Indiana livestock producers who are unsure how many animals their pastures and paddocks can support need to get on the stick.
A grazing stick, that is.
Through support from the Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative, the Indiana Forage Council is producing 1,500 grazing sticks for livestock farmers and agribusinesses. The sticks can be purchased through Keith Johnson, Purdue University Extension forage specialist and forage council secretary-treasurer.
Grazing sticks have been around for many years, Johnson says. On each side of the four-sided rods is imprinted tables and equations for determining a field's grazing potential.
"A grazing stick is a yardstick with lots of information," Johnson says. "Once you know how to use a grazing stick, you can calculate the number of animals that might be able to graze a pasture or a particular paddock, which is a subunit of a pasture. In a pre-grazing season, a person can calculate the number of stocker calves that they ought to be purchasing, whether it is 30 or 300 or some number in between.
"These sticks are good management tools for people who are beginning to do rotational grazing or are getting into the livestock business."
Using a grazing stick requires few skills outside of mathematics.
"Take a walk in the pasture, place the stick vertically into the field and measure the height of the forage, freestanding," Johnson says. "From that, subtract four inches of height, because we like to leave some residual. Then, based on the numbers you get from the grazing stick and dependent upon the stand density, you'll know how many hundred pounds of forage per inch of grazing that you have. You can then calculate the production per acre."
In addition to calculating forage growth, the grazing stick gives livestock producers an idea of how much forage their animals will consume.
"For example, a thousand-pound beef cow might be consuming 3% of dry matter based on her weight. So 3% of a thousand is 30 pounds of dry matter intake," Johnson says.
One side of the grazing stick is a traditional yardstick. The three remaining sides contain animal grazing formulas and tables on harvest efficiency, optimum grazing periods, daily forage intake and dry matter yield per acre inch of forage.
The grazing sticks are $5 each for orders of nine or fewer and $4 each for orders of 10 or more, plus Indiana sales tax and shipping and handling. To order, visit the Purdue Forage Information Web site at www.agry.purdue.edu/ext/forages/.