Pasture is a critical component for some livestock production systems. Like any resource, pasture will respond to management. One necessary aspect of pasture management is pasture measurement. There must be some kind of systematic measurement and evaluation of pastures to help the manager determine how to improve a pasture. Recently, Clif Little, Extension Educator in Guernsey County, wrote a good article on pasture scoring that I will share.
It is difficult to objectively evaluate what we see every day. We have all heard the old saying "can't see the forest for the trees." Important decisions such as livestock feed inventory, forage stand replanting, fertility needs, weed control, etc., all hinge on what we see in the pasture. That is why an objective evaluation of a pasture is a valuable tool. Dennis Cosgrove, Dan Undersander of the University of Wisconsin-Extension and James Cropper with USDA/NRCS have developed a tool known as the "Guide to Pasture Condition Scoring." The scorecard can help grazers identify and prioritize management practices. A well-managed pasture is both productive and sustainable. The score sheet is helpful in prioritizing corrective treatment needs. Some farm managers want more productive pastures and make reactive changes but never really change overall pasture management. The greatest factor influencing pasture productivity is the pasture manager.
Scoring a pasture at the start of the grazing season, at peak forage growth, during forage shortages, during periods of forage stress and at the end of the grazing season can be useful for determining corrective actions.
Pasture scoring uses 10 visual indicators and each is ranked numerically from poor to excellent. The indicators can then be combined into an overall score. Indicators receiving the lowest scores may be considered for corrective management. It is then up to the manager to weigh the identified factors needing attention and determine what can be reasonably done, while providing the biggest bang for the buck. It is easy to become overwhelmed when managing a grazing system and we don't always see the low hanging fruit right in front of our eyes. Don't try to make all of the changes at one time, but prioritize forage and livestock management changes by setting short- and long-term goals. Visualize what you expect to see by visiting with accomplished pasture managers. It is important to remember pasture condition varies throughout the year in response to management and climate. Scoring pastures yearly and during the same periods each year can help to identify trends.
It is one thing to be told by a forage or livestock expert you should consider this or that but there is nothing more powerful than realizing yourself that a change is needed. That's where your pasture score can help.
The score sheet is available at http://tiny.cc/pasturescoresheet.
Selling food from the farm: Is a license necessary?
Peggy Hall, OSU Agriculture and Resource Law Program director answered the question regarding selling food from the farm and licensing requirements in a recent Ag law blog post:
Many producers may be considering selling produce, meats, cottage foods and baked goods directly to consumers at the farm property. A question we often hear from farmers thinking about these types of farm food sales is, "do I need some type of license or inspection to sell food from the farm?" The answer to this question depends upon the type of food offered for sale:
■ Sales of foods such as fresh produce or cottage foods do not require a license.
■ Sales of certain types of baked goods require a home bakery license.
■ Sales of multiple types of foods or higher risk foods require a farm market registration or a retail food establishment (RFE) license.
■ The home bakery license, farm market registration, and RFE license involve inspections of the production or sales area.
It is important for a producer to carefully assess the food sales situation and comply with the appropriate licensing or registration requirements. To do so, a producer should identify the type and number of food products he or she will sell and whether the food poses low or high food safety risk.
Our new Law Bulletin, Selling Foods at the Farm: When Do You Need a License? will help producers assess their situations and determine their needs for appropriate licensing, registration, or inspections. Read the bulletin on https://farmoffice.osu.edu/.
Rory Lewandowski is an OSU Extension Agriculture & Natural Resources educator and may be reached at 330-264-8722.