Bernie Van Dalfsen, a top-notch grazing manager and dairyman from Reeds, Missouri, is taking weekly forage measurements in all his paddocks and plotting them on a chart to help manage growth and timing of grazing.
Van Dalfsen talked about his forage management last week at the forage conference in Springfield, Missouri.
If I understood him correctly, he’s using a C-Dax Rapid Pasture Meter from New Zealand. This little wheeled unit pulls behind an ATV and measures the amount of forage present beneath it up to 200 times per second. C-Dax web site material says it can be pulled up to 20 kilometers per hour or about 12 miles per hour.
That’s a lot of measurements and forage plotting, but Van Dalfsen is managing for top performance from dairy cows, which is a lot like managing for top performance from lightweight calves. The more you rely on grass for the animals’ nutrients, the more critical it appears to be that you keep the highest quality forage flowing through them.
Van Dalfsen uses all these measurements to help him graze when his pastures of perennial ryegrass and fescue are between the growth stages of 2.5 leaves per plant and three leaves per plant.
At the four-leaf stage, he says, the bottom leaf begins to die and he’s actually losing quality.
That’s very intensive management but he says it’s very profitable.
If you want to see the C-Dax pasture meter, click here.