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Pasture scoring

Scoring ten key components of your pasture can help identify and prioritize management practices

When was the last time you really took a hard look at the condition of your pasture? By giving a numerical value to its parts and uses, you’ll have a good idea of pasture performance overall.

Dan Undersander is an Extension forage specialist at the University of Wisconsin and helped develop a tool called the “Guide to Pasture Condition Scoring.”  He says the scorecard can help prioritize corrective treatment needs.

"Basically what this score sheet is, we’ve outlined about ten different parameters. And for each parameter the idea is that for a given pasture you give a score of 1-5 and then you can kind of sum all your scores and see where you are," he says.

The ten visual indicators include percentages of desirable plants and ground cover, plant diversity, plant residue and vigor, uniformity of use, livestock concentration areas, compaction and erosion.

Undersander says breaking it down lets a person evaluate their pasture in components and hone in on where to direct the attention.

"Maybe it’s pretty good in, say, percent legume, but it’s not very good in total groundcover in which case then that would be the factor that we would work on," he says. "Basically, as we score each of these ten areas 1-5, those areas of the ten that are the lowest scoring are the ones that we should direct our attention to."

Improving the worst areas will improve total pasture productivity. It’ll also provide some environmental benefit, such as reduced erosion. Scoring your pastures at least yearly and during the same time each year will help you identify trends.

Download the pasture scoring card here

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