The information contained in these web pages has not been
verified for correctness. Some of the information contained herein is hearsay and may not
be correct. Use the information from these pages only at your own risk!
Inadequate pasture management can result in:
- Reduced forage production
- Excess soil erosion
- Increased weed populations
- Nutrient or manure runoff
- Soil compaction
- Deep mud
In addition to problems
directly on the pasture site, increased nutrients, manure and soil are washed off the land
and damage surface water quality.
Benefits of appropriate pasture management may include:
- Increase forage production over 200%
- Reduce weed population.
- Prevent erosion.
- Reduce expense for feed, herbicides and fertilizers.
- Prevent runoff of animal wastes.
- Pasture and other lands shall be managed to prevent both gully and sheet erosion.
- Pasture and livestock shall be managed to prevent any manure or
fertilizer from washing off the site.
- Pasture near streams shall be managed to establish and maintain a well
vegetated buffer extending 35 feet back from the stream.
- To develop healthy pastures which will filter wastes from surface water
run-off before it gets to streams and groundwater.
- To increase pasture quality, yield, and utilization.
- To protect the natural functions of wetlands and near-stream areas which
serve to filter pollution, move surface water to ground water storage, and provide habitat
- Respect your farm's animal carrying capacity - the
number of animals on your pasture should not exceed the capacity of the forage to regrow. Minimum
recommended area on non-irrigated pasture is 2-3 acres per horse, 1-2 acres per cow and
calf, or 2-3 sheep per acre.
- Graze pastures to 3 inches in height - rest the pasture
until it has regrown to 6-8 inches. Sufficient
leafy material is necessary for rapid regrowth, increased nitrogen utilization and
filtration of contaminants such as animal wastes and fertilizers.
- Cross fence pastures and rotate animals - to increase
pasture growth and utilization. Divide large pastures into at least four smaller pastures
or paddocks using temporary or permanent fencing. Rotate animals from one pasture to the
next, while allowing pasture to grow.
- Keep animals off saturated rain soaked pasture from November
through March - pastures cannot survive continuous grazing and trampling in
winter when they are saturated with water.
- Create a sacrifice area (winter paddock) for use in the rainy
season - this area should be on higher ground and well away from streams. It
keeps animals from destroying pastures and confines waste to an area surrounded by healthy
pasture that can filter contaminated run-off.
- Feed animals hay until the pasture can support grazing -
buy and feed plenty of hay until pastures are 6-8 inches in height and are regrowing
rapidly. This produces more forage and saves money by keeping pasture plants more
- Clip pastures in late May or early June - before weed
seeds have a chance to form. Clipping prior to a rest period will promote uniform growth. Clipping
reduces weed seeds; removes older, less palatable leaves and promotes new growth.
- Reseed and renovate as needed - renovation is the improvement of
pastures through aerating, liming, fertilizing, and perhaps, interseeding more desirable
forage species with minimum tillage.
- Test soil before reseeding or renovating pastures - to determine lime,
fertilizer, and manure application rates based on soil needs to avoid over or under
- Test soil before fertilizing with phosphorus or postassium or manuring
- Apply fertilizer and manure in calibrated rate according to soil test needs, avoiding
- Apply no more than 60 lbs of nitrogen per acre when temperature in upper 2
inches of soil stays above 42F - usually February. Avoid streambanks.
- Apply 20 to 30 lbs sulfate per acre annually - or 30 to 40 lbs of
sulfate every other year.
- Spread 1 ton per acre of dolomite lime for grass pastures when soil pH is less
than 5.4 - or clover pastures with pH less than 5.8. This adds calcium,
magnesium, and neutralizes acid soil.
- Consider your soil drainage type and intended use to select seed species when
establishing or renovating a pasture.
- Include legumes such as white or sub clover in pasture reseeding programs
- legumes can naturally add adequate amounts of nitrogen to pastures so pasture growth and
quality are improved to reduce or eliminate the need for nitrogen fertilization.
- Spread fertilizers and manure only when soil is not saturated. (See Manure Management) - this prevents fertilizers
and manure from entering ditches and streams.
- Do not apply manure to fields during plant dormancy
(October-March) - Plants will not use the nutrients and they will wash away in the rains.
- Do not use manure as fill material - It will remain saturated, it will
not compact, and it will only grow weeds.
- Do not put uncomposted shavings on pastures. Shavings can take years to
break down in the field, compared to three months in a functioning compost pile.
Uncomposted shavings and wood chips can produce toxic runoff (For more information on
composting and manure management see Manure
- Communicating for Agriculture is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the needs of
America's farmers and ranchers. They can be contacted at: http://www.cainc.org
This page was last updated on
November 15, 2002