I have just recently purchased a new farm and am already getting tired of mowing the pastures... I have 3 horses (2 grown and a foal) and have over 8 acres in beautiful pasture. I've been lucky that I've had horses at home and boarded in the past so I've seen what goes into both sides... the SO and I are starting to throw around ideas of boarding 2-3 horses for a little income and to help eat down the grass.
Am I crazy for considering this? We would love to get some cows but now is not the time to be buying...I don't want to overgraze but we've already had to mow the pastures twice and it's going to seed again... In theory it would be full care pasture board with grain 2x day, square bale hay as needed, every horse would have their own stall to use as needed, basically get the same care as my horses. I've got a great little non agressive easy to deal with group now and would like to keep it that way.
More horses may save you a little on mowing, but remember, you still need to mow just about as frequently because the horses don't eat the "roughs" or eat weeds. The more things get eaten down the more weeds you are going to have as well. Believe me, your horses are going to get that pasture eventually eaten down somewhat, they just can't do it overnight. Remember, the grass doesn't grow as fast in the summer either so it is going to get easier.
Also, two to three boarders is unlikely to bring in any income after you pay for insurance and considering expenses like getting contracts written up and do all the work associated with managing boarders. More horses also = more fence issues, more drama/injuries in the field, and overall more hassle. Mowing is considerably lower stress/hassle than managing boarders.
FYI cows are not a great solution either, they bring in pretty intense flies. I'm a fan of sheep and goats, but they need specialized fencing.
All in all I would say that having to "keep up with the mowing" is not a big issue. If that is the biggest problem you are having with your farm I would just fix yourself a nice glass of lemonade this afternoon and reflect on how lucky you are to have such a peaceful life!
I think you should live on the property for a year before you decide on whether to bring in more horses and learn the way your property changes throughout the season. You may have an abundance of grass now, but what about three months from now? If you have already lived there for a year and know how much yield you can gain from your pastures then completely ignore my post.
Well I am a crispy crusty ole farmer gal living on grandpas farm with plenty o pasture. I get asked pretty regular like if I would consider boarding, and I just plain dont because of well stated reasons above.
Well, while everyone is saying no to boarders, I say yes. I have made great friends over the near 30 years I've been boarding a few horses with our horses to pay for hay, feed and up keep. I've never spent my "real job" money on the farm part of our home. Totally supported by the boarders. i have nearly 11 acres with about 9 in pasture. I never have more than 6 (two are ours) usually 5. (and i have 2 ponies who live on limited turnout for their health) I somehow have managed to keep the fields in grass through good rotation, and limited mowing of the roughs. So here's my favorite benefit: when I want to go away for a day or a week, my boarders step up to the plate and take care of the barn. Who knows better the routine than the boarders? Who wants their horses given the same good care I give? and I have peace of mind that i know who's on my property while I'm gone. My current two boarders and I have what we call the "swim club" in the summer. They come use my pool whenever and they also shock and vac it. It gives me company when I ride so I'm not alone and when I swim. Been my boarders for quite awhile so we have a lot of fun. I'm lucky, I know it, for having good boarders.
Are there any local farmers who would be interested in haying it off for you? My parents have an 11 acre farmette. There is a nearby farmer who hays off their fields for them for free. Since they don't have horses there they have never asked for anything in return but you could work out a deal for some baled hay in return.
The minute you take on more horses there will be a massive drought, your grass will dry up and you'll be scrambling to buy hay at stupid prices, and then your boarders will crab when you tell them that you have to raise board to cover hay and the extra labor feeding hay takes.
Oh, and you'll still have to mow the weeds, because they will grow when the grass stops.
Although we are much further north than you, we only mow a couple of times in the spring (except for "spot" mowing in weedy areas). The grass growth slows down a lot once the weather gets hot. I agree with taking the "wait and see" approach.
Thanks for all the great points! The plan right now is to wait and see what everything does this year, especially since the baby is so young. I didn't think that boarding a couple horses would offset the cost but wasn't sure where the break even point was.
As far as the pasture goes there aren't really any weeds in it currently, except wait I did see one lone thistle sticking up lastnight. The previous owners did a great job of keeping it clean and mowed. We will still be spraying it consistantly to keep anything from coming in. There is a nice mixture of fescue and bermuda so unless we get a terrible summer I doubt the grass will burn up. As far as the mowing goes I refuse to pay someone to mow it because I 'don't want to' and it'll be harder to get a bigger mower that would work with the tractor we have, the current set up is a Ford 3000 and a 7' flail mower it works great... so much grass!! Cutting it for hay would be a great idea, may have to go to the co-op and see if they know anyone that would be willing to do that for us.
I've done it and will never do it again for all of the above reasons.
Taking care of other people's horses will take up your time, why not spend that time mowing? I personally would rather mow than muck. Also, you should be dragging or mowing regularly in order to control flies. You are liable to get a fence-eater, a blanket destroyer, a pain in the neck boarder that will text you at all hours to micromanage things, complicated blanketing instructions, more horses to hold for the farrier......
We have grown hay in the past and haven't had any trouble finding people to cut, bale, and take it away. A large zero turn mower will get the job done much faster than a tractor and bush hog.
Hay, trust me. I have two horses, well a horse and a pony and the horse (mare) is due in June. I have 17 acres although not all is fenced. I cannot tell you how much having my hay cut saves me, I have a local farmer do it.
And yes it looks lush now but that will be a lot of horses tromp all over it during winter and early spring. If you'd like to keep it nice you probably need to keep the number of horses low. Your property may be totally different than mine and next year you could decide on boarders but I would hold off.
Also... I live here with DH and my two kids. I don't really want people coming in and out all the time, and right now (work in progress as it is) everything is how I want it, nothing damaged, nothing else to deal with... If I took a boarder it would have to be the perfect one, and they would need to be willing to do feedings etc for $$ off board... Since I don't really need the $$ but I do need the help. Just my POV!
More horses may save you a little on mowing, but remember, you still need to mow just about as frequently because the horses don't eat the "roughs" or eat weeds.
I agree with this.
I was psyched to not have to mow my fields anymore when I brought the horses home. I still have to for this reason. It never occurred to me to have boarders. Way more responsibility than what I'm prepared for. I'd rather mow a few extra hours.
OP, last year, and I live in N. AL I was mowing every other week. I have mowed 2 times already this season. I have 15 A 2 horses. One is a fatty so she is on a 1-2A diet pasture, other horse an oldster can have as much as she wants to eat.
I am thinking of not mowing 7 A out in front of the house. Just so I do not have to see any neighbors. Either that or 15' brick or better yet that lovely flat stone walls.
I mowed like I had a golf course last season. I dubbed myself the mowing queen. OMG. My husband only does the tiny front and back yard. I mowed lower than I usually do, and wow has the grass popped out stronger than last year. Or maybe it is all the rain. I need to mow again, today.
I would not pay somebody. They would probably wreck my tractor, or not mow it nice like I do with my well over 16 years of bush hogging and 1300 hours or so on the tractor.
I would have to have at least 4-5 horses in each pasture to "keep it ate down". Yes, would still have to mow the weeds. Sheep, you need dogs, and a cattle squeeze. Then I would need about 10-15 in each pasture.
I have had boarding horses, and I thought it was a hassle. Not all play nicely together, also there went my privacy.
RMH where in N AL? I'm newish to the area and am always looking for horse people to ride with. I hear ya on the mowing part, unfortunately the part we would grow up is in front of the house right off the highway so we would like to keep it looking like yard as much as possible...