Pasture management is a practice of growing annual perennial fodder/forage mostly with domesticated species and ensuring sustainability of forage availability, livestock production and their ecological health. It can be done either directly by intervening like seeding, controlling undesirable/noxious plants, cultural operation such as weeding, hoeing, pitting, furrowing, applying fertilizer, irrigation etc. It can also be accomplished indirectly by fencing, trail improvement, maintaining water holes for livestock, sustainable utilization of forage, grazing management etc.
Nutrient management: Nutrient management of pasture is a subject of great concern for the pasture improvement. Out of many factors, Nutrient in soil determines the nutritive value of the pasture. Nutrient management of is important for optimizing the economic return of forage production. Applying organic manure and inorganic fertilizer for nutrients contribute to improve soil fertility which in turn positively affects the forage production. Improper or untimely application of organic manure or chemical fertilizer may release nutrients into the air and water, where they no longer contribute to the soil fertility and production of the forage. Therefore, it is important to learn how the forage response from adding nutrients to the soil.
Reseeding: Adding new seed to pastures is important to maintain the health and stability of turf grasses. Pastures should be harrowed before we seed to ensure that our investment in seed has the best chance of success. Soil conditions may allow for broadcasting or require drill seeding for good germination.
Manipulating vegetation with grazing animals: Manipulating vegetation with grazing animals is a method of using grazing animals with certain dietary preferences to encourage desirable or palatable plant species. For examples, Cattle and buffalo high dietary preference is ground grass, their medium and low preferences are shrubs and forbs respectively. Goat and sheep prefer shrubs, their medium and low preferences are forbs and grass respectively. Similarly, dear most prefers shrubs and less to forbs and grass, and horse and donkey prefer close grass rather than grass, forbs and shrubs. Repeated browsing of shrubs by goats and sheep encourage grass community and the browse species of plants decreases. Therefore, a right combination of grazing animals having different grazing habits, choice and preferences and right season of grazing are necessary for maintaining plant community and manipulating vegetation with grazing animals.
Grazing systems: It is based on the principle of scientific management of grazing land and aims to meet forage demand and efficient use of forage resources. For instance, grazing at the early stage of grass is beneficial for animal production but may be harmful to the pasture. Similarly, grazing at late maturity of the grass is beneficial to the pasture but may not be desirable to the animals because of being poor quality and quantity of the forage. Therefore, different grazing systems should be applied in order to sustain the pasture land, increase animal production and maintain ecological stability. The main grazing systems are:
- Continuous Grazing
- Deferred Grazing
- Rotational Grazing
- Deferred/Rotational Grazing
- Rest Rotation
Fire as a management tool: Fire can be used as a tool in pasture management. There are many positive effects of fire. It brings changes in soil moisture, temperature and adds organic matter to the soil. It also increases acidity of soil, transpiration and evaporation. It also brings changes in population of soil micro-macro organism and vegetation composition.
Weeding: Weeds in the pastureland can be minimized either by using herbicides or mechanical means depending upon the situation of the range sites. If herbicides are to be used, its focus should be towards minimizing the growth of weeds and thereby reducing the competition between forage and weeds and enhancing the range forage production. In weeds control work, herbicides show promising results than the mechanical control measures. Sometime both the mechanical as well as herbicides can also be used at once to control the weeds in a rangeland.