All About Grazing: Reviewing 2010 Pasture Growth

For me, December has always been a time of reflection. It is the end of the year and I take time to look over my records to see what went well, what flopped and what I still need to work on.

One set of records I have access to are the pasture measurements from the 28 farmers who volunteer in the Pasture Measurement Project.

The what? What is the Pasture Measurement Project? The Ohio Pasture Measurement Project started in 2005 with three producers.

It has two objectives: 1) Provide a source of current, objective information on the relative performance of forages growing in Ohio accessible to producers across the state; and 2) Demonstrate the use of pasture measurement/monitoring to aid in the management of grazing.

Since 2005, the number of people participating in the project has increased to the current 28. (See Figure 1 for locations of the volunteers.) These volunteers measure the same pasture field every week using a commercially available rising plate meter and report the measurement.

From that measurement, we then calculate how much the pasture has grown since the last measurement. The information is reported in pounds of dry matter grown per acre per day. This helps relate pasture mass into feed terms.

You may have seen the weekly measurements at the bottom of the commodity page (page A6) in this publication. Since those are reported for the previous week, it may be hard to get a picture of how things went over the whole year.

Summary. Table 1. summarizes the weekly data from the past growing season.

Looking at the average, it seems like the spring had massive growth and from June till the end of the growing season growth was on a slow decline. How did your pastures measure up?

One analysis I like to do is compare what happened to what was planned. How does this data compare to what we thought would happen this year? We know that cool season forages do not grow at the same rate all year. We typically encourage graziers to plan for 60 percent of the annual growth by June and a fall increase after the July and August slump.

Annual production. Many times in planning grazing systems we use an annual production number of 3.5 tons of dry matter produced per acre. If we calculate daily growth based off of the projected growth pattern and a 3.5 ton yield, we can compare the actual to the projected and see if production is progressing as planned.

Figure 2. shows the monthly growth from the Pasture Measurement Project compared to the 3.5 ton planning yield. The first thing you notice is that we produced more forage per day than the 3.5 ton yield. One thing to note is that all of the fields measured in the project are managed under a rotational grazing system.

You should also notice the differences in the curves. What happened to the fall increase? Did the dry weather prevent us from seeing the fall increase in production? If you were planning to stockpile fescue this fall you had some challenges to overcome.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank our volunteers: Philip Bauer, Kathy Bielek, Dave Burley, Russ Casper, Latham Farley, Eric Grim, Bob Hendershot, Kenny Wells, Scott Payne, Harry Kenney, Joanna Koob, Mark Landefeld, Larry and Harold Leonhard, Casey Meek, Greg Miller, Karen Oberst, Craig Powell, Shawn and Kim Ray, Katie Rauch, Antony Steffen, Mike Sword, Curt Stivenson, David Tighe, Robert Wilcoxon, Gary Wilson, Ruben Yoder, Denny Young. Thank you all for participating.

More information. If you are interested in measuring your pastures contact me.

Table 1. Summary of Pasture Growth Rates During 2010

Week starting Number of Pastures Average Growth Standard

(lb DM/ac/day)Deviation

28-Mar 9 38.63 24.37

4-Apr 14 34.43 27.49

11-Apr 20 56.38 53.69

18-Apr 24 48.55 43.96

25-Apr 25 75.00 39.99

2-May 60 97.70 57.67

9-May 53 77.82 52.61

16-May 61 67.35 53.49

23-May 32 84.02 57.67

30-May 32 64.60 32.94

6-Jun 40 49.38 34.32

13-Jun 45 64.21 41.25

20-Jun 30 49.09 33.98

27-Jun 34 48.17 31.23

4-Jul 24 38.53 26.67

11-Jul 18 45.59 34.89

18-Jul 24 33.55 26.98

25-Jul 15 38.84 24.29

1-Aug 18 42.66 23.00

8-Aug 19 32.16 24.09

15-Aug 16 29.44 24.28

22-Aug 26 33.63 26.10

29-Aug 9 28.30 23.56

5-Sep 10 38.32 54.00

12-Sep 10 20.57 20.25

19-Sep 17 15.22 13.73

26-Sep 14 26.73 17.83

3-Oct 3 21.94 24.06

10-Oct 12 35.35 18.99

17-Oct 9 9.08 5.94

24-Oct 7 36.95 30.37

31-Oct 7 22.33 15.84

7-Nov 3 7.29 5.91

About the Author

Jeff McCutcheon is an Ohio State University Extension, Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator in Knox County. More Stories by Jeff McCutcheon

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