FRAMS

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Drought represents one of the greatest risks facing ranchers, unlike other livestock industries such as poultry and pork. Because of long-term investment in breeding stocks, unfavorable market prices or demands for land payments, ranchers face tough choices when confronted with decisions to retain livestock and feed, partially destock and feed or sell animals. Currently, the ranching industry has been underserved given the limited tools and techniques made available to the industry to cope with fluctuation in weather and market conditions. Livestock producers desire ways to explore trade-offs of rotating, selling, replacing or buying animals in response to forage, animal, and market conditions.

Objective

Forage Risk Assessment Management System (FRAMS) is a dynamic risk management decision tool currently in the BETA test phase of development. Its objective is to offer the ranching industry a web based risk management tool for a forage risk assessment and management system that is available 24/7. The system provides the means to monitor and assess the performance of free-grazing animals, the forage conditions in response to site-specific weather, and the potential least-cost feeding or destocking decisions relative to market and weather risk.

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Summary

Forage Risk Assessment Management System (FRAMS) is a dynamic risk management decision tool currently in the BETA test phase of development. Its objective is to offer the ranching industry a web based risk management tool for a forage risk assessment and management system that is available 24/7. The system provides the means to monitor and assess the performance of free-grazing animals, the forage conditions in response to site-specific weather, and the potential least-cost feeding or destocking decisions relative to market and weather risk.

FRAMS is supported by several automated monitoring procedures. NOAA weather data needed for forage modeling and animal nutrient requirement models are utilized within the system. To assess livestock nutritional status and performance, ranchers would collect fecal samples, enter the animal related information on-line and mail them by 2-day priority mail to the Grazingland Animal Nutrition lab (GANLAB) at Texas A&M University for analysis. Forage quality will be determined by NIRS analysis of the fecal sample. The Nutritional Balance Analyzer software (NUTBAL) will use crude protein and digestible organic matter estimates (based on the NIRS scans) to predict animal performance. NUTBAL reports will be provided online to the rancher. FRAMS will also allow ranchers to establish geo-referenced rain gauges on-line and assign a pre-parameterized reference plant community to them. Each site will be automatically linked to the NOAA 12x12 or 4x4 mile weather grid system where the recorded rainfall input by the rancher is integrated with the solar radiation and temperature data to drive a site specific forage growth simulation model (PHYGROW) that computes forage deviation from normal and percentile ranking.

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Rancher Benefits

Ranchers participating in the FRAMS project will have almost immediate access to the FRAMS system and be able to monitor the status of their ranch after forage surveys of ranch sites are completed and PHYGROW is parameterized for the ranch. Ranchers will enjoy the benefits of using both the NIRS/NUTBAL services and the FRAMS system at no charge (not including postage for mailing in fecal samples). Use of the NIRS/NUTBAL services alone can be valued at approximately $600+ per year. Employing services from other sources that offer similar outputs or results would be several times that amount.

Members of the ALPHA test team found participating in the development of FRAMS to be educational and a benefit to their operation.

History

The first 2-phase, 3-year pilot study for FRAMS has been completed. The first RMA funded study included a group of ranchers (ALPHA testers) in four states representing a diverse set of environmental and production decision environments covering parts of New Mexico, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Funding for the expansion of FRAMS brought in ranchers from Oklahoma and Louisiana as well as additional ranchers in the original 4 states in 2007 and 2008. Members of the FRAMS design team include ranchers, Texas AgriLife Research's Ranching Systems Group, extension agents, Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) grazingland conservationists, USDA Risk Management Agency specialists, Grazingland Animal Systems, Inc. and AgriLogic, Inc., to help design and test the system.

Contact Information

For more information, contact Jay Angerer at the Center for Natural Resource Information Technology (CNRIT) at Texas AgriLife Research.