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Pasture sizes for rotational grazing

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  • Pasture sizes for rotational grazing

    Hi there,
    New to the forum and looking for some input. I'm working on a grant to help my park district, which uses quite a few horses and ponies for trails, lessons, etc, as well as has boarders. Now, we've currently got three herds (boarders, horses, and ponies) and each one has a dry lot between 2.5-3 acres to call its own. There are approx. 15 acres of grass pasture behind the dry lots, which the boarders and horses are rotated between (the pony herd does not leave its lot, as many of its members are either prone to founder, are too fat, or otherwise shouldn't be allowed that much grass). There is also a 26 acre pasture which the horse herd uses regularly. These larger pastures are rotated between to keep them from getting too low, however we are working on a plan to subdivide the larger pastures and rotate the herds between them more frequently to keep our hay costs down (we do grow some of our own hay, but not enough to keep from spending, like most farms, huge amounts on hay.

    While I've done some research and read some articles, I'd like some feedback from folks who may be able to give a more concrete answer. So my question is how large the subdivisions should be in order to sustain a herd of up to 25 grazers, and how often they should be rotated between the dry lot and the pasture.

    For example, if we divide it into 10 sections of approximately 3-4 acres apiece, can anyone estimate how long a 25 horse herd could be in a particular subdivision before the grass/landscape would need a respite. Not having had the benefit from many years observing horse herds and calculating such things, I hope perhaps some of you can help.

    Thank you, and I'd be glad to clarify any questions.

  • #2

    I think the primary criteria for the size is that they need to be big enough that all 25 horses have a chance to exercise and graze without being crowded.

    As for how long the horses should be in a specific subdivision- that depends on a lot of information we don't have- such as
    Where are you?
    What is the climate?
    What grasses are growing?
    What is the ratio of weeds to grass?
    Has it recently been reseeded?
    Is it fertilized?

    It is also going to vary by time of year.

    Ideally, you want the grass between 6" and 3". So rotate them out when the height (of the grasses they are actually eating) drops below 3". Rotate them back in when the height of the grass is at least 6".

    chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).


    • #3
      Where are you? northern Illinois
      What is the climate? humid in the summer, cold in the winter.
      What grasses are growing? I don't have that info, but I believe there's a mixture. The pastureland behind the dry lots is very lush and pretty evenly verdant. The back 26 acres is hilly and partially wooded, but the grass available is also lush, though the horses seem to eat away certain patches and leave other patches alone.
      What is the ratio of weeds to grass? Not sure about that.
      Has it recently been reseeded? Nope- though the boarders' former dry lot has been and it is currently vacant until the ground has been strengthened.
      Is it fertilized? Possibly? I don't know that either.

      So looking at budget considerations, would it behoove us to also plan to fertilize? How often does one fertilize a field and with what sort of fertilizer? The dry lots they spend the majority of their time in are 2.5-3 acres and seem to provide ample running space, hence thinking that dividing it into 10 smaller pastures would provide enough room.