Essentials of Pasture Management

United States Department of Agriculture
1011 East Main
Suite 106
Puyallup, WA 98372
Natural Resources Phone: 253-845-9272
Conservation Service Fax: 253-845-4569

  1. Livestock are merely harvesters of the primary crop, forage. A healthy forage crop ensures healthy, thriving livestock.
  2. Livestock should only graze each plant once during each grazing cycle. Subdivide pastures as needed and rotate livestock to fresh pastures often in order to achieve this.
  3. Never graze below minimum stubble height:
    • 3 inches for bunch grasses (orchard grass, rye grass, tall fescue)
    • 2 inches for sod grasses (bluegrass and bent grass)
  4. Never put livestock or equipment on wet soil.
  5. Provide fertilizer to meet but not exceed crop needs.
  6. Manure is free fertilizer! Use it 1st, and don't put it where, when, or in amounts that you wouldn't put commercial fertilizer.
  7. Bare soil is generally a symptom of a livestock distribution or overpopulation problem. Figure out the cause and fix it.
  8. Bare soil does not stay bare. Something will grow there. Something often obnoxious, but possibly noxious or poisonous.
  9. Weeds are usually the result of ignoring Number 1 - Number 7. Practice Number 1 - Number 7, mow, hoe, pull, wick, wipe, or spray as needed, and keep up 1-7.
  10. Reseeding is always the last resort. It’s expensive and ties up acreage for several months. Give the current stand a year (or 2) of intensive management 1st and see if it improves adequately.
  11. A seed mix should contain species suited to the site, for the use (forage or hay production), and to each other (height, growing season, and palatability.