Pasture (grassland)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Cow pasture in Fillmore County , Minnesota, USA
Pastureland in the Schorfheide-Chorin Biosphere Reserve , Brandenburg

A pasture (also pasture land and pastureland as land on which cattle graze or graze) is an area on which livestock stand, for which the vegetation serves as their main food. The eating is called "grazing" or "grazing", the animals are called "grazing animals".

Grazing animals are ungulates such as cattle , pigs , sheep , goats , horses or camels, as well as some types of poultry such as chicken , goose or ostrich . They are kept for various purposes , but in particular for animal production (production of food and raw materials from farm animals ), but also for nature conservation reasons. In the narrower sense, a pasture is man-made, agricultural grassland that is used for animal production ( grassland management ). In a broader sense, grazed forests ( Hutewald ) as well as steppes , savannas and tundras are referred to as pastures.

  • A pasture enclosed by fences or other escape barriers is called a paddock (from Middle Low German koppel , "fence"; "fenced piece of land") to emphasize the contrast to the non-fenced pastures.
  • The term willow is also used in connection with wildlife , bees ( bee pasture ) and birds (bird pasture).
  • According to the anthrome model published in 2008 by the two American geographers Erle C. Ellis and Navin Ramankutty , all types of pasture together (residential, populated and remote rangeland) make up about 27% of the terrestrial land surface.


The term willow goes back to the Germanic root word "* weidja", which originally meant "hunt" (cf. Weidwerk ). In Old Norse and Old English sources, the meaning is still more on "hunt, catch, hike" (anord. Veiðr, aengl. Wáð). Only in Old High German (weida) is the designation also used in the sense of "feeding, eating place" and the like. used. It was only in the New High German language that the meaning changed to “feeding place for the cattle”.

Uses of pastures

The following statements essentially relate to pastures in grassland farming.

In contrast to the meadow , pasture land is not used for (winter) fodder production ( mowing for preservation such as hay or silage production), but their growth is eaten by the animals (graze, graze) . Transitional forms are mowing pastures whose growths are grazed within a year both temporarily and be mowed for silage or hay. The form of use of pasture leads to a predominance of plant species that differ from a meadow. Sheep fescue and nettles , for example, benefit from grazing . The effects differ according to the intensity of grazing and the type of livestock. The agricultural use of pasture is roughly divided into regulated and unregulated and intensive and extensive forms of use. The regulated forms of use include permanent pasture ( short grass pasture ), rotary pasture or portion pasture. One speaks of unregulated use of pasture, for example, with hats . The Alm is a special form . There are no general definitions of extensive and intensive grazing. In the planar to colline altitudes of Central Europe, a stocking density of 1.4 livestock units per hectare can be drawn as the limit from extensive to intensive keeping on vigorous locations.

Unregulated use of pasture

One speaks of unregulated use of pasture when the use is neither regulated in terms of time nor space. One form of unregulated use is, for example, “guarding”. In Germany, this type is only found among the few migrant shepherds who use their flocks of sheep primarily for “landscaping”. It takes place on areas without fencing. Another form is the so-called "standing willow". The area to be grazed is divided into a few (one to three) paddocks. The animals stay on one area for a relatively long time, which can lead to various problems, for example seasonal over- or under-grazing , very selective feed consumption at the beginning of the growing season.

Regulated pasture use

In the case of regular pasture use , the duration of grazing and the area to be grazed are precisely defined. Excess forage is skimmed off through mowing and conservation (hay and silage production). This leads to a constant supply of feed that is always ready for pasture. A prerequisite for this, however, is a time limit for grazing and regular movement of the animals to other areas. Stocking densities are higher on areas with regulated pasture use, but the grazing periods are lower than with unregulated use. The number of paddocks depends on the number of animals and the size of the herd.

Paddock, permanent pasture

With a paddock , the total pasture area is divided into four to eight paddocks. The feeding times are long (around ten days), the rest periods between the individual grazing times are relatively short. This form of grazing is beneficial for grass-rich scars and large herds as well as for animals that have a high demand for exercise (e.g. horses). The growth of these pastures is usually quite low, which limits a selected feed intake by the animals. The disadvantages are high pasture residues, a relatively low yield potential and mostly high nutrient requirements (fertilization).

  • Stocking density: ten large cattle units (RiGV) per hectare (ha),
  • Allocated eating area per RiGV: approx. 1000 m²,
  • Cut surface proportion: 25%.

Rotational pasture

With rotation grazing , the total area is divided into more than eight paddocks. The feeding times per paddock are about one to three days long, the rest periods (growth times of the vegetation) between grazing are about three to six weeks, depending on the time of vegetation. The scarce allocation of space results in a lower forage selection, a higher footfall load on the area, a greater risk of turf injuries as well as a higher maintenance effort on the individual areas. For the animals, the rotating pasture usually means greater restlessness in the herd. The distances to the water supply for the animals and for the movement are longer. There is little pasture left on these areas and the yield is relatively large.

  • Stocking density: approx. 25 RiGV / ha,
  • Allocated feeding area: 400 m² / RiGV,
  • Cut surface proportion: approx. 50%

Portion willow

The portion pasture, also called ration pasture, full-day or half-day pasture, is the division of the total area into more than twenty paddocks, fewer are only if the forage area is allocated daily or half-day. The forage area is allocated once or twice a day. It is the most intense form of grazing. The pasture remains are very low, the feed consumption per animal is very high. The use as a portion pasture is particularly advantageous for small pastures and scarce pastureland. This form is not suitable for larger herds because of the increased stress. The maintenance effort is high, as is the nutrient requirement. The use of "farm manure" is recommended on these areas.

  • Stocking density: approx. 100 RiGV / ha,
  • Allocated eating area: 100 m² / RiGV,
  • Cut area: approx. 75%

Short grass pasture

The short grass pasture is a standing pasture that is grazed very early and intensively and very briefly. But there is no additional feeding of concentrated feed, otherwise the animals prefer to stay in the barn. It requires a seasonally controlled calving in winter and a considered winter feed supply if all areas are to be grazed.

This form has the following advantages and disadvantages: Freeing up of working hours, laborious search and rounding up of the animals on the pasture for milking to the milking stall, the reduction in animal performance by about a third, the complete suppression of weed growth, excessive urea levels in the milk as a stress indicator for excess protein and Lack of energy in the feed. Flat areas are necessary, otherwise they will become badly sloughed and the cattle will otherwise not distribute the manure themselves, plus manure management on the pasture so that uneaten areas do not arise. The cattle also have to graze in rainy weather, whereby the meadow scar is easily destroyed and there is also a decrease in performance due to insufficient feed structure in rainy weather.

The short grass pasture is very strongly promoted in Austria by the LFZ Raumberg-Gumpenstein. The lowering of the operating income through loss of performance appears problematic, and since in remote mountain areas there are hardly any opportunities for non-agricultural substitute income and there are hardly any flat areas in the mountain area.

Alpine pastures

Cow on the Täschalpe in Valais

Alpine pastures are summer pastures in the high mountains that are primarily used to raise cattle. They are managed autonomously from the main operating area. A distinction is made between light willow and forest willow. The dual use (pasture use and orchard cultivation or pasture use and wood cutting) is relatively widespread, but also problematic here.

It is also possible and sensible to divide the pasture area as pasture according to the type of cattle , since different plant communities arise depending on the type of use and location : horse pasture, also as a paddock , sheep pasture . Pastures are used for grazing care with a Weideweg developed. The paths that allow livestock in particular to access and move between individual pastures are called Triftweg .

Horse pasture

Horse paddock in Verden

Horses need protection from wind and sun in the pasture, as well as access to fresh water if they are to be suitable for longer stays. Around 0.5 to 1 hectare of pasture is required per horse. Horse pastures have to be dragged and rolled in spring, and if necessary, re-sown and mowed. For reasons of pasture hygiene (parasites), alternating stocking with cattle and horses is recommended.

Winter pasture

Also a winter grazing is possible and leads to certain conditions, cost savings and over the winter stabling improved animal health. This applies particularly to extensive forms of husbandry in the form of extensive year-round grazing. In some federal states of Germany, spatially concentrated winter pastures are permitted. This grazing practice is not infrequently characterized by heavy overgrazing and tread damage.

"Wild pastures"

"Wild pastures" or grazing projects have been used in nature conservation since the 1990s to describe large, unregulated and thus extensively used year-round pastures that are grazed with wild animals or robust (less domesticated "semi-wild", feral or "backbred" ) domestic animal breeds. The aim of this form of pasture is to initiate a future development towards a state that is as species-rich as possible.

This idea is based on the so-called megaherbivore hypothesis , which basically states that large herbivores such as aurochs , bison , deer and wild horses did not only live in the prehistoric natural landscape in the open landscapes (steppes, tundras) caused by climatic conditions, but also by browsing and kicking large ones Keeping areas of the forest landscapes open. In this respect, animals are now given an important role in natural succession , which has not previously appeared in the concepts of potential natural vegetation . Wild grazing animals also formed an essential part of natural ecosystems in Central Europe. They set dynamic processes in motion that are existential for many endangered plant and animal species. For years, new approaches to nature and species protection have been discussed (e.g. process protection , wilderness development areas ). “Wild pastures” are a very promising approach in this regard, which could become the backbone of any regional and supra-regional biotope network planning.

As a substitute for the extinct wild animals, various robust breeds come into question, whereby their selection can vary greatly depending on the location and region. In particular where "wild pastures" are used as a form of agricultural use of the land, domestic breeds such as Galloway and Scottish highland cattle , Icelandic ponies or fjord horses are predominantly used, while in so-called "wilderness development areas", which should develop independently of human intervention, rather on old "primitive races" or "backbred" breeds of images of extinct wild animals such as Sayaguesa , Heck cattle and Taurus cattle as well as robust horses such as Heckpferd , Exmoorpony , Sorraia and Konik . In the case of more humid locations, water buffalo are also an option in both areas . On average, more than 30 livestock units on 100 hectares are required to keep a forest-free pasture open in the long term: this corresponds to more than 30 adult cattle or around 40 horses.

History of the pastures

Sheep pasture on the Hohentwiel

The remains of settlements from the Stone Age contain beetles , pollen and plant remains , which indicate that parts of Central Europe were already a relatively densely populated landscape with fields and pastures over 7000 years ago . Heinz Ellenberg , however, judged this grazing, which has also been proven by other sources, as "not planned". According to him, the cultivation could have been similar to shifting cultivation .

Until the modern era , three- field farming was essentially used in Central Europe , in which the fallow land was grazed (fallow pasture). The flood constraint of the Middle Ages aimed at the longest possible use of the areas “general pasture”, the common land , in which the fields between harvest and shoots (stalk formation) were included. The plant communities at the time of the arable hallways had a significantly higher proportion of grasses and were also much more species-rich.

The browsing of the accrued grain promoted tillering and the grazing of the grass-like vegetation after the harvest helped to control weeds and to feed the cattle. The manure of the animals fertilized the fields, especially when they were penned at night. The cattle were only kept away from the fields when the grain was being shot. The parcels that Zelge and later champion were fenced with thorn wood, walls and ramparts from which the partly as coppice forests managed hedges and Knicks developed.

In addition to these brooks of the three-field economy of the High Middle Ages , there were of course the hat forests , which arose in the Middle Ages from the fact that the cattle were driven into the woods for fattening. The animals caused lasting damage to the plants. Finally, traveling sheep also played a role in areas with light and sterile soils , such as the Lüneburg Heath or the Lechtalheiden .

Pasture and drift paths

A closed cattle gate (right) and a grass grate (left)

The paths that lead to the various farms of the farmers mostly open up to several owners. These paths are common property in the entire Alpine region - provided they have not become municipal property . Therefore it is up to the community to maintain these paths. In order to prevent the cattle from leaving the designated pasture area via the paths, pasture paths are often interrupted by cattle bars , cattle gates or other cattle barriers.

The term “Triftweg” is used in particular for the long cattle drive paths in transhumance (climatic, seasonal, long-distance grazing). For example

Pasture maintenance

Without pasture care , plants are favored on pastureland that the cattle do not like, e.g. B. thorny or poisonous species; pasture maintenance prevents their spread. On well-tended pastures you will find plants that tolerate frequent browsing and entry by animals ( German ryegrass or white clover ).

Mechanical care

Meadow harrow, folded up
Towing, harrowing
The towing is carried out in the spring and repeated during the year if necessary. When dragging, a gentle pasture harrow is pulled over the sward, tearing out old parts of the plant, leveling molehills and distributing cow dung and droppings. The growth is suppressed in these places. At droppings can rank patches arise because the cattle bekotete plants and avoid these areas are heavily over-fertilized. Where the sward is covered by molehills or droppings, undesired species can also germinate, as their seeds, in contrast to the desired species , are represented by seeds in the diaspore bank , since when pasture or cut grass is used, the grass is harvested before it blooms .
Rolling is particularly necessary in spring on bog soils. Due to the high water content of boggy or boggy soils , periodic freezing occurs in winter due to the effects of frost . The main purpose of the rolling is to reconnect the deeply frozen, highly humus soil layers, raw humus and peat layers to the lower horizons and to improve the water flow.
The subsequent mowing (mowing or re-mowing) of pastures that are only grazed extensively by one type of livestock, after they have grazed, promotes a favorable composition of forage plants. The cattle have food preferences and bite the valuable forage plants, while the undesired plants are not damaged, especially in hot spots (piles of excrement) and can spread through this advantage. The aftermath prevents this.
In the fall , spring or after a cut use forage grasses can be reseeded. As long as the sward has a satisfactory species composition or does not have too large gaps, smaller gaps or damage caused by wintering will be remedied by reseeding . The reseeding is done by slot sowing , broad cast or simply by adding the seeds in the slurry tank .


Herd of goats in valley pasture ( common land ), Friuli, Italy

In principle, grazing has an impact on the composition of the plant population. The factors that can be cited are frequency of use, species of animal, fertilization used and care measures. Species-specific, certain plant species are promoted or suppressed through selection and browsing . Accordingly, for grassland in general, not only natural but also use is to be regarded as an ecological location factor . For example, pastures with a high frequency of use and high nitrogen fertilization are dominated by only a few plant species that are well tolerated and regenerate - the main stock-builder here is often the German ryegrass . Sheep grazing promotes herbaceous plants by clearing up the grassland. Extensive pasture systems with a number of cattle adapted to the capacity of the pasture could, however, represent extremely species-rich habitats, especially if, in addition to short lawns, higher-overgrown sections of bushes, bushes and individual trees grow on them.

Grazing in green areas means that the constantly short grass leads to greater moisture losses through evapotranspiration than in meadows . If plants are exposed to grazing by too many animals for too long or without a sufficient recovery phase, i.e. the amount of growth over a longer period of time is lower than the animals' feed requirements, this is called overgrazing . Too little grazing (sub-grazing) can also lead to an undesirable change in the plant composition and thus to increased care costs.

The type of enclosure also plays an important role in terms of ecology, for example hedges or ditches near the Fenne .

The habitat Pasture was 2004 to 2005 by the Nature Conservation Center Hessen as a habitat of the year proclaimed to the danger of this habitat to attract attention.

In the winter of 2009/2010, a survey was carried out for Bavaria among nature conservation associations and authorities on nature conservation-relevant grazed areas. This resulted in an enormous increase in nature conservation-oriented grazing projects. In most cases, it is about protection against plants, butterflies, birds or locusts. Sheep or cattle are usually kept on the land for grazing. The areas are mainly used as pasture or standing pasture. With regard to nature and species protection, 85% of the projects were described as "mostly successful" and 12% as "partially successful".

See also


  • Nicolas Schoof, Rainer Luick, Guy Beaufoy, Gwyn Jones, Petar Einarsson, Jabier Ruiz, Vyara Stefanova, Daniel Fuchs, Tobias Windmaißer, Hermann Hötker, Heike Jeromin, Herbert Nickel, Jochen Schumacher, Mariya Ukhanova: Grassland Conservation in Germany: Drivers of Biodiversity, Influence of agri-environmental and climate measures, regulatory law, dairy industry and effects of climate and energy policy. In: BfN script 539. Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, Bonn Bad-Godesberg 2019. 257 pp.
  • Heinz Ellenberg : Vegetation of Central Europe with the Alps from an ecological, dynamic and historical perspective. 5th, heavily changed and improved edition. Ulmer, Stuttgart 1996, ISBN 3-8001-2696-6 .
  • Küster: 7,000 years of agriculture in Bavaria. Botanical research on historical problems. In: Naturwissenschaftliche Rundschau. Volume 45, 1992, pp. 385-391.
  • Josef Nösberger, Wilhelm Opitz von Boberfeld : Basic forage production . Blackwell, Berlin 1986.
  • Opitz von Boberfeld, Wilhelm: Grassland theory. UTB-Verlag (Eugen Ulmer), Stuttgart 1994.
  • Stefan Schön: Tracks in the mud. In: Sächsische Zeitung from April 15, 2005.
  • Pott: Development of plant communities through arable farming and grassland use. In: Horticultural Science. Stuttgart 1992, pp. 157-166.
  • Willerding: On the history of weeds in Central Europe. In: Göttingen writings on prehistory and early history. Volume 22. Verlag Karl Wachholz, Göttingen 1986.
  • Willerding: Statements from pollen analyzes and macro residual analyzes on the question of previous land use. In: Behre: Anthropogenic indicators in pollen diagrams. AA Balkema, Rotterdam 1986.

Web links

Commons : Willow (grassland)  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: pasture land  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Willow  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Nicolas Schoof, Rainer Luick: Pastures and Pastoralism . Oxford University Press, November 29, 2018, doi : 10.1093 / obo / 9780199830060-0207 ( [accessed April 21, 2019]).
  2. Wolfgang Pfeifer (head): Etymological dictionary of German. dtv, Munich 1995, ISBN 3-05-000626-9 ; 7th edition 2004, ISBN 3-423-32511-9 ( online ).
  3. Nicolas Schoof, Rainer Luick, Guy Beaufoy, Gwyn Jones, Petar Einarsson, Jabier Ruiz, Vyara Stefanova, Daniel Fuchs, Tobias Windmaißer, Hermann Hötker, Heike Jeromin, Herbert Nickel, Jochen Schumacher, Mariya Ukhanova: Grassland Conservation in Germany: Drivers of Biodiversity , Influence of agri-environmental and climate measures, regulatory law, dairy industry and effects of climate and energy policy . In: Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (Ed.): BfN script . No. 539 . Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, Bonn - Bad Godesberg 2019, p. 257 ( [accessed September 16, 2019]).
  4. Pulling over a harrow-like instrument, the willow witch with a reactor or a horse, see University of Karlsruhe
  5. Nicolas Schoof, Rainer Luick, Herbert Nickel, Albert Reif, Marc Förschler, Paul Westrich, Edgar Reisinger: Promoting biodiversity with wild pastures in the 'wilderness areas' vision of the National Strategy for Biological Diversity . tape 93 , no. 7 . Nature and Landscape, 2018, p. 314-322 .
  6. M. Bunzel-Drüke, E. Reisinger, C. Böhm, J. Buse, L. Dalbeck, G. Ellwanger, P. Finck, J. Freese, H. Grell, L. Hauswirth, A. Herrmann, A. Idel , E. Jedicke, R. Joest, G. Kämmer, A. Kapfer, D. Kolligs, R. Krawczynski, A. Lorenz, R. Luick, S. Mann, H. Nickel, U. Raths, U. Riecken, N Röder, H. Rößling, M. Rupp, N. Schoof, K. Schulze-Hagen, R. Sollmann, A. Ssymank, K. Thomsen, J. Tillmann, S. Tischew, H. Vierhaus, C. Vogel, H. .-G. Wagner, O. Zimball: Natural grazing and NATURA 2000 - year-round grazing in the management of habitat types and species in the European nature reserve system NATURA 2000 . 2nd Edition. Working Group on Biological Environmental Protection, Bad Sassendorf 2019, ISBN 978-3-00-063945-6 , p. 411 ( ).
  7. M. Bunzel-Drüke, C. Böhm, G. Finck, R. Kämmer, E. Luick, E. Reisinger, U. Riecken, J. Riedl, M. Scharf, O. Zimball: Wilde Weiden - practical guide for year-round grazing in Conservation and landscape development. Working Group on Biological Environmental Protection in the Soest District (Ed.), Sassendorf-Lohne 2008.
  8. z. B. Bernd Gerken (Ed.): Where did animals and plants live in the natural landscape and the early cultural landscape in Europe? Höxter 1996; Beate Jessel (Ed.): Wilderness - a new model? Run 1997.
  9. ^ Zahn, A. & Burkart-Aicher, B. (2013): Grazing for nature conservation and landscape management - an overview of the status quo in Bavaria. - ANLiegen Natur 35: 30-39, running. PDF 0.9 MB