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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So at the new location we’re moving to, the barn owner wants to put my three guys in a nice-sized pasture by themselves, which is fine with me. She describes the pasture as “13 acres,” but I’d say it’s more like 10, with a pond, a slough, and a round pen, so usable acreage is more like 8-9 acres. Supposedly it was pasture grass at one point, but right now it’s probably 90% weeds. I doubt there is anything particularly toxic out there, as there are two high-dollar horses on it right now, and they seem really healthy.

I have some questions about pasture maintenance. Some of them might be more specific to Texas / the South, but some are just really general.

1. Manure maintenance. This is a lot more space than the small pasture I had them on over the winter, so I’m not going to be able to go out there a couple of times a week and muck it and keep it clean that way. With nine acres, can I just let it go? Or should I arrange to have it dragged a couple times a year? Or something else?
2. Weed control. It needs to get mowed, obviously, probably ASAP and then again in another month, while we’re still in spring weed season. How often would you mow thereafter?
3. Grass. If it were fall/winter, after I had it mowed I’d seed with rye grass, because that’s a grass that grows well here, is good for horses, and can be grown from seed. Is it too late now to plant any other grass from seed, in Texas? If I did plant grass from seed, would I ideally need to split the pasture to give the grass time to get rooted before they got after it?
4. I told barn owner that I was concerned about the lack of forage for them on this pasture, and she said she would provide round bales. The round bales she’s been getting aren’t that great, though. I’m sure there is SOME stuff out there they could eat – would nine acres of mostly weeds (with some edible weeds, I’m sure) plus poor-quality round bales be enough to feed three horses? Pony is an easy keeper, Teddy is a small horse I’m still trying to put weight on, and Moonshine is an average sized quarterhorse with an average metabolism.
5. Wild hogs. There are what look to me to be hog wallows out there, in the very back of the pasture. Should I be concerned about these wallows or about the hogs?
6. Anything else I need to think about? I’m really bummed that I wasn’t able to attend A&M’s spring ranch management mini-course, because I’m sure I’d be a lot more prepared.

I guess I need to add, yes this is still the "full board" place, and yes the barn owner should really be worrying about this and not me (in fact she told me she wants to get it mowed); but I've been there long enough to know that if something needs to get done, then I need to do it myself. I don't mind. I just need to know what to do.
 

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See if she'll let you have your county extension agent out.

Some "weeds" are super nutritious. Others are considered invasive and there may be funds to help get rid of those.

If nothing else the agent can advise you on management.
 

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Is there a lawnmower or small tractor there? I would drag a harrow over the pasture to break up the piles. The ryegrass will die off as soon as it gets hot. I would wait and put that out in the fall.
I would get a soil sample done, and fertilize accordingly. This will encourage the grass to grow and choke out some of the weeds. You will need to keep the horses off of it until the first good rain.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Is there a lawnmower or small tractor there? I would drag a harrow over the pasture to break up the piles. The ryegrass will die off as soon as it gets hot. I would wait and put that out in the fall.
I would get a soil sample done, and fertilize accordingly. This will encourage the grass to grow and choke out some of the weeds. You will need to keep the horses off of it until the first good rain.
Yeah, that's the thing, keeping them off it. They will have stalls in the new place, but I hate putting them in stalls.

Would you try to plant some sort of summer or perennial grass? I'm worried that if I fertilize without there being a lot of grass there, that I'm just going to be feeding the weeds.
 

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I find that in a larger pasture, it is less crucial to worry about manure removal so on that size pasture, I probably wouldn't. The horses will hopefully start to use one area as a bathroom eventually. If there are open, relatively flat areas, I would drag any existing manure piles a couple of times a year, and yes, I would mow, but otherwise, I wouldn't do too much. 8-9 acres is quite a bit for three horses. When I first brought my horses home, we planned on seeded, and ended up with really lush pastures, and was told by vet and trimmer that I should put a grazing muzzle on my older horse. Of course we live in very different climates so maybe that doesn't apply where you are, but now, I don't bother seeding, or if I do, it's a very thin seeding of plain timothy. Fertilizing, liming, and seeding a large pasture like that? I wouldn't bother. Horses are meant to move around a lot to find food. Let them. If you decide there is really nothing in there for them to eat, then maybe start rotating so you can seed one side at a time.

Lots of weeds are just fine. Horses should also get a variety of forage, and are generally pretty good at picking out the good stuff. But do your research and see if there are any really dangerous plants that should be removed. Providing round bales on top of the grazing will ensure they get enough. I don't know about poor quality round bales because it depends what you mean by that. I wouldn't feed anything even slightly moldy or very dusty, but if it's just hay with some weeds in it (again nothing toxic) I probably wouldn't worry too much.
 

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I have four horses on 10 acres minus the house, barn, and pond, so about 9 acres. My pasture is mostly weeds but nothing toxic. I feed hay maybe 3 or 4 months a year, and I'm in Louisiana, so similar in climate as long as you're not in a dry part of TX. My horses stay relatively plump on weeds and ration balancer. A lush pasture can be worse than a sparse one. It's easy to add hay, but it's not always easy to limit access.



As far as manure management, I don't do anything. The bushhog breaks up the piles when we mow. We don't mow all that often.


If you want to be sure your horses don't loose weight on the new pasture, buy a weight tape and check them regularly. If they start to loose weight, get them some quality hay and seed the pasture when you can.
 

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Round rolls get rained on and rot or mold quickly when left out in the weather. Moldy hay can cause heaves and respiratory issues.

Rounds only work if they can be kept dry - if not they need to be consumed quickly. If i leave a round outside, it needs to be consumed in less than a week. Even then, i tarp it if we get rain.
 

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Take a sample of the soil to the local Ag extension and have it tested. Weeds love acidic soil. If the soil turns out to be very acidic then liming will do wonders. I wouldn't bother seeding it. Also when soil is very acidic, plants have a hard time utilizing minerals in the soil except iron so you will end up with high iron forage with little else. In FL liming the soil is pretty important as the soil tends to be on the acidic side. When you lime the soil it takes time and rain to get into the soil for the plants to use it.

Also, mowing. Mowing regularly will help keep the weeds knocked down and enable grass to grow better especially with the liming.

If you have the cash to lime the pasture and the mowing equipment to use, that's where I would start.
 
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Do you have oak trees of any variety in the pasture?
Your ground is acidic....lime is your friend.
Cheap to buy and put down, your grass growth and quality will be so much better for the animals to consume if you just put down lime.
I second getting a drag, make one no need to buy and drag that pasture to break up the lumps...

As for not doing anything about the weeds...
Sorry, to me that is wrong.
Weeds will take over a pasture in no time and render it junk status for nutrition for the horses.
Horses may eat weeds, but that doesn't mean it is best fodder to ingest, just means they have slim pickings to eat for many. :|
Just because it is green and looks like grass doesn't mean our horses will enjoy or eat it gaining any great nutritional value from it.
Why you can see a field of green and skinny horses together...they won't eat it or derive little value from eating it, period.
Having a field here sprayed with weed and feed is pretty cheap...
I do 6 acres with a local guy choosing the mix needed...
He walks my field looking at my grass and weeds...then he returns to his truck and takes out a jug of concentrate and adds it to the water for proper saturation level...truck tank has a paddle in it that stirs the mixture...
Climbs in, drops the sprayer application arms and sprays my field.
We can put the horses back out in 2 hours if we must but they recommend waiting a day if possible...
My fields are done in afternoon when my horses come home to eat and be paddock kept for the evening/night for security reasons so not a big deal.
Dew on grass overnight works wonders....
Wait till about 10:30 next morning so grass is now dry and out the horses go...
Great if it rains on it 12 hours post application but it works if not too....
Give my grass 3 days of this and you walk through and see the weeds dead and grass resuming growth in those areas...
Oh yes, it makes a difference and those that not maintain and do maintenance in my area are foolish on how much they lose of grazing goodness.
Oh...the cost, $20 per acre... darn well worth it to me!! :smile:


As for seeding...now...
You need special mixtures being this close to high heat and burning sun season.
Many seeds will not germinate but burn up and die....
Check with your Ag extension office to see what you can use that will grab a hold, germinate and grow this late in the season...
Rye...not the best for horses..
Rye here is what is planted for cattle fodder to eat in winter fields..
Horses, not so much.
They are fed off of round rolls and pick grasses in the fields usually.
My round roll we have up on a platform so off the ground, a roof-line over it and a water/rain break catty-corner from the direction we get the worst rains from...
If it is to really storm I tarp it, tie it down and weight it from blowing off.
Haven't had any issue of molding hay...
I also keep my round on end, not flat so water sheds not soak in also makes a difference.
We made a home made barrier to keep the horses from destroying the round and being piggies in and on it.
They can work and do work well with a little fore-thought to less mess and ease of use for all.
If I feed bales it is 2 a day @ $8.00 a piece...50 pounds.
IF I round roll it is $65 for 1000 pounds...you do the math and see where further your money goes.
Oh...with my homemade contraption I have 1% waste if that. :cool:

:runninghorse2:...
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks everyone. I'll definitely call the ag extension folks.... when I have time .... hopefully this week. I will have the weeds cut down also. At least once. The thing about this pasture is that for Pony, I think it will actually be a great pasture. He has never foundered, but he is sure an "easy keeper" and he doesn't need to be on rich grass, especially in the spring / early summer. Moonshine I think will do OK with maybe some good-quality supplemental hay (when I say the round bales she got weren't good quality, what I mean is that it looked terrible, the horses wouldn't eat the stuff at all if they could help it, and there was a shockingly high percentage of colics in my barn over the winter. It's one reason why I started buying and feeding alfalfa hay for my guys). I'm still trying to put weight on Teddy, though. I could just keep giving him extra hay.
 

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Thanks everyone. I'll definitely call the ag extension folks.... when I have time .... hopefully this week. I will have the weeds cut down also. At least once. The thing about this pasture is that for Pony, I think it will actually be a great pasture. He has never foundered, but he is sure an "easy keeper" and he doesn't need to be on rich grass, especially in the spring / early summer. Moonshine I think will do OK with maybe some good-quality supplemental hay (when I say the round bales she got weren't good quality, what I mean is that it looked terrible, the horses wouldn't eat the stuff at all if they could help it, and there was a shockingly high percentage of colics in my barn over the winter. It's one reason why I started buying and feeding alfalfa hay for my guys). I'm still trying to put weight on Teddy, though. I could just keep giving him extra hay.
Does Teddy get anything other than grass and hay? My new guy Rusty needs a little extra, so I give him double the ration of beet pulp twice a day. It has to be soaked, so maybe not practical for you... but maybe you could give Teddy some hard feed a couple of times a day to help keep the weight on without adding more hay in the pasture which the other two horses will be sharing. It's the only way I can keep my three together. Even alfalfa hay cubes or pellets if given in a large enough quantity might help give him the extra he needs.
 

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Hi AC

I have a similar situation in central Colorado; 4 Equines on ~10 acres, only about 8 really accessible to the critters, and only 1 or 2 that have decent grass; the rest is (er, um) Xeriscaped. There is a stream, and a pond with dense brush, and a bog; the horses _love_ it in the summer.
I have fence lines that separate the immediate area of the barn from the grassy pasture, and from the pond, and associated bog. They have free access to the remaining land, and get The Pond or The Pasture alternately, with enough down-time to allow the vegetation to recover somewhat from their depredations.
I mow, two or three times a season, basically when the weeds get tall enough for the mower to do its thing (8-10 inches?) I use a wire harrow to drag the land where I can get at it with the tractor. I also spread partially composted manure, and run the harrow over that; usually all in the same work session.
Mine get free-feed grass hay from a Hay Hut all year 'round, with a light breakfast consisting primarily of a ration balancer, mixed with a little grain or sweet-feed, a probiotic, and their medications. They also get a skinny flake (~2lb) of Alfalfa for dinner. I have found that they hold out for their tasty Alfalfa dinner, and if nothing else, it reduces the consumption of hay by at least the volume of the Alfalfa; more'n that during the growing season. Lately, Alfalfa is both cheaper, and of higher quality than grass in this part of the world, however free-feed Alfalfa is a very bad idea.
I have tried grass seed in the fall; the birds eat it. I have tried seed after running the harrow; the birds eat it. I have seeded after harrowing, and then flipped the harrow and dragged again to hopefully bury the seed. Drought set in; little if any grass from the seed. I _hate_ farming ;-) Where grass grows is where the soil is irrigated by the stream/pond/bog, and if I seed that most of the seed appears to take hold and grow. Message is that Grass needs water, and on arid soil, it probably isn't worth the effort to seed. Anyway, I'm not gonna bother with it unless we lose the drought; unlikely, according to the National Weather Prognosticators.
(edit to add) Mine share their home with Mule Deer (all year 'round), Elk (during their seasonal migration), Red Fox, Coyote, a resident Bobcat, Black Bear, and the occasional Mountain Lion (goes with the Mulies). Never caused the horses any bother; they do get a little nervous when a Lion is in the neighborhood. I don't know about feral pigs, but I would worry more for my well-being than for the horses. Some one else can probably offer better insight on this item.
 

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With your description of many colics in the barn, the quality of hay it certainly sounds suspect...
Do you feed your horses a vitamin/mineral supplement at all or feed, whatever kind you feed...but do you feed it?
I can't recommend strongly enough to feed some soaked alfalfa cubes...you don't need a lot of them.
My horse is 16 hands...OTTB.
I feed him 2 large handfuls of cubes...
Fill a bucket 3/4 full of water then add the cubes to it...
I do my soak started in the morning and feed it in the afternoon, or with evening feed.
That small amount has made incredible gains on my horse.
He is no longer ribby, he is no longer topline poor.
In 1 bag of cubes {I use Tractor Supply store brand}....
I saw a large improvement in 1 bag...
Try it and see if Teddy not respond in the same manner...
Some time, small effort from me and affordable made it easy enough to try...and it works! :cool:
:runninghorse2:...
 

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- A pasture that is 90% weeds due to overgrazing will be high in sugar and poor quality forage. You really can't do much about reseeding it unless it can have several months (a year is better) to grow and REST. Mowing it will keep the weeds down, but if it's really weedy, it will take several mowings and a few years to get them under control. The BO should be doing this, not you.

- I would not allow my horses to be fed crap hay that has caused colics all winter. Nope, nope, nope. You're paying full board for a weedy, overgrazed pasture and bad hay? What, exactly, is she doing??

- I would be concerned having an 'easy keeper' pony and a hard keeper on the same pasture and feed regimen with a BO who doesn't seem like she can be bothered to actually care for the horses on the property.

Maybe I'm wrong, but this doesn't sound like an ideal situation at all. It sounds like you'll be paying full board plus still supplying your own hay and doing all pasture maintenance yourself? What happens if you get the pasture up to par and then she starts adding other horses to it, or moving yours out? If you decide to go ahead and board here, I would have a contract drawn up to protect yourself--- what work you plan to do, that she is ok with it, and that this pasture will not be used for anyone else's animals while you are there. You should be getting a hefty boarding discount if you're paying for fertilizer, dragging your own pasture, mowing your own pasture, and supplying your own hay.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
@Acadianartist Yes I do give him some beet pulp every other day or so. He isn't that fond of it. If I give it to him every day, he won't eat it. As it is, I have to mix in senior feed or he won't touch it. Although today Barn Owner called him "a little chunky." I may be posting pictures to get opinions. I can still see his ribs, so I wouldn't call him chunky. But I digress....
@george the mule that's good to know about seeding. Maybe it isn't worth it, except for the wet areas. I need to think about it.
@horselovinguy yes I feed them Farnam Vita Plus, plus Smart Pak smartcombo pellets. I put it in a "muesli" type feed (hay pellets, oats, seeds), which they get maybe 1-1.5 pounds of per day, when I see them. Teddy also gets a protein supplement, but I think I'm going to wean him off that as he's building back up pretty well. I give them all some alfalfa hay when I go out there (3-5 times per week), 1-2 flakes per horse. I do have a bag of alfalfa pellets that I've been using as a treat; I guess I could move that into more of a normal food. I prefer giving them hay to pellets, though, since it's closer to its natural form.
@SilverMaple yes she really should be doing it, but in my experience even when she realizes that she should do something, it doesn't always happen. This is partially, IMO, because she relies mostly on free labor to get things done. So, if I think something needs to get done and want it to get done, it's going to be on me to do it. I've accepted that. I feel like, for the most part, because I give my guys supplemental alfalfa (that, yes, I am paying for) they are in much better shape than the other horses out there. And because of that, I have also seem them mostly turn up their noses at the round bales. I guess I'm OK with this -- it's there if they want it, but they don't need it, or at least they haven't yet. I'm still trying to figure out if Teddy is really a hard keeper (he shouldn't be, he's half Welsh and half QH) or if ... well, I don't know what else. I don't think he has a high worm load, but I could get that checked. I don't mind giving him some extra hay every now and then, especially as it makes him happy to see me. I like your idea about the contract, though. I've been looking into other boarding stables in the area, and there aren't very many that have space for three horses on full pasture board. So I think I've got to make the best of what I have.
 
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ACinATX, While not in Texas, and not knowing what region you live in there, I will tell you what we did here in south east Alabama.
We bought this place in the fall of 2015, 12 acres, minus house and yard, so about 6-8 acres of usable pasture. Not crossed fenced, so we can't fertilize or lime should we need to.

That fall, I seeded winter rye so the horses would have some "green" in their diet. Our vet told us that horses prefer chlorophyll or good green stuff in their diet. We kept round bails, free choice under a shelter for them also.
Spring arrives in 2016... The most weeds I ever saw. I already had two tractors and a bush hog before we bought the property. The P.O. left a 6' finishing mower with the purchase. So, I began the bush hog routine. worked out real good, that was about May or so. Around June, I noticed some weeds coming back. I decided to set the finishing mower at 3" and try that... Horses still had the pasture grass, no real weeds.

I wrote all that just to say this. While a bush hog, or rotary mower will cut, it's more for rough stuff, a finishing mower works great for pasture grass, set at the right height. Think of it as a lawn, only cut higher.

I haven't had any weed problems since, and I only cut 2 - 3 times a year, during the spring, summer, and fall.

As far as poop, the mower does a good job of breaking that up, but I do have a home made drag to use if need be.
Knowing that you're boarding presents a problem. The BO may not want to do all that, nor would you, if you have to hire someone.


Good Luck,
Roger
 
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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I guess I also wanted to add... Like I said, I know it should really be her responsibility to take care of this stuff, and not mine. But I am hoping to be able to buy land and move my horses out there in the next ten years or so, and it's nice to have a chance to sort of mess with a pasture and feeding right now, on land that I don't actually own. This pasture is pretty poor anyway, so I wouldn't think I could do a lot to it to make it worse, but maybe I'm wrong; and if learn that in this situation now, at least I haven't messed up my own land, y'know? And honestly, where this new barn is located, it's going to be a housing tract in five years anyways, so it's not like I'm permanently ruining a good pasture. I hope that doesn't sound terrible. But I view this as a sort of "no harm" practice run for the future. It's one reason I keep choosing to put my horses in separate pastures and then asking a bunch of questions here -- this is my chance to learn without causing myself a permanent problem.
 

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I wouldn't worry about manure. Our horses have their favorite poop spots. Once a year, hubs drags a wire cattle panel behind the tractor or the ranger to spread it around and break it, and the cow poop up, so then the pasture gets fertilized too.


Uhm... weeds... You're in Texas, probably a bermuda grass 'base' is what you're going to have. If you'll just keep it mowed, the bermuda will come in strong in a few weeks and choke almost everything else out. The horses will do the rest by keeping it grazed down, IMO.


If you have any spots of bare ground, say where the topsoil is gone and you have clay exposed (Or whatever 'base' soil you have under the top soil), you can put your round bales/hay rings in that area. Over time, the left overs will get stomped into the ground and reseed it but also help form a new layer of topsoil over time and will stop further erosion.



I second getting the extension office out though.
 
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Ummm...not to be a nit-picker but....


Alfalfa cubes not pellets...
Cubes made the difference...
I fed pellets, lots of pellets...
The vet told me the closer to "hay" and for whatever the reason the cubes produced results, the pellets I was wasting my money on...
Cubes, feed soaked alfalfa cubes.
:runninghorse2:...
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
As a followup, I went back out there today and had a much closer look at the pasture. It does look like there is already Bermuda grass there, under all of the weeds, in maybe 80% of the land, although it's not exactly thick or lush. I walked the property with someone who has offered to mow it for me. He thinks that with two mowings, spaced a month apart, we should be able to clear out much of the weeds and encourage the grass to grow. Barn Owner is talking about getting it fertilized, but I'll believe that when it happens. At least I don't need to worry about seeding it or anything. I think I will get the weeds cleared and then see what I need to do after that, if anything.
 
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