Spring grazing my horses 4/1/2018


small ridingby Jim Tate,

Conservation Specialist,

Hanover-Caroline  SWCD

 

Yesterday was April 1, 2018.  It is a normal target for the beginning of grazing season at the poor farm.  So I had an opportunity to take a couple of photos of the horses grazing the lot they moved into on Saturday 3/31/2018.

I must confess that these horses have had access to a couple of paddocks all winter.  After we finished the Artificial breeding just before Christmas I have not had any cows on the place.  The heifers had not finished all of the paddocks before they were turned out so I have let the horses clean up several of them this winter.

The horses get a small handout of pellets every night.  They have access to hay 24 7.  They have access to whatever paddocks are open.  For the last few weeks I have been broadcasting some seed and closing off paddocks to allow the seed to come up and for the present grasses to begin to regenerate.  The horses pretty much stopped eating hay about ten days ago which told me they were getting some pretty good pickings.  Last week I put the horses into the paddocks of Herman’s lot and it carried them for about a week.

On Saturday I moved them to the first of the eight paddocks across the front.   These have not been grazed since fall…there are eight roughly equal sized paddocks.  My plan is to graze each one for three days and then move the stock to the next paddock allowing the grazed paddock to rest and recover.   Pete enjoys the spring grass below.

Pete closeup

Condi is not about to be left out either….her nick name is Miss Curly Tail because she has a little bit of pig in her…

Condi

Looking beyond Pete you can see the next seven paddocks or the next 21 days grazing.

eight lots

Perkins is not in the photos because he hangs out at the stable and lives mostly on his retirement rations but he occasionally hikes out to the grazing paddocks as well.   And the two mini donks, so there are several animals grazing these paddocks.

There is an interesting thing in the photo below.  Notice in the foreground there is some dark green short grass.  Where the horses are is taller paler grass.  The dark green grass is the road frontage that I mow with the mower….mowing is why I happened to be there to get the photo…I want you to notice how much better the pasture grass is than the grass that is mown with a mower.  Grazing animals can be good for a pasture as long as the pasture gets some rest and recovery time.

fence

The paddock the horses are in a few years ago was the worst spot on my property….until the year I broadcast some rye and vetch and just let it go….come fall it had grass and has done well as a part of the rotation ever since….the dark green marks the fence line…it is nothing but weeds and they are sparse…it has not been mown since last fall…you can see that Pete is in grass up to his fetlock.

fence

Below I just walked up to the fence and took a shot of the grass.  Now this grass has already been grazed for about a day and a half so they have taken the young green stuff.   But there is plenty of grass there and they are enjoying it…

grass close

My other point is about the fears that people have of horses over consuming grass.

I am not going to say that horses can not get into trouble with grass.  But usually the problems come from the management rather than the grass.

One of the biggest worries is founder…Founder is caused by a sudden burst of metabolic energy.  It can come from an overdose of any kind of energy of a combination of energy sources suddenly changing.  Horses accessing the feed room unsupervised is an example…

Dry lotted horses on a jail break to a lush field is another opportunity…

It is not the evil high energy grass….it is the sudden change in diet and energy that causes the problem.

These horses have been picking at grass shoots for several weeks….I monitored when they reduced their hay consumption and that is when I first turned them into Hermans lot, where they got a small section of grass….most of you know by now that I am an advocate of good hot electric fence for grazing control….I stick up a portable poly wire and dictate how much grass they get at once…and I gradually increase it every day until they are acclimated…..

Now even Miss Curly Tail, who is still fairly new to our system, will make a foray out to the grazing and graze for a few minutes and then she will go back to the stable area and hang out with Perkins.  They have no need to overconsume….they are already fat and sassy…

 

 

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