As an industry, I think it is fair to say we can improve our ability to match stocking rate to carrying capacity. With the northern Australia critical date upon us once again, and the southern one not too far away, now is the time to get out in the paddock and work out how much feed you have available to carry you through to the next growing season.
There are a couple of ways to estimate the feed available:
The method you use to make a physical estimate will depend on your level of experience. The more seasoned feed budgeter will be able to quickly and accurately estimate feed by just eyeballing their paddocks. When you’ve done a lot of feed budgeting and monitoring via a grazing chart you’ll be able to estimate yield in stock days per hectare (SDH) or DSE days per hectare (DDH).
If you’re more comfortable estimating how many head you think the paddock will carry (based on past experience), you can convert this information to SDH using this AU calculator and the formula provided to you at the Grazing for Profit School or RCS Grazing Clinic (Hint: SDH = (LSU x Days)/ha. DDH = (DSE x Days)/ha).
If you use your grazing chart to measure what your animals have actually removed from paddocks during/after a graze, then you can ‘calibrate’ your estimates using your livestock to become quite accurate at feed budgeting.
New players will need to be more hands on, and we suggest the ‘stepping out the square’ method. You can do this by stepping out the area required to feed one LSU or DSE for one day, and converting that to SDH or DDH. Anyone who’s attended the Grazing for Profit School or RCS Grazing Clinic will have had a go at this on the field trip. This method is okay in even country where it’s easy to find an area representative of the paddock, but it’s not so accurate in uneven country (Hint: SDH/DDH = 10,000m2 / number of m2 for one LSU/DSE for one day).
If you’re new to estimating paddock yield (or even just a bit rusty), RCS have experienced coaches and advisors who can help you work through the process and get you on the right track – just get in touch. Many readers will be making big decisions with big economic repercussions. Let us help you make them with confidence for positive repercussions!
Forecast out your SDH/100mm or DDH/100mm
SDH/100mm and DDH/100mm demonstrate the relationship between the rolling twelve months feed you have used/will be using against the rolling twelve-month rainfall. Forecast this for coming months using your expected stocking rate (in DSE or LSU) and the probably rainfall and see what the trend is. Compare this to your benchmark SDH/100mm or DDH/100mm will tell you if you need to look at lightening-off or increasing numbers. Once again, if you need help with this process get in touch. What you want to avoid is a situation where your rolling rainfall is declining and the total feed you are eating in increasing – that doesn’t end well!
Which one to use?
We recommend you consider both physical estimates (what have you actually got) as well as the SDH/100mm or DDH/100mm forecasts in your future stocking rate decisions.
During your non-growing (rationing) periods, please keep reviewing your physical estimates to ensure you have enough feed to ration out. Take a look at the article on a ‘pilot’s approach to grazing’ for another view on grazing.
The decisions you make now are going to have a big impact on your business over the next 12 to 18 months. If you need a hand with feed budgeting – working out your critical dates, what your carrying capacity is and how to match your stocking rate, or what the financial implications of all of this are, give us a bell.