Sound Ag Advice

As producers begin to turn out their livestock onto summer pastures, it can be tricky to know how much forage is actually available and how to monitor overgrazing. Miranda Meehan, NDSU Extension livestock stewardship specialist joins Sound Ag Advice to explain something called a Grazing Monitoring Stick that is used to help livestock producers properly manage their forage utilization.

What is Sound Ag Advice?

“Sound Ag Advice” presented by the NDSU Extension Service features NDSU Extension specialists and staff talking about current crop and livestock issues. “Sound Ag Advice” is free and can be used in any way you see fit.

Speaker 1: Kelli Anderson, NDSU Ag Communication Specialist
Speaker 2: Miranda Meehan, NDSU Extension Livestock Environmental Stewardship Specialist

Kelli: This is Sound Ag Advice, a weekly feature presented by NDSU Extension. I'm Kelli Anderson and I'm joined this week by Miranda Meehan NDSU Extension livestock environmental stewardship specialist. Today we're going to be talking about something called a grazing monitoring stick, which helps producers manage and monitor their forages. It looks something a little bit like a yardstick.
So Miranda, can you tell me more about why producers should monitor their forages and what exactly is a grazing monitoring stick?

Miranda: The grazing monitoring stick is designed to help producers measure utilization. So it's important to measure utilization throughout the grazing season to help assess to determine how much forage has been consumed or destroyed by livestock, and helps prevent overuse of our forage resources. The grazing monitoring stick itself is basically a glorified yardstick.

Kelli: So can you tell us as kind of a general rule of thumb, what is proper utilization of forages?

Miranda: Proper utilization or a goal for utilization is that take 50 leave 50 rule of thumb, but it's important to know that that 50% is by weight and not by height of our grasses. And that varies a lot from species to species.

Kelli: Can you give us some more information about how exactly to use a grazing monitoring stick?

Miranda: It's pretty simple. The first thing that you do is you want to take approximately 30 measurements of a key species or your dominant forage species across the pasture, and then compare it to the pasture that you're using. So, you want ungrazed samples and grazed samples of the same species to compare, we recommend that 30, because there's a lot of variability across our pastures, um, forage production or your plants are going to be have better growth and lower areas than the communities on hilltops or hillsides.

The next thing you're going to do is calculate the average for both height for both the grazed and ungrazed. And then you're going to determine the amount of that height that's been removed from the grazed plant by dividing the grazed height by the ungrazed height and subtracting that by one, and then take it times 100 to get your percentage.

Once you've done that, you go to this chart called the height to weight conversion chart, which is on the grazing stick itself. And that will show you if you're at 50% utilization by weight for the species you're looking at.

Kelli: Where can producers go to get a grazing stick and learn more about exactly how to use it?

Miranda: So there's a few places to go. They can be ordered directly through the NDSU marketplace, or a lot of the soil conservation districts also have them on hand.

Kelli: Now, what about contacting your local county Extension agent? Is that someone that could help you as well?

Miranda: Yes, the county agents should have them on hand or can help you order one if they don't have them on hand. And also they should be able to show you how to properly use the grazing monitoring stick and each stick comes with an Extension publication that takes you step by step how to use the information on the stick itself.

Kelli: Great advice from Miranda, Meehan our NDSU Extension livestock environmental stewardship specialist. This has been Sound Ag Advice, a weekly feature provided by NDSU Extension.