Home grown pasture is a key contributor to livestock feed in most farms. An accurate assessment of feed availability from the pasture at any particular point in time is an important requirement for feed planning and budgeting. Regular assessment of quantity of pasture allows early identification of forage surplus or deficit and this enables farmers to develop accurate feed budgets, plan feed requirements and make better overall grazing management decisions.
There are a number of forage assessment techniques available to farmers but the easiest is through the measurement of pasture height. There is a strong correlation between pasture height and pasture forage mass.
The simplest way to measure forage height is by use of a ruler. Placing the end of the ruler on the ground while holding the ruler vertically, estimate the average height of the upper leaves of the pasture. Record the pasture height from different points in the field. Calculate the average height of the pasture from 15 to 30 or more points depending on the size of the field.
The next step is to evaluate the pasture density. Do this in relative terms, whether the pasture is thin, average or thick. Using the average pasture height and estimated density look up the estimated forage mass on the calibrated table. Find the row corresponding to the average pasture height and the column corresponding to the estimated density. The number in that cell is the estimated forage mass in kilograms of dry matter per acre.
General calibrations for pasture forage density and forage mass at different mean heights as measured by a ruler
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