Farmers to benefit from monitoring
Farmers can now quickly monitor changes in pasture nutrients and adapt their animals’ grazing methods accordingly, using a new, real-time method to check nutrient levels in grassland. This relatively cheap and easy approach will greatly improve the sustainable management of pasture for sheep and cattle.
Using a new method, the researchers show that overgrazing pasture to below seven centimeters significantly reduces the amount protein and digestibility of the grassland.
“Real-time nutrient monitoring can provide a more timely and adaptive pasture management than is currently feasible for farmers and should lead to productivity gain,” says Matt Bell, lead author of this study and Assistant Professor at the School of Biosciences at the University of Nottingham in the UK. “Using this new method of checking nutrient levels, we show that over-grazing or over-harvesting pastures will significantly reduce protein levels and its digestibility, which will be detrimental to the productivity of the land.”
This process involved the comparison of pasture nutrient levels obtained by traditional laboratory methods, which require the use of large specialized equipment, to the readings given by the relatively quick and simple hand-held near-infrared spectrum (NIRS) device. The NIRS technique measures the spectrum of energy reflected from a sample illuminated by white light, providing information on different nutrient levels. It reduces the time taken for analysis from around 16 hours to less than a minute.