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Horses per acre?

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    05-12-2012, 06:02 AM
Green Broke
Is it doable? Yes. Like others have said, you'll need to have one area as a sacrifice area, wich will end up dirt. The other two can be grazed on but they will mow it down quickly if left on there for more than an hour or two a day. Our six horses mowed a two acre pasture down in just a few days. That became their sacrifice/dry lot.

Now we have two more horses, total of eight on about five acres. That also includes the house and hay shed and whatever else. We have three other small pastures that they mow down with only being on them for just an hour or so a day. So yes it can be done. They just will have to eat mainly hay with little grazing.

As for the hay, I agree one bale for all five is not enough. One per horse would be more than enough. We feed about the same size bales and ours eat 3 to 4 a day in warmer weather and 5 to 6 in the winter. About 1/3 to 1/2 bale/horse in the summer and 1/2 to 2/3 in the winter.
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    05-12-2012, 08:37 AM
Considering all the opinions in this thread, I want to follow up on my previous post to show how we operate our small place. We have 4 mares on 5 acres, divided into 3 pastures.

1) Most important. They have a free choice round bale (~800 lbs) of quality fescue/orchard available at all times, and this is their main source of food. It lasts between 6-7 days in the winter to 3+ weeks in summer.
2) The pastures for grazing have benefits other than nutrition. It gives them a variety of forage and keeps them moving and busy, good for the feet, gut, and mind. It also keeps me from having to mow all that.
3) The mares 'live' in the main pasture, and we limit access to the other 2 to 4-5 hours a day.
4) How much grass/forage you can maintain is very dependent on your location and weather. Where we are, feeding hay and limiting grazing to 4-5 hours a day keeps them from becoming dry lots/mud pits.
5) Our pastures are 'natural', I.e. Not seeded or fertilized and have plenty of weeds/less palatable grass. Again, the good side is that this keeps the mares moving and busy rather than standing in one spot eating lush grass all day. I do mow the stuff they don't eat to prevent it from choking out the 'good' grasses.
6) Even their main pasture maintains enough ground cover to keep it from being muddy/dry lot except for the area around their round bale and shelter. In practice, the most 'destruction' is from the horse foot traffic, not over grazing.

Main (24x7) pasture (before mowing the spring pesky buttercups)

The 'sacrifice' area around their round bale (just out of the pic on the left) in the main pasture.

The 2 limited access pastures

As you can see, they are not lush grass pastures, but they are not dry lots or mud pits, and the mares are ready at the gate every morning to get turned out in them and enjoy their grazing.

Bottom line...with the right climate and management it can be done if you feed hay, and it is not hard to do/maintain.

BTW, in our county, there are no government limits/restrictions on farms animals/acre. Some areas do have HOAs and/or covenants/deed restrictions that may impose limits.
    05-12-2012, 10:13 AM
FWIW, I've never used the percentage of body weight method for determining amounts of forage and concentrates.

I prefer to feed free choice forage/hay and supplement with concentrates only as needed per the individual horse's work schedule and metabolism. However, my preferred method doesn't mean it's the only method, or the only good and workable method. I just hate, hate, hate to ration or limit forage. Doesn't mean it can't be done and still result in healthy horses.
    05-12-2012, 10:54 AM
I'm with maura on this one. Most of our horses are fed hay in conjunction with grazing. Or they have access to round bales, To ensure they are getting all they need we supplement with grain that is at least 6% fat.
Senior and pregnant mares get 8%.
However we do not overgraze our pastures. We also plant winter rye for forage. Shalom
    05-12-2012, 12:01 PM
If you have a land grant university in your area, check with their extension agent. They will be able to help you understand the details of your particular microclimate. The Soil and Water Conservation District may offer some help as well, depending on their focus in your area.
Getting someone knowledgeable to your area in particular to come out and see the land first hand is better than throwing out hypothetical situations via the internet where people have great knowledge of their own areas, but not necessarily yours
maura likes this.
    05-12-2012, 12:07 PM
For example, I grew up in Western Oregon, where it rains a lot and the soil holds water well. A 5 acre pasture easily maintained 8 horses. I am in central Oregon now where the precip is around 9 inches per year. There is no way in hell I could put 8 horses on 5 acres even with an irrigation system here because the soil is only about 18 inches deep and full of sand and ash, which does not hold water even for a week in the heat with wind.

Even just 120 miles away, the situation can vary greatly. Please get local advise.
    05-12-2012, 12:11 PM
Sorry to post 3 in a row, but here are some resources available in Wisconsin:

Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association, Inc.

UWEX Cooperative Extension--County Offices

Best of luck!
    05-12-2012, 06:01 PM
I'm back As far as the current feed situation/health of our current herd...VERY healthy. Vet is very happy w/ Odie's (hardest keeper) condition. He's the oldest, arthritic, and on the bottom of the pecking order, but has good weight and coat/skin condition. And yes, we do increase what they get fed during the winter to adjust for the lack of grass.

Right now, 5 horses on the 2.5 acres is a hypethetical. There's 4 currently, and the 2 grass fields are good, as we have the 3rd sacrificial field (dry lot).

I tried talking to dad last night & got shot down I'm just sick of having horses on opposite sides of the county, and if I had them together I could get Odie out more. Not that he's complaining, he loves retirement!

As for the book "horses on small acreage" I think my parents have that around somewhere, I'll have to go look for it.

I've been lucky in the past, in that I've "managed" larger barns where I always kept my horse. So determining #horses per acre was never an issue.

It's amazing what you realize you've never had to deal w/ after 25 of dealing with a lot

Oh, yeah. We would LOVE to use round bales!!! We just don't have a way to get one there, unload it, and get it in the field. But I'm working on it:)
    05-13-2012, 12:20 AM
Green Broke
Originally Posted by maura    
FWIW, I've never used the percentage of body weight method for determining amounts of forage and concentrates.

I prefer to feed free choice forage/hay and supplement with concentrates only as needed per the individual horse's work schedule and metabolism. However, my preferred method doesn't mean it's the only method, or the only good and workable method. I just hate, hate, hate to ration or limit forage. Doesn't mean it can't be done and still result in healthy horses.
See - that all depends on the horses in your care. I would LOVE to feed free choice hay/pasture but when I tried it my haflinger ended up with a cresty necked blimp.
maura likes this.
    05-13-2012, 03:57 AM
Our country requires 1 acre per horse or "livestock unit" theres a table of animals other than horses, BUT if you implement some best practices like creating well drained sacrafice areas, have a manure management plan and develop a farm plan you can get a waiver to get 2 or 3 live stock units per acre. They also provide cost sharing programs if you want to implement any of these things so I would def see if your area has a similar program.

Check out their website for really good information on how to keep animals on small acerage: King Conservation District Home
Also: Horses For Clean Water

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