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How Soil Conservation Service Can Help

United States Department of Agriculture
Soil Conservation Service
Washington State
July 1990

The Soil Conservation Service is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The SCS provides technical assistance to landowners and operators through local conservation districts. As an owner or manager of pastureland, you can call on SOS conservationists to help you maintain and improve your forage resource.

The first step is for you and the conservationist to discuss and observe, on the land, some factors that affect pasture management. These include:

1. Identifying the plants that grow in your pasture.

2. Discussing how these plants produce food and how they respond to leaf removal by grazing. 

3. Discussing the production potential of each soil type. 

4. Observing plants that are grazed and ungrazed to understand the relative palatability of each species. 

5. Evaluating pasture condition on the farm. Pasture condition is based on an evaluation of plant vigor, yield, and percentage of usable forage available. 

6.Determining trend on the unit. Trend is an indication of whether pasture quality is improving or deteriorating. This can be determined
by observing plant vigor, the abundance of seedlings or young plants, plant residue, composition changes, and condition of the soil

7.Observing plants that are grazed and ungrazed to understand the relative palatability of each species. 

8.Identifying resource enhancement opportunities such as improving streamside zones and fish and wildlife habitat. 

Alternative Treatments
As the resource data is collected, management problems and opportunities usually become obvious. When they have been identified, the conservationist can help you consider treatment alternatives for developing a management plan to meet your objectives. These alternatives might include a planned grazing system, reseeding, fencing, water developments, a fertilization and harrowing schedule, weed management, or fish and wildlife habitat development. You may want to consider recreation potential. All of these alternatives can be evaluated for their cost effectiveness in your particular situation.

Management Plan
As you develop your management plan and decide which alternatives will best help you to achieve your objectives, the conservationist will record your decisions in your plan folder. The finished plan folder may include:

1.A plan map, or aerial photograph, showing buildings, fields, boundaries, fences, water developments, streams, ditches, and other significant features. 

2.A list and schedule of your planned treatments. 

3.Information used in determining your pastures' condition. 

4.A forage inventory as well as an annual grazing plan to guide management of both livestock movements and vegetation.

5.Soils information for your property and a map showing the different soil type locations.

You make all the decisions. The SCS role is to help you to understand your pasture and to provide the needed technical assistance to help you to carry out your decisions.

After you develop the plan and begin to put it into action, the role of the conservationist is to follow up with you to assist in implementing the plan. This assistance might include:

1.Technical information needed to apply conservation practices.

2.Continued evaluation to ensure success of applied practices.

3.Helping to keep you informed of new techniques in pasture management.

4.Helping you watch for needed changes in the management plan as it is applied.

Where to Get Help
For more information on pasture management, contact the local office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Soil Conservation Service. SCS personnel provide technical assistance to landowners and operators through local conservation districts.

All SCS programs and services are offered on a non-discriminatory basis without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, marital status, or handicap.

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