Pasture Troubles.. Advice Please?
Okay, so to start out with I own three horses. Their pasture is about maybe five acres? I know, it sounds small but you have to hear the whole story. Well during the summer the grass explodes, like literally. We have to mow it about every other week to keep it from swallowing my horses whole! No kidding, it gets really high. I guess this is because it is next to a swamp so the land is fertile (And we live down in Florida so the sunshine and lots of rain help some too).
Well to sum it up I LOVE my pasture during the summer. My horses stay nice and fat and they get plenty of what they naturally need. But during the winter, I get quite saddened. You see, we don't get as much rain so their pasture becomes lifeless. The grass will get short and we never have to mow because the grass doesn't grow. So this is when my horses weight starts to drop. Their ribs start to gradually show so then I load them up on hay. They get several flakes a day along with their grain but it still doesn't seem to satisfy their bodies.
So I guess what I am asking is how to keep my pasture in nice condition during the winter? I would love for the grass to stay lush and plentiful like during the summer, but is that possible? I can't fertilize it though because won't that poison the horses? Help :-(
I wish I could be of more help. Generally in the winter, even in the south, you have to supplement pasture with hay. A LOT of hay:shock:. (at least 1/2 - 3/4 of a square bale depending on the quality of the hay and the size of the bale.) The good grass just does not grow well in the winter - if it's not too cold, it's too dry - and hay is pretty much the best way to go. It's not very likely that you would be able to get enough winter grass for your horses on five acres.
I have five horses (six if you count our new little filly) on 15 overgrown with brush acres and it's pushed to the max even in the spring and summer. We are working on clearing it, and once we get it cleared, we'll have to pen up the horses so we can seed and fertilize. Then we'll have to give the grass several weeks to take hold or the horses will eat it faster than it can grow.
Dee is right. Regardless of how many acres you have, at least in NC, good grass doesn't grow in the winter and if it's a wet winter, there is more mud than anything else. Our mares eat about 2/3 of a 50lbs sq bale of good orchard/fescue a day each when it's cold. No way around feeding hay in the winter around here.
Lock them up instead of mowing in summer - Save that excess grass instead of getting rid of it. You can use a track to keep them moving more and save the inside for winter.
Fat isn't very healthy for horses, so keep them on a fairly grazed out track and let a little more grass in at a time to keep them at a good weight.
At the moment we have 5 horses on just over 5 acres. Not the ideal situation, some of them really need to be moved to a different property we use close by but atm thats not possible for various reasons.
What else are you feeding in winter? How much hay? And if its just hay you may need to consider using hard feed also.
But yeah, like WS said, try to save the grass in summer.
Ha, lucky you. I'm in canada and winter is nothing but snow so it's mandatory to give hay. One round bale feeds approximately 14 average sized horses for one day. Although, they get two bales every second day, still works out the same though.
If I were you I'd split it into a couple of smaller pastures. I have 2 horses on about 2 acres (plus 3/4 acre sacrifice area for the winter) and this is what I'm working towards. Our grass generally stops growing in July/August and we don't have much grazing. But they can't keep up in June. September the pasture usually satisfies their needs.
In the summer, rotate them through relatively quickly (4-6 days) and after the horses are out have a farmer come out and hay it. Then you have hay for the winter months.
During the winter, rotate them through more slowly (1-2 weeks) to give the grass a chance to grow. Supplement with hay on a dry lot if the grass quits growing.
Most farmers are willing to hay your pastures for a cut of the hay.
If they're thin, then they need more hay. You should be feeding 2-3.5% of the horse's body weight a day in hay when there is little to no grazing. That means 20-35 lbs of hay every day, preferably fed 2-3 times a day. Our grass bales are light, about 50-65 lbs, so I feed 1/2 bale per-horse daily.
Start feeding hay BEFORE they lose weight...
2-3 flakes of grass hay (if they're light to medium weight bales) is barely enough for one MEAL, and far from enough for a whole day.
Also, you might call around and see if you can find someone to bale your pasture for you. That may save you some money, and your horses will get better quality hay.
Why waste that pasture by mowing it? Just have it cut for hay.
I wish I had good grass any time of the year. I feed hay year round. Right now I have 16 horses on 20 acres of pasture, and I feed a round bale out every 2 weeks or so. In winter time the hay goes a LOT faster!!!
You absolutely have to rotate. Five acres is plenty for 3 horses if the grass is lush in summer, but the average lawn in various other parts of the world will be overgrazed fairly quickly. Your winters can probably compare to our autumns when things start dying. Regardless if you don't get winter, everything slows down and rests a bit. The temps and weather patterns change, and the grass wants to "sleep" so to speak.
I would build a minimum of two separate enclosures (three if you can) with easy gates so you can keep them open in summer. In winter, keep them to one area, and supplement with hay. Let the other areas grow and then rotate.
Keep in mind, due to the change in climate for winter months, the grass is nowhere NEAR as nutritious as it is in summer. You may think they can graze all winter because you don't get snow but you simply can't. You may be able to get away with using less hay then we do in snowy climates, but not as much as you think.
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