Pastoralists have traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), which is important for their livelihoods and for policies and interventions. Pastoralism is under pressure, however, which may result in a decline of pastoral lifestyle and its related TEK. We, therefore, addressed the following objectives (i) to inventorise and assess how pastoralists characterise and value soils and forages in their environment, (ii) to analyse how soil, forage and livestock (i.e. cattle) characteristics relate to herding decisions and (iii) to determine whether TEK underlying herding decisions differs across generations. Data were collected through focus groups and individual interviews with 72 pastoralists, belonging to three generations and to three agro-ecological zones. Using a three-point scale (high, medium, low), four grasses and three tree forages were assessed in terms of nutritional quality for milk, meat, health and strength. Using their own visual criteria, pastoralists identified five different soils, which they selected for herding at different times of the year. Pastoralists stated that Pokuri was the best soil because of its low moisture content, whereas Karaal was the worst because forage hardly grows on it. They stated that perennials, such as Andropogon gayanus and Loxoderra ledermannii, were of high nutritional quality, whereas annuals such as Andropogon pseudapricus and Hyparrhenia involucrata were of low nutritional quality. Afzelia africana was perceived of high quality for milk production, whereas Khaya senegalensis had the highest quality for meat, health and strength. Pastoralists first used soil, then forage and finally livestock characteristics in their herding decisions. Pastoralists’ TEK was not associated with their generations, but with their agro-ecological zones. This study suggests that pastoralists had common and detailed TEK about soils, forages and livestock characteristics, underlying their herding decisions. To conclude, pastoralists use a holistic approach, combining soil, vegetation and livestock TEK in herding decisions. Such TEK can guide restoration or improvement of grazing lands, and land use planning.