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Fodder for Thought

Next Miracle Tool For Ranching May Be Google Earth

Monitoring expert Charley Orchard will teach online course about using Google Earth for land mapping and monitoring on the ranch.


You cannot manage what you do not measure. It's one of my favorite sayings.

To run a successful and profitable ranching enterprise one must be able to observe, plan, monitor, evaluate, and adapt the resources under their management in an ever-changing world.

By far, ranching’s largest managed resource is land. While the end goal may be to produce a calf or a pound of beef, it is important to remember that it all starts on the land. Ranch mapping plays a vital role in allowing ranch managers to manage this resource effectively.

In our modern era, technologies such as geographic information systems (GIS) and global positioning systems (GPS) are available to land managers to assist in mapping. GIS allows for displaying of land based information using map pictures, while GPS records location data. While these technologies have proven useful to those in the farming and ranching industries over the years, for many, the expense and necessary expertise, to apply them still poses a challenge.

In a recent conversation I had with Charley Orchard of Land EKG I learned that it is possible to use a rather simple, user-friendly computer application, Google Earth (GE), to do many of the same things and more that GIS and GPS are capable of. Orchard believes that GE’s affordability -- free -- and relative ease of use truly makes it a management game-changer for ranchers. Orchard says in less than a few hours of training, anyone can learn to map.

“We realized the value early on, especially when compared to the costs ($500-$5,000) and extended training requirements (often months of practice) using other systems,” says Orchard. “I don’t know of a landowner we have worked/trained with that isn’t amazed with the value and management effectiveness that GE provides to them.”

 In order to help ranchers learn to use this game changing technology, Orchard is offering a 3-part webinar series titled “Intro to Google Earth Ranch Mapping – 2013” that he feels will leave users confident and excited about the possibilities and benefits Google Earth makes available to land managers. Through these webinar series participants can expect to learn effective use of GE to:

  • Map basic ranch borders, pasture fence, trails, ponds, and water points,
  • Develop and archive annual grazing plans,
  • Map weeds and management strategies – verify the most effective practices,
  • Track and develop your land monitoring program,
  • Plan future land and pasture improvements (i.e. water lines, fencing, vegetation control, and habitat improvement practices),
  • Print maps and specific management plans for employees, agencies, etc.,
  • Easily share map files back and forth.

The 3-part series will be held over a course of three weeks on January 10th, 17th, and 24th. Each will consist of an hour in length. In addition, for those ranchers that are interested but may not be able to attend the live webinars, sessions will be recorded and access given to participants. Orchard and his colleagues at Land EKG will be available for technical support and follow up questions after the event.

I am excited to participate in this webinar series which I believe will be a valuable tool to add to my arsenal of management strategies for future farm and ranch management challenges I encounter. If you would like to join me and others in this unique learning opportunity you can find information about the webinar series on Land EKG’s website ( and register online here.


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