The fact that in countries like Australia, New Zealand, Chile or Argentina, pasture based dairy farmers have the capacity to grow and harvest forage on farm almost all year round. This provides farmers with a huge competitive advantage in the cost of feed. However, feed cost is still the most significant cost for farmers.

It has been recognised that there is significant room to improve on farm efficiency on pasture-based systems by growing more forage. Also, there is room for improvement in improving forage utilisation and increasing the efficiency in the way we use supplementary feed (for example, grain based concentrates).

To sum up, it is not only how much pasture farmers can grow, as more important is how this pasture is utilised.

Pasture Utilisation can be defined as the total amount of pasture dry matter (DM) that is harvested and consumed – through direct grazing or in form of forage reserves. In Australia for example, average national current levels of pasture utilisation are around 6-7 tDM per hectare. Although we we have seen a slight increase in the last 10 years, this is still relatively low in comparison to the levels achieved by top farmers (8-10 t DM/ha) or by research (12 -14 t DM/ha). Historical data from Dairy Farm Monitor Project (Victoria) showed that the top farms in terms of profitability, consistently achieved high pasture utilisation. There is no doubt that pasture utilisation is a key driver of profitability.

The good news is that there is a huge opportunity to increase pasture utilisation!

Dairy cows eating plenty of money making pasture.
Dairy cows eating plenty of money making pasture.

Grazing management is key to achieving high levels of pasture utilisation. This aspect is being recognised that some of the losses in pasture utilisation are due to poor management grazing decisions.

To make better and more informed decisions, farmers need to know how much the pasture is growing (pasture growth rate) and how much pasture is available for consumption. Without knowing this information, it is almost impossible to achieve good grazing management! Without accurate pasture allocations, high levels of pasture utilisation are very difficult to achieve!

The question I always like to ask farmers is… Do you know how much pasture you are growing? And even more important, how much pasture are you utilising???

Here is where I think a tool like Pasture.io can make the whole difference in your business. The possibility of getting all your Pastures Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s), such as Pasture Growth Rate, Farm Pasture Cover and your Feed Wedge on a daily basis and with zero labour! With these KPI’s updating on a daily basis, you will be making all the grazing management decision with confidence and accuracy, increasing your chances of achieving greater Pasture Utilisation.

Happy grazing!

- Juan Molfino, 26 Jun 2019