You love your new farm property. It comes outfitted with barns, and other outbuildings, and corrals. And not only is it fenced, but the fence is in great shape—and it surrounds the entire property, so no worries about budget-busting fence installs, repairs, or modifications. The icing on the cake is that the farm is the perfect distance from town, so working and shopping won’t be a problem at all.
But: space is at a premium. So you need to know the maximum number of animals that you can graze on your pasture. Besides, as a new farmer you don’t want to start out with too many types of livestock and end up wishing you had begun with a smaller number.
Finding the right balance between the size of your herd and your available forage is key to good grazing management—whether you’re using a continuous or rotational system for grazing.
To find out the maximum number of animals that you can graze on your pasture, here’s what you’ll need to know:
The average weight of one of your animals.
The length of your grazing season in days, or you can calculate how much you’ll need for the entire year by using 365 days.
The total number of acres available for grazing (many farmers include their hayland).
The average per-acre yield of your pasture—you can obtain average yield estimates from the local office of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
The daily utilization rate for livestock. This figure is always the same: 4 percent. That number is used because livestock require 4 percent of their body weight in forage every day. A breakdown of the 4 percent is: 2.5 to 3 percent intake, 0.5 percent trampling loss, and a buffer of 0.5 to 1 percent.
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