Making the Most Out Of Your Horse Pastures
It is such a wonderful sight to look out into the green, manicured pastures, watching the horses graze. It is so relaxing and pleasant. But, it does take work to keep the pastures healthy, weed free, and nice looking. In the long run it is well worth the effort.
To start with, rotate the pastures. By rotating the pastures, the horses will consume the grass to a certain height (about four inches is best), instead of down to the bare ground. The pastures should be subdivided into several (at least four, if possible), so that the grasses are not overgrazed down to the bare ground, at which point the weeds will begin to take over. It will also prevent spot grazing. Horses tend to eat in certain areas and use other areas for waste.
Rotational grazing allows the grass to rest and regain strength to continue growing, keeping the roots strong. It takes about 3-4 weeks for the grass to recuperate. This is why is is a good idea to have four fenced pasture areas as a minimum. Allow the horses back onto the pasture once the grasses have reached a height of six to eigh inches.
How often the horses are rotated depends on the weather conditions. For instance, during the cool weather and rains of spring, the grasses will grow continuously. Once the dry, hot summer hits, the growth slows down. During this time the horses should be kept out of the pastures, keeping the field from being trampled and overgrazed down to the ground. This is when the horses should be kept in a "sacrifice area" and fed hay.
Pick up the manure from the pastures, or spread it, so the grass will grow more evenly. With spreading, the sun will dry up the manure and kill any parasites and eggs, as well as fertilize the fields. When removing it, dispose of it in a manure pile in an area away from any waterways, and buildings. Aged manure makes great fertilizer for a garden.
Mow the pasture grasses to no less than four inches in height. Doing so will gives them an opportunity to grow stronger with less chance for the weeds to take over. Mowing also knocks down the plants that your horses have decided to avoid, letting the tender shoots of the tasty forage grow through.
Pasture management takes a well-thought out plan and regular maintenance. Following these simple steps, it will help reduce feed costs by allowing to extend the grazing season. For any additional help, the local co-operative extension agency will be able to help.
Brigita McKelvie is a REALTOR® (Pennsylvania License #RS297130) with Cindy Stys Equestrian & Country Properties, specializing in rural and horse properties and farms in Eastern Pennsylvania. She has an e-Pro® (Certified Internet Expert) certification and a GRI (Graduate, REALTOR® Institute) designation.
Brigita McKelvie, REALTOR
Pennsylvania License #RS297130
Rural and Horse Properties and Farms
Cindy Stys Equestrian & Country Properties, Ltd.
The Premier Equine and Country Real Estate firm serving Eastern Pennsylvania from back yard operations to world class equestrian facilities.
Use a REALTOR with "horse sense" that doesn't horse around when it comes to horse properties.