Forage budgeting is a process of balancing forage supply (existing and anticipated pasture yield) and forage demand (how much the animals will consume) over a defined period. A forage budget can be a very useful tool to anticipate stocking rates over the coming months, while meeting ground cover or residual forage targets at the end of the grazing period to maintain and improve land condition.
A forage budget allows landholders to calculate objective numbers to support their decisions based on observations and experience.
A forage budget can also help plan for seasonal variability in pasture quantity. For example, a forage budget may indicate that between May and December you can carry 400 adult equivalents (AEs) in a particular paddock with a certain pasture yield. This gives you an option to either buy in more stock (to take your animal demand to 400 AEs) and/or devise a targeted sell-off plan if grass growing rain is not received by a specified date. Not only are you selling your cattle earlier than those who decide to hold stock until seasonal conditions deteriorate further and animal condition declines., but you are also taking better care of your pastures.
Forage budgets are not a ‘set and forget’ tool, you need to continue to monitor both your pastures and livestock during the grazing period to ensure you have the balance right.
The resulting information helps plan your stocking rate strategy for that paddock and grazing period, ensuring that animal productivity is optimised and land condition is maintained or improved.
There are five results shown for a forage budget within Stocktake Plus:
- Number of AE the paddock will carry to the end date
This is the number of AE the paddock will support to your specified end date whilst maintaining the set residual pasture target.
- Number of current class of stock the paddock will carry to the end date
If a single class of stock have been entered into the demand section of the forage budget this field will convert the above number of AE to the class of stock the paddock will carry till the end date. This field will not be displayed for a mixed mob.
- Days and weeks feed will last with the current AEs
This is the number of days the feed will last with the current number of AEs (Demand) whilst maintaining the residual pasture target. Due to the nature of pastures and the impact of various seasonal conditions this result will will not display above 300 days. Even over shorter periods it is essential to monitor your pasture throughout the grazing period for both quantity and quality, making adjustments as needed.
- Feed eaten as a proportion of palatable pasture
Results will show the proportion of usable pasture that is eaten over the budgeting period. This has a bearing on the diet quality of grazing stock. Consumption rates of 30% or less allow stock the best diet selection that can be expected from the available pasture. Consumption rates greater than 30%, for tropical native based pastures, reduce the stock’s ability to select from pasture, compromising diet quality. If consumption rates are greater than 30% then it is likely supplements will be required.