Learn to establish and maintain more productive pastures on farms


Pastures are critical to many types of farm. Farmers have been known to turn unprofitable farms into commercial successes by simply improving pasture. Whether dealing with small or large properties, pasture management is an important part of many types of farm enterprises. Learn to evaluate, design and make decisions about the management of pasture for different purposes.

This course provides a foundation for working either on farms or in businesses that furnish farms, providing them with pasture seed, equipment (e.g. seeding machines) or advisory services. Pastures are a cornerstone for successful farming and this course can be an ideal way to further your career in agriculture, whether in your own business or working for someone else.


There are 8 lessons as follows:

1. Introduction to Pastures

  • Pasture Improvement
  • Choosing a Pasture Mix
  • Seed Coating
  • Variety Selection
  • Sustainability
  • Definitions
2. The Pasture Plant
  • Grasses
  • The grass plant
  • Growth and development
  • Phases of development
  • Annual and perennial grasses
  • Carbohydrate sinks
  • The physiology of grasses
  • The structure of grasses
  • Growth habits
  • Legumes
3. Pasture Varieties
  • Introduction to common pasture grasses
  • Identifying grasses
  • Legumes
  • The Importance of Legumes in Pasture
  • Nitrogen Fixation in Legumes
  • The Rhizobium bacteria
  • Common legumes
  • Grasses to Grow With Clovers
4. Site Considerations
  • Managing pastures
  • Choosing the Correct Site for a Pasture
  • Choosing the correct seed mix
  • Seed quality
5. Establishing New Pastures
  • Preparation of the land for pasture
  • Prepared seedbed
  • Sowing
  • Germination
  • Direct drilling
  • Weed control
  • Seeders
  • Grazing new pastures
6. Managing Existing Pastures
  • Native Grasses versus Pasture
  • Carrying Capacity of Native Grasses
  • Stocking Rate of Native Grass Areas
  • The Establishment of the Native Grasslands
  • The developing grasslands
  • How grasslands deteriorate
  • Factors promoting succession or retrogression
  • Limiting factors and terminal plant communities
  • Allogenic Factors
  • Autogenic Factors
  • Rests To Promote Rapid Growth
  • Rests to change the composition of the community
  • Rests designed to eliminate or control bush encroachment
  • Rests to accumulate grazing material
  • Rests to provide out of season fodder
  • Physiological aspects
7. Managing Stock on Pasture
  • Factors affecting food intake by animals
  • Animal factors
  • Feed factors
  • Grazing factors
  • Grazing behaviour
  • Complementary Grazing
  • Rank Order of Dominance
  • Selective Grazing
  • Ruminant Time
  • Herd Group Behaviour
  • Grazing Time
  • Pasture management principles - rest, grazing period, stocking, carrying capacity
  • Equal Utilisation or the Removal of the Top Hamper, paddock size, number in herd etc
  • Grassland management principles - Split - season Systems, Continuous Light Stocking, One Herd, Four Paddock System, Intensive systems etc
  • Horse pastures
  • Food trees and shrubs
8. Pasture Management Work Tasks
  • Fertiliser
  • Pest and weed control
  • Biological control
  • Advantages of Biological Methods
  • Disadvantages of Biological Methods
  • Irrigation
  • Fallowing
  • Cultivation
  • Pasture renovation
  • Managing pasture after drought
  • Managing pasture after fire

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


Duration: 100 Hours (Nominal Duration).



  • Determine criteria for selecting appropriate varieties of plants for a pasture.
  • Identify characteristics of a pasture plant which are relevant to both making an identification, and to considering its value as a pasture species.
  • Evaluate the potential of given sites for pasture development programs
  • Explain the procedures used in managing the establishment of pasture.
  • Explain the techniques used in managing pasture which is already been established
  • Assess the commercial and nutritional value of pasture species in the context of farm animal feed, and determine appropriate ways of managing stock.
  • Develop an appropriate work program for the management of a pasture by a farmer.



Here are just some of the things you will be doing:

  • Prepare a catalogued resource collection of 30 items including pamphlets, brochures and contact addresses for information relevant to pasture varieties.
  • List factors that affect the choice of seed mix for a pasture.
  • Categorise 5 different pasture seed mixes according to application, detailing the components of each mix together, commenting on appropriate applications for that mix in the learners locality.
  • Explain the benefits of seed coating for pasture establishment.
  • Label parts of a grass plants on unlabelled diagrams
  • Distinguish between 4 different clover and medic species using illustrations
  • List 20 different pasture plant varieties suited to the learners locality, including:
    • grasses
    • legumes
    • other fodder plants
  • Identify 10 different species of plants growing in an established pasture in the learners locality, by labelling a pressed specimen of each.
  • Submit samples of seeds you identified
  • What type of pasture is inoculated, and why?
  • Give and explain one example of why a dairy cow might perform differently when grazed on different types of pasture species?
  • Compare samples of 5 different pasture seed mixes.
  • List three pasture species which would be appropriate to grow in each of the following situations:
    • Dairy cattle on fertile, moist soil in your locality.
    • Beef steers on poorer soils in your region.
    • Horses for a horse riding school in your locality.
  • List factors affecting the suitability of a site for pasture.
  • Assess climatic and edaphic data for a specific pasture site, including:
    • rainfall
    • temperature
    • topography
    • soil type
  • Compare the appropriateness of 3 different soil cultivation techniques for pasture establishment on a specified site in the learners locality.
  • Explain weed control methods during pasture establishment on a specified site.
  • Explain grazing practices appropriate to new pasture on a specified site.
  • Establish production targets for a specified pasture, explaining how those targets are determined.
  • Select suitable machinery for pasture management including establishment and harvest, explaining the selection.
  • Explain the steps involved in preparation of a specified area land for sowing pasture.
  • Write a plan for the establishment of new pasture on a specified site, which lists all important tasks in chronological order.
  • Explain factors causing change in the nature of established pasture.
  • Compare improved pasture with native pasture, with respect to:
    • species present
    • weeds
    • maintenance requirements
  • List characteristics of different types of pasture, including:
    • sweet
    • sour
    • mixed
  • Determine sustainable stocking rates of a specified type of animal for 3 different pastures. Specify the pastures and the animals.
  • Analyse the food value of 2 different pastures.
  • Compare the grazing behaviour of 3 different farm animals.
  • Define the concept of palatability of a specific pasture
  • Determine grazing capacity of a specified paddock.
    Specify the crop and all other variables.
  • Evaluate the production performance of two different specified pastures over a 3 year period.
  • Identify 5 different weeds that are significant problems in pasture
  • Explain 2 methods of weed control in a specific established pasture.
  • Explain the affect of fire on a specific pasture.
  • Explain the affect of different soil management practices on pasture, including:
    • fertilising
    • pest control
    • watering
    • cultivation
    • fallowing
  • Quantify materials and supply requirements for pasture management.
  • List facilities required for the handling and storage of materials and supplies.
  • List minimum machinery required for the management of a specified site.
  • Develop management plan for pasture in a specified situation, including a program of tasks to be carried out over a 12 month period.
  • Explain industry research techniques and develop a conclusion.

Pastures are often grasses and legumes that have been specially planted. They are not always natural to an area. There are many different varieties of pasture grass and legumes to choose from. The farmer needs to select pasture varieties that will suit his farm and his stock. He must decide when he needs grazing from the pasture (early spring, summer or over winter) and chose species that will perform well for him under the conditions on his farm.

Rye grass is considered one of the more nutritious grasses for grazing livestock. There are many different types of rye-grass cultivars but they can be divided into two broad types:
a) Annuals: these grow, reproduce and die within a year. They are sensitive to the length of day and night and flower when there are sufficient daylight hours. Some cultivars can flower, seed and die within three to four months if conditions are right.
b) Perennials: these rye-grasses are permanent or long-lasting. They need cold to induce flowering. Farmers often face a severe shortage of grazing over two periods of the year. The wide choice of rye-grass cultivars means that farmers can grow different varieties for the spring and autumn\winter gap. An autumn planted perennial will give a good spring flush while a spring planted annual will provide lush autumn to winter grazing.


c) Biennials (Hybrid): Research has lead to the development of a biennial rye-grass. Crossing an annual and a perennial cultivar to form a hybrid did this. The cultivar is called Bison and can be planted in spring or autumn. Bison is vigorous, gives high yields and is resistant to cold, heat and disease.

Pasture grass varieties vary from place to place though; and there are many other grasses that occur in pastures apart from the rye grasses.

The other important group of plants found in pastures is the legumes.Legumes are extremely useful to agriculture. They have an interesting and useful capacity to increase nitrogen levels in the soil. Nitrogen is essential for growth but no plant or animal can manufacture nitrogen. The legumes, however, have found a way of overcoming this.

Legumes form special nodules on their roots. In these nodules live Rhizobium bacteria which take up freely available nitrogen gases from the air and use it for their own growth. In addition, the bacteria convert large amounts of atmospheric nitrogen, which they do not need, into a form that the legumes can use.




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Phone (UK) 01384 44272, (International) +44 (0) 1384 442752, or

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