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What Is a Pasture?

Pastures are different from rangelands in the fact that pastures are more intensively managed through seeding, mowing and fertilization, while rangelands grow primarily native vegetation and are often less managed.
Most pastures in Pennsylvania consist of grasses interspersed with legumes and forbs or weeds.

Most pastures in Pennsylvania consist of grasses interspersed with legumes and forbs or weeds.

Pastures come is all different shapes and sizes because there is such a wide array of utilization that takes place from these forage stands. There is no ideal one size fits all design or example of a pasture seed mix that can be used to fit the needs of all livestock or even the same livestock all year long.

There have been points in time, especially in Pennsylvania and the northeast, where pastures were looked at as just a use for the ground that was too poor, wet, or steep to farm. These pastures were just exercise areas or places where the livestock could get out of the barn between feedings. However, there has been major transformation in this thought over the last forty years. With the development of a variety of fencing options, enhanced watering systems, improved forage varieties, and changing economical conditions, the use of pasture has seen increased vitality.

When properly managed, stocked, and fertilized pastures can produce a high quality forage crop that will meet the nutritional needs of livestock for much of the year. Pasture ground should be looked at with the same potential and eye for care as your high producing crop ground.

Glenn Shewmaker, University of Idaho Extension Forage Specialist, states that a “Perfect Pasture” is an environmentally and economically sustainable forage system that meets the needs of the grazing livestock and the producer!