Forage Assessment Tools

The Kerr Center uses a simple but effective technique to assess plant composition in pastures on the Stewardship Ranch.
All employees with a working knowledge of plant identification are gathered, and spread out in a line across the pasture to be evaluated, with about 30 feet between each pair of people.
Each person walks forward 10 steps and then identifies the plant directly under the toe of his or her shoe.
This is repeated until 100 data points have been collected.  For example, if five people are involved, each walks 200 steps and makes 20 plant measurements; five people times 20 measurements equals 100 data points.
As plants are identified, they are also assigned to one of the following categories:

grass: annual/perennial, warm-/cool-season
legume: annual/perennial, warm-/cool-season
forb: desirable/undesirable
Non-plant categories include:
bare ground
litter (dead plant matter in contact with the soil)

This process gives a good idea of what is available to eat in the pastures, their stage of growth, and how the plant composition in the pastures change through the seasons.

These videos explain the forage assessment procedure, and the identification of forage plants common in the area:

Overview: How the Kerr Center evaluates forage composition in its pastures

Forage ID: identification of some common forage plants on the Kerr Ranch

As an example, here are results from the Good Cow pasture at two different seasons during 2012:

Good Cow pasture composition: April 2012


Good Cow pasture composition: June 2012



Good Cow Pasture Composition: August 2012


For estimating the amount of available forage, consult the following resources:
Cowboy Arithmetic (how to estimate grass/forage in rotational grazing systems)
A Falling Plate Meter for Estimating Pasture Forage Mass

Affiliated Groups

Land Legacy
Southern SARE
Oklahoma Food Cooperative
Oklahoma Sustainability Network Oklahoma Sustainability Network Mvskoke Food Sovereignty Initiative

The Kerr Center
for Sustainable Agriculture
24456 Kerr Road
Poteau, OK 74953-8163
Phone: 918-647-9123
Fax: 918-647-8712

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