One of the most important things a barn owner needs to be well educated on is pasture management. It’s simple, really:
Nice pastures = healthy horses and lower costs.
Thin, overgrazed pastures = very expensive hay/grain bills, MUCH more work, and a less “natural” environment for your horses.
Especially when managing a herd of horses on small acreage, pasture management is KEY. Here are some simple steps I follow to keep my horses happy!
Of #1 importance – ROTATE YOUR PASTURES… can you see why?
Horses are very hard on the ground… obviously – they rip the grass out by the roots with their teeth while grazing, and tromp around on every square inch of the fields creating divots, especially if they wear shoes. Rotating your horses around so that all pastures have a rest every 2-4 weeks is essential… especially when they start to look like the one on the left! To prepare that pasture for rest, I move the horses, drag the manure piles down, thus spreading the manure (fertilizer) and exposing any worm eggs to the sun and therefore killing them. Mow the weeds down (if any) and a little rain helps too (or irrigation, if necessary)… then let Mother Nature do her thing!
A few other tricks of the trade:
-in early spring, take a soil sample to your local feed store for a soil analysis. This will tell you exactly what nutrients you are lacking and help you choose your fertilizer.
-spot reseed with clover in February (your horses will love you! They’ll probably drool all over you too, though… clover usually has that effect on them, lol!)
-fertilize (based on your soil sample findings) in March, repeat if desired in fall
-evenly reseed with a Pasture Grass Mix in April, repeat if desired in fall
-if necessary, treat the fields with a horse-safe weedkiller (I used Pasture Pro last year) sometime in spring… this can be done simultaneously with the fertilizer… trust me on this, my fields used to look like this (hint, those pretty yellow flowers are WEEDS and nearly snuffed out all the grass! yuk!):
Here’s to lush, green pastures and happy, healthy horses!
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