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How much pasture do I need?

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  • How much pasture do I need?

    My husband and I are starting to look into expanding our farm to include horses at home. Our current plans include a 5 stall barn. The 12x12 stalls will have dutch doors that open to approx. 12x24 tiled, fenced areas that, based off weather, will be open for the horses most days to move freely when they are not turned out. Other than that, we have one area that is about 3/4 acre that will be fenced in for sure, as well a spot for a fairly large (100x200) outdoor arena that could double as turnout.

    We live in the NE and plan on feeding grain and hay all day, all year round. We both work full time, so during the school year the horses will be in their stalls during the day and turned out for a few hours after work. They will have full day turnout during the summer months if they want. I do not plan on ever having more than 3 full sized horses at one time and most likely a mini and/or mini donkey, possibly a goat or two.

    How much more land do we need to have fenced in? I am thinking one more area that is at least 1 1/2 acre with a run-in is a must? I have always boarded where the 1 acre per horse rule is definitely not followed, but everyone seems fine! My husband wants the minimum for the hay burners so he can plant more crops (doesn't he know horses come first?!)

    Thanks for your replies!

  • #2
    If you are in the north east you will have clump type grasses that are more fragile and easily damaged by horse traffic. Also snow and freezing/ thaw makes a much larger mess than anything we people in the South have to deal with. Not only do horses damage grass roots and always seem to want to run and slide when it is muddy but you will have to pick up the poop on small pastures to keep any sort of "lawn" to graze on. I think 1 1/2 acre is way too small unless you just want the pasture for exercise.

    Comment


    • #3
      First, figure out if your desired area has minimums. In the Northeast that's not uncommon.

      Beyond that, it depends on how you keep them. There's a place not far from me that for a long time kept a 14 stall barn on 12 acres (about 1/4 of which was steep hillside). They could turn out the whole mob but that filled the paddocks completely. A big piece was also taken up by a 100' x 300' covered arena. The owner was an excellent trainer and we put horses there for a month of work a couple of times. At home they live outside 24/7.

      There's really no "school" answer to this question.

      G.
      Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raa, Uma Paixo

      Comment


      • #4
        We are in the Northeast and we do day time turnout. Last year was reasonably mild and the paddocks were easily able to support the horses throughout the summer. Some years, we have to pull the horses off the grass lest they damage the forage. We have about 2.5 acres of fenced grass paddocks per horse

        Comment


        • #5
          If I understand correctly, during the school year the horses will only have a few hours of turnout? I feel like 12 x 24 is not really enough to make up for short turnout, though of course every person and every horse is different. Certainly there are plenty of barns that do half-day turnout and the horses are just stalled, with no in/out, for the rest of the time, though I wouldn't choose to board in that type of situation.

          Just my own personal feeling, I would worry that I would come home, at the end of the day, when it is dark and cold, to really messy stalls and poopy run-outs, and maybe amped-up horses who want to bolt out into the turnout and slip on rutted, post-holed ice. Then there's the carting all the manure and stomped-on hay out to the manure pile in the snow/ice/dark. I would encourage you to consider have bigger turnouts, maybe turning that 3/4 acre into run-outs so each stall has a bigger attached paddock, if it can be configured that way. With the bigger turnouts, they won't get mucky quite as quickly, and the horses will have enough room to move around during the day. Or, if your horses are easy-going and in a stable herd, I might put them all in the 3/4 acre field, with a run-in shed, for the day, even if you're not there. Then bring them in to their stalls with small run-outs, for night. Mine is just one point of view; you of course should do things the way that works for you!

          Comment


          • #6
            Do you already have the farm? How many acres is it currently? I work fulltime during the day and my two are out while I am at work and do fine. Granted, I run home at lunch but if they have plenty of hay and water they should be fine outside while you are gone. I feed n turnout in the morning and clean stalls if I have time. Even with the run outs I would think that coming home at night would be a mess and you will go thru much more bedding and stone dust or whatever base you have for your run outs much faster. Not to mention if one tips his water bucket somehow, or runs out of hay and does not have grass to pick at to keep him busy. I think it would be asking for more mischief making lol.

            Of course to each their own and if you know it would work for your horses then thats up to you. Do you already have the horses or would you be buying them when the farm is complete? Also, what type of fence are you thinking of doing? Post pics I love farm planning posts!

            Comment


            • #7
              sounds like one of those projects that works Fine on paper(might even have flowers on the border of the page with a smiling sun and little bunny rabbits and squirrels scampering along the base)) that will undergo dramatic alteration once initiated

              As for five stalls.... believe me if a stall is built it will find a resident .... three horses, three stalls would be my rule as the extra area would be storage

              But OK plan is put into the works.... what is the backup when both you and husband get sick, or stuck at work due to blizzard, or injured in an auto accident?

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by carman_liz View Post
                Also, what type of fence are you thinking of doing? Post pics I love farm planning posts!
                yes they become interesting, reminds me of what I had read about the Donner Party wagon train to California that started with high hopes, then all the extra junk is thrown away along the trail. Then it goes to hell quickly

                Comment


                • #9
                  I'm in the north east. The soil here is SO fragile. If you want grass, you have to baby it.

                  I'd really encourage you to make the runs off your stalls larger, especially since you're not planning on turning your horses out much, year round. 12x24 is better than nothing, but if you can make those more small paddock sized, your horses will really appreciate it.

                  There are A LOT of wet days here where you won't be turning out on your grass (at least if you want to keep it grassy) so plan a good sacrifice area.

                  For your field, larger is better, especially with five horses/donkeys. The smaller it is, the more stopping and turning at fencing you'll have. That's what hurts them, and that'll tear up your field more than just running.

                  I have four horses here, with LARGE runs off the stalls (open full time), a decent sacrifice area, and about two acres of field split into two pastures. Horses go out daily for daylight hours. We're working to expand the pasture...hoping to carve out an additional 3 for 5 acres total. Would love to have more, but that's about as good as it's going to get. Even with five acres of grass, it's still just recreational grazing, and I'll still have to feed a full allotment of hay year round...but at least the horses will have more room, and it'll be easier to not over graze it.

                  Horses really need social time, though. Even if you're turning out in your sacrifice area for most of the day, it's much better than keeping them in stalls and runs. Let them be a herd--they'll really be much happier and healthier.

                  ​​​​​

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I have 2 horses and a pony on 2 acres in central Virginia. THIS IS WAY UNDER WHAT THE SOIL CAN TOLERATE. Due to the low acreage/high horse ratio I have made a 36' x 100' sacrifice lot that has improved footing over 3/4's of it. The sacrifice lot has gates that lead to 6 paddocks. 3 of the paddocks can support grazing for 7-10 days from May to October and 3 paddocks that can support 3-5 days of grazing during that same time frame. This provides ample time for the paddocks to recover and for me to drag. I feed free choice hay year round.

                    The higher the ratio of horses to acreage the more intensive you will need to maintain the property if you want any grazing. If you choose to make the entire area a sacrifice lot with appropriate footing, your horses will have more opportunity for movement and socialization.


                    I know in some areas that horses get stalled 24/7 and a bonus would be to have a 12'x24' run out added to that. I, personally, don't think that is an adequate amount of space and it doesn't provide for enough movement, especially if you are still working and won't be able to provide exercise and stimulation for the brain 7 days a week.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by clanter View Post

                      yes they become interesting, reminds me of what I had read about the Donner Party wagon train to California that started with high hopes, then all the extra junk is thrown away along the trail. Then it goes to hell quickly
                      I don't know what the Donner Party is, but that seems very glass half empty :/. I lurked on here for almost 6 months for good ideas while we got this house under contract and sold our old one and got plenty of useful ideas though.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by carman_liz View Post

                        I don't know what the Donner Party is, but that seems very glass half empty :/. I lurked on here for almost 6 months for good ideas while we got this house under contract and sold our old one and got plenty of useful ideas though.
                        The Donner Party was a wagon train that started late in the season from St. Joe to CA during the 19th Century. It came to grief in the Donner Pass, near Reno, NV. It's not a happy tale; Google it for details. I visited the Donner Pass some years back. It put the story into context.

                        If you are going to be "absentee" for any significant period of time (more than Sun up to Sun down) then you have to be prepared for the unexpected. You can't anticipate EVERYTHING but you can do such things as ensure that your primary containment fence on your property line is clear and maintained. You can ensure your cross fencing is adequate. You can ensure your gates are closed/open, as appropriate. You can get to know your neighbors, however casual that might be, and ensure that they have your cell number so IF something happens you'll get notice. It's really having list of critical items and appropriate procedures to deal with critical issues. You sound like you don't work far from home. That's a Very Good Thing and means your response time to a problem will be short. Use that as a base to build on. Oh, and ensure your boss is cool with whatever emergency plans will affect your work.

                        Good luck as you go foreward.

                        G.

                        Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raa, Uma Paixo

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I would make the stalls 12x14 and the paddocks a little bigger than your initial plan. If horses are in the stalls for hours, bigger stalls and paddocks make it easier to do the cleaning. A 4 acre turnout would give the horses room to play without creating a huge mud pit.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by SFVine View Post
                            My husband and I are starting to look into expanding our farm to include horses at home. Our current plans include a 5 stall barn. The 12x12 stalls will have dutch doors that open to approx. 12x24 tiled, fenced areas that, based off weather, will be open for the horses most days to move freely when they are not turned out. Other than that, we have one area that is about 3/4 acre that will be fenced in for sure, as well a spot for a fairly large (100x200) outdoor arena that could double as turnout.

                            We live in the NE and plan on feeding grain and hay all day, all year round. We both work full time, so during the school year the horses will be in their stalls during the day and turned out for a few hours after work. They will have full day turnout during the summer months if they want. I do not plan on ever having more than 3 full sized horses at one time and most likely a mini and/or mini donkey, possibly a goat or two.

                            How much more land do we need to have fenced in? I am thinking one more area that is at least 1 1/2 acre with a run-in is a must? I have always boarded where the 1 acre per horse rule is definitely not followed, but everyone seems fine! My husband wants the minimum for the hay burners so he can plant more crops (doesn't he know horses come first?!)

                            Thanks for your replies!
                            If I had acreage my choice would be that the horses lived out 24/7 with a good big run-in shelter in an area large enough for them to run around.

                            Our winter pastures are fragile.

                            Depending on the size of the property:

                            24/7 year round outdoor life on several acres amended as necessary with footing. Depending on the terrain that might mean some or all of the horse area is drained and footed with crusher dust like an arena. No pasture.

                            Or same as above with seasonal pasture access.

                            I would want stalls ideally for ice storms and illness or keeping clean for a show. But outdoor horses are (1) much healthier and (2) much cheaper and (3) much less work. If you had the equipment you could feed roundbales.

                            You need good proper fences both around the horse area and the perimeter of the property. Realize that any crops will probably be both extremely attractive and potentially very unhealthy for horses. They absolutely will get themselves into grain fields and gorge and colic. I expect they would happily destroy berries and most veg.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by carman_liz View Post
                              Do you already have the farm? How many acres is it currently? I work fulltime during the day and my two are out while I am at work and do fine. Granted, I run home at lunch but if they have plenty of hay and water they should be fine outside while you are gone. I feed n turnout in the morning and clean stalls if I have time. Even with the run outs I would think that coming home at night would be a mess and you will go thru much more bedding and stone dust or whatever base you have for your run outs much faster. Not to mention if one tips his water bucket somehow, or runs out of hay and does not have grass to pick at to keep him busy. I think it would be asking for more mischief making lol.

                              Of course to each their own and if you know it would work for your horses then thats up to you. Do you already have the horses or would you be buying them when the farm is complete? Also, what type of fence are you thinking of doing? Post pics I love farm planning posts!
                              Our farm is about 200 acres, but it is chunked, the section with our house and the barns is about 70 acres. Currently we are at about 60 acres grapes, 15-20 acres hay (our friend harvests, we do not) and 10 acres christmas tree. The reason for the 3/4 acre lot is it is how the land is chunked. We currently have a spot across the street that is a 5 acre hay field that I would like to turn into pasture but my husband only wants to give me 1 1/2 acres and plant trees on the rest.

                              I sold my horse last year when I had my daughter, so I would be purchasing after the barn is complete. I have always owned OTTBs, but now that I have kids I am looking to get smaller QH crosses or morgans.

                              We live near the thruway, and have the christmas trees, so we would start by having high deer fencing around the whole perimeter, then flexible rail fencing for the horses.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Guilherme View Post

                                The Donner Party was a wagon train that started late in the season from St. Joe to CA during the 19th Century. It came to grief in the Donner Pass, near Reno, NV. It's not a happy tale; Google it for details. I visited the Donner Pass some years back. It put the story into context.

                                If you are going to be "absentee" for any significant period of time (more than Sun up to Sun down) then you have to be prepared for the unexpected. You can't anticipate EVERYTHING but you can do such things as ensure that your primary containment fence on your property line is clear and maintained. You can ensure your cross fencing is adequate. You can ensure your gates are closed/open, as appropriate. You can get to know your neighbors, however casual that might be, and ensure that they have your cell number so IF something happens you'll get notice. It's really having list of critical items and appropriate procedures to deal with critical issues. You sound like you don't work far from home. That's a Very Good Thing and means your response time to a problem will be short. Use that as a base to build on. Oh, and ensure your boss is cool with whatever emergency plans will affect your work.

                                Good luck as you go foreward.

                                G.
                                All of our neighbors are my husband's family, so I know them well! haha. Our farm is the "hub" for the business, so there is always someone around, but I am the horse person. I could have them out all day and I could rely on them to at least call me if something went wrong, but no one would actually know what to do.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  What Jaws, Clanter, and Scribbler said. You say 200 acres total, chunked around the county, I get that, then you say 70 acres of house and current barn, then list 85 acres worth of assorted crops. I prefer the minimum of 1 acre/horse, plus a winter sacrifice area, plus planning for sickness/injury - yours and a horse's - plus whatever you have, split all the pastures/paddocks in half so you have the ability to rotate and allow the ground to rest. Plus, if you want goats, understand you need a fence that holds water. (that's only a bit of a joke)

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by SFVine View Post

                                    Our farm is about 200 acres, but it is chunked, the section with our house and the barns is about 70 acres. Currently we are at about 60 acres grapes, 15-20 acres hay (our friend harvests, we do not) and 10 acres christmas tree. The reason for the 3/4 acre lot is it is how the land is chunked. We currently have a spot across the street that is a 5 acre hay field that I would like to turn into pasture but my husband only wants to give me 1 1/2 acres and plant trees on the rest.

                                    I sold my horse last year when I had my daughter, so I would be purchasing after the barn is complete. I have always owned OTTBs, but now that I have kids I am looking to get smaller QH crosses or morgans.

                                    We live near the thruway, and have the christmas trees, so we would start by having high deer fencing around the whole perimeter, then flexible rail fencing for the horses.
                                    Why does your husband want the trees so bad for the other 3.5 acres?? I mean come on he has 195 other acres to play with!!! 5 acres would be perfect for you to have your own space. Your friend who hays some of your acreage, do you make any money off them using your land? Have you talked to them about getting some of the hay for your horses when you hit that point or some type of trade off agreement?

                                    5 Acres sounds perfect for a small barn, rotated turnout and even maybe an arena. That space alone could be your "area". Dont forget you could still do your arena on the other side and still use the 5 acres for your barn and turnouts. Your husband should be happy that you have your entire space in one area then!

                                    Flexrail is great but will you electrify it? Hear me out, new horses, you don't know them, or how they will respect fencing. A mini is a natural fence break escape artist lol. Idk what your budget or finances look like, but the 5 acres could be fenced with no climb, or will you use the deer fencing there? Is deer fencing flexible? Can a horse get hung up on it though? No climb with elect around the perimeter of your personal 5 acres, and then you can use simple elect tape and step ins or t posts to divide as you see fit should keep any horse or mini in. I wouldnt worry too much about dee tbh. They eat around my fields but don't bother my horses at all. I guess the big thing would be that 5 acres if you can use it or not though.

                                    If not, and that field is going to be your 1.5 acres for turnout I would definetly fence the hell out of it and make it HOT HOT HOT to keep them in. Because smaller acreage is more options for mischief, even with quarter horses, and all the morgans I have known have been high strung. I have a scar on my elbow from when I was 11 from a morgan and a bridge, I am 34 now lol.

                                    I only have about 1.5 fenced on my place right now, but I have a 32 yr old and a chill pony. I have 4 lines of horseguard and T posts about 4.5ft high. My top rail is on the caps I have over the posts. I keep it off mostly now, but when it is on it leaves marks if I hit it.

                                    Do you have a property layout of the areas you are thinking about using you can post or google map photo so we can see what you are working with? Also what about water and electric on the 5 acres, even if you just use it as pasture is there water available on it?

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      The more space you have for your horses to be out and not stalled, the easier and cheaper it will be to keep them. If they're stalled for the majority of the day, that's quite a lot of stall cleaning labor, and quite a lot of bedding.

                                      5 acres is a lot better than 2 for what you want, but if you can carve out 10, that'll be even better. Then you can set up a nicely sized sacrifice area, good sized runs off your barn, and a few different pasture areas, so you can rotate and not beat the snot out of the grass you do have.

                                      I loved my set up when the long runs off my barn opened into my sacrifice area, which opened into pasture through a couple different gates. There was a 12' overhang from the barn over the runs, so horses had shelter for standing outside when stalled, or when in the sacrifice area (stalls were kept closed, but runs were open when horses were out) or when turned out in the fields. Two of the three fields could be accessed directly from the sacrifice area, so it was easy to limit them to a portion of grass, or open up the whole thing. I'd repeat that whole set up again, if I were to build from scratch.

                                      Not dedicating enough space for this venture will just cost more $$$$$ in the long run, and will require a lot more intensive management on your part. And horses will be a lot happier (which = fewer vet bills) with more space and more time out of the barn.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        My 2 cents: I have just under one acre where I have my retired horse and 2 donkeys. Obviously it's a dry lot situation but they do have enough room to run around. It's split into two pieces since the donkeys eat WAY less than the horse. Many people cannot allot the necessary acreage to allow horses the ultimate amount of land to graze and frolic. If you can dedicate a few acres for all the critters and expect to feed hay all or most of the year, I think that's a lot better than stalling for a good chunk of the day.

                                        Comment

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