Submitted to: Forage and Grazinglands
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/5/2005
Publication Date: 10/31/2005
Citation: Sanderson, M.A., Goslee, S.C., Cropper, J.B. 2005. Pasture Assessment in the Northeast United States. Forage and Grazinglands. Available: http://www.plantmanagementnetwork.org/pub/fg/research/2005/assess/. Interpretive Summary: Some form of assessment and monitoring may be needed for several aspects of pasture management, including: forage budgeting; stocking rate or stocking density decisions; nutrient management plans; and meeting regulatory requirements of governmental programs. We applied the pasture condition score system on selected farms across the northeast USA to examine the applicability of the system, to identify potential problems in its use, and obtain a snapshot of the status of pasture land in this region. The system was readily implemented on most pastures. None of the pastures evaluated fell into the lowest score category and only a few pastures fell into the highest score category. More than 40% of the pastures fell into the category of needing only minor changes to management and another 44% fell into the category of needing some improvements. Only a few pastures had condition scores of 16-25, which indicated that immediate changes were needed to improve sustainability. Producers will benefit from adopting the process of observing individual pasture condition indicators at regular intervals within and among grazing seasons rather than focusing only on individual scores.
Technical Abstract: Many livestock producers have intensified management and use of pastures in the northeast. These producers need assessment and monitoring tools to determine how management has influenced pastures. The Pasture Condition Score (PCS) system, developed by the NRCS, was used to assess 108 pastures on 31 farms across the northeast. None of the pastures evaluated fell into the lowest score category (PCS < 15) and only a few pastures fell into the highest score category (PCS >45). More than 40% of the pastures fell into the category of needing only minor changes to management (PCS = 36-45) and another 44% fell into the category of needing some improvements (PCS = 26-35). About 15% of pastures had condition scores of 16-25, which indicated that immediate changes were needed to improve sustainability. 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. The Pasture Condition Score system may be useful in providing an objective estimate of the relative management status of pastures.