Decision Support Tools for the 3 M's of Grazing Management
Regardless of the grazing system, it is important to
Measure how much forage is on offer, Monitor the growth rate of the forage, and Manage how much forage is allocated to the herd. There are a number of new tools to help one with the 3 M's.
Measuring: The amount of forage can easily be measured using a grazing stick or rising plate meter (RPM). (For a more detailed explanation of using a grazing stick, access the University of Kentucky Extension publication entitled "Using a Grazing Stick for Pasture Management." More details about using a RPM are available from JENQUIP equipment and FarmWorks Systems, leading manufacturers of RPMs.)
Monitoring: The data from measurements with the grazing stick or RPM can then be entered into a spreadsheet or software that can display the total forage in each pasture (paddock). By using the spreadsheet or software to rank and display the pastures (paddocks) from highest to lowest available forage, one can graphically create what is called a "grazing wedge" or "feed wedge." This allows one to quickly assess the current status of each paddock and determine if growth in each paddock is meeting production goals. Further, by comparing the available forage in each paddock to that which was available previously, growth rate of the forage can be monitored. To make this easy, a Grazing Wedge Calculator (MS Excel Spreadsheet; Note: Macros must be enabled in order to function properly) has been developed.
Managing: Once the forage has been measured and the growth of it is being monitored, one can begin to manage their pasture's productivity by allocating an appropriate amount of forage to the grazing herd. To do this, one must first understand how much forage the grazing herd needs. To make this easy, a Daily Forage Need Calculator (MS Excel Spreadsheet; Note: Macros must be enabled in order to function properly) has been developed. Once the forage need is known, forage can be allocated to the herd via allowing them access to an appropriately sized paddock or a defined amount of time during a timed grazing event. For help in this process, the Grazier's Arithmetic – Grazing Calculator (MS Excel Spreadsheet; Note: Macros must be enabled in order to function properly) has been developed.