Northern New York beef producers looking to improve the quality and quantity of their land resources for grazing livestock in 2016 can take advantage of a pasture measurement tool purchased with a grant from the farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program.

A rising plate meter is an instrument that measures forage availability per acre of pasture. A Northern New York Agricultural Development Program grant purchased two new rising plate meters for use by Cornell Cooperative Extension educators in Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.

Extension educators have worked with farmers across Northern New York to help them learn how to use a rising plate meter, or RPM, in tandem with a grazing wedge chart developed the University of Missouri. Data from a series of RPM measurements is input into an online program to create a chart that represents the quantity of forage in the measured grazing areas.

Together, the RPM and grazing wedge chart help farmers see when paddock areas are ready for grazing and helps them adjust the number of animals grazing in any one area for more efficient use of the land base. Training with the RPM also encourages farmers to develop a skillful eye for evaluating pastures by sight to consider in tandem with the computerized data.

Extension educators emphasize the point that the computerized readout is only as good as the quality of the grass and forage species in the pasture. An estimated yield of 2,400 pounds of dry matter per acre is great unless the makeup of the pasture is all thistles, nut sedge and other species that stock will not eat. Used in quality grazing areas, the RPM will give a good estimate of the feed value per acre.

Northern New York producers interested in learning about or access to a rising plate meter in 2016 may contact NNY Regional Livestock Team Leader Betsy Hodge, a livestock specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County, at 315.379.9192.