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Tall grass...

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  • Tall grass...

    I have a few large fields with tall gorgeous orchard grass planted last year. There are few, if any, weeds, and lots of seed heads on the grasses. I won't be turning horses out in these fields until mid-June.

    Does anyone else leave their grass tall when they plan to limit turn out on fields to 2-3 hours per day in the early summer? I know sugar content in tall grass is lower than grass that is cut and regrowing, and it also decreases as the grass ages.

  • #2
    You might want to ask around for a custom hay person. If the fields are sizable, they could be hayed off. Whether you take a share, sell the crop to person baling, the grass is cut and leaves the fields in good shape for the rest of the summer of using them.

    Leaving the grass long, not used for another 6 weeks, will probably have grass plants setting seed and quit growing the rest of the season. Grass grows only to make seed for next year! So once the plant 'goes to seed' his job for the year is done, goes dormant. This is why some of us are mowing our fields so often, keeping the leaves shorter, so plant produces more for good grazing on small acreages.

    Mowing the plants will encourage better root growth, making a plant that takes the 'horse play' of running, sharp hooves and keeps growing well. Turns into a deep cushion, almost sod-like for good footing. Deeply rooted plants can continue to grow if you get rain shortages, not be as severely impacted over a drought time. I do spread bedding on my fields, acts like mulch for the grass plants, so dirt and roots are protected from sunshine burns and severe rain erosion.

    Even with limited turnout, having the pasture mowed shorter (I cut at 8 inches, but never shorter than 5 inches) will keep your grass coming on for the whole season. Cutting very tall grass short (more than 1/3 the leaf length) will shock the plant, which then needs recovery time to start growing again. Little trims don't seem to bother the plant at all, clippings add to mulch layer.

    You could time your turnout for mornings, grass is colder, has less sugar than after a day in the sunshine.

    Tall, uncut grass also has much less nutrition. So for the pasture pet, often laminitic, easy keeper types, you don't mow at all, so they don't have as many calories available in the dried, gone-to-seed grasses on your pasture area. Still might want to limit their turnout times to short, or muzzle them to limit grazing intake.

    What kind of animals are you planning to have graze the fields?


    • Original Poster

      Excellent advice, and thanks very much. The horses are two retirees, both of whom will be on full care. I am going to ask around to see if any local hay farmers would be interested in cutting and baling it and donating it the local horse rescue...hope there is a taker!


      • #4
        Can I steer the topic this way for a second in regards to tall grass?

        My neighbors have an acre of bahia and Im sure some other type of grass that is literally in parts above my knees. Its SUPER thick and feels like Im walking on a pillow top mattress. A few years ago this field had cows and then hasnt been grazed since so its super thick.

        Neighbors have so kindly let me turn the horses out on it so they dont have to mow it. So Ive had them out twice on it. Once for 20 mins and tonight for 30 mins. Should I borrow a friends tractor to cut it? Maybe even just set the mower on the tallest height and cut it? Or just leave it? Ideally, Id love to not have to buy any more O/A while the grass is available if it will help fill in the forage that the O/A is providing.

        Member of the ILMD[FN]HP Clique, The Florida Clique, OMGiH I loff my mares, and the Bareback Riders clique!


        • #5
          If it's enough acreage, I'd get in touch with a local haymaker. At least get some use out of it right? I personally hate tall grass, having to fetch my horse out of it in the am... I always end up soaking wet from the hips down from the dew. And the mice, snakes, and ticks love tall grass.


          • #6
            Another problem with tall grass, is eye irritation.


            • #7
              Originally posted by KrazyTBMare View Post
              Can I steer the topic this way for a second in regards to tall grass?

              My neighbors have an acre of bahia and Im sure some other type of grass that is literally in parts above my knees. Its SUPER thick and feels like Im walking on a pillow top mattress. A few years ago this field had cows and then hasnt been grazed since so its super thick.

              Neighbors have so kindly let me turn the horses out on it so they dont have to mow it. So Ive had them out twice on it. Once for 20 mins and tonight for 30 mins. Should I borrow a friends tractor to cut it? Maybe even just set the mower on the tallest height and cut it? Or just leave it? Ideally, Id love to not have to buy any more O/A while the grass is available if it will help fill in the forage that the O/A is providing.
              I would go with mowing at the highest setting first. Then in about 5 or 6 days, I would again mow the field. Doing this will firstly reduce height of grass that does harbor ticks, irritate eyes, go to seed. Second mowing soon after, will help with any lumps and clots of grass from first mowing, and maybe spread it out in a thinner layer so no grass is killed under the piles.

              Not sure what you will mow with, a real lawn tractor or bush hog type mower. Tall, heavy grass can be a strain on lawnmower type machines, while the bush hog should not have a problem if you keep it set a bit high the first mowing.

              Take the time to get horses used to grazing with short times on a daily basis. Just keep stretching it out every few days. Takes a few weeks for horse to have the correct stomach flora develop for grass digestion. So SHORT times out, as you mentioned of 20 minutes a session on a FULL stomach, is a good way to start. Horse fills up faster with grass on top of hay already in stomach.

              Adding time DAILY, is NOT a good idea. 10 minutes doesn't sound like much, but horse can eat a lot in that time, and stomach is NOT USED to a grass diet. So I would go 3 or 4 days of same time length, then add 15 minutes, do that time length for another 3 or 4 days, add on another 15 minutes. Working up to what time you will allow as their "full-time" on turnout.

              These sudden feed changes, getting free time grazing on new grass, is what sets up "spring founder" in older, overweight animals, ponies. You can count on them foundering each year, because they are not limited on grass intake' Their body system rebels at the change from hay to grass, overworks all the parts. Stomach has no flora for grass digestion, gets overwhelmed with overfeeding.

              I am quite strict on daily time allowed, doesn't take much to be TOO MUCH grass. I carry a long lashed whip to bring them in from grazing, and after a couple days, they start heading in automatically when I come out to the field. Long lash lets me snap it in front of any bunch-quitters, so they turn around and head for the dry lot. Saves a LOT of extra walking.

              Sorry, I don't know what the O/A stands for, but if you can feed free grass, horses just look better, saves you money. Our one older mare has gotten a much better bloom this spring with grass, than she had on her very good grain mix and nice hay. Guess it is all those FRESH vitimins, like a spring tonic!

              If you can "manage" the pasture, mow often, but not really short. Will improve the field, grazing quality, keep it neat looking, which is a good thanks for those nice folks letting you use it. Splitting the field will allow you to rotate grazing. You mow one side RIGHT after you take horses off, move them to the other side. Then it has time to grow back, get some length up, while they graze off the other side. Not sure if you have a small drag, nice to use for breaking up manure piles, grass clumps the mower throws out after you mow.

              Hope this is what you wanted.


              • #8

                I would have to borrow my friends tractor and mower deck. Whatever it is, its for a tractor and not an actual lawn mower. I have a hard enough time walking in it, much less getting our lawnmower in it. It wouldnt make it 2'. I do have a drag but I really dont think it would make it OR do anything with the amount of grass that will initially be cut. I currently use it (its home made but works) to drag my fields to break up the manure, etc.

                The horses are on grass right now (I have grass) but it isnt as thick as the neighbors grass. Funny though, they have been going near the neighbors house and eating the shorter stuff and the little bits of clover they have (I also have white clover on my property so they are used to eating it and have never had an issue with slobbers, etc).

                I cant turn them out daily anyways with my work schedule and when I get home to feed. Some days Im not home until almost 7pm and then its too late to turn them out over there and then clean the barn and feed and bring them back. So really Wednesdays-Sundays would be days it would be doable but if I am riding after work, I wouldnt have time either. Right now they have been over there 3 times. The first time was almost 2 weeks ago for 20 mins. Second time was two nights ago for 20-30 mins. I had them over there tonight for literally like 10-15 mins as the barn was basically clean.

                O/A is orchard/alfalfa. In Florida, good hay is hard to find and expensive. Our "local" hay is coastal which has no nutritional value. Most of us down here have to feed a decent amount of a grass hay with alfalfa mixed in to make up for the lack of grass or the lack of quality grass. Sandy soil and hot temps dont make for good grass growing usually.

                So when I mow this... even on the highest setting, I am going to have like probably over 6-8" of grass cut. It really is THAT high (there are spots where it is up to my knees and slightly over). I need to take a pic but there is older grass on the bottom.. maybe even dying? but it feels like Im walking on an air matress. SUPER soft and a workout like walking on the beach. Anyways, can I do anything with the cut grass like to make "hay" or something? Every time the hired guy would bush hog it last year, there were HUGE piles of the grass clippings left over.

                Here are some pics but nothing up close to show the actual grass/thickness.

                From this pic, it doesnt LOOK so thick but trust me, it is. This is the acre that they are letting me use (and hopefully BUY!)

                As you can see, its starting to get so tall you can barely see her fly boots which go up to her knees and shes a VERY leggy TB


                Hes 16.3 with long legs too so you can see its tall. There are obviously some weeds and some type of "grass" that grows in little bundles and most of the stems are over 4' tall. You can see some in the background

                Member of the ILMD[FN]HP Clique, The Florida Clique, OMGiH I loff my mares, and the Bareback Riders clique!


                • #9
                  With grass already that tall, you will have the clumping and some grass piles on your first mowing. Then you mow again soon, get it down to the 5 inch height, hoping the mower cuts up the clumps left the first time. Second cutting should be shorter lengths removed from the plant, so a finer cut layer left on the field, maybe not so much clumpy stuff.

                  With your horses grazing some at home, more than the 20 to 30 minutes mentiond in first post, they should have stomach flora developed for grass digestion already in place. So a time equal on neighbor's field, to what they are getting at home, should be alright for them. If you are worried, give them the hay first, then turn them out on the thick field. Mine are out about 5 hours for grazing now, and do stop eating to stand under the tree! New grass is not such a big deal anymore. When they are full, they take a nap or stand and swish flies.

                  I also have clover patches, good for both horses and the soil. I have found with my mowing often, keeping grass and clover trimmed shorter, EVERYTHING dries much faster from any nightly dew. Mine are supposed to be the white clovers, but I am sure some red has self-seeded. They don't hay across the road anymore. The problem of clover slobbers never happens because I have changed the envioronment, so the problem fungus can't survive the daytime heat and light exposure. Breezy air dries things pretty quick once the sun comes up.

                  I would try to keep their pasture mowed shorter, that 5 to 8 inch range, and let my horses enjoy the grass. If you can only get them over on weekends, then that is all you can do. Still gives YOUR field some time off, lets your grass get a bit taller while they are not home. AND I bet shorter cut grass will be easier walking for you! Cushion is great for the horses.

                  Homemade drag is fine, you just want to break up the potty area after mowing, if the mower doesn't do it for you. They may not have one that really shows with so little time in the field. Mowing often is a bit of a pain, but the returns in better growth, better grass, getting ALL the plant leaves exposed to sunlight, FREE FOOD, makes the time and effort worthwhile.

                  We have very small acreage, but with frequent rains, frequent mowing, I can keep our 6 horses fed on grass the whole growing season. Just use the hay for trailer trips or shows. Saves hay money for winter feed! Guess we are lucky with good dirt, clay that holds water in late summer, so we can grow a variety of nutritious grasses for grazing. Don't have to feed hay for nutrition too.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by exie4me View Post
                    Another problem with tall grass, is eye irritation.
                    Yep, I was going to say this too


                    • #11
                      Thanks for the tips. Mine are out 24/7 and its in my grass pasture but right now its just short. Im still not too keen on leaving them over there for 30 mins or so for another week and then slowly up it.

                      I spoke to my gf and told her I might have to borrow her tractor and mower deck to tackle this thing.

                      Member of the ILMD[FN]HP Clique, The Florida Clique, OMGiH I loff my mares, and the Bareback Riders clique!


                      • #12
                        one more point:
                        horses prefer shorter grass.

                        So by turning them out in tall grass you might not gain much other than a whole pasture trampled.

                        Cows in a situation like that (plus they like the tall grass) are allowed a new section each day to graze clean, fences by electric fence...


                        • #13
                          Yeh I know they prefer the shorter grass. Though when I lead my mare back home, she is grabbing big mouthfuls of the tall grass as we are walking... but I will probably need to borrow my friends tractor to make it a little more managable and easier to walk in. Interestingly enough, cows (longhorns) were on this property up until approx 3 years ago. I think thats why its so lush and rich. (even my other neighbors pasture that was part of the same cow farm has thick lovely grass and she has horses turned out on it).

                          Member of the ILMD[FN]HP Clique, The Florida Clique, OMGiH I loff my mares, and the Bareback Riders clique!