Alberta Tame Pasture Scorecard

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 What is the score card | Why use the scorecard | How to use the scorecard | Tame pasture scorecard field identification and management notes | Alberta tame pasture scorecard | How can I improve my tame pasture? | Contact information

What is the Alberta Tame Pasture Scorecard?

The Tame Pasture Scorecard is a simple, non-technical method to visually assess pastures.

It uses farm level indicators and descriptions to describe pasture health and productivity. Healthy, productive pastures maintain and protect soil and water resources, provide sustainable grazing, and require fewer inputs.

The Tame Pasture Scorecard allows tame pastures to be assessed without the use of technical equipment.
It is a tool to raise awareness of pasture management and increase the working knowledge of pastures.

Why Should I Use the Alberta Tame Pasture Scorecard?

Pasture assessment is important to optimize pasture performance and evaluate the sustainability of pasture management systems.

Regular use allows assessment of current pasture performance, records changes in performance over time, identifies potential problem areas, and provides a measure to compare fields and management practices.
The Tame Pasture Scorecard can be used to make informed management decisions.

How Do I Use the Alberta Tame Pasture Scorecard?

Step 1) All you need to complete the assessment is a pencil and a scorecard. (A pasture measuring stick can also be used to assess production.)
Step 2)Assess tame pastures during the growing season.
Step 3)Divide the farm or fields into separate sections for assessment based on management practices, soil type, or topography.
Step 4)Complete the field identification and management notes section with information regarding the field or area being assessed.
Step 5)Rate each indicator based on your judgment of the pasture and circle the ranking that best describes the pasture condition. For example, when asked for a "%," make your best visual estimate. Include other indicators that you
think would help evaluate your pasture.
Step 6)Follow changes in each of the indicators over time. Note those indicators that need improvement and consider management options that might improve the pasture in those areas.

  • Assessments are qualitative and subjective. They are most effective when consistently completed by the same person over time, under similar field conditions, and at the same time each year.
  • Assess more than one spot in a field to obtain more accurate results. Do at least three assessments per pasture, more if the field is variable.
  • Avoid areas near water, trees, or other areas where animal impact is concentrated when assessing the field. You may want to assess these areas separately.
  • The scoring of indicators does not represent an absolute measure or value. Its purpose is to assess the ability of each pasture to function within its environment.
View the Alberta Tame Pasture Scorecard Field Identification and Management Notes

View the Alberta Tames Pasture Scorecard

How Can I Improve My Tame Pasture?

Plant population
Desirable plant species vary with site, grazing animal, and intended use. Encourage productive, well-adapted plant species by cross fencing to control overgrazing and patch grazing, increasing rest periods during the growing season, varying timing of grazing, and managing soil fertility. If fewer than six productive plants per square foot are present, you may need to reseed.

Plant density
Maximize forage production by maximizing ground covered by productive, adapted forage plants. Less productive plants compete for light, water, and nutrients, limiting overall forage production. Appropriate plant density varies
with forage species present and environment. For example, bunch grasses will have more bare soil than creeping rooted grasses, and dry environments more bare soil than wetter environments.

Plant vigor
Vigorous plants produce more forage. Plant crowns should have actively growing shoots to provide regrowth after grazing. Vigorous forage plants need to rest and recover from grazing during the growing season. Ensure adequate soil nutrients are present to support forage growth.

Legumes present
Legumes fix nitrogen and contribute nitrogen to forage grasses. Thirty percent or more legumes in the forage stand may eliminate the need for nitrogen fertilizer. Manage pastures to maintain legume populations by ensuring phosphorus, potassium, and sulfur requirements are met, selecting long-lived, hardy legume species and varieties, and managing grazing periods.

Weeds and brush present
Weeds and brush reduce forage production and restrict livestock access to forage. Managing for vigorous forage plants increases competition and may reduce brush cover. Time controlled rotational grazing may also reduce
weeds and brush. However, you may also need to use herbicides in combination with grazing management to control problem brush and weeds.

Ground cover
Appropriate litter (dead and decaying plant material) levels and soil organic matter improve the water holding capacity of soil, improve water infiltration, reduce evaporation, and return nutrients to the soil. Appropriate litter levels vary with environment, site, and plant species present. For example, bunch grasses will tend to have less litter than creeping rooted grasses. Litter from productive tame forages in higher rainfall areas breaks down rapidly in the soil. Improve ground cover by enhancing desirable plant production and vigor, allowing litter to accumulate, and winter feeding on pastures.

Soil damage
Reduce soil damage by reducing bare soil present. Increasing plant density and vigor and increasing the litter present will reduce soil damage. Grassed waterways and managed buffer zones along streams and rivers will help reduce soil erosion. Hoof action on bare soil (especially heavier soils) when they are damp can result in soil compaction and a breakdown in soil structure, which will reduce plant growth.

Nutrient cycling
Ensure soil nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and sulfur levels are adequate through fertilization, applying manure, or winter feeding on pastures. Grazing livestock recycle large amounts of nutrients through manure and urine. Ensure nutrients are spread back onto pastures by fencing livestock out of trees, limiting loitering areas near water, and cross fencing to get more uniform distribution of manure across pastures.

Severity and uniformity of use
Overgrazing reduces forage plant vigor and production and can lead to a reduction in desirable forage species and an increase in grazing tolerant plants. Patch grazing may result in under-utilization of the forage resource. Cross fencing, rotational grazing, and ensuring water is available nearby will help you get more uniform use

For more information, contact Alberta Agriculture's Ropin' the Web website (search using "pasture assessment")

For general agronomic questions, contact:
Alberta Ag-Info Centre at 310-FARM (3276)

Copies of this publication are available online or from the Publications Office at 780-427-0391.

Write to:
Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development
Publications Office
7000-113 Street
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6H 5T6
Reference Agdex: 130/10-1

If you have any questions or comments, contact:
Ag-Info Centre at 310-FARM (3276).

Grant Lastiwka, P. Ag.
Pasture Specialist
Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development
Lacombe Research Centre Admin. Building
6000 C & E Trail
Lacombe, Alberta T4L 1W1
Phone: (403) 782-8028

Source: Agdex 130/10-1. 2004.
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For more information about the content of this document, contact Grant Lastiwka.
This document is maintained by Jennifer Rutter.
This information published to the web on March 12, 2004.
Last Reviewed/Revised on September 11, 2018.