How to Estimate Forage Quantities in a Pasture

We can’t manage what we can’t measure, and I’ll bet every grazier reading this has some measure of their Livestock Inventory, if for no other reason than that you have to for the taxman! End of year reporting compliance for the accountant dictates we know how many mouths we feed and hence we have a record of the demand side of the forage equation.

Understanding the Supply Side of the equation

You know that conversation you keep in your head when you get told by the shop assistant that they ‘ran out of stock and it’s a two week wait til the back order gets in…’ for something you need today. “But it’s your job to know your stock levels you bozo and I drove all the way in here to pick it up too…”.

Though you don’t actually say any of that, which is just as well, because it would be a bit rude when you don’t know your own inventory levels at the farm and I mean forage inventory, the supply side of the equation.

For me, forage inventory does not mean hay bales in the shed, it means being able to walk into a pasture as the Herd is going in or coming out after a graze, and come up with a rough enough estimate that I can be confident in. The great result of this is I can then budget my forage out until Spring.

The reason this is oh so important is that without it I am driving blind, weaving down the highway with a million bucks worth of livestock in the back without really knowing if I can navigate this thing to the end of the season. If I get there without needing to buy in feed or sell a few it will be dumb luck. Can you imagine being a pilot, with a load of passengers in the back, and not knowing if the fuel reserves exceed the demand to get to the end of the landing runway? No you can’t!

Enough of the castigation. So we don’t know how to measure grass or forage … then let’s learn how pronto and get cracking with better grazing management.

So how do we Measure Forage Quantities?

This is not about crawling around on the ground cutting grass into the oven and getting all scientific, (though that would be great, it will stop you actually doing it!) This is all about a subjective ‘you sized’ feedback loop that means you know what you are talking about when you say there is 2 days feed in that thar pasture.

  1. To know the supply, you gotta learn the demand
  2. To learn the demand you gotta know what the herd eats in a graze, ie
    1. Herd daily feed intake, eg 100 Cow/calf x 30lb/day for each stock class = 3,000 lb/day
    2. Time = days in the pasture, eg 5 days (whether a short or long graze, the cows eat the same/day!)
    3. Area = acres in the pasture, eg 25 acres
      So forage consumed in a graze = a x b / c  = 3000 x 5 / 25 = 600lb/ac
      So forage consumed in a graze = (total Herd rating) x (Days in pasture) / Acres
      = lb/day x days / acres … gives a result of Lb/Ac for the graze.

Now you have a number for the grass harvested in a graze and it doesn’t matter if it was a short graze or a long graze. And so, begins your journey to an immensely valuable skill that will serve you well.

Complete the Process

To complete the feedback loop

  • pick a pasture you just moved a herd into, or are about to, go stand in the middle of and look into the forage and across Take a mental snapshot or better yet, a photo
  • come back to the same spot when you move the herd out of that graze and dial up the memory/photo of how it was
  • the graze yield harvested number you worked out before, eg 600 lb/ac, is the difference between what it was and what it is… so your graze took out 600lb/ac of dry matter forage
  • Go to the next pasture the herd is moving into and do the same thing
  • I promise within maybe a dozen grazes or less you will be confident in your assessment and be able to pick the difference between 400 and 500 lb/ac available to comfortably graze out.

Take that to the bank of grazing management skills acquisition

Recent Articles

Better Grazing Management Seminar

20th January 2020

MerinoLink, Local Land Services & MaiaGrazing Hosted Seminar Join industry leaders, Jim Gerrish, Bart Davidson & Matt Crozier to discuss... Read More

Fodder & agistment for fire affected producers

08th January 2020

We have great admiration for the resilience, strength and adaptability of our farmers in challenging times, but as impact... Read More

MaiaGrazing Annual Field Day 2020

21st December 2019

MaiaGrazing Annual Field Day 2020 DATE: Thursday, 27th February 2020 PRICE: $59 GST inc. CATERING: Morning Tea and Lunch Provided LOCATION: Wilmot -... Read More

MaiaGrazing Scholars - Grazing Management for Targeted Animal Performance

20th December 2019

https://youtu.be/Oa0CshKMZFw MaiaGrazing Scholars Webinar Replay What was covered? Grazing Management for Targeted Animal Performance Jim Gerrish - American GrazingLands Services Grazing management to achieve... Read More

Delivering 100% grassfed cattle despite drought conditions

04th December 2019

For Jess & John Bidgood, utilising MaiaGrazing’s farm management software has enabled them to undertake strategic management of pastures... Read More

The Wool Growing Data Dive Webinar

05th November 2019

https://youtu.be/c0KgZBWDNRg Unlocking Opportunities to Improve ROI Bart Davidson did a deep dive into the wool growing data within MaiaGrazing' extensive data... Read More

Rotational Grazing Systems, Benefits & how Technology can Help

01st November 2019

What is the definition of rotational grazing? Simply put, rotational grazing is any grazing regime that involves the rotation of... Read More

MaiaGrazing Scholars Webinar - Creating Excellent Pasture from the Soil Up

24th October 2019

 PTVideoTriggers.listen({ type: "youtube", playerId: "yt_C34q58kJJjM", feature: "9498-99UlvGDhgmG9l0PkWgzG5E7MDH0A87TggI5pfz5a", triggerType: "total", times: [1800] }); What was covered? Creating Excellent Pasture from the... Read More

Maddy Coleman shares her journey to regenerative data driven agriculture

04th October 2019

https://youtu.be/rdOAlOL8_Q4     Watch the Full Field Day Event Attended by 250 Graziers   Enter Your Details to Get Instant Access [gravityform id=6 title=false description=false... Read More

David McLean from RCS explores the grazing management decision process

27th September 2019

https://youtu.be/lo-5t1Upy1o   Watch the Full Field Day Event Attended by 250 Graziers   Enter Your Details to Get Instant Access [gravityform id=6 title=false description=false... Read More