Establishing Pasture and the Deception of Forage Mixture Labels

(Debra Murphy/RealAgriculture)

Knowing what species to establish, when to plant them and what nutrients they require is certainly crucial for establishing a good pasture stand, but there’s one thing that’s perhaps a little less obvious but equally important: what, exactly, do the numbers on your forage seed mixture mean?

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s regulations, forage seed mixture species are to be listed as “percentage of weight.” Although this regulation maintains consistency across the forage seed system, it can also result in great misunderstandings.

“If you compare the weight of the species compared to the number of seeds per pound, what shows up in the field can be very different than the percentage by weight,” says Barry Yaremcio, beef and forage specialist with the Alberta Ag-Info Centre.

In the following graph, provided by Yaremcio, the difference is evident. For example: timothy is listed at 5% of the seed (by weight) in this forage mixture, yet it would likely amount to over 20% of the total population of the plant stand.

forage mixture

Fortunately, the math required to determine the percentage of plants in the stand is relatively simple, provided you have a few key parameters.

% of Plants in Stand = % of seed by weight (as decimal) x seeds/lb
Total seeds/lb

Once you’ve completed your calculus homework, it’s time to consider timing, nutrition and grazing. In this audio interview, we speak generally about establishing a forage stand with two beef and forage specialists: Barry Yaremcio and Linda Hunt. And besides discussing the importance of good establishment, the discussion also touches on when forage stands should not be grazed, and a neat trick for determining if a newly-established pasture is ready for its first grazing disturbance.

You can also download, favourite or add this audio to playlists via Soundcloud.


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