Detailed pasture records important

By Gary Sliworsky
Ag rep, Emo

What pasture records are you keeping for the 2010 grazing season?
Is your pasture more or less productive than last year? Do you have records to show the results of each of the past years performance for both the pasture and the livestock?
These records will enable you to make comparisons that will provide valuable management information.
Over time, record-keeping can give you an informative picture of your grazing management—and provide the tools to make more profitable grazing decisions.
A good set of pasture records provides details of what has happened and will allow for accurate comparison from one year to the next.
A pocket notebook and three-ring binder can form the basis for a good system. It can be expanded to a complex computer spreadsheet if you are so inclined.
The records can be as simple or as complicated as you wish, but can include:
•weather data (rainfall amounts, frost dates, extreme summer temperatures, etc.);
•forage or sward (pasture species mix, fertilizer application, forage growth at different times during the grazing season, etc.); and
•livestock (size, type and number of animals, frequency of moves to new paddocks, beginning and ending dates of grazing season, amount of residual forage, supplemental feed required, etc.)
Each year is different in the grazing business, but with records you will be able to analyze the differences. Did a lack of rain or too much rain affect production?
One of the things that can happen is that lots of rain makes for green grass, yet cattle gains often are not as impressive as the grass growth.
In a dry year, it often appears like the gains will be very low, and yet at weigh-off the gains can be better than might have been expected.
Height and density are the two important components in sward evaluation.
There are a number of tools to assist in measuring the amount of forage present, including a grazing stick or pasture plate.
With a good set of notes and records, you will be able to manage your pasture for maximum returns.
Dates to remember
•July 28—Emo research station open house, 7 p.m.

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