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Pasture Management


Well-managed pasture provides the horse with healthy and economical feed. But horses are bad for pasture - hoof damage and uneven grazing can quickly turn a field into a worm and weed infested wasteland. If you are lucky enough to have ample pasture and to be able to cross graze it with cattle or sheep these problems are reduced - but on small acreages, only sound management and some hard work will suffice.

Just one acre per horse can provide much of a horse's maintenance for most of the year, if properly managed!

ALL PASTURE CAN BE IMPROVED

1. By correcting acidity and adding a balanced fertiliser if needed.

2. By collecting droppings at least twice a week. (Not only will this reduce the worm burden, but it will reduce contamination of grazing horses will not graze close to their own droppings.)

3. By topping, several times a year to control weeds and coarse grasses.

4. By dividing a field in two (electric fencing is useful) and resting and treating one section while the other is in use.)

Costs and Equipment

A tractor or ATV with implements such as a pasture topper, and a set of chain harrows will make pasture management far easier or a local farmer or agricultural contractor may be called in.

Drainage

If pasture is very 'heavy' drainage may be a good investment. Otherwise, horses should be kept off the land when it's very wet or be confined to a 'sacrifice' area.

Acidity and Nutrients

Test for acidity and nutrients. Apply lime in the Autumn if the pH is 6 or less. A suitable compound or organic fertiliser can be used at the same time, if needed and horses must be kept off the land until these top dressings have been well washed in by rain.

Farmyard manure provides important nutrients and adds to the organic matter in the soil, encouraging earthworm activity. It should be spread in the autumn or over winter when the ground is hard. Horses should not graze the land for at least two months.

Improving pasture composition

Poisonous weeds (particularly ragwort) should be removed by hand as it is palatable if sprayed or cut. Other weeds can be controlled by regular topping or by spraying with a special herbicide if infestation is bad.

Bare patches can be reseeded by raking in some grass seed when the ground is moist otherwise weeds will move in. On larger areas, a thorough harrowing, followed by seeding and rolling, will help - preferably followed by grazing with sheep.

 

See also:  Poisonous plants