Pasture project helps with planning

SALEM, Ohio – Thanks to a new research project, Ohio graziers may have another tool to manage their pastures.
Three grasslands experts are hoping with a few measurements and some volunteers, they can help graziers deal with problems like slow growth before it’s too late.
Measurements. Starting in May, the trio began measuring the pastures near their homes in Knox, Hancock and Pickaway counties.
They note the grasses’ heights and then use a rising plate meter to determine the dry matter per acre.
The numbers are put into a computer program and experts such as Knox County ag educator Jeff McCutcheon
can see whether grass growth is picking up or slowing down.
Early on. It’s still in the earliest stages, but McCutcheon thinks if about 20 farmers around the state tracked their pastures once a week, he could put together some meaningful data.
Most importantly, the numbers would give real-time results, he said.
For example, by the time people begin asking for help with their pastures during a dry year, it’s usually too late.
With this information, though, the numbers would show that grass growth is slowing down before farmers noticed it visually in their fields. Then there may still be time for adjustments, McCutcheon said.
Ohio graziers. But the information would go one step farther.
McCutcheon envisions farmers across the state being able to log on and read these results each week so they know how growth is doing in their part of Ohio.
This kind of knowledge could shape graziers’ feed budgets and improve a farm’s overall economics, McCutcheon said.
If the project proceeds as McCutcheon hopes, he plans to also measure rainfall and temperature so correlations can be made between growth and weather.
Helping out. Also in on the project are Hancock County ag educator Gary Wilson and Ohio Natural Resources Conservation Service grassland conservationist Bob Hendershot.
They’re each taking forage measurements of typical Ohio pastures. These include orchard grass, fescue, timothy, perennial ryegrass, reed canary, bluegrass and broom grass.
From these, and others, McCutcheon hopes to build growth curves.
For example, he said, farmers usually group cool season grasses when doing pasture planning, but some of their growths may flatten more than others. Forage growth still varies within these groups, he said.
Plus, he said, this research could be used to validate the growth curves graziers currently use.

If you’re interested in helping …

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