Development of Forage Land Planner Software

Manitoba pastures are a significant part of the province’s land base.  Approximately 1.6 million ha (4 million ac) of unimproved pasture and 0.4 million ha (1 million ac) of improved pasture provide an integral feed component for the cattle industry.  Much of the land is in poor health and requires improvements in management.  As a result, updated pasture productivity rates are required to promote the adoption of recognized improved rangeland management practices.

The Manitoba Benchmarking Project was initiated in 2004 with the objective of collecting forage yield data primarily on native pasture sites throughout Manitoba. The data collected is specific to different vegetation and soil types within the 3 Eco-Regions of the province as currently this type of data is limited.  Over the past four seasons (2004-2007) twelve pastures were monitored for yield.  A total of 256 cages were clipped twice per growing season, and yield data was divided among treatments according to vegetation type, soil type, species composition and ecological region.  In 2006 and 2007 weather (temperature, precipitation, soil moisture) and litter cover data were collected from each site as well.  The results of the study were positive and informative.  Some unexpected trends in production were realized.  The strongest determinants of yield found in individual regressions were site quality, grass dominance, soil texture, and litter amount.

This project has provided insight to the predictability of forage and pasture production in Manitoba.  The next step is to develop a forage productivity prediction model to provide producers, government policy makers, and extension staff with a tool to assist in improving the management of one of Manitoba’s greatest resources, the unimproved pastures.  This tool could also be applied to understanding the potential of unimproved pastures to increase production and support displaced livestock as market values of annual commodities rise and economic pressures remove cultivated perennials from rotations.  Additionally, the tool could be used in understanding the potential for Manitoba’s unimproved pastures to becoming a significant carbon sink through improved management.

In conclusion, the intent is to finalize work to date in development of a partially completed stand-alone computer program (Forage Land Planner) that utilizes the latest forage yield information based on specific soil types and their attributes.   This technology is new as present programming using soils relies largely on only the CLI for Agriculture ratings.

Project Objective:
Develop the productivity information collected into a forage productivity predictive model to provide seasonal growth predictions for use in calculating stocking rates and feed storage requirements.  This information will help producers manage rangelands in an ecologically and economically sustainable manner.  This tool will also support land use decision-making and land management extension activities, including potential pasture shortages during extended dry periods.

Project Activities:
•    A computer consultant will be hired to take a Beta version of the software already completed and use data collected from the Manitoba Pasture Benchmark project to “ground truth” or verify the model output.
•    MAFRI Forage Extension staff will be trained to use the completed version of the software.
•    Software will be made available to federal and provincial extension staff.

Project Contact: Bill Gardiner, MFC
Ph: (204) 622-2044
Start Date: April 2008
Completion Date:
Funding Partners: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Greencover Canada Program Technical Assistance Component, Manitoba Agriculture Food and Rural Initiatives.
Project Results: Project is ongoing.