With the first day of spring and summer weather quickly approaching, it is important to take care of your pasture. This is a place where your horses get to graze, interact with one another, and have free range to roam in a designated space. Along with the typical spring cleaning, below are a few tips on how to manage your pasture this upcoming season!
1. Checking soil fertility is key
It is important to take a soil sample. The evaluation will allow you to know if you need to add more nutrients to your pasture or not. If your test results conclude that you have low soil pH, your soil has reduced nutrient availability, and your crop protection decreases. There are ways to improve the soil if your soil isn’t up to par. One way is to add the correct amount of fertilizer based on the soil test results. Not only will this help strengthen the soil, but it will decrease any weed growth. Another way to improve the soil is with the addition of lime. It is recommended to only apply lime once during a 3-year period. Lime takes about 6-12 months to react in the soil. Once it reacts in the soil, it will lead to an increase in the quality of forage.
2. Fixing post-winter damaged areas in your pasture
Depending on how harsh your winter conditions were, your pasture may need improvements. Make sure to assess your pasture in-depth to figure out what spots are damaged. You should re-seed any damaged areas. Instead of manually throwing the seeds onto the ground, purchase a drill that has depth control. Use this drill to insert the seeds into the ground; the seeds should not be placed more than a ½ inch into the ground. This ensures a more successful re-seeding than manual spreading. It is also a more cost-effective strategy in the long run.
3. Plan a grazing management strategy
Now that spring is upon us, it is important to plan a grazing management strategy. Having a strategy will help ensure pasture productivity as well as health maintenance. There are two different strategies that you could potentially choose from. The first strategy is continuous grazing; this strategy allows the animals to choose what areas, and plants, they want to graze from. This requires less work from you. Animals will be attracted to new growth that was freshly grazed. Areas that were not grazed will lose nutrition over time. The second strategy is rotational grazing; this strategy limits the areas in which your animals can graze. You lead your animals to new paddocks once the forage reaches a specific height. Since the areas to graze from are limited, this gives forage time to grow again and restock on carbohydrates.
4. Do not allow horses onto the pasture immediately
The pasture needs time to recuperate and regrow from the winter. It is recommended that you keep your horses off of the grass until there are about 5-8 inches of growth. Also, the soil should be firm enough so your horses aren’t sinking into the ground. Muddy, dirty hooves, and a destroyed pasture will only lead to more work for you in the long run. It is extremely important that you limit the amount of time the horses are in the pasture. First, the reintroduction of grass, the horse’s feed, could potentially upset the horse’s stomach. This issue could be caused by the carbohydrates found in spring grasses. Spring grass has non-structural carbohydrates when compared to other seasonal grasses. It is recommended that you limit your horses to 15 minute grazing periods. As your horses become more attuned to the new feed, you can expand the grazing period time to your turnout time.
5. Prepare for summer
Spring is usually known for typical rain spells and warmer, mild weather. Summer can become an extremely hot, parched season. It is crucial to prepare for a summer that could potentially dehydrate your whole pasture. One way to prepare for this is to implement the rotational grazing strategy. With this strategy, your horses will receive high nutrition from your grass. Another way to prepare for a dry summer is to allow your grass to grow! Taller grass can protect your soil and it also leads to wind reduction across the soil. The protection of the moisture in the soil is vital to pasture growth. If you are running low on grass, you can substitute hay for grass. This gives your grass time to grow back. It is also important to trim or even remove weeds during this time period.
These tips should be beneficial when you start your spring pasture management process. We hope that each and every one of you who own pastures has abundant grazing conditions, fertile soil, healthy animals, and that summer is not too dry for your fields!