Summer is Here
With the arrival of summer, horse owners and horses alike are ready to enjoy some warm weather! It is important to have your pastures prepared for all the use they will be getting this season. Keeping pastures current on renovations will help to limit the amount of work you need to do to them in the seasons to come. There are many ways that you can improve your pastures that will help to keep your horses healthy as well as ensure the longevity of the pasture itself.
Soil Testing, Fertilizing, and Liming
It is essential to test the nutrient levels in your pasture every 2 to 3 years. These nutrients help the plants to have a deeper root system, which in turn can extract water from greater depths. This is very beneficial during drought periods. The use of fertilizer in the pasture benefits the pasture’s overall health, which reflects the health of the horse. With fertilizer, 50 pounds of nitrogen per acre is recommended as long as your field does not include clovers and other legumes. Having a soil pH of 6.2 allows the grass to absorb the nutrients most efficiently. Lime applications can be useful at any time during the year. You should only use the recommended amount over the course of 3 years. After the 3 years are over your soil needs retested.
Overseeding and Fixing Bare Spots
Overseeding can help the grass stand in areas where it has been flattened. It is important to restore the grass in areas of high traffic for the horses, such as along fences. In areas that have turned into dirt or weeds, more work has to be done than just overseeding the grass. Fertilizing and liming, which were mentioned above, are a must if you wish to get that area of the pasture healthy again. Once your field is renovated to your standards, you should not allow your horses to graze on the area for one full year; otherwise, you risk your pasture returning to how it was previously. For more details on overseeding and fertilizers click here.
Having a Sacrifice Area is crucial to maintaining a healthy pasture. A Sacrifice Area is a small enclosure, like a corral, run, or pen that works as your horse’s outdoor living quarters. It is called a Sacrifice Area because you are giving up this small portion of land (as a grassed area) to benefit the rest of your pastures. The sacrifice area allows the horse to be able to get exercise and still roam about but without causing any harm to the pasture. Keeping the horses in the Sacrifice Area allows you to provide any maintenance that may be required for your pasture. It is beneficial to regularly rotate horses between the sacrifice area and the pasture so that the field is not always in use, which can damage it. For additional information on the Sacrifice Area click the link here.
Rotational grazing is when you move animals through pastures a portion at a time in order to improve plant life, soil, and the health of the animals. It is important to control when, where, and for how long the animals graze. Rotational Grazing is vital if you want to keep your pastures and animals as healthy as they can be. Allowing your horses to graze too long in one part of the pasture will damage that portion of it.
Overgrazing is when a horse eats the grass length down to where there is hardly any of it left. So much of it has been eaten that it is very difficult for the plant to capture sunlight so that it can regrow. When the plant does begin to regrow, if the horses are still in that part of the pasture, they will eat it again before it can fully regrow properly. The grass does not have enough stored energy to regrow and thus will die. Keeping a good rotational pattern will allow the grass to regrow and eventually be grazed again. An excellent way to control grazing is to install fences around the pasture. That way, the horses will only be in a specific area at a time. Once a pasture is grazed to 2 to 3 inches high, then that field should be rested. If the pasture is uneven, then it needs to be mowed for the pasture to grow evenly again. For more details involving Rotational Grazing click here.
Weeds in your Horse Pasture
There are different ways to handle weeds in your horse pasture. It is crucial to be able to identify the weed because this will allow you to find out the best way to treat them. Keeping healthy soil, overseeding when needed, maintaining a sacrifice area, and having a rotational grazing pattern, will help to create conditions that will enable preferred vegetation to grow rather than unwanted weeds. However, if some do still grow, there are a variety of ways to deal with them.
Pulling, mowing, or using herbicide are your best options when removing weeds from your pasture. Depending on the number of weeds you have, simply pulling the weeds may be the best option. Pulling the weed allows you to remove the entire root as well, ensuring that it does not grow back. In areas with lots of weeds, this may seem very tedious. Regularly mowing the weeds is a great way to make sure the weeds in your pasture do not spread and get out of hand. It is crucial to mow the weeds before seed production starts, this way it will limit the chances of the weeds spreading to more areas in the pasture.
The downsides to mowing are that the roots of the weeds are not removed and you may be cutting plants that are beneficial for the pasture in the process. Herbicide can also be used to eliminate weeds. Herbicides kill the entire weed so there is no chance of it growing back. If you choose to use herbicide, your horses should be kept out of the sprayed area so they do not risk eating any plants that have been sprayed with the toxin. The horses should not be let near the sprayed plants until the plants have completely decayed. Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages so it is important to assess your situation or seek help to decide what will work best. Click here for additional information regarding weed removal techniques.
Horse and Pasture Health this Summer
Keeping your pasture in good shape this summer will not only ensure your horse is healthy this season but will be healthy throughout the year. Pasture management can be frustrating at times but keeping up on renovations will help keep your horse healthy and hopefully reduce the need for other renovations in the near future.
A combination of all the maintenance techniques listed above will prolong the longevity of your pasture. Repairing and maintaining a pasture can be a process, but the benefits for the horse are well worth it. We are here to help keep your horse healthy and happy. Visit our website for additional information and questions regarding horse health and for products that will keep your horse in top shape.