Falling Plate Meter

Pasture Growth Summary 2016

by Mikala Parr, Research Assistant

RAIN has been doing a weekly pasture walk starting on May 24th, 2016, and finishing on September 27th, 2016. During the walks, the grass was measured using a falling plate meter. The falling plate meter is a device used to estimate pasture forage yield. It measures bulk height, a combined measurement of grass height and sward density (thickness). For example, a tall thin grass stand may have the same bulk height as a short thick one. The plate is used by walking around the pasture, and in random spots gently placing the plate on the forage until the forage can support the plate. Then measure the height of the plate on the meter stick, and record.

To create a good estimate, you need to be sure to take enough samples to calculate an average yield (RAIN used 10 samples per paddock). As well, make sure to choose sampling points at random, and not just in spots that look productive, as that would not be an equal representation of the pasture. Falling plate meters must be calibrated to local conditions due to the diverse range of pasture species available.

This could be used on the farm to give a farmer a better idea of what shape their pastures are in. It can help with management decisions by providing a better idea of when to take their livestock out of a paddock as well as when to put them back in. This can extend the grazing season length and improve the overall health of a pasture. This practice could be a good thing to work into a weekly routine. It may give the farmer an upper hand in managing their pastures by providing timely information rather than relying on end-of-season hay or silage yields.

Chart summarizing 2016 grass growth

Click on chart to enlarge

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Thanks go to Jim & Bette Withers, Gawas Farm, and Peter Lambert for their contributions to this project.

This project was funded in part through Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.

The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of GF2 in Ontario.

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