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Maintaining a pasture

Posted by mollymaples Northwest,z6 (My Page) on
Thu, Aug 7, 08 at 15:01

I would like to know what works best for spreading manure around in the pasture. A Harrower or a Landscaping Rake. My horses graze after it is cut and tend to choose one corner as their favorite place to go. Of course, they also use the entire pasture as well. Any ideas?


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RE: Maintaining a pasture

I guess I would need to know how large your pasture was, how many horses, and how much rain you get over the growing season? Do you have more than one pasture?

My midwest growing conditions are different than yours, but some truisims hold for all grass growing.

I am presuming this manure is just from the grazing animals and the bathroom spot. Not stall cleanings piled up or dumped out there.

I use a manure spreader to dump the stall cleanings into the pastures. I don't have a manure pile or compost pile. I use a chain harrow/drag to break up my pasture manure. Mine is like this one sold by TSC:

http://www.tractorsupply.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay_10551_10001_34351_-1______?rFlag=true&cFlag=1

I tend to mow when grass gets to about 8 inches tall, mow so it is about 5 inches tall, then drag everything so the manure, grass clippings, all get spread to a thinner layer. Thinner means they dry out faster, breakdown quicker. Gets organic material, plant clippings, down around the grass roots. Kind of a mulching effect, which holds moisture in roots better, protects roots from sunburn, promotes better growth.

I get plenty of rain most seasons, so growth needs regular trimming to keep it growning. Grass goes dormant if allowed to set seed, quits growing for the season. Letting mine get taller than about 8 inches, makes it a shock to the plant when I cut it to 5 inches. Shocked plants take longer to get back into production of growing. No shorter than 5 inches, because longer leaves protect the plant roots, provide energy to feed the roots, encourage good root growth for a better plant. I rotate the pastures often, to prevent over grazing, where horses eat the grass down to the roots. Takes much longer for those plants to recover and grow enough leaf to graze on again.

Good, protected roots on your grass plants allow them to keep growing well with sharp hooves running across, plants don't get cut up or ripped out easily. Plant can reach deeper for moisture on the dry weeks of late summer.

What I have found with horses, is that if you only have one field, it is better to divide it, than let them use the whole thing. Horses keep returning to favorite grass patches, ignore the rest. So you have big, leafy grass that is too tough to eat, green looking dirt that they have grazed as close as they can. They never graze it evenly, all over the field. Looking at the field, you WOULD THINK horses have plenty to eat, but they don't. You can't MAKE them eat the lush looking stuff and they turn the other stuff to dust. Within a short time, pasture is in poor condition. Divided up, a field allows you to rotate horses thru the divisions, without destroying any of it.

You will need a dry lot area if you only have limited pasture. This dry lot is where horses stay when pasture is fragile, or you can only allow grazing for short times to have any kind of grazing at all. Horses will graze all day if allowed, though most don't need that much food if grass is good. Most horses are too fat, which leads to laminitus, and other health problems.

Keeping up good grass takes attention to conditions, timely mowing and dragging, rotation grazing or limited time on the grass to allow growth. Applications of fertilizer after soil testing to find WHICH fertilizers will help YOUR FIELD. Don't just buy a bag of fertilizer, it probably is not what the field needs, so it wastes your money and doesn't help where needed. A soil test is really a valuable tool, tells you exactly what is needed to produce your grass crop. I hear so many folks say they just lime a pasture field every year. While Lime is good for growing things, it is no help if the field crop needs Nitrogen or the other minerals.

Each area of the country has special needs in keeping horses on pasture. Some get tiny amounts of rain in a year, grass is fragile. So without more information, this generalized information is all I can give you.


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RE: Maintaining a pasture

We break up the manure by mowing once a month. It spreads the manure and keeps the majority of the weeds down. It works better for the manure than for the weeds.

I have questions about weed control that you may be able t help me with. We have 5 acres & 3 horses, and ragweed without end.

We mow the weeds down once a month with the lawnmower, which does spread the manure around quite a bit. However, it hardly phases the ragweed.

My husband says spray, but I'm terrified that my old horses will get sick from it.

I'm curious about manure spreaders. We are looking at the newerspreader, ever use one?

I bring the horses in during the day to keep them from getting too fat. It helps the pasture a bit, but not as much as I would like.

I suspect they are overgrazing the pasture. I think sub-dividing the pasture would be a good idea. As long as we can keep the weeds from outgrowing the grass.

Kitty


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RE: Maintaining a pasture

We bolted 10 20" truck tires together in a triangle shape, about 8 feet wide, attatched a chain at one point and pulled it with a tractor, broke up the piles nicely.


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RE: Maintaining a pasture

fancifowl has the right idea...cheap and effictive...i have 3 sets of tire drags, one on each farm. They are 16" truck tires put together with eye bolts. 3 in the first row, 4 in the second row off set from the first row, and 3 in the third row, aligned with the first row. We pull them with tractor or atv. They will last for many years and are virtually indestructable.


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RE: Maintaining a pasture

Great ideas. We have about 12 acres grass that is cut and baled, then used for grazing in July after the bales are off. While a mower does help to throw manure, we don't mow it again unless it is uneven. We have six horses and rotate 6 pastures. I like the tire drag idea, sounds like it works well. I was also thinking of using a stretch of chain link fence with a board on each end for weight. Goodhors, do you hay your pastures or just keep them short for grazing? We do cut our pastures to maintain an even length and cut the spots the horses leave behind. Another question, do you take your horses off the pastures at night? I agree they are too fat but seems like a lot of work for one person to try and do by them self. We do have a dry area around the barn that we keep the horses in during the winter and early spring when it is wet. They also are allowed to graze in the forest in the fall after we take them off the pasture. We hay them during the winter from November until May. We could put them out earlier in that there is plenty of grass by then, but the fields are very wet in April and part of May. Thanks again for all the ideas.


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RE: Maintaining a pasture

I bring my horses in during the heat of the day.

We have no shade and two are in their 20's. It seems to help them several ways. Less overeating, their hooves stay in better shape when the mares aren't overweight. I can grain my old TB gelding, who is gaunt otherwise.

I like the truck tire idea.

I mowed the ragweed this weekend. There seems to be less of it than last year. I was surrounded by a flock of either swallows or swifts, grabbing up the bugs. It was so neat to see them wheeling and diving all around me.

Kitty


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RE: Maintaining a pasture

As to the ragweed issue, this late in the year mowing is probably the best idea. A good stand of forage will inhibit the growth of weeds, but most all farms have weeds of some type during some point in the growing season. The pastures you see that are weedless season after season are most likely using a herbicide. And thats not the evil that some make it out to be. 2-4D will do a fine job on your rag weed, without harming your stock. Apply it in early spring at the first sign of weeds. You just have to decide which is costing you more...time and money mowing and loss of pasture to weeds, or 1 quart of 2-4D in 10 gallons of water per acre. If you cannot find someone local to apply this for you, I have seen it done with a back pack sprayer and alot of patience. You will want to stay as close to 10 gallons per acre as possible (hence the reason for a calibrated sprayer) otherwise you may burn the weed not killing the roots, or just injuring the weed and it will continue to grow. There are other herbicides out there, but 2-4D is the cheapest and works great on most broadleaf weeds. By the way, it will injure or kill your clover if its up and growing strong at application time. If your weeds are taking over, I would spray them down next spring. One application my be all you'd have to use.


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RE: Maintaining a pasture

We have about 11 acres of pasture, cut into fields and paddocks. We have between 7-9 horses with 8 as average. All larger animals, not drafts, though easy keepers. Pasture is all strictly grazing ground.

Hay is cheaper to buy for us, than invest the money in machinery, chance losing the crop to weather as many have this year. If one farmer has no hay, got up bad hay, we can go shop elsewhere. Prices locally run pretty consistant in costs.

Horses are out half days, winter and summer. We barn them part of the day to keep them civilized! Something about being led in and out, LAYING ON THE HANDS DAILY, keeps them believing we are in charge. They don't argue, resist direction, much better behaved with this treatment. They would be extremely ROTUND if left out to graze 24 hours a day. We probably wouldn't have much pasture to graze either. Would be down to the dirt. I would still lock them out of pasture half the day, if we didn't barn them up. That is why you have a sacifice paddock or dry lot.

We have tie stalls for 7, with two box stalls used for the old horse or mare and foal. Perhaps use a box stall for the weaned youngster, until he learns to tie well as a yearling. Tie stalls are extremely efficient with bedding use and cleaning times. Horses lay down at night or for daily naps, plenty of room to be comfortable. We turnout days in colder seasons, with night turnout in hot weather. Flies are terrible right now, the horses never rest in daylight hours, take off racing when the bombers come along. Darker barn doesn't seem to make flies want to come in, so horses nap and get relief. Saves stomping and tearing up hooves, shoes, when they are inside days.

Your keeping horses off wet fields until hay is off, ground is dry, sounds like what I would do. Horses can really trash up wet ground quickly. If you have hay to feed, then I wouldn't change anything. Ours are on sacrifice paddocks in spring, until the ground is hard again. Soft ground in the woods also gets really torn with sharp hooves. Trees die from that. Horses LOVE to chew trees during winter, can destroy them quickly from boredom. I have my few pasture trees fenced off from the horses reach. I let the horses out in pastures when ground is frozen, can't be damaged. I do let the grass get longer in fall, don't mow after mid-Sept. We can get snow from Nov on, though we may not, so grass grows until ground freezes.

I have dragged with implement tires, very heavy and large. They make a nice path thru frozen snow, smoothing gravel or lane to the field. Lovely to smooth off muck paddock in the wet season. Haven't tried dragging tires fastened together in the field. My only thought would be that they are very heavy, cover a lot of ground surface. This could damage the grass more heavily than a chain type harrow/drag with teeth. I use the teeth down when I drag, to kind of comb the pasture grass, break up manure. I save the flat side for mud smoothing or sand in the arena.

We tried the chainlink fence drag. Made one but didn't find it to work very well. Too light a chain, bent and twisted if it snagged on stuff. Anything tied on to hold it down, came loose. We tried modifying it various ways, none were very successful for long. Husband got angry, bought the chain harrow. I sometimes add tires on that to hold it down when I want more bite, or drag like on mud smoothing in spring. I really use it a lot for many things.

I do try to mow and drag my chain harrow the same day, so bruised grass has to get better just once. Not damaged twice with two sessions, so quicker recovery to grow again. I mow with a bush hog, not a regular lawn mower. Bush hog does not spread the manure during a pass over. This mowing helps keep the weeds down.

I do some weed spraying, using glycosophine (sp?) which is the same chemical as Round Up uses. This is to keep the fence lines clear, electric going thru the wires. I get the generic stuff, at a cheaper price than name-brand Round Up. Read your label, to know what chemicals are inside each product. It allows you to compare products and prices. This generic is absorbed by the plant, then starts breaking down within 24 hours, no residue into the ground. You see dying weed results within 7-14 days, no immediate wilt. 2-4-D, Brush-B-Gon, leaves a residue in the ground, which can last for a couple years, according to my information. While they both inhibit brush regrowth, kill weeds, I don't want that kind of stuff in my dirt. Read ALL the caution and application information. Herbicides do MANY things beyond weed killing. Should not get on your skin, plan for wind drift, not getting into water systems, some states require licensed applictor person. I put on my weed killer with hand sprayer, get it where I want it. Good grass keeps weeds down. Especially with regular mowing.

I would still get soil tests done on my fields. It really helped my pasture's yield increase. We seldom feed any hay during summer now. Usually have enough to graze thru summer until freezing weather. I plant seed, early summer or fall, to aid in filling out any bare spots, thicken the growth. Ground needs to be warm for seed to germinate, so fall may be more successful for you. I use a walk behind, drop seeder, on lightly disced ground, to ensure seed getting into the dirt. Disc kind of scratches the ground to open it from compacting hooves, lets the water go in, not just across the dirt. Then I drag the chain harrow to get better dirt coverage after. A bit more work, but better success levels too. Grass seed is $95 the bag, which can be 25 or 50 pounds for good seed. Like GOLD DUST!! I sure want the best use of seed to get my money's worth. We have mixed seed formulas, to have some green graze going in all weathers, hot or cold.

I have not found just overseeding, broadcast spreading, to be of any value. Just a waste of EXPENSIVE seed. If you can get seed drilled in, it seems to do the best of all. You can't expect a grazed pasture to reseed itself, produce more grass. Letting grass go to seed, just reduces your production when plants go dormant after setting seed. You have to invest in soil testing, some ground preparation, fertilizing and good seed, with some weather cooperating. You can fertilize and seed in either spring or early fall. You just want reliable water after, to help everything work as it should.


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RE: Maintaining a pasture

Bumping this - lots of good information here.


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