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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Precision Pays

Authors
item Sanderson, Matt
item Rotz, Clarence

Submitted to: The Forage Leader
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: July 14, 2004
Publication Date: September 20, 2004
Citation: Sanderson, M.A., Rotz, C.A. 2004. Precision pays. The Forage Leader.p. 14.

Interpretive Summary: An interpretive summary is not required.

Technical Abstract: Accurate pasture measurement and allocation might add more to your bottom line than you think. Our research shows that a dairy producer can save up to $48 per cow or $80 per acre each year by more accurately measuring and budgeting pasture forage. If pasture yield is overestimated, paddocks tend to be sized too small. That leaves more forage that can be harvested from the remaining pasture, but cows run short of pasture before they're moved to the next paddock. They must then eat more feed in the barn or milk production will drop. If pasture yield is underestimated, paddocks are oversized. This leads to wasted forage and less forage for later harvest. Both scenarios reduce profits. 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. Pasture rulers are cheap, but they can be very inaccurate. Plate meters improve accuracy by measuring compressed height. Electronic gauges measure the electrical capacitance of the sward. Their cost ranges from $400 to $1300, and dew, rain, and other factors can cause erratic readings. 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.

Last Modified: 4/19/2014
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