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Shropshirerosie 05-17-2013 09:17 AM

Pasture advice - getting rid of Alfalfa?
 
Morning all! More questions on my troublesome hay field - it is a mix of grass and alfalfa, with the shady side being mainly grass. Hasn't been reseeded for many a year I believe. Relying on the local farmer to cut it is a little difficult as it is so small. I think I would rather that this field is winter pasture for my horses. It would mean buying hay in, but would also mean that I need to hay for much less of the winter!

My horses are easy keepers and I don't like feeding them too much alfalfa as hay, let alone fresh.

Can anyone advise me on the best way to get rid of the alfalfa? Could I harrow the field and sow grass to smother it? Or would I have to get more drastic?

Thanks for your help.
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Muppetgirl 05-17-2013 09:34 AM

Have you thought of rotational grazing them? Divide the field up?

Saddlebag 05-17-2013 09:44 AM

If you are going to save this field for winter grazing, the alfalfa will have gotten quite stemmy then. The horses will eat the finer stuff but will likely show preference for the finer grass. It's too bad people plowed down prairie wool years ago. Horses grazing prairie wool didn't need grain. Have you looked into seeding prairie wool?

Shropshirerosie 05-17-2013 11:25 AM

My horses don't get grain - they are such good doers they just need pasture supplemented by hay in the winter. What is prairie wool?
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Shropshirerosie 05-17-2013 02:10 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Muppetgirl (Post 2540690)
Have you thought of rotational grazing them? Divide the field up?

Yes, I could easily put tracks in to ration their grazing, but it's the mere presence of the alfalfa that bothers me really. I'd really like to know what the best way to mistreat alfalfa is so that I can reduce it's health and increase the grass in the field - without ploughing the whole lot up and seeding a horse-friendly grass mix.

Left Hand Percherons 05-18-2013 02:09 PM

Alfalfa is a relatively short lived plant. Typically the field will last 6-8 years before it has to be replanted. That's because alfalfa does not reseed itself like grass does. If it's dying out, just let it. If you aren't grazing it until winter, the alfalfa is going to be rather stemmy, mature sticks of low nutritional value. (all the leaves will of long fallen off). The benefit to your grasses having the alfalfa mixed in is the alfalfa binds N and reduces the need to add additional N in the form of fertilizer saving your $$ and work. If you plow the field under to get rid of it, you will loose use of the field and the crop it produces for a minimum of this year, incur the cost of reseeding and plowing as well as create an opportunity for weeds to set in. If you absolutely have to get rid of it, spray the field with an appropriate broadleaf herbicide. It will kill everything it is formulated to kill that is NOT a grass. Your grass will be safe to graze typically in as little as 3 days depending upon the product, but I prefer to wait for a good rain. You can then overseed your field to increase the density of the grass plants and introduce better grasses.

Shropshirerosie 05-18-2013 03:15 PM

Thank you lefthandP, that's really helpful advice.

Phly 05-18-2013 03:38 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Left Hand Percherons (Post 2552034)
Alfalfa is a relatively short lived plant. Typically the field will last 6-8 years before it has to be replanted. That's because alfalfa does not reseed itself like grass does. If it's dying out, just let it. If you aren't grazing it until winter, the alfalfa is going to be rather stemmy, mature sticks of low nutritional value. (all the leaves will of long fallen off). The benefit to your grasses having the alfalfa mixed in is the alfalfa binds N and reduces the need to add additional N in the form of fertilizer saving your $$ and work. If you plow the field under to get rid of it, you will loose use of the field and the crop it produces for a minimum of this year, incur the cost of reseeding and plowing as well as create an opportunity for weeds to set in. If you absolutely have to get rid of it, spray the field with an appropriate broadleaf herbicide. It will kill everything it is formulated to kill that is NOT a grass. Your grass will be safe to graze typically in as little as 3 days depending upon the product, but I prefer to wait for a good rain. You can then overseed your field to increase the density of the grass plants and introduce better grasses.

Very well said^^^.


Also alfalfa doesn't take to grazing well. It's probly near the end of its lively hood and grazing alone may finish it off.

You could take the aggressive hands on option, or, something more passive and beneficial. Such as, do you know anyone with a thin horse that could benefit from the alfalfa and grazing? Or a horse that's gone buddy/barn sour that could use a lil time in solitary? Or a calf to mow it and finish, then eat said calf? The list could go on...

I guess I'd rather see the available forage used, rather then destroyed. Especially the way things are these days.

We've put our horses in unused cow pasture of a friends just to mow and they get all fat an happy.
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Koolio 08-09-2013 11:55 AM

I worried about the alfalfa when we moved to our acreage as well, but I ended up letting the horses graze it down with careful monitoring and rotating and after two years, it is well controlled. Regular mowing will also help cut it down fairly well.

That said, I don't know if I would try to get rid of it entirely. Alfalfa has a much longer root than grass and so it does well in drier years. The past three years in this area have been wet, but before that we had a drought that lasted quite a few years and grazing and hay were very sparse, except for alfalfa fields.

Unless your horses have a sensitivity to alfalfa in particular, it isn't as terrible of a grazing source as many make it out to be. Like anything however, you have to manage grazing to meet the needs of your horses, so a dry lot for easy keepers and a gradual introduction to grazing is a must. You might balance their nutritional requirements best with rotatinal grazing and a grass only hay.


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