You want to try to graze pasture down to 3 inches to 6 inches in height. 5 paddocks will have you move your horses once a week, but in the spring on cool season grasses, you may end up with too much growth. to keep it all grazed down. Some of the pasture may need to be cut for hay. You want to try to keep the forage in a vegetative state as much as possible. Food quality goes down when plants have flowers and seed heads.
Select species that will produce lots of high quality feed. Orchard grass, Smooth Brome, and Alfalfa are good ones. Avoid Red Clover because it can cause a foaming mouth. Red clover is not really dangerous, just unsightly. Alsike Clover is dangerous and must not be used. A high quality cultivar of Ladino Clover (a white clover) is not a bad choice. to include in the mix. Timothy is a favorite of horse growers and is fine to include in the mix. Kentucky bluegrass is a good food and beautiful pasture, but keep in mind that it is not a high production forage so you will need more land to produce a high quantity of forage. Kentucky bluegrass is easily overgrazed. Tall Fescue is good in high traffic areas because of its toughness, but it is not really a high quality forage alone. It is not bad with alfalfa. If you have enough land, you can defer grazing of Fescue till winter and have some good winter pasture.
Fertility needs in pasture vary from species to species and relate to the amount of forage removed. Forages such as alfalfa are deep rooted and get some of their fertility from layers below the surface layer of the soil. Soil pH is always critical to growth of any plant. Forage crops remove large amounts of calcium and magnesium which will need to be replaced sooner or later. Potassium is also critical especially for alfalfa production. Your alfalfa hay and pastures containing alfalfa will play out much sooner if potassium levels are not maintained.
What should you use for cross fences? Anything that will keep you animals in is fine. You don't really need expensive board fences. High tensile wire looks like a good choice to me. Use as many strands as you think you need on cross fences. You can always add more.
What do I need to do to set up for intensive grazing. Cross fences will be needed in your pasture somehow. You made need alleyways to get the horses to the right pasture at the right time. You could start with 4 paddocks, but really 5 is the minimum. In the spring, you will still have too much forage, but you can make hay from one or 2 paddocks. No Baler? Loose hay is OK. Just make sure it is very dry when you put it in the barn. Try stacking loose hay in an old fashion hay stack. Minimize waste by covering with a tarp or some other cover.
One of the best ways to increase the productivity and the quality of pastures it through intensive grazing. There is a little work involved, but the payoff is getting double feed while letting the animals do the work. Water can be one thing that needs to be addressed in setting up and intensive grazing system.
One concern that often rears its head in poor pastures with hungry animals is poisonous plants. I have over 20 poisonous plants on my checklist. How many can you identify?
7. Poisonous Plants Yew (taxus sp.) ___________ Oleander (nerium oleander) _______Red Maple (Acer rubrum) _________ Cherry trees and relatives (prunus sp.) ____ Black Walnut (juglans nigra) ____ Black Locust (robinia pseudoacacia) _________ Horse Chestnut, Buckeyes (aesculus hippocastanum) ____ Oak trees, acorns (quercus sp.) ______ Russian olive, also known as oleaster (elaegnus angustifolia) Buckwheat ________ St. Johnswort ___________ Alsike Clover _______ White snakeroot _________ Bracken fern (Pteridum aquilinum) ________ Tansy ragwort (Senecio spp.) _________ Water hemlock (Cicuta spp.) ___ Yellow star thistle/Russian knapweed (Centauria spp.) ______________ Jimson Weed (Datura stramonium)____________________________ Note: This inventory is intended to advise the producer of potential problems and does not constitute a guarantee that all potential dangerous plants have been identified. Identification of poisonous plants depends on the time of year and number present.
The short answer is probably not. Does my horse need alfalfa? Alfalfa is a high protein food. Some alfalfa in the diet is good. Pure alfalfa is probably too high in protein for most horses unless they are working very hard.
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Reared on a farm in Southwestern Illinois
Educated at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign (1977)
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Soil-Right Consulting Services, Inc. 2005 - 2015
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