The effect of intensive grazing systems on the rising plate meter calibration for perennial ryegrass pastures

Cindy W. Klootwijk*, Gertjan Holshof, Agnes van den Pol-van Dasselaar, Koen L.M. van Helvoort, Bas Engel, Imke J.M. de Boer, Corina E. van Middelaar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


The rising plate meter (RPM) is used to measure grass height, which subsequently is used in a calibration equation to estimate herbage mass (HM), an important parameter for optimization of feed management in grazing systems. The RPM is placed on the sward and measures the resistance of the sward toward the plate, which depends not only on grass length, but also on sward structure. The accuracy of the calibration equation for the RPM to estimate HM across grazing systems, however, has not yet been evaluated. Therefore, our aim was to analyze the effect of intensive grazing systems on RPM calibration for perennial ryegrass pastures. To do so, we studied 2 grazing systems: compartmented continuous grazing (CCG) and strip grazing (SG), which differ in key grazing characteristics, such as pre- and post-grazing heights and period of regrowth, that may influence tiller density and vertical flexibility of the sward. The experiment was performed from April until October in 2016 and 2017 with 60 dairy cows, at a fixed stocking rate of 7.5 cows per hectare. To calibrate the RPM, 256 direct measurements of HM >4 cm (i.e., above stubble) were collected by cutting and weighing plots of grass for CCG and SG. Our main interest was in the HM above stubble because this is consumed by cows. Herbage mass <4 cm represents the stubble left after grazing. Differences in HM <4 cm may (partially) explain differences in HM >4 cm between the grazing systems. Therefore, HM <4 cm was additionally measured on 4 out of every 8 plots per grazing system by cutting out quadrats to 0 cm with an electric grass trimmer. Our results showed an average error margin in our calibration equations of 25 to 31%, expressed as the root mean square error of prediction (RMSEP) as a percentage of the observed HM >4 cm. Differences between grazing systems were relatively small, and including grazing system as a factor in the regression model to explain the increase in HM per centimeter of grass did not reduce the RMSEP of the model to any relevant extent. On the other hand, HM <4 cm was significantly greater on CCG compared with SG, with 2,042 kg of DM per hectare for CCG and 1,676 kg of DM per hectare for SG. The HM <4 cm, however, is not used for grazing, and this difference was not reflected in the HM >4 cm. Our results indicate that we can use one region-specific calibration equation for perennial ryegrass pastures across intensive grazing systems, despite relatively large differences in pre- and post-grazing heights and period of regrowth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10439-10450
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number11
Early online date5 Sep 2019
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


  • forage management
  • herbage mass
  • intensive grazing
  • rising plate meter


Dive into the research topics of 'The effect of intensive grazing systems on the rising plate meter calibration for perennial ryegrass pastures'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this