Vibrant Vermont Pasture with Grazing Dairy Cows

A grazing plan is the tool you will use to organize your land, animals, budget, effort and time to achieve your farming goals. 

Grazing plans are a dynamic approach that, over time, will help you  meet your goals and adjust to changing conditions, which will allow you to achieve profitability and maintain ecological balance. 

We have gathered together this list of the most useful elements of a good plan here for you, and we hope you'll email us so we can help as you work on and improve yours.  And though it's just a bit dated, this Grazing Basics information is also a great way to get a quick overview.

1. Start learning from other farmers immediately.

Farmer Explaining his Fencing System to Visitors

As soon as you know you want to raise livestock, the first step is to learn what's possible, what's working on Vermont farms (and what isn't) by connecting with other farmers. This is the right time to start attending pasture walks, workshops, conferences, and any other learning opportunity you can find. By seeing and hearing from those who are at different stages of developing their operations, you can get your own farm started in the ways most likely to work for your own goals.

Opportunities for learning from other farmers:

Sign up for the Pasture Calendar to receive a monthly email with details of pasture walks and other chances to learn, or visit the calendar online.
Connect with and/or join local farmer organizations:
  • Vermont Grass Farmers Association, a farmer-driven organization that promotes, manages and oversees managed grazing outreach and education programs for Vermont producers.
  • Champlain Valley Farmer Coalition: a group of Farmers in the Lake Champlain Basin who have taken on a leadership role to show that a strong Local Farm Economy and a clean Lake Champlain can work together.
  • Connecticut River Farmers Watershed Alliance: a farmer-led group aimed at helping farmers implement environmentally sound practices in Vermont & New Hampshire.
  • Farmers' Watershed Alliance: a Franklin and Grand Isle based organization that provides assistance and funding to farmers to help minimize environmental impacts.

2. Describe Your Goals, and the Current State of the Farm

Farmers Gather for Learning on a Vermont Grass-Based Farm

Document your goals & priorities, in clear and quantifiable terms. Then describe the current state of the farm by attempting to capture this moment in time).

Recommended resource:

3. Identify Your Support Systems

image description: black and white tapestry of cows, trees, fields, farm road and fence.

Farming is hard work and on top of that can be isolating.  Where will you get support when you need it?  It may be friends, through community groups, farmer networks, neighbors, faith communities, affinity groups or through agricultural support organizations.  It is better to identify these anchors for yourself early, and cultivate those relationships so you can draw on them when they're needed.

Here are a few of the resources and organizations we're aware of, and we hope you'll let us know if we can help you find others that might be right in your situation:

4. Calculate How Much Food Your Animals will Need, and Your Pastures' Ability to Meet That

Healthy Animals, Healthy Plants, Healthy Soil & Water are the Goal of a Good Grazing Plan
Recommended resources:

* Available through one of the labs listed here:


5. Gather soil maps detailing soil types, slope, hydrology, etc.

Lush Pasture
Knowing the farm's soil type will help you determine what crops can grow there, and hydrology and slope are just as important in planning for success.
Recommended resources:

6. Sketch a detailed map of existing or planned critical infrastructure: fences, gates & water sources

Beef Cattle on Pasture

Where your animals are and what they have to eat and drink is what will make and break your farm.  The question of whether access to water is in the right place is the one that will answer whether your farm system will work or not.

Use this step of the planning process to identify the investment you'll need to make (or maintain or improve) a pasture layout that lets your animals have access to the forage and water to keep them healthy.   

(The next element to consider is shelter, which is not part of the grazing plan but should be part of your planning for sustainable management, health and comfort of your animals.) 

We recommend these companies and catalogs as a tool for budgeting.  We include the "general equipment" category primarily for their fencing and water options, but can also let you develop the other parts of your plan and budget. 

Recommended resources:
  • Information on springs and other water sources on your property:

7. Write a short narrative that Includes known challenges & plans for contingencies.

Grazing Horses

Consider winter management, strategies for "summer slump," alternate water sources for future development, what you'll do under drought or rainy conditions.

This 1-2 page document is the right place to also make note of all the "grey area" items that don't fit into other elements of your plan.

Recommended resource (a good guide to assessing your pasture):

8. Consider and document the programs or practices that could be useful for you.

Grazing Sheep

These will probably be made clear as you identify your goals, known resources and known challenges, and may include financial resources or other kinds of help.

Recommended resources:

9. Plan grazing system 2-3 months from present, taking into account above plus year-round forage management goals, pasture productivity, plant growth, etc.

Recommended resource:

10. Optional and recommended: cash flow statement detailing the expense of implementing recommended practices (for example, establishing perimeter fence) vs. income gained.

Green Pasture
Recommended resource:


Interested in knowing more about the Center's work or do you have a question we haven't answered here?  Contact us via email or  802-656-5459 and we'll do our best to help.

Woodcut of a farm with people gathering produce and cows grazing