Pasture Condition Scoring

contributed by Karen Colson and Jason Karl

Method Types

Condition – Qualitative
Productivity – Qualitative
Utilization – Qualitative

Other Names

None known

Description and Uses

Pasture condition scoring is a qualitative method for quickly assessing the overall condition of an area with respect to grazing management via key indicators and causative factors. This method is intended to be applied multiple times within a year as a way to identify the causes of changes in condition that are noticeable. Pasture condition scoring involves the evaluation of 10 factors or indicators. Each factor is ranked into five scores (from lowest [1] to highest [5]). An overall composite condition score can be assigned by combining the individual indicator scores. Likewise, similar indicators can be grouped to get a condition score for particular aspects of condition (e.g., plant production). The 10 indicators are:

  • Percent desirable plants
  • Plant cover
  • Plant residue
  • Plant diversity
  • Plant vigor – consists of 5 sub-indicators (soil fertility, severity of use, site adaptation of desired species, climatic stresses, soil pH, and insect and disease pressure)
  • Livestock concentration areas
  • Uniformity of use
  • Erosion – consists of 3 sub-indicators (sheet and rill; streambank, shoreline and gully; wind)
  • Percent legume
  • Soil compaction

Advantages and Limitations

The advantage of a method like pasture condition scoring is that it is a quick and easy-to-implement method for assessing rangeland condition. Potential downsides of this method are mostly those common to other qualitative measures of rangelands: lack of repeatability and potential observer bias. Additionally, this method concentrates heavily on livestock production and the capacity of land for grazing. As such, it may miss other important factors related to a more broad definition of rangeland condition.

Similar Approaches

In it’s approach to assessing condition, pasture condition scoring is very similar to Interpreting Indicators of Rangeland Health.

Related utilization and residue measurement methods include:


NRCS Guide to Pasture Condition Scoring (Cosgrove et al. 2001)

Technical and Application References

  • Sanderson, M.A., Goslee, S.C., Gonet, J., and R. Stout. 2009. Pasture monitoring at a farm scale with the USDA NRCS pasture condition scoring system. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 64(6):423-433.
  • Sanderson, M.A., Goslee, S.C., Stout, R.C., Gonet, J.M. 2007. Pasture Condition Scoring at the Whole-Farm Scale. Lancaster Farming 52(5)E17.
  • Pate, J.G. 2008. Pasture Condition Scoring and EQIP – A Good Combination. Paper presented at the 2008 Joint Meeting of the Society for Range Management and the America Forage and Grassland Council.
  • B.L. Benham, J.H. Robbins, K.M. Brannan, S. Mostaghimi, T.A. Dillaha, J.W. Pease, and E.P. Smith. 2005. Development of survey-like assessment tools to assess agricultural best management practice performance potential. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 60(5):251-259.
  • Sanderson, M. A., Goslee, S. C., and Cropper, J. B. 2005. Pasture assessment in the northeast United States. Online. Forage and Grazinglands doi:10.1094/FG-2005-1031-01-RS.

Data Forms

Printable data forms for the Pasture Condition Scoring method can be downloaded from NRCS Grazing Lands Technology Institute

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