Pasture Inventory

Spring is here! With spring, the age-old question is raised, “What’s going on in my pasture?”

 

On average, most producers have utilized their pastures heavily over the winter, grazed off all stockpiled grass that they may have had, and then started to feed hay. Even with the planting of annual crops like annual ryegrass, rye, and wheat to offset the use of hay, producers most likely, are utilizing those crops to their potential going into these spring months.

 

After all this fall, winter, and spring grazing and feeding, you have to ask, “what’s going on in my pasture?”  Many producers don’t really do an accurate inventory of what they have in their pastures, and if they do, it’s most likely a “Window Inventory!” They roll down their window, take a gander at what they see, and call it good. To make a true pasture-inventory, you should get out and walk those fields. It may look like a beautiful stand from your truck window, but when you get out and walk it, the truth is revealed.

The Truth of the Matter

The truth of the matter is, a pasture inventory is very easy to do and will provide you an accurate idea of how your pastures are performing. If done properly, a pasture inventory will allow you to see what indeed is in the pastures: the percentage of plant species, from grasses, legumes, weeds to bare ground, will be calculated.

 

            How is Pasture Inventory done? Well, it turns out it's pretty straightforward and can actually be a great family activity! A pasture inventory sheet is needed for this inventory, and one can be downloaded here.

 

  • Step 1: Print off a pasture inventory sheet. On this sheet you will see a column for Plant species (Grasses, Legumes, Weeds & Bare Ground) Species count, Total, and Percent.
  • Step 2: Choose a pasture to start.
  • Step 3: To get the inventory percentages in the pasture, one will need to take 300 steps across the pasture, and at every third step STOP, look at what is at the toe of your shoe. Based on what is at your toe, make a note on the pasture inventory sheet (could be bare ground, weed, grass, legume, etc..) Proceed to walk three more steps and record what is at the end of the third step until you have done this 100 times (a total of 300 steps). Pro tip, DON’T look down at the ground when making the steps. By looking down, you can unconsciously lead your foot to what you see! Choosing a place to start within the pasture that will give the highest percentage of what is in the pasture is vital. It may be from corner to corner, or just walking randomly across the pasture.
  • Step 4: Once you have completed step 3, add up all of the data you’ve collected on your pasture inventory sheet. This total will be the percentage of the species or bare ground in your pasture.

 

Taking inventory of your pasture allows you to get a close view of what’s going on, allowing for the questions that will inevitably come up in spring or fall to be answered with real data. “Is there a need to renovate, add grass, or clover seed to increase the percentage of those species?” “Is it time for weed control?”  All these questions can be answered and more with just a simple and easy walk through your pasture!

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