As we look for agricultural solutions that simultaneously address the growing demand for food and the growing need for sustainability, the potential of grassland agriculture to address both problems should not be overlooked. Grass- and pasture-lands occupy three times the amount of land as row-crop agriculture, while offering significant ecological and economic benefits. Decreasing the forage yield variability of these systems through management techniques has the potential to increase their profitability and popularity. This study looked at how forage information from five farms stored in the University of Missouri Grazing Wedge tool could be used to characterize yield variability in pasture-based farming systems and the types of management practices that might influence that variability. We found that forage yield varied between 6.4 and 33% over the measurement period, and that the variability of total farm yield was largely independent of factors such as forage measurement frequency, interval, and paddock number. Intrapaddock variability, however, is highly correlated with the overall number of paddocks (R-square = 0.83) and offers insight for potential methods for improved management. Going forward, it will be important for these techniques to be incorporated into tools like the Grazing Wedge, and continued investment into these systems will have significant returns.
Using the University of Missouri Grazing Wedge tool to identify patterns in forage management and yield variability in pasture-based farming systems.
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