Developing Your Pasture Management Strategy


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Developing Your Pasture Management Strategy

Morgan Murphy

Developing Your Pasture Management Strategy

Wouldn't it be great to have tens of acres of land to turn your horse out onto, never worrying about overgrazing or flooding? Well, dream on my friend. If your like many backyarders, you've spent a fair amount of time considering a smart pasture management plan. So, precisely what does that entail? Well, to put it bluntly, dropping removal is just the tip of the iceberg. Ensuring smart land use while accommodating your horse's grazing needs takes a combination of horse sense and go-to, know-how.

Certain areas of the field can quickly become damaged by horse hooves *

As a general rule, you should allow 1-3 acres per horse. Once all the grass has been eaten, there is the option of placing hay in the field but when there are a great many horses, this can cause conflicts. The best way to maintain healthy pastures is by rotating areas in which horses are permitted to graze. This can be achieved by dividing a larger area into smaller fields and rotating horses through them. By doing this, you can use the land more efficiently, keep pasture grasses from becoming overgrazed and provide fresh grass for a longer period of time during the growing season. If grass is grazed too short, it can take longer to recover, if it recovers at all. It's important not to let grass be grazed shorter than three inches. Below this height, you risk killing the grass. Once horses have grazed the majority of the grass in a pasture down to three or four inches, rotate them on to the next pasture. You can return horses to pastures once the grass has re-grown to about six to eight inches in height.

Before You Fertilise, Test the Soil!
Excessive fertilizer is a waste of your resources and can also be an environmental hazard! If your fields are located near a water source, excess fertilizer (containing dangerous nitrogen) can seep into the water supply, exposing wildlife to dangerous chemical levels. Soil testing will allow you to determine your soil's precise fertilizer requirements, so you can calibrate the correct nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium requirements. You shouldn't need to fertilize more than twice a year, if at all.

Grass Seed Means Less Weeds!
Bare patches are a haven for weed growth (and muddy puddles in wet weather) so, instead of reaching for the fertiliser and giving the weeds super strength, it is suggested that you apply grass seed to empty land patches. A mix of seed containing Orchard grass, Perennial Rye grass, Timothy and Tall Fescue work best and should be spread in the spring.

Manure Duty
It's not the most enjoyable barn chore but it is one you cannot ignore: collecting droppings from pasture. Untended droppings attract flies, build parasite burdens, damages the grass underneath and are unsightly. If you have a muck heap in the field, we recommend removing droppings daily. If the pasture is large, it may be better to harrow twice a week. Either way, it is an important task that must be a priority for the health of the horses as well as the land. Remember, reduce the flies on your pasture and around the muck heap by spreading Spalding Fly Predators about prior to the beginning of fly season. This is the best way to keep your horse's pasture, fly-free.

Top Tips for Pasture Management

- If possible, move the water source as you move the horses through different pasture segments. Water sources are heavily trampled, so if you can move the location of the water within the field, this helps insure that grass trampling occurs over a larger area.
- Try to divide pasture to ensure the horses have sufficient shade
- Choose your fencing carefully: in most cases, you will likely need to use portable temporary fencing for dividing pasture. The most inexpensive, easiest to install is electric tape and poles. It's easy to move, low maintenance and easy to adapt should you need to extend or move fences. Always remember to check the battery is charged, remembering to have a spare fully charged to prevent escapees!

 *image courtesy of Dollar Photo Club

  • This is great - I am having a massive review of my pasture. Do you have any recommendations for layout of paddocks? I am thinking splitting youngsters and breeding mares, geldings and older mares.