Tuesday, 15 October 2013 09:12

New tool to calculate grass growth

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NEW ZEALAND SHEEP and beef farmers have a new tool to help them calculate how much grass will grow on their farms two weeks in advance.


The Pasture Growth Forecaster has been jointly funded by Beef + Lamb New Zealand and DairyNZ to help farmers increase their profitability by better feed budgeting – especially during those times of the year where pasture growth can be highly variable. It's available online now at pasturegrowthforecaster.co.nz

Beef + Lamb New Zealand chief executive, Dr Scott Champion says the Pasture Growth Forecaster is a web-based tool designed specifically for New Zealand's climatic conditions. It considers soil types and temperature, solar radiation, and how much water is available to forecast grass growth.

"While nothing about the weather is ever certain, this is a tool that pulls together the best information available to forecast grass growth so farmers can have more confidence in their decisions around supplementary feeding, grazing rotations and stocking ratios.

"Knowing when you are likely to have more or less feed than usual is going to be a key benefit of using this tool."

There are two levels of forecast available: a free district level forecast and, for $9.95 a month, a farm level service that offers more detailed forecasting capability with greater attention on individual farm soil and water-holding capacity.

Dr Champion says some Beef + Lamb New Zealand and Farmax project farms had been trialling the forecaster for the past year. "They've found significant benefit in being able to calculate pasture growth on their own farms, supporting timing decisions around destocking or buying in animals to use the available feed."

The Pasture Grown Forecaster hones in on specific geographic areas broken into 44 districts divided into 5km square grids. Data from NIWA's Virtual Climate Network Stations helps refine expected grass growth forecasts. Forty years of climate data is also applied to the calculations.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand and DairyNZ are working together to promote this new tool, running a series of newspaper and online advertising starting this week.

"The timing is important because farmers who start using the tool now will become familiar with it before summer and autumn – the times of the greatest grass growth variability from season to season."

The forecaster was developed by Rezare Systems, with Farmax running the free and paid versions of the tool's web-based service.

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