Tame Pasture Health Assessment -- Frequently Asked Questions

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 What is pasture health?
Pasture health refers to the ability of a pasture system to perform a number of functions that will aid in optimizing a pasture’s productivity. The most obvious one is the quantity of forage produced but this is only part of the picture. Forage composition, nutrient cycling, litter cover, moisture retention are examples of other functions that occur within a pasture. How well these functions are occurring will impact both the productivity and sustainability of a tame pasture system.

Is it important to understand pasture health?
Understanding the pasture health process can be very helpful when it comes to making pasture management decisions such as fertilization, designing grazing rotations or in placing water and fence systems. Knowing the current health of a pasture will also aid in determining whether current management practices are appropriate or whether they are leading to the deterioration of a pasture site.

How do you measure pasture health?
Establishing a health rating for your pasture requires the use of a pasture health assessment work sheet. The worksheets provide a listing of the key indicators that you will need to assess along with a description of how to rate each indicator. Pasture assessments are completed through visual evaluations in the pasture. By comparing your observations with those in the work sheet you will be able to assign a score to each indicator. Based on these results a health rating can be assigned to each pasture. If used on a regular basis, health assessments provide a method to compare pasture productivity and management practices.

Do I need training to do pasture health assessments?
Training in pasture health assessment is recommended. Learning the principals and technique’s of pasture health assessment are important for both scoring and the interpretation of the scoring results. In most situations, a one day training session is adequate to learn the basic principals of health assessment.

Who offers training in pasture health assessment?
Training in pasture health assessment can be obtained through organizations such Agricultural Service Boards, Forage Associations, Agricultural Research Associations, Alberta Environmentally Sustainable Agriculture (AESA) and Water Shed Groups. Check with your local associations for training opportunities.

How do I access pasture health assessment information ?
Information on pasture health assessment and links to worksheets to score pastures have been summarized and placed on the new web page “www. foragebeef .ca”. Check under the heading Pasture Management for further details.

Pasture Health Assessment

Information is also available by contacting 310-Farm (3276).

Sources : Public Lands Division - Alberta Sustainable Resource Development
Natural Resource Conservation Service – USDA

Prepared by Gordon Hutton, Forage Technologist Transfer Specialist, Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development

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For more information about the content of this document, contact Grant Lastiwka.
This document is maintained by Mary Ann Nelson.
This information published to the web on January 7, 2004.
Last Reviewed/Revised on September 17, 2018.