Stand evaluation is not about rating the hotdogs at the vendor outside your office … it means taking a close look at exactly what you have growing in your fields.
A good rule of thumb for evaluating pastures is as follows:
• If you have 70% or better desirable species in your pasture, then just manage what you have. You’re doing a good job!
• If you have between 40% and 70% desirable species in your pasture, then manage and consider over-seeding. Your fields aren’t terrible but they could stand some improvement.
• If you have less than 40% desirable species in your pasture you may want to consider starting over with a complete reseeding.
Great… but how do I do an evaluation that is accurate?
The first step is to feel comfortable identifying “good” grasses from weeds. There are several field guides available that can help you with this.
Most universities have one.. Perdue’s is easy to use, inexpensive ($9.00) and has great pictures https://ag.purdue.edu/agry/dtc/Pages/ForageFieldGuide.aspx
This website offers a great round up of most of the guides out there: http://onpasture.com/2016/05/02/identify-your-pasture-grasses/
For those of you unfamiliar with On Pasture it is a terrific website that offers information about grazing and pastures for all species. The articles are well written and offer practical advice for anyone trying to improve their pastures – definitely worth taking a look.
Once you feel you can tell fescue from hemlock here’s an easy way to evaluate your field.
I like to use the old garden hose method. Cut a piece of old garden hose, about 3 or 4 feet will do the trick. Tape the ends together to make a loop. Go out in the field and toss the loop in several different locations.
Count the desirable plants inside the loop and then count the undesirable plants (weeds). Do this in five to ten locations in the field and you’ll be able to accurately evaluate your pasture. In some cases, some parts of the field may have a much higher ratio of desirable plants and some parts may much weedier. You may want to only reseed one part of a field and leave the rest alone. That will ultimately be up to you. These pictures demonstrate different levels of desirable species.
For more detail, access this article www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_PLANTMATERIALS/publications/mopmstn11786.pdf