Horse Pasture Evaluation: Using the EPED & Step Point Methods
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Horse Pasture Evaluation: Using the EPED & Step Point Methods

October 30, 2019


– Hi my name is Donna Foulk. I am an equine natural resources educator, with Penn State Cooperative Extension, working with the Equine Team. Heather and I are going to demonstrate how to use the Penn State
Equine Pasture Evaluation Disk. Also known as an EPED. The EPED can be used to collect scientifically valid information on pasture composition, on plant density. And the other nice thing
about is it’s easy to use and it can really be a lot of fun. – So you are going to divide your pasture into a W shape visually, and then you are going to toss your EPED at the first point of your W. You wanna to pick at least ten spots for a pasture under an acre. That you are going to toss your EPED and for pastures over an acre you wanna to toss EPED 20 times. So what we will do is we’ll toss EPED first time
at our starting point. Go identify what it’s landed on and then walk, pick up or EPED and walk to our next point. We wanna do several
different spots on our W throughout the pasture. To cover the entire pasture to find out what forages we
do have that are desirable, what canopy cover we do
have and what bare spots we have that we need to address. – [Donna] So how do we
keep track of all this data that we are collecting? Well there’s a table
that you’ll take with you when you are collecting data, and we’re gonna show you right now how to record the data on this table and then talk about what to
do with this information. Okay so this is Heather’s first toss, the only thing that I’m going to count is what touches this arrow. Nothing close to it, it
actually has to touch that arrow in order for me to record the data. In this case this EPED
has landed on orchardgrass which is a wonderful grass for pastures. So if this EPED lands on
bluegrass, orchardgrass, timothy, any grass that the horses can use for forage. Even annual grasses like
crabgrass and foxtail if it lands on a grass
that can be utilized as a food source we’re gonna list this. We’re gonna check the column that has grass forages. So what I’m going to do is,
I’m just gonna put a check toss number one landed on grass forage. This is Heather’s second toss. Her second toss the arrow
is actually touching a legume. This is clover. Clover, alfalfa, are legume plants that are able to fix nitrogen. Alright, this toss landed on curly dock which is a weed. Any kinda weed that horses don’t eat is gonna be checked off in the column that identifies this toss as having landed on a weed. This toss has actually
landed on bare ground, this is a very important consideration when determining the
environmental health of a pasture. This arrow is close to some vegetation but it is not touching any vegetation. So for this toss I’m gonna check off the column that says bare ground. Two additional columns that we may fill in is plant litter which you
would check if the EPED landed on an area that had
a lot of dead, decaying vegetation from mowing or other vegetation sources that is dead and decomposing in the field. Organic matter is basically
manure if you happen to be unlucky enough to through the EPED in a pile of manure, you would check that column. Other is anything else
that the EPED would happen to land on. Basically that would probably be bedrock. I don’t know of too many other things that you would check that for. If it lands on a halter
or a fly mask in the field toss it again. – Hi I’m Laura Kenny. I’m an equine natural resources educator on the Penn State Extension Equine Team, and today we’re gonna talk
about evaluating pastures using the Step Point Method. To do this method you’re gonna need a flag with a narrow metal pin, and probably a clipboard
with a chart on it for you to record your data. To use this method you’re
gonna walk across your pasture in a zigzag shape, and you’re gonna stop
every couple of steps and put you’re foot down like this with your toe up and
you’re heal in the grass. I like to use a boot that has
a really thick rubber sole. So that I can carve a small
notch in the toe of the boot. So to take your measurement
you are going to slide your flag down the notch
in the tip of your boot and you’re gonna go down on the ground and look at what you are touching. So you wanna identify the first plant that is touching the pin. So here I’m gonna pull it up, I’m going to identify a
piece of orchardgrass. So this gonna to be our first measurement, and we’re gonna put a check
in the grass forage column of our table. Once you’ve written down
what you have found, you’re gonna walk across the
pasture in a zigzag shape, and every 30 steps or so depending on the size of the pasture
you are gonna wanna stop and take another measurement. I’m only gonna do 10 for the
purposes of this video, so. Once you’ve finished
taking your measurements you’re going to add up each column. Your grass forage, legume
forage, weeds, plant litter, bare ground, organic matter and other. And you can calculate a percentage of all of these columns in your pasture. Once you’ve done that you
might want to look at some groupings, for example if you group
grass forages, legume forages and weeds together, then
you’ll have a good estimate of total canopy cover. This gives you an idea
of how much of the soil in your pasture, is covered
with green living matter This is a really important
environmental standard. You wanna see at least
70% in your pastures, and this can help minimize erosion. Another thing you might want look at is combining your grass forage
and your legume forage columns and this will
give you desirable forages in your pasture. – [Donna] To recap here
are some general guidelines for the data you brought
back from the pasture. If it indicates that
your desirable forage, which was grasses plus
legumes, is more than 70% of the pasture, good job. Keep doing what you’ve been doing because your pasture’s in good shape. If it’s 50 to 70% desirable forage, then you should consider
some pasture renovation measures. Like soil testing, and
applying lime and fertilizer according to the results. Mowing your pastures
routinely to no less than three inches tall. Applying more grass seed,
controlling weeds and managing your horses’ grazing to give the pastures some
time to rest and regrow. If you have less than
50% desirable forage, then it might be time to
kill the existing vegetation and start over. You could either spray
or till the pastures and then follow the renovation
techniques I just outlined. For more information on pasture renovation as well as many other equine topics, visit the Penn State Extension website, at this link.

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