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Mountain pasture in Switzerland Landwirtschaft, Weidetiere - Hochalm.jpg
Mountain pasture in Switzerland
A pasture in the East Riding of Yorkshire in England Beverley Minster from West Pasture.jpg
A pasture in the East Riding of Yorkshire in England

Pasture (from the Latin pastus, past participle of pascere, "to feed") is land used for grazing. [1] Pasture lands in the narrow sense are enclosed tracts of farmland, grazed by domesticated livestock, such as horses, cattle, sheep, or swine. The vegetation of tended pasture, forage, consists mainly of grasses, with an interspersion of legumes and other forbs (non-grass herbaceous plants). Pasture is typically grazed throughout the summer, in contrast to meadow which is ungrazed or used for grazing only after being mown to make hay for animal fodder. [2] Pasture in a wider sense additionally includes rangelands, other unenclosed pastoral systems, and land types used by wild animals for grazing or browsing.


Red Hill Farm and fields sheep pasture at Bredenbury, Herefordshire, England Red Hill Farm and fields - - 955276.jpg
Red Hill Farm and fields sheep pasture at Bredenbury, Herefordshire, England

Pasture lands in the narrow sense are distinguished from rangelands by being managed through more intensive agricultural practices of seeding, irrigation, and the use of fertilizers, while rangelands grow primarily native vegetation, managed with extensive practices like controlled burning and regulated intensity of grazing.

Soil type, minimum annual temperature, and rainfall are important factors in pasture management. Sheepwalk is an area of grassland where sheep can roam freely. The productivity of sheepwalk is measured by the number of sheep per area. This is dependent, among other things, on the underlying rock. [3] Sheepwalk is also the name of townlands in County Roscommon, Ireland and County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.

Unlike factory farming, which entails in its most intensive form entirely trough-feeding, managed or unmanaged pasture is the main food source for ruminants. Pasture feeding dominates livestock farming where the land makes crop sowing and/or harvesting difficult, such as in arid or mountainous regions, where types of camel, goat, antelope, yak and other ruminants live which are well suited to the more hostile terrain and very rarely factory farmed. In more humid regions, pasture grazing is managed across a large global area for free range and organic farming. Certain types of pasture suit the diet, evolution and metabolism of particular animals, and their fertilising and tending of the land may over generations result in the pasture combined with the ruminants in question being integral to a particular ecosystem. [4]

Examples of pasture habitats

Snowy pasture at Bosco Chiesanuova in Italy Bosco Chiesanuova (Grietz Dossetti Tinazzo) Lessinia VR Italy 2013-04-01 photo CTG ACA LESSINIA Paolo Villa 0055sp 04.jpg
Snowy pasture at Bosco Chiesanuova in Italy
Grazing cattle on a pasture near Hradec nad Moravicí in the Czech Republic

See also


  1. "pasture". Merriam-Webster Dictionary .
  2. Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Pasture"  . New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
  3. R. Elfyn Hughes, "Sheep Population and Environment in Snowdonia (North Wales)", Journal of Ecology Vol. 46, No. 1, March 1958, 169-189
  4. "Agricultural biodiversity’s contribution to ecosystem functions" Archived 2015-01-08 at the Wayback Machine Dr. Devra I. Jarvis, CGIAR. Retrieved 2014-12-01

Related Research Articles


Overgrazing occurs when plants are exposed to intensive grazing for extended periods of time, or without sufficient recovery periods. It can be caused by either livestock in poorly managed agricultural applications, game reserves, or nature reserves. It can also be caused by immobile, travel restricted populations of native or non-native wild animals.

Intensive farming Type of agriculture using high inputs to try to get high outputs

Intensive agriculture, also known as intensive farming and industrial agriculture, is a type of agriculture, both of crop plants and of animals, with higher levels of input and output per unit of agricultural land area. It is characterized by a low fallow ratio, higher use of inputs such as capital and labour, and higher crop yields per unit land area.

Grassland Area with vegetation dominated by grasses

Grasslands are areas where the vegetation is dominated by grasses (Poaceae). However, sedge (Cyperaceae) and rush (Juncaceae) can also be found along with variable proportions of legumes, like clover, and other herbs. Grasslands occur naturally on all continents except Antarctica and are found in most ecoregions of the Earth. Furthermore, grasslands are one of the largest biomes on earth and dominate the landscape worldwide. They cover 31-43% of the Earth's land area. There are different types of grasslands: natural grasslands, semi-natural grasslands, and agricultural grasslands.

Savanna Mixed woodland-grassland ecosystem

A savanna or savannah is a mixed woodland-grassland ecosystem characterised by the trees being sufficiently widely spaced so that the canopy does not close. The open canopy allows sufficient light to reach the ground to support an unbroken herbaceous layer consisting primarily of grasses.

Animal husbandry Management, selective breeding, and care of farm animals by humans

Animal husbandry is the branch of agriculture concerned with animals that are raised for meat, fibre, milk, eggs, or other products. It includes day-to-day care, selective breeding and the raising of livestock. Husbandry has a long history, starting with the Neolithic revolution when animals were first domesticated, from around 13,000 BC onwards, antedating farming of the first crops. By the time of early civilisations such as ancient Egypt, cattle, sheep, goats and pigs were being raised on farms.

Rotational grazing System of grazing moving animals between paddocks around the year

In agriculture, rotational grazing, as opposed to continuous grazing, describes many systems of pasturing, whereby livestock are moved to portions of the pasture, called paddocks, while the other portions rest. Each paddock must provide all the needs of the livestock, such as food, water and sometimes shade and shelter. The approach often produces lower outputs than more intensive animal farming operations, but requires lower inputs, and therefore sometimes produces higher net farm income per animal.

Fodder Agricultural foodstuff used to feed domesticated animals

Fodder, also called provender, is any agricultural foodstuff used specifically to feed domesticated livestock, such as cattle, rabbits, sheep, horses, chickens and pigs. "Fodder" refers particularly to food given to the animals, rather than that which they forage for themselves. Fodder includes hay, straw, silage, compressed and pelleted feeds, oils and mixed rations, and sprouted grains and legumes. Most animal feed is from plants, but some manufacturers add ingredients to processed feeds that are of animal origin.

In agriculture, grazing is a method of animal husbandry whereby domestic livestock are allowed to consume wild vegetations outdoor in order to convert grass and other forages into meat, milk, wool and other animal products, often on land unsuitable for arable farming.


Rangelands are grasslands, shrublands, woodlands, wetlands, and deserts that are grazed by domestic livestock or wild animals. Types of rangelands include tallgrass and shortgrass prairies, desert grasslands and shrublands, woodlands, savannas, chaparrals, steppes, and tundras. Rangelands do not include forests lacking grazable understory vegetation, barren desert, farmland, or land covered by solid rock, concrete and/or glaciers.

Pastoralism Branch of agriculture concerned with raising livestock

Pastoralism is a form of animal husbandry where domesticated animals known as livestock are released onto large vegetated outdoor lands (pastures) for grazing, historically by nomadic people who moved around with their herds. The species involved include cattle, camels, goats, yaks, llamas, reindeer, horse and sheep.

Cattle feeding description of husbandry practice

There are different systems of feeding cattle in animal husbandry, which may have different advantages and disadvantages. Most cattle in the US have a fodder that is composed of at least some forage. In fact, most beef cattle are raised on pasture from birth in the spring until autumn. For pastured animals, grass is usually the forage that composes the majority of their diet. Cattle reared in feedlots are fed hay supplemented with grain, soy and other ingredients in order to increase the energy density of the feed. The debate is whether cattle should be raised on fodder primarily composed of grass or a concentrate. The issue is complicated by the political interests and confusion between labels such as "free range", "organic", or "natural". Cattle raised on a primarily foraged diet are termed grass-fed or pasture-raised; for example meat or milk may be called grass-fed beef or pasture-raised dairy. The term "pasture-raised" can lead to confusion with the term "free range", which does not describe exactly what the animals eat.

Pastoral farming Method for producing livestock

Pastoral farming is aimed at producing livestock, rather than growing crops. Examples include dairy farming, raising beef cattle, and raising sheep for wool. In contrast, arable farming concentrates on crops rather than livestock. Finally, Mixed farming incorporates livestock and crops on a single farm. Some mixed farmers grow crops purely as fodder for their livestock; some crop farmers grow fodder and sell it. In some cases pastoral farmers are known as graziers, and in some cases pastoralists. Pastoral farming is a non-nomadic form of pastoralism in which the livestock farmer has some form of ownership of the land used, giving the farmer more economic incentive to improve the land. Unlike other pastoral systems, pastoral farmers are sedentary and do not change locations in search for fresh resources. Rather, pastoral farmers adjust their pastures to fit the needs of their animals. Improvements include drainage, stock tanks, irrigation and sowing clover.

Conservation grazing Use of animals to graze areas like nature reserves to maintain habitats

Conservation grazing or targeted grazing is the use of semi-feral or domesticated grazing livestock to maintain and increase the biodiversity of natural or semi-natural grasslands, heathlands, wood pasture, wetlands and many other habitats. Conservation grazing is generally less intensive than practices such as prescribed burning, but still needs to be managed to ensure that overgrazing does not occur. The practice has proven to be beneficial in moderation in restoring and maintaining grassland and heathland ecosystems. The optimal level of grazing will depend on the goal of conservation, and different levels of grazing, alongside other conservation practices, can be used to induce the desired results.

The environmental impact of meat production varies because of the wide variety of agricultural practices employed around the world. All agricultural practices have been found to have a variety of effects on the environment. Some of the environmental effects that have been associated with meat production are pollution through fossil fuel usage, animal methane, effluent waste, and water and land consumption. Meat is obtained through a variety of methods, including organic farming, free range farming, intensive livestock production, subsistence agriculture, hunting, and fishing.

Hill farming

Hill farming is extensive farming in upland areas, primarily rearing sheep, although historically cattle were often reared extensively in upland areas. Fell farming is the farming of fells, a fell being an area of uncultivated high ground used as common grazing. It is a term commonly used in Northern England, especially in the Lake District and the Pennine Dales. Elsewhere, the terms hill farming or pastoral farming are more commonly used.

Livestock Animals kept for production of meat, eggs, milk, wool, etc.

Livestock is commonly defined as domesticated animals raised in an agricultural setting to produce labor and commodities such as meat, eggs, milk, fur, leather, and wool. The term is sometimes used to refer solely to those that are bred for consumption, while other times it refers only to farmed ruminants, such as cattle, sheep and goats. Horses are considered livestock in the United States. The USDA classifies pork, veal, beef, and lamb as livestock and all livestock as red meat. Poultry and fish are not included in the category.

Ranch Area of land used for raising grazing livestock

A ranch is an area of land, including various structures, given primarily to the practice of ranching, the practice of raising grazing livestock such as cattle and sheep. These terms are most often applied to livestock-raising operations in Mexico, the Western United States and Western Canada, though there are ranches in other areas. People who own or operate a ranch are called ranchers, cattlemen, or stockgrowers. Ranching is also a method used to raise less common livestock such as horses, elk, American bison or even ostrich, emu, and alpaca.

Holistic management (agriculture)

Holistic Management in agriculture is an approach to managing resources that was originally developed by Allan Savory. Holistic Management is a registered trademark of Holistic Management International.

Land-use in Wales

Wales has a surface area of 20,779 km2 or 2,077,900 ha. It has a border with England to the east, and is bounded by the Irish Sea to the north and west, and by the Bristol Channel to the south. It has an oceanic temperate climate which is markedly influenced by the North Atlantic Current carrying warm water from tropical latitudes. As a result, it has a much milder climate than most places in the world at similar latitudes. Altitudes range from sea-level to 1085 m on the Snowdon Massif.

This glossary of agriculture is a list of definitions of terms and concepts used in agriculture, its sub-disciplines, and related fields. For other glossaries relevant to agricultural science, see Glossary of biology, Glossary of ecology, Glossary of environmental science, and Glossary of botany.