Estimating forage yields with simple methods

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Forage availability has strong influences on pasture and animal performance. The assessment of herbage yield is an important aim for the management of pastures and animals in systems, concurrently.

Four shortcut methods of estimating pasture yield and one method of estimating botanical composition were investigated. The four methods for estimating yields: Visual, Comparative, Yield Index, and Disc, and the Visual estimate of botanical composition, were performed by several estimators on a series of experiments before and after rotational grazing of grass-clover pastures. Visual and Disc methods were also evaluated on experimental plots of ryegrass and bluegrass. Generally, high correlations with actual yield were obtained by all four methods. Correlations with actual clover percentage were very high, being better before than after grazing.

The estimators with the highest degree of experience obtained the highest correlations with yields. Experience of estimators had little influence in estimating clover percentage.

The Visual method, a very simple and fast technique, consistently gave the higher correlations with yield than other methods. All methods of estimating yield and clover percentages gave reliable estimates. It is concluded that yield estimate techniques should be extensively used in grazing management and other experiments.