Pastures are a low-cost, natural feed source for animals. Pastured animals tend to live longer and are healthier. Animals need a balanced, diverse mix of plants, a water source, and fencing to keep them within the pasture. Pastures along streams should be fenced (ideally 35 feet or more from the top of the streambank) so the animals do not have full access to the water. Stable areas along the fence can be created so that animals can drink from the stream if this is the only water source.
Pasture management is important. It is best to have pastures broken into smaller areas called paddocks, so the animals can be moved to different areas which allows for a rest period for grass regrowth. In Pennsylvania, pastures are required to be managed so there is always an average of 3 inches of grass growth. Pastures that have less than 3 inches of grass need to have other management practices to insure that water leaving the pasture is treated before it flows into a stream, river, or sinkhole.
A pasture stick can be used to measure the amount of grass (or forage) in each pasture and give estimates for how many animals and how many days they can be in the pasture. The Conservation District has a limited supply of pasture sticks for local farmers. Pasture stick instructions.