Submitted to: American Forage and Grassland Conference Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: April 20, 2002
Publication Date: April 20, 2002
Citation: SANDERSON, M.A. PASTURE CONDITION SCORES IN THE NORTHEAST USA. AMERICAN FORAGE AND GRASSLAND CONFERENCE PROCEEDINGS. 2002. v. 11. p. 257-261. Interpretive Summary: The Pasture Condition Score System has been developed by the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service for use as a monitoring and management tool on grazing lands. In this study, we used the tool as part of a long-term survey of plant species diversity on grazing lands in the Northeast. Pasture condition score ranged from 22 (indicating that immediate changes in management were needed) to 46 (indicating that no changes in management were needed). Low condition scores were most frequently caused by a low proportion of legumes in the pasture. In this survey, pastures with the highest number of plant species generally had a large number of weed species that were indicative of lax management. These results indicate that producers should focus on increasing the legume component of pastures and improving grazing management to reduce weed competition.
Technical Abstract: Assessment and monitoring tools are needed to determine the condition of grazing lands in the northeast. The Pasture Condition Score System has been developed by the NRCS for use as a monitoring and management tool on grazing lands. This system has not been evaluated systematically on a large scale and information is needed on its usefulness as a monitoring tool. The system was used to evaluate pastures on 14 farms across the northeast in 2001 as part of a long-term effort on documenting plant species diversity on grazing lands of the Northeast. Pasture condition score ranged from 22 to 46 with an average of 33. Scores for the "erosion" indictor were the least variable and the average erosion score tended to be high suggesting that erosion was not a problem in the pastures surveyed. Scores for the indicator "percent legume" had the lowest average rating of all the indicators. The relatively low rating for legume content across all pastures suggests that producers should focus management on establishing and maintaining legumes. Pasture condition score was negatively related to plant species richness. This may indicate that focusing strictly on increasing the number of species in a pasture without regard to the species composition may not be wise. This preliminary study indicates that the Pasture Condition Score system may be useful in providing an objective estimate of the relative management status of pastures in our diversity surveys.