Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development’s pasture specialists have developed an Alberta Tame Pasture Scorecard. The scorecard is a tool that will help producers assess their pastures and provide tips on pasture management. Regular pasture assessments monitor pasture performance. Assessments record changes on pastures due to management, weather, and growing conditions.
“Pasture assessment identifies strengths and weaknesses in the pasture management system,” says Grant Lastiwka, P. Ag., forage/ grazing/beef specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, Olds.
“Producers can capitalize on management strengths to maximize forage production. Once problem areas are identified, it is possible to target management to produce specific improvements. When resources are limited, targeting management to areas that will produce the greatest return is critical. Regular pasture assessments help optimize forage production and evaluate the sustain-ability of pasture management systems.”
Producers can use the Alberta Tame Pasture Scorecard to visually assess their pastures and record their observations for future monitoring. The scorecard uses key indicators and descriptions to measure pasture vigour and productivity. Indicators such as plant population, plant density, plant vigour, ground cover, soil damage, and severity and uniformity of use are assessed and given a ranking of low, moderate or high. Each indicator looks at a key component of a healthy, productive tame pasture. For example, plant population looks at the proportion of total plant population made up of productive, well-adapted, palatable forage plants.
JUST PAPER AND PENCIL
“The Alberta Tame Pasture Scorecard is quick and easy to use,” says Lastiwka. Producers can complete the assessment with just the scorecard and a pencil. No special training is required. Instructions on how to use the scorecard in the field, and a list of management practices that can be used to improve tame pasture are included with the scorecard.
Producers can rate each indicator by circling the rank that best describes pasture condition, note those that need improvement and consider management options that might help.
Lastiwka says it is recommended to monitor pastures during the growing season at about the same time each year. This makes it easier to follow changes in indicators over time.
“Divide the farm into several pastures or paddocks, based on management, forage type, soils or timing of use. A separate assessment should be done for each pasture or paddock, since different sites may need different management. Each assessment should be based on an average of at least three sites within the paddock. Avoid areas near water, trees and other places where animals concentrate. Consider assessing these areas separately.”
The Alberta Tame Pasture Scorecard assessment is based on individual producer’s knowledge and understanding of their pastures. The assessment is subjective, so it’s useful if the same person assesses all the pastures on the farm. Indicator scores do not represent an absolute value or measure. While high scores are good, all pastures have opportunities for improvement.
“Pasture assessments allow producers to look closely at their pastures and identify specific areas where management improvements may be profitable and effective,” says Lastiwka. “Rather than a shotgun approach, they allow targeted, specific management.
The Alberta Tame Pasture Scorecard (Agdex 130/10-1) is available free of charge by contacting Alberta Agriculture’s Publications Office at 780-427-0391 in the Edmonton area or toll free at 1-800-292-5697.