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Rosebud64 05-28-2010 06:22 AM

Pasture Management (Long Grass)
 
Bear with me, I am a new farm owner and have a couple of questions. We have 2 horses on 30 acres of pasture. Obviously, they can't get that eaten down. The grass is very long now, so much so, that they hardly have to put their head down to graze. My first question is, are they getting enough nutrition from this long grass? It seems like they are having a hard time eating it, as it is so wispy it kind of gets away from them. My next question would be, should I have someone come in and mow this down? Would that be better for them? Next, could it be baled? Any suggestions or advice appreciated as this is all new to me. Thanks.

Barry Godden 05-28-2010 08:36 AM

Cheryl on this tiny island we reckon that 1 acre of good nutritious grass will support one horse. So you guys in theory have room for 15 horses - but it doesn't work that way.

Horses are notoriously good at ruining pasture. They are selective eaters and they ruin the sward. Their dung if left uncollected stales the soil

Just because it is green and pokes up in the air doesn't mean it is all grass - it could be all sorts of weeds.

First thing I'd do is go along to a neighbour and talk grass. Find a wizened old farmer , sit him down give him a beer and let him look at your fields. Hide away a tape recorder and let him chat on and then give him another beer. He'll tell you more in a couple of hours than you'll learn in a few years.

Then go look for some horses in a field and talk with the owners. I'd ask about their routine.

Then look out for details of the weather in your part of the world - when does it rain, when does it snow when is there a drought.

But I'd know that
I would have to divide the land up into smaller paddocks
I would have to buy some sheep - yes I know , sheep aren't popular in the US
but sheep and horses go together and sheep eat grass.

and I would also know that if 2 horses left to roam and eat 30 acres of grass would mean that in the grass growing season there would be a severe risk of my horses getting laminitis.
and that if certain weeds are present in neglected grassland - in the UK it is ragwort - then my horse might be poisoned. Make sure there are no yew trees or laburnum trees in the fields.

For 30 acres you'll need a small tractor with a rotary mower and a harrow and a
lime/fertiliser spreader. You can also buy a dung vacuum cleaner.

The fencing for horses alone should be wooden post and rail but some of the posts need to be concreted in to provide rigidity.
You'll need gates.
You'll have to run mains water to a water trough in each paddock.

BY careful management and a knowledgeable routine, 30 acres can start you off in all sorts of horsey ventures. But you'll have to learn how to manage it.

Go get a book entitled "grassland management"
Look up on the internet "laminitis"
and "weeds poisonous to horses"

and take your Dad down to the agricultural machinery depot.

Cheryl, I had only 11 acres of ground for 4 horses and in the end I came to think that there was more work in looking after the ground than there was in playing with the horses. But that can be fun - so it didn't matter.

Incidentally one last thing. The horse needs supplements in addition to grass.
It might need magnesium and certain vitamins.
But talk with the local feed supplier.

Sheep - well that's a whole new subject. Sorry you need 'em but I don't know much about 'em except they go Baaa---aaaaa-----aaaa


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