Grass is one of the cheapest foods available. Are you taking proper advantage of it for your land and animals? Using a pasture management system is essential for a renewable future.
Rotational grazing has become very common over the past several years and this system will only improve currently used methods. It is evident that continuous grazing on the same area can create poor forage, generate nutrient low pastures and ruin a paddock area. In order to control your horses’ grazing, dividing your land into separate paddocks would be the initial step. There is no ideal number of paddocks, but any number is better than having a single one. The suggested number of paddocks is based off of factors such as, type of fencing, water access, topography, type of soil, etc.
Horses tend to be spotty eaters and even pickier grazers. Rotational grazing encourages them to be less selective with what they eat while forcing them to evenly graze the available forage. Also, horses typically eat more when they are first placed in a fresh paddock and, therefore, shorter grazing periods will generate a larger forage intake. On average, the time spent grazing is typically three to seven days or until the forage is around four inches, depending on the size of the area and the number of horses. It is recommended to not overgraze these pastures as it will then require a longer rest period. Once a horse grazes lower than four inches, it is either starting to pull the root or the amount of “knit” to the grass is so low that the horse’s hoofs damage the root structure and the grass takes longer to grow.
Once the forage is an appropriate length, simply move the horses to another paddock so that the land has time to rest and rejuvenate. The movement of the horses would be based on the growth rate of the pasture. Typically, you should begin grazing when the height of the forage is eight to 10 inches and on average it takes about 20 to 30 days to fully regenerate. To increase your pasture yield, aeration, fertilization and cutting the grass actually helps to quicken the turnaround for your pasture.
A crucial factor with rotational grazing is fencing, which provides the barriers for the horses to stay within. The outside of the field or perimeter should be permanent fencing with electric. The inside of the field can be temporary electric fencing and can be moved to different areas as much as the horses need to. If you construct a “sacrifice” area (an area that the horses always have access with water), it would be constructed as an all-weather area. Do not turn your horses out in the paddock pasture areas when the footing or land is not stable which is in the early spring or late fall. Turning your horses out on the land before the pasture is firm enough will damage the pasture and not allow as much pasture growth.
The results from grazing a pasture this way are not only beneficial but extremely rewarding. This method minimizes compaction of soil from excessive treading and improves manure distribution which in turn reduces maintenance costs. In the bigger picture, rotational grazing lowers overall operational environmental impacts. This includes the movement of manure and soil into local water bodies, improving the beauty of your property and having better recreation and feed for your horses. These combined make for great neighbour relations and would undoubtedly increase your property value. But most importantly, it provides your horses with a fresh, nutrient rich grass that digests easier and is healthy for the horse.
System Fencing has the experience and knowledge to assist and provide the tools required for this. It is clear that pasture rotation is the simplest and most rewarding way to generate a more sustainable, healthier environment for you and your horses.