's the perimeter fence for the farm and they have a central lane which divides this field into 2 large strips of pasture. These are the 2 fences on either side of the lane, and the barn is back here. This is a custom heifer grazing operation so the animals are then strip grazed using temporary fences all through these 2 large pastures, but we don't need to draw on these temporary fences.

The next thing we can do is draw in the number of acres of these 2 pastures. This is the north pasture and it is 40 acres. We are going to call it "N," and this is the south pasture and it is also 40 acres. Now we have given each of the 2 main pastures an identification letter and written on the number of acres, and we've drawn on the number of acres, and that meets that part of the requirement.

Now we are going to draw in the water sources. On this farm they have a piped water system, so we are going to draw the water pipe on in blue and they are using portable water tubs here so they will need to describe that in their grazing system plan in their application every year. That shows to the certifier where the water pipe is so the animals have access to water whenever they are out there in the paddocks.

The only other thing to add on to here is going to be the sources of shade which we are going to do in orange. This often can be helpful because a lot of times these maps will be slightly out of date, like this one is. They have actually cleared these trees out of here so there is no shade there anymore, but there is shade along the sides here and along the back of the pasture.

Now we have got a completed pasture map that can be sent into the certifier to meet the new rules requirement. Before you send this to your certifier, you'll want to make sure that you keep a copy of it for yourself so you've got one for your own records and then you can send one into the certifier.

As with all things with this new pasture rule, make sure you check with the certifier to make sure you are meeting all of their requirements, and read the whole rule so that you understand all of the different requirements that you have in order to meet it.

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Published January 5, 2012

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.