By Jean-Paul MacDonald, Farms.com
Managing forages during periods of drought is crucial for livestock producers. Maintaining sufficient forage inventory levels becomes even more important when drought stress leads to decreased yields. This article focuses on the first step in preparing for and planning for managing forages during moisture stress: estimating and inventorying the current forage resources on your farm.
To accurately determine the amount of forage available, consider all sources such as silages, hay, and pasture reserves. Utilize resources from the Internet and your local Extension office to help estimate the quantity of forage in your storage areas.
Standardize forage estimates on a 100% dry matter basis to account for variations in moisture content. This standardization will be crucial for estimating animal forage requirements later in the series.
Estimating silage inventories can be challenging due to varying packing densities. Use available calculators and tables specific to bunker silos, upright silos, and drive-over silage piles to estimate silage quantity accurately.
Pasture inventories pose challenges due to grazing habits and forage variability. Methods such as hand clipping, pasture rulers, or rising plate meters can help estimate pasture yields. Consider the composition of available forage and avoid areas with heavy weed presence.
Estimating hay inventories is relatively straightforward by multiplying the average weight per bale by the total number of bales harvested.
Taking the time to conduct a forage inventory survey is crucial for drought preparedness. By accurately assessing current forage resources, producers can develop effective plans to mitigate the impact of low yields and ensure the well-being of their livestock.