Making better use of your horse pasture
Improving the productivity of your pasture offers several benefits. Pasturing can: ? Reduce the amount of purchased hay. If you have only a few acres to dedicate solely to pasture, the total substitution of pasture for purchased hay may be an una...
Improving the productivity of your pasture offers several benefits. Pasturing can:
- Reduce the amount of purchased hay. If you have only a few acres to dedicate solely to pasture, the total substitution of pasture for purchased hay may be an unattainable goal. However, you can reduce the amount of purchased hay by improving the productivity of your pasture. An ideally managed, highly productive pasture can potentially provide a large portion of a horse's forage requirements from May through September.
- Distribute manure in the field and reduce time spent cleaning stalls. Horses grazing managed paddocks will drop their manure in different parts of the pasture instead of concentrating it in stalls, feedlots, exercise lots, and loafing areas. This reduces the volume of manure in stalls and lots as well as the time needed to clean these areas.
- Reduce the labor and equipment used to harvest forage. Think about your pasture as a crop that horses harvest by grazing. When grazing, horses eliminate the time needed to cut, rake, bale, store, and feed the forage and the cost of buying, operating, and maintaining machinery.
- Reduce the amount of purchased fertilizers. Manure recycles nutrients beneficial to pasture plants. The more nutrients manure provides, the fewer pounds of supplemental fertilizer are required. To ensure that pasture plants can more easily use the manure's nutrients, frequently drag or rake the manure deposited in the pasture. This will more evenly distribute the manure and promote its breakdown while also reducing the potential exposure of horses to internal parasites.
- Enhance community viewsheds. The term "viewsheds" refers to fields alongside roads in primarily residential areas that allow drivers and residents to enjoy open views of bordering landscapes. Providing a bucolic scene like horses grazing on pasture can build goodwill with neighbors.
Pasturing horses also has some disadvantages. It can increase time and expense of fencing, monitoring pasture growth, and moving horses; potential for neglecting horses; risk of danger to horses from toxic weeds, escape, or injury on fencing; potential for horse damage to trees; and potential exposure to internal parasites, disease-carrying insects, ticks, and mosquitoes.
TIP: To protect water quality and shorelines, horses should not have free access to waterways, ponds, lakes, or wetlands. Do not allow animals to graze in public waters. Check with your local government about regulations governing acceptable sites for pastures.
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