It’s Time to Read Your Pasture

Horse pasture

April is an ideal time to inventory your pastures. (Photo: RL Hamblen,

This is the time of year when it is difficult for pasture specialists to give recommendations. Sure, they have a lot of generalized advice, but everything depends on the weather, your soil, microclimate, and goals. When asked, a pasture specialist considers if it is time to recommend controlling this weed or that. But wait! Is it too wet to get out on the field? You don’t want to compact your soil! There are so many factors to weigh.

As much as we try to give general information, managing pastures is a very personal process. There are questions that pertain specifically to you and your farm. Are you managing intensive grazing? Are you after forage production to put up hay? What kind of soil do you have? Is it a wet spring or are you in drought conditions? One-size-fits-all just does not work. This is where you need to take the reins and make a plan for your land!

cell phone app for weed identification

Tools like iNaturalist are helpful to identify weeds.

Get to Know Your Pasture

April is a good time to survey your fields. Identify what weeds are present and in what quantity. You can get help from your smartphone with apps like iNaturalist. There are also many field guides that are useful, such as Field Guide to Weeds of the Willamette Valley. Of course, you can always talk to your local Soil and Water Conservation District or County Cooperative Extension for aid in weed identification.

Make notes when you walk your pasture. Do you have a wet area that has distinctively different plants? Is there a stream running through this area of your farm? Is the land sloped? Consider looking at Oregon State University Extension Service’s PASTURES: Stewarding a Working Landscape. This document may help you evaluate your pastureland. The worksheets can help you know what to look for and how to assess conditions.

Find out what type of soil you have on your farm. To do this, you can use the Web Soil Survey. This app can show the soil type and suggest the crops or livestock that are best suited for your area. Other information on the site may help with land use planning for construction. Tutorials on how to use the app are available online.

If you are interested in a way to organize and look beyond your pastures in evaluating your property, go online or contact the Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District to receive a STEPS for Healthy & Sustainable Rural Living on Small Acreages in Oregon workbook. As the title suggests, this workbook “steps” you through the process of organizing your newly gathered information and thinking through your goals.

Make a Plan

Once you have made your inventories and walked your land, it is time to start developing your plan. We recommend using resources such as the Western Oregon and Washington Pasture Calendar PNW 699 to refine the timeline and activities for your pasture. This document is filled with detailed information applicable to our region of the country. As stated in the document, knowing the environmental factors for your specific location are the key to successful pasture management.

Rotational grazing is an excellent pasture management practice. (Photo: NRCS)

Rotational grazing is an excellent pasture management practice. (Photo: NRCS)

Ask for Help

If at any point you have questions or need help getting started, do not hesitate to contact the Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District. Our conservation planners offer no-cost, technical help to Clackamas County residents via phone calls, emails, and site visits. Our goal is to help folks reach their goals while protecting soil and water resources. Contact us at 503-210-6000 or via email at [email protected] You can also find more information on our website.




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Clackamas SWCD