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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Grass Sward Structure: An Alternative Method of Measuring Potential Pasture Utilization

Author
item Brink, Geoffrey

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: March 29, 2005
Publication Date: March 29, 2005
Citation: Brink, G.E. 2005. Grass swards structure: An alternative method of measuring potential pasture utilization. In: Proceedings of Northwest Wisconsin Grazing Symposium, March 29, 2005, Stetsonville, Wisconsin. p. 8.

Technical Abstract: Preliminary data indicate that pasture grasses differ in sward structure, or the distribution of dry matter and quality from the top to the bottom of the canopy. This could have a significant impact on intake and performance of grazing animals, depending on the grazing management imposed on the pasture. Canopies of several grasses were harvested in 2 inch layers to a 4 inch stubble when all grasses were vegetative at 10 inch height in the spring, summer, and fall at Marshfield and Arlington. In the spring and summer, grasses tended to have greater dry matter density in the upper portions of the canopy (8 to 10 inches, and 6 to 8 inches) except for perennial ryegrass. In the fall, density of all grasses was greater in the lowest portion of the canopy (4 to 6 inches). Orchardgrass usually had lower density than other grasses throughout the canopy in any season. Forage quality always declined from the top to the bottom of the canopy, but digestibility of orchardgrass, meadow fescue, and perennial ryegrass was consistently greater than other grasses in all layers. The data suggests that pasture grasses require differential grazing management to maximize forage utilization and that forage quality differences between canopy layers permits more complete utilization of some grasses than others without forcing the animal to consumer poorer quality forage.

Last Modified: 4/19/2014
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