Pasture Monitoring: Tips and Resources for Good Pasture Monitoring

How Does it Work? | Entrepreneurship Opportunities | Resources | News | Learn More

Raising and marketing grassfed meats provides beginning farmers and ranchers a relatively inexpensive and profitable entry into entrepreneurial farming. Monitoring pastures and rangeland is critical for planning, evaluating plant and animal health and making informed decisions on your farm or ranch. Monitoring can and should be performed by all sizes and styles of animal grazers.

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Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition Members Monitoring Rangeland.

Why Should You Monitor?

It’s hard to measure change without monitoring. Monitoring can be used to evaluate if rangeland health is being maintained or improved and to guide producers toward making decisions that add profitability and positively impact environmental health.

A record of monitoring data is also helpful when applying for assistance from many Farm Service Agency and Natural Resource Conservation Service programs.

Producers who work to improve the quality of their pastures will benefit from higher profitability, and increase the long-term sustainability of their agriculture enterprises and their land.

How Does it Work?

Getting Started in Pasture Monitoring

Keep grazing records on all livestock activity for each pasture. Herd type, number of animals, in date, out date, grazing intensity level and rainfall need to be included in the record.

Take pictures of all pastures before and after you graze them – remember to label the picture with the date and location.

Talk to an expert – your location NRCS office will have guidelines to help you get started. There are also independent consultants who can help you with monitoring and data evaluation. The Society for Range Management can help you locate a consultant near you.

Buy one or several rain gauges (depending on the size of your spread) and place them around your farm or ranch. Keep running records of precipitation levels.

Place portable grazing exclosures in pastures so you can compare ungrazed areas to grazed areas. If you rotationally graze your pastures you will need one grazing exclosure for each pasture.

Entrepreneurship Opportunities

The market for grassfed and pastured meats continues to expand, providing entrepreneurial farmers and ranchers an excellent opportunity to raise and market livestock grown on healthy (and well monitored) pastures. In the past five years, more than 1,000 U.S. ranchers have converted their animals to an all grass diet. Pasture-raised beef makes up less than 1% of the United States supply, but sales reached $120 million last year and are expected to increase more than 20% a year over the next decade.

Keep grazing records on all livestock activity for each pasture. Herd type, number of animals, in date, out date, grazing intensity level and rainfall need to be included in the record.

Take pictures of all pastures before and after you graze them – remember to label the picture with the date and location.

Talk to an expert – your location NRCS office will have guidelines to help you get started. There are also independent consultants who can help you with monitoring and data evaluation. The Society for Range Management can help you locate a consultant near you.

Resources

The Natural Resources Conservation Service Pasture Condition Score Sheet

Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) Pasture Condition Score Sheet

United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency’s Conservation Program Page

 

Find your local Farm Service Agency Office here

The Land Stewardship Projects’ On Farm Monitoring Toolbox

Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition

Wyoming Range Monitoring Manual

Grass Fed Resources:

Time Magazine on Grass Fed Beef

Eat Wild – Excellent Resource on Grassfed Meats

Polyface Farm – Farm Web site and books on grassfed meats

 

 

News/Events

View the Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition Calendar to find out about grazing events.

Learn More

Please contact Virginia Wolking at virginiaw@cfra.org or (402) 687-2100 or Wyatt Frass at wyattf@cfra.org or 402.254.6893