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this is just a days update on my efforts at horse pasture maintenance…..these photos were taken on 6 28 2021
just some background for anyone who stumbles across this blog and is not familiar with the history. I have horses, cattle donkeys and goats. the equines and goats all pasture together…..the cows pasture separately as the equines enjoy chasing cows. for both groups I have multiple small paddocks and graze the small paddocks for two to three days and then rotate them to the next paddock and do what ever maintenance is needed in the recently grazed paddock. This time of year that means mowing the recently grazed paddock, often broadcasting some seed and then dragging the pasture to try to get the seed to the soil.
At this time of the year I am broadcasting a mix of seed which is my norm as I strive for plant diversity. my paddocks average about a tenth of an acre. the mix i am currently using is
Pearl millet 2.5 #…..sun hemp 2.5# Festolium 2.5 #……chicory 1/3 cup……buckwheat 1/2 #…..a legume blend 1/3 cup…..ashland summer cover crop mix 3 # this amount about fills my seeder.
I broadcast it with a shoulder seeder pictured below…..I like this broadcaster….I have used many types and this is the best I have found….it is a little more expensive but it is in its second year and still going strong….others have lasted about six months and they were worn out.
I should state here……I quit buying chemical amendments probably ten years ago…..that means lime and fertilizer. I want the soil biology to work for me. I will use herbicides to deal with things the goats wont eat but i try to limit it and only use it when the livestock are excluded. For example the fence line between me and the crop farmer neighbor…..the fence has electric on my side so the stock won’t challenge it. that means I have to combat the cedars and thistle and poke weed and multiflora rose.
five principles of improving soil
- keep the soil covered
- minimize soil disturbance
- keep a living root in the soil
- plant diversity…..mother nature does not deal in monocultures
- integrate livestock
Each of these principles is a subject for learning and discussion on its own but they are the keys to building soil health.
I would add a sixth principle…..plants need rest and lot of it…..only weeds survive continuous grazing
this paddock has rested about 80 or 90 days…..it was grazed in the spring and at that time did not need mowing…..the cools season grasses regenerated and put out seed heads and secondary growth…..this is the next paddock for the equines and goats. there is a lot of grass here.
they will pick thru it and graze the green stuff and some of the mature seed heads but they will leave the mature stalky brown stuff
after they have gotten the good stuff I move them to the next paddock and mow sow and drag the just grazed one
the photos above and below demonstrate the return of the residue to the soil. this provides protection to the soild from the elements and food for the biology in the soil and organic matter to build the soil…..there is also the armor of the living plant cover that will regenerate as long as we get rain. the photo below shows that there was so much residue after grazing that I had to mow it twice to distribute the residue. then I dragged it with my high tech drag…..an old rear tractor tire. the below photo also shows the just grazed paddock along side the next paddock to graze and gives and indication of the forage volume
and below is the high tech fence…….horses honor it fine…..in fact when Pete goes into a new paddock he walks around the perimeter to find the fence which is a single hot poly wire or poly tape or poly rope…..I use them all…..I have over 42 paddocks and experiment with fence…..as long as it has 4500 volts on it horses and cows will honor it…..the goats will walk under the division fences but they wont get far from the equines…..they feel safe with the horses and the mule