Indiana graziers unsure of how many animals their pastures and paddocks can support need to get on the stick.

A grazing stick, that is.

The Indiana Forage Council (IFC) is producing 1,500 grazing sticks for sale to livestock farmers and agribusinesses through support of the Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative.

Grazing sticks have been around for many years, says Keith Johnson, Purdue University extension forage specialist and forage council secretary-treasurer. Tables and equations for determining a pasture’s grazing potential are printed on the rod’s four sides.

"A grazing stick is a yardstick with lots of information," Johnson says. "Once you know how to use a grazing stick, you can calculate the number of animals that might be able to graze a pasture or a particular paddock. In a pregrazing season, a person can calculate the number of stocker calves that he ought to be purchasing, whether it is 30 or 300 or some number in between.”

Using a grazing stick requires few skills.

"Take a walk in the pasture, place the stick vertically into the field and measure the height of the forage, freestanding," Johnson says. "From that, subtract 4” of height, because we like to leave some residual. Then, based on the numbers you get from the grazing stick and dependent upon the stand density, you'll know how many hundred pounds of forage per inch of grazing that you have. You can then calculate the production per acre."

The grazing stick also gives livestock producers an idea of how much forage their animals will consume.

"For example, a 1,000-lb beef cow might be consuming 3% of dry matter based on her weight. So 3% of a thousand is 30 lbs of dry matter intake," Johnson says. One side of the grazing stick is a traditional yardstick. The other sides contain animal grazing formulas and tables on harvest efficiency, optimum grazing periods, daily forage intake and dry matter yield per acre inch of forage.

The grazing sticks are $5 each for orders of nine or fewer and $4 each for orders of 10 or more, plus Indiana sales tax and shipping and handling. To order, visit the Purdue Forage Information Web site at www.agry.purdue.edu/ext/forages/. Or contact Johnson at 765-494-4800 or johnsonk@purdue.edu.