Pasture eaten is a measure of how much pasture grown on the milking platform is being eaten by cows to produce milk, and is measured in kilograms of dry matter per hectare (kg DM/ha) or tonnes per hectare (tonnes/ha).
Find out how you can calculate your pasture eaten figure and improve it below.
What is your farm’s pasture eaten?
How much pasture and crop will your stock eat this year? At its simplest, by assessing how much energy it takes to drive your farm (cow numbers, type and production) and deducting any feed brought onto the milking platform, the quantity of pasture eaten per hectare can be calculated.
- Calculate your own pasture eaten using the Pasture Eaten and Annual Feed Budget Calculator.
- For guidance on a manual calculation see Pasture (and crop) eaten - how to calculate.
What is your farm’s potential pasture eaten?
DairyNZ has compiled pasture eaten data from DairyBase including local averages and highest pasture eaten figures which you can use to benchmark yourself against. Nationally, the average in DairyBase is 12T DM/ha, with a common range of 2T DM/ha.
The following table provides regional benchmark averages and the top 10%. This shows in some regions an even greater gap or opportunity to improve the pasture eaten figure.
Pasture and crop eaten
How will you achieve your potential?
There are two broad areas of opportunity – growing more pasture (or crop) and utilising more of what you are growing. Grazing management, which costs nothing will impact on both pasture growth and utilisation.
Grazing management provides the easiest solution to growing and using more pasture. The three key factors to focus on at every grazing are:
- grazing at the correct time
- grazing to the correct residual
- having the correct stocking rate
To achieve this requires regular assessment of pasture. See Leaf stage for more information.
The opportunity to grow and harvest more pasture is present on every farm. The performance of paddocks can vary widely – often the top paddock can grow double that of the lowest paddock on the farm. Key aspects to focus on are:
Find out about the 8 habits of a great pasture manager here.
Optimal soil fertility
Manage water deficits
How to identify the issue
Obvious (green) urine patches demonstrate N deficit, feed wedge indicates feed deficit ahead
Low clover content, weeds, urine patches obvious
Water-logged areas with poor species, compaction, mottled soil layers
Gaps and/or weed species present
Dead tillers, open pastures, lack of green material
Feed budget shows feed deficit
- Within any environmental limits, use nitrogen to fill deficits in early spring and encourage tillering prior to summer
- Set N polices for the season, minimise losses
- Amount of N required to achieve an extra tonne DM/ha. E.g. 100kg N /ha = 1T DM
- Maximise responses, use in high periods of growth, (N is a growth accelerator)
- Check that the recent soil and plant test is in optimum range
- Apply leachable nutrients at lower application rates
- Cost benefit approach to drainage
- Minimise pugging, on -off grazing, back fencing, drop fences instead of using normal gate way, graze from back of paddock etc
- Are pastures less than 10 years old? If not, how do the cultivars used rate against new genetics (use FVI)
- Use paddock grazing records, pasture growth records, or pasture condition score tool to help identify poorer performing paddocks
- Value of pasture renewal calculator
- Improve clover content, (N, K and graze to avoid shading.)
- Use of deeper rooting species
- Check irrigation efficiency, water used per kg DM grown
- Effluent used to best advantage (applied when water needed)
- Crops and supplements, on-off grazing
- Growing high yielding crops to provide feed during pasture deficit periods- will also help avoid overgrazing of pastures
- Using crop cycles to improve pasture, e.g. remove /reduce pests, weeds cultivation, drainage
- Net gain in yield approach shows crop less pasture grown is positive.