How do I measure dry matter (DM)?
Here are some tools to help you measure DM:
Pasture rulers or ‘sticks’ that measure green pasture height are simple, cheap and easy to use. Heights are easily converted to an estimate of kilograms of green dry matter/ha via guides and tables. Download the MLA Tips & Tools: Improving pasture use with the MLA
pasture ruler at publications.mla.com.au
Rising plate meters measure total pasture mass, green and dry standing feed, and are based on a plate that rises up a probe depending on the amount of compressed pasture material between the plate and ground.
Electronic pasture probes measure dry matter of green material only. They are quick, easy to use and usually fully automated, including possessing the capacity to directly download readings into computers or apps.
Photo standards for pastures are available and give a good guide to the amount of feed on offer (FOO) in a paddock. Photo standards are available through the Lifetime Ewe online manual.
Satellite imaging of pasture growth by annual pastures can be found at pasturesfromspace.csiro.au at either the shire level (free) or paddock scale (by subscription).
Producers are encouraged to learn how to establish DM/ha by taking samples of feed from across a paddock, and bagging and weighing them. This allows production targets to be set according to the feedbase.
For example, if you have a 450kg steer (one animal equivalent [AE]) eating an average of 2% of his body weight a day, on average over a year he will eat 9kg/day. He’ll eat a higher percentage of body weight when pasture nutrition is of high quality and less when pasture quality is low.
MLA’s More Beef from Pastures program demonstrates how to take DM samples to estimate available FOO and suggests, after measuring the dry matter production, pasture composition is assessed by counting the plants in a set area at numerous locations across a site.