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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: MANAGING FORAGE AND GRAZING LANDS FOR MULTIPLE ECOSYSTEM SERVICES

Location: Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research

Title: Fact Sheet: Accurately measuring forage yield in pastures

Author
item Sanderson, Matt

Submitted to: Extension Fact Sheets
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: April 8, 2008
Publication Date: April 8, 2008
Citation: Sanderson, M.A. 2008. Fact Sheet: Accurately measuring forage yield in pastures. Northeast Pasture Consortium Fact Sheet 2008.

Interpretive Summary: An interpretive summary is not required.

Technical Abstract: Farmers have a few options for measuring pasture yield. These include pasture rulers, plate meters, and electronic gauges. Pasture rulers simply measure canopy height and assume that forage yield is directly related to height. Plate meters improve accuracy by measuring compressed height. Electronic gauges measure the electrical capacitance of the sward. How can a producer improve accuracy of pasture yield measurement? First, the measuring tool must be calibrated properly and locally. Commercial calibrations for plate meters and gauges are frequently developed with pasture species in other parts of the world. Research shows that both tools require frequent and site-specific calibration. Calibration requires comparing measurements to hand clipped samples, so the producer should contact their local grazing advisor for assistance. Second, the tool must be used correctly and consistently. For example, using a “walking stick” motion with a rising plate meter will generate errors. Using the electronic probe in very wet vegetation will also cause inaccuracy. Lastly, the producer must collect enough readings to represent the paddock or pasture. Typically 30 to 50 readings should be taken in a 1- to 2-acre paddock. More readings should be taken in larger pastures.

Last Modified: 9/21/2014
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