How do I assess pasture condition?

The table below is an aid to help you decide on a pasture a condition rating for each land type in a paddock. This table is also available for reference within the Stocktake Plus app.

Look over the whole area of the land type and decide an average rating.

The first and most important determinant is the proportion of 3P (Perennial, Palatable and Productive) species as a percentage of pasture dry matter yield. If 3P species comprise 80% or more of pasture yield, then the area would get a Rating of 1 (excellent).

Secondly, check the crown cover of 3P species. If the crowns are sparse (much bare ground in-between), unthrifty (diseased, discoloured, poor growth), or beginning to fragment,  the pasture is probably not in optimal condition and likely to be susceptible to further deterioration if grazing pressure is high in the following growing season. A further reduction in plant crown cover could result in the death of 3P species.

Any one or more of the remaining condition indicators can occur in combination with the level of 3P grasses for each rating. The other condition indicators help determine whether the pasture condition rating should remain as indicated by the 3P species. For example, 60% 3P species would normally rate a condition 2 (good). However, if there were also 40% weeds, the condition rating would be downgraded to rating 3 (poor).

The proportions of each indicator for a condition rating do not have to add to 100%. For example, if a pasture were comprised of 30% 3P grasses, 10% annuals, and 30% undesirables, the remaining 30% could be intermediate grasses – not 3P’s, but not undesirables (e.g. pitted blue grass on a clay soil). The pasture described would then get a condition rating of 3 (poor).

How to rate pasture condition:

  1. Note the proportion 3P grasses contribute to the total pasture yield in the area and gauge the health of those plants (by assessing crown cover)
  2. Check to see whether there are any of the other pasture condition indicators present. If there are, guess roughly what proportion of pasture they comprise
  3. Compare your estimates against the table and decide the most appropriate rating.

Pasture Condition Assessment Table

Condition rating Condition indicators
3P grasses Annual grass % DM yield Undesirable grasses and other weeds % DM yield Species diversity *- desirables
% DM yield Crown cover
1 > or = 80% Dense and plants healthy < or = 20% >< or = 20% > 5 species
2 60–80% Dense and some plants unhealthy 20–40% 20–30% 3–5 species
3 10–60% Moderate density and some plants dead 40–70% 30–80% 2–3 species
4 <10% Sparce and many plants dead >70% >80% 1 or less species
Major consideration To be considered

*Species diversity criteria is variable on a pasture community and regional basis