Is pasture measuring worth it?

Growing pasture is what we do best and is a key aspect of our competitiveness. However, tightening markets continue to place greater pressure on how efficient we farm. We spend a lot of time focusing on reducing costs and measuring aspects of our business. But all too often we overlook the importance of managing pasture better. So, is measuring pasture worth it?

The thought of measuring pasture for some of us sounds like a laborious task in an already time strapped business. For others, it’s a daunting task, unsure whether or not the data is used appropriately. For another group of farmers, weekly farm measurements reduces risk and importantly yields a greater profit margin. This last point is what a group of researchers in New Zealand have modelled and reported on in their study.

In the study named “Regular estimates of herbage mass can improve profitability of pasture-based dairy systems” by Beukes et al. (2018). They found that there is an opportunity to increase farm operating profit by ~NZ$385/ha when paddock herbage mass is unknown and paddocks are selected for grazing based on longest time since grazing, to selecting paddocks for grazing where herbage mass is estimated with an average error of 15%. On top of this finding, there is a further opportunity to increase farm operating profit by NZ$155/ha when a paddock’s herbage mass is known with perfect accuracy.

In other words, for all the farmers out there who practice the eyeball method, there is plenty of opportunity to be made by measuring your pasture and then using this data to make better grazing decisions. To put this into perspective, going from the eye ball method to measuring could yield you an increase of approx. $38,500 to $54,000 on a 100-hectare farm.

Reading a rising plate meter

Reading a rising plate meter

What are your experiences?

We'd love to hear your feedback, or if you have some great tips that we can share in the post above - please feel free to get in touch or leave a comment below.