Agroscope, 1260 Nyon, Switzerland

Typology of pasture production

When planning stocking density on pasture, the preliminary calculation of the surface-area requirement is based on an estimate of the forage production potential. Since the year 2000, grass growth has been measured in various intensively-to-semi-intensively-managed grasslands in the southwest of Switzerland. The dynamism and amplitude over the course of the year of 226 growth curves were analysed and correlated with various climatic and environmental parameters. The measured values were grouped into general categories leading to a typology comprising two tables. The first of these defines the dates of the four key grazing periods (“beginning”, “peak”, “summer”, “autumn”) according to the altitude and precocity of the growing season. The second stipulates the benchmark growth rates useful for calculating stocking density. Four variables explain 32 % of the total variance. Since the effect of the “botanic composition” variable cannot be clearly defined, only “altitude”, “soil depth” and “climate” were retained to describe the typology. The benchmark growth rates were calculated for the four periods and three variables that were retained. Nevertheless, the high residual variability shows that consideration of all the characteristics of a meadow and the climatic conditions over the year are indispensable for the precise description of grass growth. The development of an agro-climatic model should allow us to estimate grass growth for a given place and year more accurately.

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