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Pasture (from the Latin pastus, past participle of pascere ”to feed”) is land used for grazing. 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 used for grazing only after being mown to make hay for winter fodder. Pasture in a wider sense additionally includes rangelands, other unenclosed pastoral systems, and land types used by wild animals for grazing or browsing.
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. Sheepwalk is also the name of townlands in County Roscommon, Ireland and County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.
Prior to the advent of factory farming with its use of "zero-grazing" feeding techniques, pasture was the primary source of food for grazing animals such as cattle and horses. It is still used extensively, particularly in arid regions where pasture land is unsuitable for any other agricultural production. In more humid regions, pasture grazing is exploited extensively for free range and organic farming. It is an important biotic resource.
Examples of pasture habitats
- Potrero (landform)
- Rough pasture
- Wood pasture
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